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First Person Shooters (Games) Patents

Creative Pressures id Software With Patents 339

Cryect writes "Earlier today it was announced by Creative that they would be adding in EAX 3D sound support to Doom 3, and that they had come to an 'agreement relating to Creative's patented shadowing technique [also known as Carmack's Reverse in some coding circles] and id's cutting-edge 3D graphics DOOM 3 engine.' This seemed somewhat suspicious, almost as if id was being pressured, and a quick email to John Carmack from Reverend @ Beyond3d got this reply: 'The patent situation well and truly sucks... It was tempting to take a stand and say that our products were never going to use any advanced Creative/3DLabs products because of their position on patenting gaming software algorithms, but that would only have hurt the users...' There's also some possible prior art [PPT link] to Creative Labs' patent, from a 1999 talk by Nvidia's Sim Dietrich."
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Creative Pressures id Software With Patents

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  • but PCG said....... (Score:2, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday July 28, 2004 @12:34PM (#9822706)
    and i quote from PC Gamer:
    (pg.79) Sept. 2004
    "(8) Is it true that Doom 3's audio engine is entirely CPU-dependent, thus negating the benefits of high-end sound cards? If so, what are the benefits? What are the drawbacks?
    [bla, bla, bla]
    PC Gamer's take: Much to Creative Labs' chagrin, Doom 3 should sound exactly the same (and perform equally well) on your motherboard's built-in audio processor as it will on a high-end Audigy 2 ZS sound card."

    so much for that!
  • Too bad... (Score:4, Informative)

    by TheHonestTruth ( 759975 ) on Wednesday July 28, 2004 @01:14PM (#9822822) Journal
    Too bad a couple months doesn't cut the mustard. To have truly solid prior art, it has to be over a year before the patent was filed in the U.S. Otherwise, the inventor can swear behind the disclosure, saying that they invented it before the disclosure occurred. This is not the case in the EU. There, disclosure destroys patent rights.


  • by BigDumbAnimal ( 532071 ) on Wednesday July 28, 2004 @01:48PM (#9822953)
    iD has in the past ripped out sound code that was licensed from 3rd parties. Or John has quickly put something else together that will work to replace 3rd party code.

    This was done w/ Doom.
  • Re:Prior art (Score:5, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday July 28, 2004 @01:59PM (#9823062)
    For something other than another patent to be considered prior art, you must look at 35 USC 102(a)-
    a person shall be entitled to a patent unless -
    (a) the invention was known or used by others in this country, or patented or described in a printed publication in this or a foreign country, before the invention thereof by the applicant for a patent.

    It is difficult to prove "known", however the talk could be considered a printed publication if it was readily accessable to the public. A paper which is orally presented in a forum open to all interested persons constitutes a "printed publication" if written copies are freely disseminated. Massachusetts Institute of Technology v. AB Fortia, 774 F.2d 1104, 1109. Also see MPEP 2128,2132
  • by the_raptor ( 652941 ) on Wednesday July 28, 2004 @02:01PM (#9823099)
    I would just put a little bit of code to detect if a Creative card was installed, and if so, maybe cap the FPS at 10 or so. And also provide a splash screen that explains in tech-jargon "Doom 3 is not optimized for Creative products. Please try a Hercules or Santa Cruz Card." That could signifigantly hurt Creative's business.
    No that would just cause owners of creative cards to get pissed of with id. Creative has a slightly higher market dominance then Doom 3 does ;)
  • Re:I stab at thee (Score:3, Informative)

    by Anita Coney ( 648748 ) on Wednesday July 28, 2004 @02:15PM (#9823247) Homepage
    Every so often Intel tries to branch out. I remember when Intel came out with a graphics card to match its new AGP slot. I remember reading articles about how Intel was going to dominate the graphics market. That never happened.

    A few years back Intel starting selling toys and peripherals. Those bombed.

    Now Intel is starting to sell integrated audio on its boards. Maybe this time it will work, maybe Intel will dominate, but I doubt it.

    Intel makes its money on CPUs. Anything that takes work away from the CPU takes away from Intel's profits. That's why USB is CPU dependant but FireWire isn't. So I seriously doubt that Intel will ever come up with a gaming audio system that doesn't drag down the CPU, requiring a CPU upgrade to get better performance.
  • by MojoMonkey ( 444942 ) on Wednesday July 28, 2004 @02:18PM (#9823282) Homepage
    "There is no "OpenGL" of 3D audio because Creative owns all of the patents from its acquisition of companies like Aureal and Sensaura."

