After multiple attempts spanning back as far as 2015, WB Games has finally had its Nemesis System patent approved (via IGN).
Wait… The Nemesis System? HUH?
Created by developers Monolith, the Nemesis system was first implemented in Middle Earth: Shadow of Mordor. It features an elaborate hierarchy system, enabling in-game enemies to seek revenge. Until now, the patent has been a deterrent of sorts, a legal scarecrow to fend off developers that might use a similar system.
WB Games has full ownership over the mechanics now that the patent has been approved.
So, what does this mean for developers?
Well, it means that if a game uses a system that influences NPC’s based on player actions within a hierarchy, it could be breaching copyright. The language used in the patent is far from being simplistic, so it’s hard to tell exactly how much it covers in terms of mechanical similarities.
But It’s Only Just Been Approved?
Over the past 5 years, the patent has been rejected, revised and resubmitted multiple times. This was mainly due to the application being too similar to other patents, like that of which held by Square Enix. Language specificity also plays a part. This is because language differences could affect the exact definitions of the nemesis system.
The patent will go into effect on 23rd February this year. It could be maintained until 2035… Much to the dismay of many developers and publishers in the industry. While this could affect the future of many projects yet to be born, there’s still a chance that similar systems could be utilised.
Ubisoft is an example of a company that has implemented systems in its games not too dissimilar to Monolith’s. Both Assassins Creed Odyssey and Watch Dog’s Legion use systems that feature NPC’s within interactive networks, yet the company hasn’t found itself faced with any legal challenges. This perhaps means that developers will be able to draw inspiration from the Nemesis System, as long as it’s not too close of a match.
Hopefully, this legal flex by WB Games won’t disrupt any projects between now and 23rd February. After that date, only time will tell in regards to how this patent will affect the industry as a whole.
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Featured Image Credit: Monolith Productions