Microsoft granted drop-in, drop-out co-op patent

United States Patent and Trademark Office approves publisher's 2002 application for specific method of joint play in squad-based third-person shooters.

One would think that cooperative gaming is more of a right than a feature in this age of networked gaming, but the way in which it is implemented is apparently something Microsoft wants exclusive claim to. Last week, the United States Patent and Trademark Office approved Microsoft's application, filed originally in 2002, to implement a specific method of drop-in, drop-out cooperative gaming for squad-based third-person shooters.

Microsoft gets creative with split-screen.

As related by the patent, Microsoft seeks to solve the problem of getting additional players into and out of a game without disrupting the flow of play. "Conventional shooter games require that the existing players stop and save the game, return to a setup menu and specify the new number of player(s), and then restart the game," states the filing. "This process is disruptive to the players."

To rectify this problem, Microsoft's patent describes a way in which players can dynamically join and depart an existing squad-based shooter, without the need to restart the game. Namely, the patent states that when in single-player mode, the lone gamer views the action in full screen and will directly control a primary character while issuing orders to the rest of the squad, which is manned by artificial intelligence.

As play progresses, the game actively monitors for new gamers wishing to join. When a new player is detected, he or she is then seamlessly given control of one of the squad members, and the display subsequently switches to split-screen mode. The patent notes that additional players can join, with the screen continuing to split to accommodate the appropriate number of combatants.

Brute Force played with just one player.

And as players can dynamically enter the game, so too can they seamlessly exit. When the game detects that a player has exited the game, control of the character in the player's charge is automatically reverted back to the AI, and the display reverts back to its original size.

Along with the patent, the publisher included a number of concept drawings of what the functionality might look like. Clearly modeled after Digital Anvil's Brute Force, which Microsoft Game Studios published for the original Xbox in 2003, the drawings show the screen in various stages of furcation.

The patent does not specifically call out whether the feature is applicable to local or online play. Microsoft had not commented on how it intends to implement the patent as of press time.

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Discussion

71 comments
tttttank
tttttank

i think final13 has misquoted me a little, i stated that to my knowledge there was no 3rd person squad based shooters that allowed drop in drop out play before 2002 at the time of the patent

Final13
Final13

Just reading more comments. Remember people that this was filed in 2002. As tttttank said there were no 3rdPS till Brute Force, an amazing game, which came out in 2003.

Final13
Final13

[This message was deleted at the request of the original poster]

lilv2k3
lilv2k3

People can do anything today.... I can patent taking a piss because no one has done it. :( Fail......

trollkind
trollkind

When I only read the headline, I first thought that it's bogus and done way earlier ("A new Challenger comes!!") but now that I've read it, it's specific enough to be a reasonable patent. I just wonder for how long these patents in the video game industry hold. Development happens so fast, they should be renewed every year and for a maximum of 5 years, so innovative methods and ideas eventually get dropped and become public domain. And why the heck are most video game patents with these naive pen scribbles?

tttttank
tttttank

the thing is, there was the controversial sony patent with the camera and printer tabletop device, sony definatly did not come up with that idea, yet because they decided to patent it first and no-one else did, it went through, as far as i know, there were no third person squad shooter games that allowed drop in drop out gameplay before 2002 - i dont see how you can patent either feature though, as sony did not come up with the orignal idea for that touchscreen tabletop thing, and how can you patent a gameplay feature like that?

hattorihanzo32
hattorihanzo32

the reason it is dumb because that is like nintendo patenting split screen from since mario kart for snes, or konami doing it for contra back in the 80's for to players on the screen at the same time shooting enemies or capcom patenting the movements for a hadouken. Maybe it hasn't been done in a video game as yet but its just a different way of playing a game that no one company should have rights over especially since its not something revolutinary

Cobra5
Cobra5

The only thing I'm worried about now... doesn't this mean nobody else is allowed to include a system like this unless they pay microsoft?

iamamanami
iamamanami

Patent office should be sued eventually.

