Posted on February 7, 2014, Phil Hornshaw Riot Games: ‘No Interest in Using Patents Offensively’
The statement followed Riot’s patent of an interesting new in-game spectator system, awarded on Feb. 6, that could have a drastic impact on the way spectators view eSports such as LoL. Reports of the new patent came along with some speculation of how it would be used — specifically, as a potential means of stopping other companies from creating similar spectating systems, or licensing the use of the patent to those companies for a fee.
The statement from Riot today states outright that the studio has no plans to do either.
“Our default’s to collaborate,” the statement reads. “…We won’t get in the way of anyone else building awesome spectator features, but we do want to make sure League of Legends players can always spectate freely.”
Beck and Merrill also noted that many companies in the gaming industry, including Riot, are attacked by “patent trolls,” a term used to describe companies that hold patents on systems for anything from instituting micro-transactions to interacting with other players online. The so-called trolls then use their patents either to sue companies that institute similar systems in games and software, or force those companies to pay licensing fees to use those systems. According to Beck and Merrill, “The US patent system is broken and needs reform.”
So it seems the patent awarded to Riot Games could have as big an impact as at least Game Front’s Devin Connor’s mentioned in his report. The patent describes a self-moving camera that can track various points of interest in the game without the need for a person, like a game caster, to choose what the camera is seeing at any given time. The system would keep note of the “interest value” of each player avatar as a game progresses, and then direct the camera to view the most interesting situations. Other controls, like the ability to time-shift the playback of a match, are also included in the patent.
Those kinds of changes could have a serious impact on the burgeoning field of eSports, as games like LoL, Dota 2, Star Craft 2 and Call of Duty gain more and more people interested in watching high-level play. Better capabilities to actually see the action as it’s unfolding, rather than relying on the judgments of a person who decides where a game’s camera should be focused, as in the current system, could help to open eSports up to more viewers.