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Warner Bros. Nemesis patent is terrible for the games industry - here’s why

Author : mountkenndy
Publish Date : 2021-02-15 15:29:45
Warner Bros. Nemesis patent is terrible for the games industry - here’s why

There’s nothing like a bit of triple-A shenanigans to stir the pot of games industry discourse. The latest in a storied history of controversies in the big-budget gaming space stems from a Warner Bros.’ patent of a mechanic from Monolith Productions’ 2014 critical darling, Middle-Earth: Shadow of Mordor.

The game’s publisher, Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment has finally secured the patent on Middle-Earth’s Nemesis system. This gameplay feature was a key selling point in both games in the series and was a key factor in distinguishing them from other open-world romps in the triple-A space. Now that the patent is under lock and key, other developers likely won’t be able to put their own spin on the Nemesis system without scrutiny from Warner Bros. itself.

The patent has been received largely negatively on social media, with many trusted industry voices weighing in to express their displeasure at the announcement, such as narrative designer Cat Manning who tweeted: “...the patent is so broad that I'm still worried that it's a license to stop ANY similar work from being developed!"

This move from Warner Bros. feels antithetical to gameplay innovation. Not only does the patent discourage developers from making use of their own style of Nemesis system, it also stops them from making it even better.

In case you’re unfamiliar with the Nemesis system and what it achieves in-game, here’s a brief rundown. Middle-Earth: Shadow of Mordor and its sequel, Shadow of War, tasks the player with dismantling an army of Orcs, one general at a time. Killing the lower-ranking enemies will have a trickle-up effect, eventually granting the player the chance to face larger threats.

It’s not the hierarchy that makes the Nemesis system stand out from the crowd, however. Every single Orc in the rankings has their own suite of voiced dialog, personalities, combat styles, strengths and weaknesses.

Orcs bested by the player are removed from the system, usually replaced by another ambitious upstart. Those same Orcs can even return, wanting revenge. On the other hand, any Orc lucky enough to kill you will get promoted, increasing their strength and allowing them to roam around with an even larger posse of lesser creatures.

The dynamism of the Nemesis system was incredibly unique for its time, and resulted in a game that continues to be worth playing to this day. Although it looks like any mechanic inspired by it will now be swiftly halted by the legal might of Warner Bros.Orcs bested by the player are removed from the system, usually replaced by another ambitious upstart. Those same Orcs can even return, wanting revenge. On the other hand, any Orc lucky enough to kill you will get promoted, increasing their strength and allowing them to roam around with an even larger posse of lesser creatures.

The dynamism of the Nemesis system was incredibly unique for its time, and resulted in a game that continues to be worth playing to this day. Although it looks like any mechanic inspired by it will now be swiftly halted by the legal might of Warner Bros.

 

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