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  Microsoft Patents Game Spectatorship Tech  
 
 
Posted 2006-03-07 by Tony Walsh
 
 
     
 
Microsoft has just scored its 5,000th patent in the U.S., covering "technologies that allow people to not just play video games against each other online, but to join the game as a spectator from anywhere in the world," according to an official announcement yesterday. The patented technologies will be featured in Xbox 360 games and is currently included in some aspects of Xbox Live.

According to the announcement, the technology's capabilities include:
  • "A system for generating a spectator experience in real time from a game or event, such as highlights, instant replays, and unique views of the action within a game to enhance the experience for spectators rather than players. Using viewing controls, a spectator can control one or more virtual cameras to select desired viewpoints or an automated camera control to frame the action and perform specific cuts to best convey the story and action. The game and in turn the spectator experience may vary as a function of participant interactions and other contributions to the game based on real-time spectator activity."
  • "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."


It seems Microsoft effectively owns games as a spectator sport, and web sites that act as a "broadcaster" of games. I wouldn't be surprised if the patent squashed competing efforts by firms such as Gamecaster's Cybercam and DIRECTV's Massive Gaming League. There may also be implications for existing and future games that offer "recording" tools, whereby players are able to play back their matches--some of these recordings allow viewing the match from a variety of camera angles. Web sites that distribute these recordings might fall foul of the patent as well. Early instances of online games as a spectator sport included Myth World Cup 1999 (which I participated in and supplied artwork for) and Quake TV (2000).
 
     
 
   
 
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  5 Comments  
 
   
 
Comment posted by csven
March 7, 2006 @ 3:40 pm
     
 
I have a hard time imagining this won't be challenged. We might see some machinima folks providing prior art.
 
     
 
     
   
 
Comment posted by Tony Walsh
March 7, 2006 @ 5:05 pm
     
 
I hope it's challenged. I haven't read the actual patent paperwork, but it seems dangerously broad.
 
     
 
     
   
 
Comment posted by n0wak
March 7, 2006 @ 5:32 pm
     
 
In Counter-Strike, if you were dead or not on a team, you were a spectator -- free to view the battle how you wanted (based on settings). Prior art seems obvious to me.
 
     
 
     
   
 
Comment posted by Tony Walsh
March 7, 2006 @ 5:40 pm
     
 
Yup, Unreal Tournament also had a spectator mode, if not natively then in one of the mods I used to play.

One of Micrsoft's announcements about this patent included a fluffy little backstory about the inventor. In that story, is says inventor Steven Drucker got his idea in "the late 1990s" and also suggestst the kernel of the idea dates earlier than 1995-- before Drucker joined Microsoft's Virtual World team, his doctoral thesis "explored cinematography in virtual worlds." I'm not sure "exploring" is the same thing as "inventing," but again, I haven't read the exact wording of the patent.
 
     
 
     
   
 
Comment posted by csven
March 7, 2006 @ 6:03 pm
     
 
I've also not read the patent, but I have a feeling they might be creating a different kind of login. The difference would be subtle, but important. I suspect this is aimed at some new opportunities provided by digital theaters (I suggested one obvious scenario over on the MIT's Convergence Culture blog: Link).

Wish I had time to hunt up and read the patent.
 
     
 
     
   
 
 
     
 
     
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