We’ve all seen developers try their own takes on popular ideas in video games – like the countless Grand Theft Auto clones that came about after Grand Theft Auto III dominated way back in 2001. But now a new precedent could be settling in, thanks to a new patent filed by WB Games.
The publisher has been trying to patent the Nemesis system that was first introduced in the Lord of the Rings adventure Shadow of Mordor back in 2014. And now it looks like that patent finally went through, clearing the US Patent and Trademark Office on February 3rd.
Only there’s a problem – this means that certain gameplay elements are apparently able to be patented, and anyone that tries a variation on said system could face a lawsuit.
Let’s break down what this means, and if WB Games could actually be crazy enough to initiate a lawsuit because of it.
What Is The Nemesis System?
First introduced in Shadow of Mordor and expanded upon in the sequel Shadow of War, the Nemesis system focuses on the enemies themselves – in this case, the Orcs. See, they develop some character of their own over the course of the game. You basically hunt them down, but if they manage to win their battle, they’re able to grow in return, creating strengths and gaining new abilities. That makes them even more challenging to face down the road.
It’s a neat system that keeps some replay value within the games, mainly due to the challenges that come with facing off against them again. They become cockier and more confident, but also stronger, and that creates a new precedent for the player.
The Nemesis system is unprecedented and very cool in its own right, and something that other developers probably wouldn’t mind trying. Alas, doing so now could cost some legal moolah as a result.
So Would WB Games Actually Sue Someone?
Here’s the thing – developers likely wouldn’t try to use the Nemesis system without speaking to WB Games first and going for some sort of deal. Alas, there may be some indie developers that couldn’t afford to do so, and might try some variation of it instead.
That said, it’s unclear whether WB Games would actually sue someone for it. A gameplay idea can be twisted around in many ways, with enemies possibly trying something different or the approach system going a different route. But with a patent, that’s a trickier path to walk, and who knows. WB Games could initiate something legally, it mostly depends on the situation. Or rather, the gameplay system that’s in play.
WB Games has the patent until around 2035 technically, so it could easily make games that revolve around the system for the next decade and a half. That’s not to say we’ll see a bunch of sequels to Shadow of Mordor (well, maybe – it is a popular series), but it could put elements of the system in other games – like Batman titles, for example.
Not Everyone’s Happy With The Patent
While WB Games thinks it’s protecting itself legally with the patent, that doesn’t mean it’s winning people over. In fact, many fans are criticizing the move, and there are some within the industry who aren’t too thrilled, either.
“This is really gross, especially for a franchise that built its brilliant Nemesis System on top of a whole heap of mechanics replicated from other games as all games do,” Thomas Was Alone developer Mike Bithell explained. “Because that’s how culture and creativity works. Be a better neighbor, WB.” Riot Games’ Cat Manning was a little more forward. “Hey, this fucking sucks. I looked at the patent and it’s so broad as to be absurd! Multiple other emergent narrative systems that I have seen and worked on could be described with their language! It probably would not be legally enforceable but I and other indie devs don’t have the money to find out!”
It’s unknown what kind of effect it’ll have from here, but WB Games has yet to justify the move.
Guess we’ll see what we’ll see in the year ahead.
What do you think about the patent?
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