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Microsoft's Online Spectator Patent 118

Posted by Zonk
from the watch-and-learn dept.
Next Generation reports on Microsoft's 5000th patent: an online spectator mode for competitive games. From the article: "The system will allow online viewers who are not involved in actual gameplay to view game highlights and instant replays, as well as let them control camera perspectives. A statement from Microsoft also describes 'A portal such as a Web site to access spectator-related services such as schedules and information on multiple games and events as well as the number of spectators and participants in each. The portal allows the spectator to find the most popular games to watch, preview the action, and then connect to the desired game or event.'"
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Microsoft's Online Spectator Patent

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  • XBox port of HLTV? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by christian.elliott (892060) on Tuesday March 07, 2006 @03:27PM (#14869401) Homepage Journal
    I see no one at Microsoft has every played CounterStrike. This idea just sounds like an XBox port of HLTV [hltv.org]. If this patent is only for the XBox version of this system, power to them, they should have control over this. However, if this is an attempt to get the PC Patent for this same idea, they may have another thing coming.
    • By the way, HLTV.org IS NOT AN OFFICIAL HLTV-SITE! HLTV is owned by Valve Software
    • by ville (29367)
      Game called Air Warrior allowed people to spectate on-board others' planes. I can't recall the years but I played it on Amiga over the internet so it must have been early '90s.


      I've no idea how long it had the ability to do so before I started playing. Anyway you didn't participate in the game while you were an observer. Guess that could serve as prior art to this nonsense.

      // ville

    • BZ Flag has also offered this for years, although it only came after Counter Strike offered this, but it's rather obvious that Microsoft did NOT invent this in any way.
    • HLTV doesn't really seem to apply here - it looks like Microsoft isn't so much patenting the spectating concept and patenting the idea of making a portal that centralizes a bunch of different spectating concepts. It's still a bullshit patent, but of a different source.
      • by tsm_sf (545316)
        It's still a bullshit patent, but of a different source.

        And as usual the idea isn't to come up with a bulletproof patent, but rather to raise the cost of entry for smaller players. Vivendi would have no problem taking this down if they wanted to. Popcap (or similar) wouldn't even try.
  • Done before? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by evilNomad (807119) on Tuesday March 07, 2006 @03:27PM (#14869402)
    Hm, I could have sworn that HLTV, done by Valve does just this, and that it has been out for the past 5 years.. And not only that, then i also happen to run the biggest portal for HLTV doing exactly what Microsoft wants their portal to do.. I wonder if my 4 year old portal is now patented, and i should be paying royalties to Microsoft.. Good thing I live in Europe I guess :-)
  • by Daysaway (916732) on Tuesday March 07, 2006 @03:30PM (#14869421)
    Yeah, because nobody has ever done that before *cough* Unreal Tournament *cough*.

    from TFA "Microsoft's goal is to file 3,000 patents per year."

    Amazing. Do they have some sort of Patent Counter in the shape of a dollar sign sitting in a Redmond office building, slowly filling with the blood of lesser companies who are being forced to compensate Microsoft when they use what was once an innovative feature, now solely under Bills control?

    At the end of the year, when they are around 2900 patents, what will they resort to in order to fulfill their goal? How does this sound, "Microsoft patents interactive software." I mean, that hasn't been done yet, right?
  • by vertinox (846076) on Tuesday March 07, 2006 @03:40PM (#14869522)
    Golly... If my calculations are correct, Microsoft will have patented every idea possible by the year 2030.

    On the bright side, all possible ideas will be public domain by 2047.
  • My father told me never write down anything you don't want anyone else to take and use as their own.

    I hold to that belief today. Everything useful to me as a trade secret stays in my head.

    Patents were intended to protect the desire to invent. The slippery slope of using government to protect anything rears its ugly head here, and it is obvious that patent laws can not work -- they'll always be corrupted, slowly buy surely, over the years. Rather than try to use "men with guns" to protect inventors, how a
    • by theJML (911853) on Tuesday March 07, 2006 @04:18PM (#14869783) Homepage
      Yeah, that's a good idea... I did that too... unfortunatley now there are two things I'm missing out on:

      Income from these ideas
      Proof that I ever had such ideas first
    • "I hold to that belief today. Everything useful to me as a trade secret stays in my head. "

      And were you to suddenly die, every brilliant idea you've had would be lost to humanity until someone else thought it up. That's not a net (+).

      • And were you to suddenly die, every brilliant idea you've had would be lost to humanity until someone else thought it up. That's not a net (+).

        Who knows? If all of his brilliant ideas are as brilliant as his idea protection scheme, it might be a net gain.
    • Rather than try to use "men with guns" to protect inventors, how about we level the playing field and require people to actually create items and find a way to market them before they're knocked off?

      Of course "men with guns" are not only involved with just patents, but with other types of IP laws as well. So if "men with guns involved" means somethings needs to be done away with that means:

      • No Patents. as per your speculation.
      • No Copyrights. Feel free to copy those bits. $20 Mil to make a movie. With ju
      • I write and publish, but I don't accept copyright protections. Why? Because my words increase my worth as one individual to another. This is important.