NuKkU
NuKkU

alot of games have something like this they are acting like its a new tech but anyways wonder what game its for?(i know it says Brute Force but idk it dont think thats what its for)

ClawedMonkey
ClawedMonkey

It seems kind of crazy that Microsoft could just get this patented, there are games already doing exactly this type of thing (almost to the T). I mean, I play one of those games everyday, Left 4 Dead. People hop in and out of mid progress L4D games all the time. While a player isn't controlling the other "squad members", the AI takes over. You can even enable third person perspective to make it a third person shooter! My point: Doesn't it just seem odd to me that they filed a patent (and it was approved) for something they don't really have any claim to.

iamamanami
iamamanami

Only one thing want to say, "patent office sucks". The patent office just want to get the patent fee as much as possible from those guys without making any correct decision on their submissions. Just like this case, "drop-in/drop out", being patented? It is ridiculous. Now, we can see that the patent and trademark office co-operates with wealthy guys like M$, and they are ruling the world.

jamesh-42
jamesh-42

@ColdfireTrilogy: the patent claims that mention "shooter" games do not say what type, and the background section notes that there are both first-person and third-person shooters. And the broadest claims don't even mention a game type, so it could apply to any split screen multi player game that allows mid-game joining. So it certainly isn't limited to third person shooters. Any game using this technique in the next 13 years (20 years after the filing date) would be infringing the patent even if they independently invent it.

Final13
Final13

I cannot believe what I am reading in most of these comments. People, it's not like microsoft called rights to this and had it right then and there. They had to go through the patent office. I could put in a patent to rights for anything but that dosent mean I'm going to get it. If anything be mad at the patent office not Microsoft. They saw an opportunity to get something to theirselves, put in for rights to it, and were granted rights. You people are acting like they just claimed them out of no where. This is a dog-eat-dog world and what just happened is an example.

AlphaCommando
AlphaCommando

Wow, didn't know there weren't any drop-in TPS's already. When you say it out loud, it doesn't sound so futuristic or anything.

burns112233
burns112233

@ twztid13 Yes, but according to the dictionary a squad is... 1. A small group of people organized in a common endeavor or activity. Resident Evil 5 fits that description. You're probably thinking that a squad has to have like 6 or more people. Or that it has to be a military type group. That's not always the case. And before someone says yeah a small group meaning 3 or more people not 2 people like Resident Evil 5. Then let's look up the definition of group. Group - Two or more figures that make up a unit or design, as in sculpture.

jamesh-42
jamesh-42

The claims in the patent all seem to be related to single console use: using the act of connecting additional controllers to the system as the trigger for adding players. So it probably doesn't affect online play, or any system where each player has their own console (e.g. wifi multi player on a PSP or Nintendo DS). I don't particularly like software patents, but this one seems like its useful lifetime has already passed.

ColdfireTrilogy
ColdfireTrilogy

this patent is very specific and thus there are a million and one ways to mimic this without infringing upon said patent .... and ... its only in third person shooter games.

jrabbit99
jrabbit99

nice! can't wait for it to be implemented

Blue-Sky
Blue-Sky

Keep in mind that these type of patents are specific to each letter. Just like most patents, I'm sure there as various ways of obtaining similar results using different methods. If anything, this boosts creativity amongst competitors.

okassar
okassar

Skullboy950 claims that this sucks because less developers get to use the same function. That's just like saying that it sucks that Nintendo took the rights for Donkey Kong because now MS and Sony can't make Donkey Kong. Get out of here...

enix165
enix165

I don't see what all the hate for this is about...I haven't seen another game use this before...XD

npramsey
npramsey

Drop-in co-op is just about standard already. L4D, RE5, GoW2... This patent could be bad for the industry. I love my 360, but I hope Microsoft won't block other companies from using this feature.

skullboy950
skullboy950

Karaam, this is not good because less developers are gonna be able to use this feature in their games.

skullboy950
skullboy950

This really sucks. Looks like there's a new patent troll on the block.

twztid13
twztid13

@burns112233 re5 not squad based 3rd person shooter (which is what this patent is for).

burns112233
burns112233

@STRIFE9288 "1. name the games that implement this method of play?? because i've played almost every 3rd person shooter game and have never seen this done." Dude Resident Evil 5 uses this method. Come on now.

mwa
mwa

are they going to try to patent this for FPS's as well?

Karaam
Karaam

thats a cool function for having friends over after starting a game up already. Makes it less of a hassle and less time consuming. Good ups to MS.

sparkypants
sparkypants

wow, this is retarded. Are they really going to do this? Nintendo and Sony need to challenge this. This is technology that should accessible to all developers and companies not just Microsoft.