  • Re:well then... (Score:3, Informative)

    by GodsMadClown ( 180543 ) <> on Wednesday July 28, 2004 @02:20PM (#9823303)
    For gaming, they're the only ones with hardware EAX processing. Other soundcards incur performance hits. For an idea of the size of this hit, take a look at page 6 of the Techreport review of the Philips' Ultimate Edge. ilips-u ltimateedge/index.x?pg=6

    For consumer music and movies, CPU usage is much less of an issue. For these uses I would recommend a M-Audio Revolution. It uses the VIA EnvyHT chip and supports for 192/24 resolution throughout the signal path. The sound quality is excellent and the bass management is vastly superior to that of the Audigy 2.

    For strictly 2-channel listening, I'd recommend the Chaintech AV-710.

    Here's a review on a headphone forum. php?t=75 454

    Here's a setup guide on that same forum. php?t=75 655
  • Re:Prior art (Score:4, Informative)

    by janneH ( 720747 ) on Wednesday July 28, 2004 @02:22PM (#9823323)
    Describing it in public before the patent application date is not prior art per se. IANL, but for it to be public I am pretty sure one has to show that it was public before the date of invention - which can preceed the date of filing by many years.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday July 28, 2004 @02:31PM (#9823423)
    I'm no longer buying creative products, neither will i recommend it to any of my computer illiterate friends who bother me with "what hw should i buy for this and that" type questions.
    and belive me, I have many of them*

    (*just because I'm reading slashdot does not mean I have no friends - thought the statistical corelation of slashdot reading and friend starvation are fascinating)
  • by AK Marc ( 707885 ) on Wednesday July 28, 2004 @02:45PM (#9823620)
    Besides, if he codes a technique before someone patents it then any future patent would be invalid due to his prior art.

    If they filed for the patent within one year of the release of the technique, then they could patent it. Yes, with our system, someone can invent something, decide not to patent it in order to let others use it, someone else can see the invention, patent it, and force the original inventor to pay to use it.
  • by Bodhammer ( 559311 ) on Wednesday July 28, 2004 @02:46PM (#9823623)
    A couple of things - use a spell checker before you send the letter...

    From the creative web page:

    Phil O'Shaughnessy

    Director of Corporate Communications

    Lara B. Vacante

    Public Relations Manager

    Jennifer Ellard

    Senior Public Relations Specialist

    Katie Meyer

    Public Relations Coordinator

  • I deal with the same problem. I have an Audigy Deluxe, and an older driver disc (doesn't have drivers for Windows XP on it) -- if I just install the card, and go to Creative's "Auto Update", it wants to only install the bare minimum drivers. No options to install the other apps (taskbar/remote control/speaker setup/etc.) -- what the crap?

    Also, digging around the site, if you do find one of those other programs to download.. when you try to run them, they say they can't find an older version to update and force you to quit.

    As for normalization, I wouldn't leave that up to your soundcard. Use a decent audio player like FooBar2000, and set replaygain levels on your tracks. Enjoy the stability.

    Or, if you want, buy the OctiMax plugin for Winamp2/5.. it's a multiband compressor/limiter, and does a pretty good job at keeping things steady. I use it for radio broadcasts, or LAN parties.
  • by insidious ( 29545 ) on Wednesday July 28, 2004 @03:10PM (#9823916) Homepage (public relations)

    I'm just writing to inform you that you will not receive anymore of my business regarding your position on gaming software algorithms patents. I have canceled my order for the Maximum-power 6.1 sound system and will take my business elsewhere. I have supported Creative since I first got my computer, but I do not approve of this disregard for gamers and I'm quite saddened by your position.
  • MP3Gain (Score:4, Informative)

    by tjwhaynes ( 114792 ) on Wednesday July 28, 2004 @03:19PM (#9824019)
    Better link for MP3 normalisation

    Toby Haynes

  • Via the aforementioned forum message link []:
    I know its hard for some people to understand the viability of software patents and why they are necessary

    Yes, it's difficult for me to justify patenting the intangible. I find it equally laborious equating copyright infringement with theft.

    And for the sake of adding fuel to the fire, I present you this:
    Yeah, most core Linux distros - for the most part - suck; and simply because a bunch of incompetent assholes decided they were going to delve in and piss around with it just because it was free.

    I'll think I'll allow some of you Linux guys handle that one for me as I'm, admittedly, more of a Windows dweeb.