        As for trademarks, I don't see why protections are needed. If a company makes a good product, they need to make individual agreements with other individuals that want to sell their product. In the end, the retailer is the one making sure you get the product you want. Sure, someone could knock off Coca-Cola's logo and product, and some retailers might ac
        • "Because my words increase my worth as one individual to another."

          Ya think?

          People pay $2 for water made by Coca-Cola because they're IDIOTS that want to look good. Perrier? Hell no, I'm cool so I'll buy DASANI. So Coca-Cola produce it, market it, sell it for a high price and people buy it...what a bunch of pricks those Coca-Cola people are. Gee, God forbid I ever come up with any ideas that people will willingly pay over the odds for. I'd hate myself for selling it to them. Oh wait, no...I'd market
    • Not many people knows who Philo Farnsworth is. He invented the television, among other things. RCA violated his patent, he sued, but ran out of money. The best idea for an invention, code or otherwise, is to make the thing so complicated that nobody would be willing to figure it out, so if they wanted the goods, they would have to pay up. Or if the idea is not patentable, generate enough buzz, like cocacola, as mentioned.
      • Not many people knows who Philo Farnsworth is. He invented the television, among other things. RCA violated his patent, he sued, but ran out of money. The best idea for an invention, code or otherwise, is to make the thing so complicated that nobody would be willing to figure it out, so if they wanted the goods, they would have to pay up. Or if the idea is not patentable, generate enough buzz, like cocacola, as mentioned.

        As an engineering major I can tell that this is a really bad idea for anything but comp

  • Yahoo Games [yahoo.com] might have prior on this one (in addition to many, many others..), unless I missed something?
  • I wonder what the guys at id [idsoftware.com] have to say about this...
  • Patent Protections (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Swanktastic (109747) on Tuesday March 07, 2006 @03:54PM (#14869632)
    Patent Protection of an invention is a two-part process. Step One: File for and receive a patent. Step Two: Defend the patent in court. Both pieces are essential.

    This won't stand up in court. It used to be that the most challenging part of invention protection was receiving a patent. Once you had a patent, most federal courts would uphold the defensibility of the invention.

    Today, the patent office has pushed the responsiblity of invention defense to the federal court system. The statistics bear our that many, many more patents are being awarded, with much higher percentages of success. On the other hand, Federal Courts are siding with patent holders much less than they used to. The system is not necessarily broken, it only means that a patent is worth less and easier to obtain than it used to be.

     
    • by OmniGeek (72743) on Tuesday March 07, 2006 @04:08PM (#14869719)
      I must disagree; the patent system IS broken if it results in the granting of large numbers of invalid patents. The USPTO admits that this is the case, and even admits that their examiners are subject to perverse incentives to let stuff through (though they don't explicitly admit the perversity of this.)

      Defending against a bogus patent in court is WAY beyond the means of most mortals; justice overpriced is justice denied. Preventing worthless patents in the first place is the way the system is intended to work, and getting it back there is, alas, the only real solution to the present idiot situation.
      • It's very easy and, in my mind, a little simplistic to point to some ridiculous patents and imply that the system is therefore broken. As I mentioned, the patent SYSTEM has always and will always require the patent-holder to defend his patent in a court. A patent is not protection against infringement, it's a piece of paper. The old slogan is "if you don't need to defend your patent in court, you never needed it in the first place."

        Almost all the error is based on one misconception-- that the patent syst
        • You make a good and valid point; the little guy seldom prevails in litigation. Money has always been a powerful ally in patent litigation; often it is more important than the validity of the patent. (I remember reading an engineering magazine from the 1970s with a cartoon of a fellow on the street selling pencils beneath a sign reading, "Tried to defend my patent.")

          As I see it, the real issue isn't big guys vs small guys, but a massive and growing number of trivial patents that must be fought in court when
      • There's two things fighting the good fight against the patent system (well, at least as far as I can tell):

        1) Open source software. Once an implementation of a proprietary system is out there, the genie is really out of the bottle.

        2) The Internet. Means that anything created as a result of 1) can instantly be spread around the globe.

        I have personally been battling a small part of the patent system recently. I've been looking for software to help me transcode video in batches. I've looked a huge variety of c
    • by Ender Ryan (79406) <[ ] ['' in gap]> on Tuesday March 07, 2006 @04:22PM (#14869815) Journal
      Defending yourself against a patent claim is expensive. Considering that you don't have to even be making any money to violate a patent, that already means the patent system is not setup to do what it was intended to do, hence, broken.

      Add to that the ridiculous patents being awarded today, and we are completely fucked by this shit.

  • Hell, I've done that. And I think that makes this patent fail by the criteria of "obviousness."
  • by Bloodmoon1 (604793) <be.hyperion@nosPam.gmail.com> on Tuesday March 07, 2006 @04:20PM (#14869798) Homepage Journal
    The oldest example I can think of (about 10 years old, give or take a year or two) off the top of my head of this is the Myth games (at least Myth 2, and I think the first one had it as well), which actually did the spectator mode (and pretty much everything else) surprisingly well. You could control the cameras, save the replays, everything this patent sounds like it covers.