Poppy425
Poppy425

Did any of you guys that are crying about this patent read the part about this was applied for 7 years ago? It isn't like Microsoft decided to patent this feature last week.. Companies file patents for features and Ideas all the time. Get over it already.. Sheesh.

okassar
okassar

WOW!!!!Are you guys serious?! Every single time there's ANYTHING dealing with law in a GS artcicle,you guys are INSTANTLY turned off. Someone sues another company because that other company stole rights/did something they shouldn't have:GOD FORBID right?!You totally wouldn't sue if someone did the same to you?I'm sure! MS needs to patent something that actually has never been done before? (there are co-op instances LIKE this in other games,BUT not nearly as seamless,and notice the part about the save and the menu)you guys go CRAZY.Heck,I'm going crazy myself just seeing such stupidity. For God's sake...some people are just primitive beyond belief. Ready for your second day in Pre-K kids?Ya?Ya?Okkkkk. Alright kids,what's the purpose of a company? No John,it's not to push pencils No Sarah,it's not to eat thppaaagetty Alright kids,since you're so stupid,I'll answer it,a company's purpose is to make money.To make money,those companies have to innovate and produce in some way.The company has to make sure other companies don't get in the way of their innovating and producing,and what?And making money. John,if I give you a lollipop,would you shut up and stop asking me what "produce" means?Awesome. See you tomorrow kids.

Merl57
Merl57

STUPID PATENT this is like owning the license only to make ww2 games its absolutely disgusting and everyone involved should be ashamed for trying to capitalize on something so sinister why don't they claim the patent for the pencil?

lamprey263
lamprey263

that's actually really an important feature to patent, can't believe nobody has done this yet

STRIFE9288
STRIFE9288

AngelCage-2 you must be the dumbest person in the world to even think of an ignorant scenario like that. 1. name the games that implement this method of play?? because i've played almost every 3rd person shooter game and have never seen this done. 2. breathing?? walking?? dude think up something else that makes more sense before ranting away and making yourself look ignorant at the way patents are produced and what can be patented, do your homework.

AngelCage-2
AngelCage-2

O_o it seems that anyone can fill a patent for anything that someone already have done (but don't get a patent for it) and that every person in the world have used... So, Ms will start bleeding a lot of developers for old games, cause i'm sure, i have seen this engine in other non microsoft games... Man, i should fill a patent for "a process to release the pressure and eliminate some natural gas out of the people digestive system, making in the process, funny noises that can be heard comming for your butt and almost always the resulting gas have some horrendous odor, that in the appropiate enviroment -like inside a closed elevator- can make the people puke or even faint, and provoke the people to beat the crap out of the subject." And then i can sell some "farting licences" for $1 to every single living person in the world, and/or sue everyone who uses my patented method without the licence. And then someone can fill a patent fot breathing, hearth beating or walking... man i just love the US patenting office.

ropumar
ropumar

Patents are broken. MS with this. Nintendo patenting in-game tips and a help function on games. Ridiculous. These aren't ideas worth of patent and this is a burden to technological advancement with so many royalties these garbage patent requires.

dogpigfish
dogpigfish

??? Gears of War II already does this. What's the point, this is just old news.

Muteki_X
Muteki_X

I'm a Xbox fan, but even I have to say that this is crap. If publishers can't implement the "technology" and make their games for multiple systems without paying a hefty fine, then they just aren't going to do it. This move risks hurting good multiplayer coop games in a major way. It's a dirty tactic.

damien_fate
damien_fate

DOn't we have something like this already for games like Left 4 Dead?

shattapinks
shattapinks

First off Microsoft, this is a dumb patent, but as others have alluded to, might as well you seek the patent for this feature just in case somebody else decides to do the same later and then sue the pants off you for using it as a feature in your future games. And there IS such a thing as split screen played online for some of you ignorant people out there. It is when two people go online from the same system at the same time to play the same game together against the online community. So the writer was correct in saying "The patent does not specifically call out whether the feature is applicable to local or online play" because there are some games that allow two players to go online in the same game via split screen. And who knows? Microsoft themselves could be developing one of those types of games as we have this discussion. Hence, the reason for the patent.

DefHalan
DefHalan

well i guest next thing will be drop in drop off versus mode lol

XeonForce
XeonForce

What a bunch of crap, I bet Microsoft will patent the FPS perspective next; with a patent office like that, anything is possible.

prioritymail
prioritymail

I hope microsoft doesn't plan on enforcing this patent. It would ruin co-op games the same way NFL's exclusivity with Madden ruined football games.

abcdefgabcdefgz
abcdefgabcdefgz

What is the problem with game companies thinking they can patent basic things like this? I mean any programmer with a brain making games could think of this what makes an idea able to become patented? This is just stupid.

Madrak_Arakeen
Madrak_Arakeen

Ok, this is bull@$%^. Drop-in, drop-out play? You know what M$ is after right? Gawd-awful amounts of royalties for using this concept. Guess Telltale's Lego series is screwed.

viewtiful_jay
viewtiful_jay

Anything great example of how broken the patent/copyright system is here in the US. I can't believe such a broad, obvious concept was granted a patent.

BelugaSunrise
BelugaSunrise

Looks like I should get started on getting my new idea patented. It's revolutionary new concept called breathing.