Highlight Intros Patented?
Overwatch has become a huge phenomenon recently with many recognizable characters and features. One of the most recognizable is the Play of the Game feature at the end of every game. Many players keep their POTG and highlights, saving them to later post online or share with friends. An important part to every POTG is, of course, the highlight intro that comes with it. This way one can show off any owned epic level cosmetic items, as well as some highlight intros that are specific to some seasonal events. The choice of highlight intro can definitely be a real mark of a seasoned player and their preferences.
Keeping the highlight in Overwatch
Of course, with such a recognizable and big feature of the game, Blizzard wants to make sure it gets patented for Overwatch. That way it stays with Overwatch and can’t be stolen by other video games. Blizzard has already had issues with copyright and people stealing ideas from Overwatch and last year, Blizzard even went to court to fight against an Overwatch rip-off. So, it is safe to say Blizzard is wanting to make sure no one else tries to steal anything from Overwatch again. It is not just the highlight intro Blizzard is looking to protect, but also their replay system and some other features.
Two years ago, Blizzard already stated it was planning on starting the application process for patenting various parts of Overwatch like Highlight Intros. The application was submitted way back in December 2016, but was finally made public a few weeks ago.
What is a patent?
A patent is a legal way of marking something as yours and basically saying that no one else is allowed use it. Officially, it is government authority or licenses conferring a right or title for a set period, especially the sole right to exclude others from making, using, or selling an invention. Now, you can only patent so much of an idea and you have to be specific with the legal stuff.
The patent Blizzard wants for the Highlight Intros is about the algorithm behind the feature, which lead designer Jeff Kaplan described last year as being “about 70 percent of where we want Play of the Game to be.” The algorithm isn’t that complicated though and it works exactly like you would think. When a match has been completed, the game server performs a pass over the event log and gives each event a plurality of scores. Each of the scores represents a different Play of the Game category and each category is associated with a different set of criteria used for scoring. The ones that are not chosen for the POTG are then obviously still sent to you as highlights.
Now, the patent describes winning categories in detail, things like shutdown, sharpshooter and life saver. These details are included in the patent to ensure those aspects stay in-game to Overwatch alone. For titles like sharpshooter, the patent says, “A sniper character generally has an extremely long range and therefore the distance factor may be weighed less heavily when determining the sharpshooter score for a sniper shot. In addition, certain factors may be weighted higher than others due to drastically increase the difficulty of the shots, such as shots where the player, the enemy, or both are airborne.”
What does the patent mean for us?
The patent will also be including a clause for sharing plays to social media. This means that those of you that like to share their POTG online via facebook, youtube, Instagram, and other social media outlets should be keeping an eye on this once the patent goes through. There might be some changes about how this might work in the future, but it will probably be more on the side of the outlet themselves and not the publisher though.
Now, it is unlikely that Blizzard intends to prevent other games implementing their own highlight features – Call of Duty, for example, has been using “kill of the match” for more than 10 years. Blizzard isn’t trying to prevent that, they just want to keep what they have made for Overwatch, in Overwatch. The patent is pretty detailed and is going to be designed to protect precise names and scoring methods. As Kaplan said in an interview last year, the algorithm “catches a lot of cool stuff, but it’s nowhere near as awesome as I think it will be someday.”
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