    Countdown to Derek Smart, Ph.D. responding to this post with expletives in 5...4...3...
  • by sydlexius ( 6356 ) on Wednesday July 28, 2004 @04:52PM (#9825226)
    Intel has led the desktop market in shipments of graphics chipsets for over a year now. ain+stable/2100-1006_3-5205102.html []
  • by Sits ( 117492 ) on Wednesday July 28, 2004 @05:53PM (#9825824) Homepage Journal

    Of course, this is not the same as saying they are the widest used graphics card or that they will sell a large amount of standalone cards but still.

    Most people don't buy external sound cards any more but once upon a time everyone did. So those cheapo AC97 based things are ALL over the place - OK Intel don't make them all but they did come up with the AC97 codec [].

    Here's a Register story which mentions that Intel have 31.7% of the graphics card market [].

    I've talked to people of various importance who feel that in a certain number of years the graphics card market will go a similar way to the sound card market. The impression I was given was that only people wanting high end quality/speed will go for an extra card but most others will be satisfied by onboard.

  • by telstar ( 236404 ) on Wednesday July 28, 2004 @06:31PM (#9826173)
    Phil O'Shaughnessy
    Director of Corporate Communications

    Lara B. Vacante
    Public Relations Manager

    Jennifer Ellard
    Senior Public Relations Specialist

    Katie Meyer
    Public Relations Coordinator
  • by Trogre ( 513942 ) on Wednesday July 28, 2004 @07:09PM (#9826456) Homepage
    First off, let me state that Creative EAX is crap. After playing games with Aureals A3D API there's just no contest. Sadly they went bust and were scooped up by Creative who seem to be just sitting on their IP.

    As for OpenAL titles that are actually used, let me see:

    AlienFlux (Windows, Linux, Macintosh)
    America's Army: Operations (Windows, Linux, Macintosh)
    Bridge Construction Set (Windows, Linux)
    Escape From Monkey Island (Macintosh)
    FlightGear (Windows, Unix, Macintosh)
    Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (Windows, Macintosh)
    Jedi Knight: Jedi Academy (Windows, Macintosh)
    Jedi Knight 2 (Windows, Macintosh)
    Marble Blast (Windows, Linux, Macintosh)
    MegaCorps Online (Windows, Linux, Macintosh)
    Orbz (Windows, Linux, Macintosh)
    Postal 2 (Windows)
    Soldier of Fortune 2 (Windows)
    Unreal 2 (Windows)
    Unreal Tournament 2003 (Windows, Linux, Macintosh)
    Unreal Tournament 2004 (Windows, Linux, Macintosh)

  • Re:John, just do it! (Score:4, Informative)

    by Deathlizard ( 115856 ) on Wednesday July 28, 2004 @07:54PM (#9826755) Homepage Journal
    haha, there's no other brand.

    Nvidia Soundstorm. The Audio solution that comes with the Nforce2 MCP-T. And it's a Nvidia Product, So ID Getting full support From Nvidia would be easy as Pie since both companies like each other so much.

    There's also VIA's Vinyl Audio Solution, as well as Analog Devices Soundmax.
  • by evilned ( 146392 ) on Wednesday July 28, 2004 @09:43PM (#9827450) Homepage
    nope, the real reason Aureal went under is they got sued into submission by Creative. It was over some patent involving sending sounds over the PCI bus if I remember. Long story short, aureal wasn't infringing, and the patent was almost thrown out, but the legal bills bankrupted the company. Creative bought the remnants.
  • Re:Too bad... (Score:2, Informative)

    by TheHonestTruth ( 759975 ) on Wednesday July 28, 2004 @10:32PM (#9827717) Journal
    Can you really keep a patent if someone else provably got the idea before you filled for a patent?

    Yes and no. The idea is that the claim you make that you invented something someone else filed a patent on has to be based on fact. You must be able to provide documents like dated lab manuals or whatnot that "prove" you really did invent the invention first.

    What is to prevent people from patenting other peoples ideas?

    If they can prove that the filing you have is, and I forget the term actually used, in bad faith, then your patent is unenforceable (which is worse than being invalid). But the kicker is proving it and bascially is a lawsuit to get at that information.

    How would they proved that they had the idea first, beyond saying "yes we did", if they did not publish it?

    See above about lab manuals. Publishing will _never_ help you acquire patent rights. The best you can do is publish a technology someone else is trying to patent and hope that they don't have something on file yet (and that they cannot swear behind your publication).


  • Because... (Score:2, Informative)

    by babybird ( 791025 ) on Wednesday July 28, 2004 @11:00PM (#9827882)
    ...Dolby Digital is an encoding/compression method for multi-channel audio, it has nothing to do with generating the original source audio. Nor does it have anything to do with calculating audio effects such as position, reflection, or occlusion which is what Creative's EAX (and previously, Aureal's A3D) is all about.

