WB Games has successfully secured its patent on the Nemesis feature in its two Middle-earth games—Shadow of Mordor from 2014 and Shadow of War from 2017—following several years of attempts.
As reported by IGN late last week, the US Patent and Trademark Office released an issue notice last Wednesday granting WB Games the patent which will go into effect from February 23 of this year, with the publisher having the option to extend this patent until 2035. WB Games had been trying to secure this patent since 2015, a year after the release of Shadow of Mordor, but had been rejected with the last recent attempt in November 2019. The company tried one more time and was finally granted a “notice of allowance” in October 2020 which led to the latest success.
The Nemesis system, if you need a quick refresher, was an excellent mechanic that randomly generated orcs in the game’s world, and as they are killed or they kill the player these Orcs can gain or lose abilities and skills and directly reference their previous enconters with you the next time you face them. A more thorough explanation can be found in an excellent Game Maker’s Toolkit video—which originally brought WB’s latest attempt to file the patent to light— which you can find at the end of this post.
The move has not gone down well with many developers, including Thomas Was Alone and John Wick Hex creator Mike Bithell who tweeted “This is really gross, especially for a franchise that built its brilliant nemesis system on top of a whole heap of mechanics replicated from other games. As all games do. Because that’s how culture and creativity works. Be a better neighbor, WB.”
Obsidian Studio Design Director Josh Sawyer also bemoaned how the move could stifle creativity, tweeting “If you take someone’s design and make a better version of it, you should be given a trophy and a triumph through the streets and the people who made the previous version should applaud you and say, ‘Wow, that was really cool.'”
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