    Since Myth was a creation of Bungie, who got bought out by MS some time ago, I think, as loathe as I am to admit it, that MS might actually have a legitimate claim to this patent. Well, as legitimate as any software patent can be, anyway.
    • Even so, isn't there a time limit, from the first time you do something, until you can patent it, ie doing something, and then patenting it 10 years later isn't going to fly ..
      • Basically, if anyone (the inventor included) publishes the "invention" before the patent is applied for, it becomes "prior art" and is forever excluded from patent protection.

        Of course, this is the USPTO we're talking about here; they'll apparently issue a patent on ANYTHING if one is persistent enough...
    • Haven't looked at the patent yet, so I don't know exactly what they're claiming, but I wrote an on-line spectator mode for the PLATO game Empire in around 1981. It allowed for changing view (by choosing which ship to follow), and also recorded the game for later playback (in 5 minute increments). The earliest game I still have recorded that I know about is from 1984.

      I would think that any enhancements to the basic concept (such as moveable cameras, looking at stats, live replaying as opposed to waiting u

  • by Intangion (816356)
    anyone played starcraft? halflife? QUAKE?

    all these games allowed this

    is invention just not important to the process anymore?
    this patent is not original, not non-obvious, not new, ... i mean you could find prior art going back at least a decade in 1 quick google search

  • woo! (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward
    absolute retardation ftw!
  • I think the WPS 'toilet cam' (hoax that it was) probably counts as prior art from the early '90s
  • OMFG (Score:2, Insightful)

    by JustNiz (692889)
    There is SO MUCH prior art that this can't be considered a serious patent.
    • So? Countless other prior-art cases exist with hundreds of Microsoft patents. It doesn't appear to make much difference at the USPTO. Besides, any litigation will play into Microsofts hands directly - they employ an army of lawyers who must earn their living somehow, and they have enough cash to defend many of their lucrative patents, albeit slight modifications to existing ideas.
  • by malsdavis (542216) * on Tuesday March 07, 2006 @04:43PM (#14869943)
    Wouldn't it be even cooler if people could spectate on games like Counter-strike and the Quake series. How about allowing different spectating camera angles e.g.: follow player and free flying. They could even place a small top-down map in the corner to show the players position relative to enemies and teammates!

    Hope no-one has thought of this already else prior art might invalidate any patents.
  • by Metasquares (555685) <slashdot@NoSPAM.metasquared.com> on Tuesday March 07, 2006 @04:44PM (#14869959) Homepage
    That would be the first patent I ever read about that I myself held prior art to. Not that it makes much difference.
  • got tribes tv?

    i can remember many an evening of watching an awesome game of 32 player tribes2
    • I think the only bad thing about T2TV was that you couldn't look at everything at once.
       
      And the only thing better than T2TV was playing in the game.
  • If we don't pass it on to the USPTO, nothing will change.

    I claim prior art in describing this in a story I wrote in 1980 while at Simon Fraser University, in The GOT club magazine.

    You'll find copies in the Library of Congress and the Canadian version thereof.
  • by rewinn (647614) on Tuesday March 07, 2006 @05:50PM (#14870561) Homepage

    "... In another dimension
    With voyeuristic intention
    Well secluded, I see all ..."

    It's astounding .... MS got prior art'd by the Time Warp [rockymusic.org] ... Again!

  • Maybe they've got a new way of doing it, but I know that online Go servers (and presumably chess servers as well) allow people to observe on-going games.
  • Say you have a 12 player Warcraft game going. Add a 13th that streams to 11 observers and another observer node indefinately. You could have a game as ping intensive as Street Fighter 2 and have infinate observers.
  • A statement from Microsoft also describes 'A portal such as a Web site to access spectator-related services such as schedules and information on multiple games and events as well as the number of spectators and participants in each. The portal allows the spectator to find the most popular games to watch, preview the action, and then connect to the desired game or event.'"

    I can already do any and all of these things via any of the numerous online poker sites I visit.

  • jesus, if there isnt prior art for this, i dont know what it is. proof the uspto needs an overhaul.
  • This is not a new idea for microsoft, to take the idea of another and try to make it their own. The idea behind windows itself was not Gates' own. Microsoft hasn't had an original idea in years, and probably will never have another one. Microsoft (like our own US government) has become overgrown and bloated. The XBox 360 is nothing more than an original xbox with a mod chip and updated hardware, most of its features (besides the obvious ones) have been the idea of the makers of XBMC (Xbox Media Center).
  • Did anyone catch the bottom of the article? 3,000 patents! What's next? Sliced bread?
  • Even the doom series was like this, you could connect another system via network to view the game, if i recall it was used to set up screens to see behind in front etc of you.
  • I think this whole discussion of who wrote the code first is moot. The IEEE had an article a few months back in their magazine Spectrum that discussed the validity of patenting software in the first place.

    Since all software can be broken down at its lowest level to be just a series of mathematical equations, and you can not patent mathematical equations, you should not be able to patent software. You SHOULD be able to copyright it, but not patent it.

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