    As for its being an accepted standard (for gaming), there is no sense using up processing time compressing and encoding multi-channel audio into a Dolby Digital stream when you can simply output the digital audio as a raw PCM stream which most digital audio decoders are capable of handling directly. It would only be of use for pre-rendered cut scenes/FMV where all the audio would be the same each time.
  • by KozmoStevnNaut ( 630146 ) on Thursday July 29, 2004 @01:57AM (#9828720)
    Are there any credible gamer-centric alternatives to Creative Labs' products?

    Terratec are the only ones I can think of at the moment. They make quality parts, and they have a game-oriented line.

    I have an old Addonics SV550 (YMF724 chip) myself, and it's all I need. It doesn't have any fancy features, but it works, and the output sounds great, and that's all I need.

    I'm beginning to think that onboard sound has finally reached a point where sound cards have become as good as obsolete. Hell, the only reason I use my YMF724 card is because the onboard sound in my machine doesn't have hardware mixing support in Linux.
  • Re:Prior art (Score:3, Informative)

    by IrresponsibleUseOfFr ( 779706 ) on Thursday July 29, 2004 @08:37AM (#9830297) Homepage Journal

    If people understood what this patent was about, they'd realize how stupid this is. Here is a short trip down computer graphics history.

    Shadows are an important visual effect for photorealism, which has been the goal of computer graphics for a very long time. But, shadows are computationally expensive. You have to answer the following question, is there something in the way between the part of the object that I know I can see and the light source. Which of course depends on other geometry in the scene. The most obvious was of answering the query is through a ray-trace. Draw a directed line from the point that you know you see, to the light source, is there something in the way? Yes, then this point is in shadow. Call this the shadow determination problem. Unfortunately, raytracing is rather slow.

    Franklin Crow wrote a paper for SIGGRAPH in 1977 called "Shadow Algorithms for Computer Graphics" which he describes the idea behind shadow volumes. Basically instead, of doing a raytrace, you create volumes that represent a space of shadow. Shadow determination becomes, is this point in a shadow volume? Yes, then this point is in shadow. In 1977, it wasn't clear why anyone would use the shadow volume method. Crow was just doing an academic survey of all methods you could use to do shadow determination.

    In comes the development of dedicated graphics hardware. Graphics hardware is generally made up of a number of buffers. A depth-buffer, color-buffer, and stencil-buffer being some examples. You only see the color-buffer. The stencil-buffer allows you to fill in some integer value for each pixel on the screen. And later render a scene based on some condition based on the value in the stencil buffer and possibly values in others, this is called the stencil-test. The stencil buffer is useful for a number of effects such a mirrors, or portals and the like.

    In 1991, Tim Heidmann wrote "Real shadows, real time" in Iris Universe in which he describes how the stencil buffer and stencil-test can be used to to implement the shadow volume test.

    Now, here is where it gets hella stupid. One of the problems you run into with shadow-volumes is that they have to be water-tight. Sometimes, the computer graphics hardware will clip the volume. That is, what you see in 3D scene actually exists in a six sided volume, called the view-volume. There is a near, far, left, right, top, and bottom plane to it. And geometry gets choped off if it happens to be on the wrong side of one of these planes planes. In the straight-foward implementation of the idea, the plane that ends up causing the most problems is the near plane. It tends to happen when the view point gets too close to a shadow volume. This causes incorrect shadow determination and suffice it to say, in interactive graphics, people will move their view point too close to shadow volumes. So dealing with shadow volumes getting clipped at the near plane is a problem that you have to deal with. The problem is really messy.

    However, Carmack popularized the idea of changing the stencil test a little bit. It moves the problematic plane from the near plane to the far plane. But, if the far plane clips the shadow volume, you still end up with incorrect results. It isn't obvious how this is much of an improvement, but it is. You generally have much more freedom on where you place the far plane than the near plane. The far plane can be basically anywhere after the near plane, the near plane has to be somewhere infront of the view point. In fact, it is possible to place the far plane infinitely far away and thus totally get rid of the clipping problem. Now, Heidmann made the suggestion in the orginial paper that you could flip the test around. Carmack just popularized the idea.

    In comes Creative Labs, 20 years hence. They didn't come up with anything. Just filed some paperwork. Not that Carmack's stencil-test flip is that earth-shattering either. I honestly believe that any smart person would come up

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