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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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  • Creative's job (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday July 28, 2004 @12:21PM (#9822664)
    Seems like creative makes a practice outta this. http://us.creative.com/corporate/investor/releases .asp?pid=6197 Creative Technology Ltd. (NASDAQ: CREAF), and wholly-owned subsidiary EMU, today announced a mixed jury verdict in the case against Aureal Semiconductor.
  • Prior art (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Augusto ( 12068 ) on Wednesday July 28, 2004 @01:05PM (#9822788) Homepage
    Prior art from a talk on the technique [gamedev.net]

    Reply Quoting This MessageEdit Message SimmerD Member since: 1/5/2003
    Posted - 9/21/2003 6:50:03 PM

    Don't worry about it fellas. I described this technique publicly a few months before they filed the patent - hence Prior Art. Ironically, it was at a Creative Labs developer's forum.

    During my stencil buffer talk, I described doing shadow volumes the 'reverse' way. At the time, I didn't realize the major reason why the z fail method is better than the z pass method, although I did realize they were logically equivalent, which is why it's now known as 'Carmack's Reverse' and not 'Dietrich's Reverse'!
  • by theluckyleper ( 758120 ) on Wednesday July 28, 2004 @01:11PM (#9822811) Homepage
    I seriously think that software patents need some sort of statute of limitation placed upon them. It looks like in some parts of the world, this exists [chinalaw.cc]! In China, the statute of limitation for patent infringement is:

    2 years from the date on which the patentee or any interested party obtains or should have obtained knowledge of the infringing act

    If this were in force in the USA, then the Unisys GIF debacle (and countless others) could have been avoided.

    Unisys KNEW that GIFs were ALL OVER the web, for years, and they didn't attempt to enforce their patent. They'd have to have been in a hole, to not notice. Therefore, a statute of limitations would have prevented them from allowing the world to become addicted to GIFs before springing their trap.
  • by Dan East ( 318230 ) on Wednesday July 28, 2004 @01:14PM (#9822821) Journal
    id Software has faithfully released the full source code to each of their titles once the game is a couple generations old.

    I wonder if this will affect the release of the Doom 3 source a few years from now? Can patented code be released under the GPL?

    Dan East
  • well then... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by tandr ( 108948 ) on Wednesday July 28, 2004 @01:16PM (#9822829)
    "would only have hurt the users..."

    Creatives drivers for SB (Live or whatever) always caused only headache on multiprocessor machines. I realized how limited (and poorly writen) their drivers are after switched to kX drivers. Now marketing dep @ creative reached total lows ...

    I dunno about rest of the /. croud, but I hear you John. My next rig will have no Creative products in it.
  • by zedmelon ( 583487 ) on Wednesday July 28, 2004 @01:38PM (#9822906) Homepage Journal
    Appealing in some ways, but Carmack won't do that, as illustrated by his words, that you don't even need to read the article to find:

    'It was tempting to take a stand...but that would only have hurt the users...'

  • Historical precedent (Score:5, Interesting)

    by burnin1965 ( 535071 ) on Wednesday July 28, 2004 @01:49PM (#9822959) Homepage
    The irony in a company named Creative holding a software patent from which they have never created anything is just amazing.

    Anyhow, there is precedent for this type of stupidity. Believe it or not the American car manufacturers at one time paid a patent holding company for every car they sold. Ford challenged the patent and the court ordered the holding company to build the car for which they held the patent on. Needless to say the car was a dismal failure and the patent was overturned in 1911.

    http://inventors.about.com/library/weekly/aacarsse ldona.htm [about.com]

  • by Anita Coney ( 648748 ) on Wednesday July 28, 2004 @01:55PM (#9823014) Homepage
    In "Masters of Doom" Carmack stated, either naively or bravely, that he refuses to file patents for his work as such information should not be locked away but should be free.

    Now that he's been burned, I wonder if he'll start filing them as preemptive measures. I hate software patents, but I would if I were him.
  • by Anita Coney ( 648748 ) on Wednesday July 28, 2004 @02:05PM (#9823143) Homepage
    I had an Aureal card, and with only two speakers it could surround sound audio extremely well. There was a speaker test involving helicopters and it actually sounded like it was behind you, in front of you, above you, etc. Even my wife was fooled.

    Aureal made the same mistake 3dfx made. It decided to sell its own cards instead of licensing the technology to OEMs. That was asinine.
  • I stab at thee (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Paladine97 ( 467512 ) on Wednesday July 28, 2004 @02:07PM (#9823165) Homepage
    Could this be an attempt to stay competitive now that Intel's High Definition Audio [intel.com] is coming?

    With this advanced audio appearing on most of Intel's new boards, it would seem to me that Creative's market is disappearing.
  • by 13Echo ( 209846 ) on Wednesday July 28, 2004 @02:07PM (#9823168) Homepage Journal
    This is what really annoys me about this system and companies like Creative Labs (who haven't made an innovative product since the mid-90s). They simply buy up all sorts of technology (Aureal, Sensaura, EMU, Ensoniq, etc.) and slack off with their own products. Creative hasn't done anything substantial with their soundcards since the Live series was released (even then it was sub-par in terms of quality), and has simply re-released the same DSP with some pumped-up driver hacks and better codecs. It's no wonder that companies like M-Audio and Turtle Beach have produced sonically superior products for the average consumer.

    Unfortunately, other areas of audio have suffered. There is no "OpenGL" of 3D audio because Creative owns all of the patents from its acquisition of companies like Aureal and Sensaura. They will always have the one-up on 3D audio performance over their customers, and any improvements will be at their own pace. PC audio has been so stale over the last few years. It's sad to see that it's come down to this, but literally; PC audio has gone virtually nowhere because of patent issues like this. This issue with their (stealing) patenting of Carmack's Reverse really shows why we are probably set-back several years in terms of a truly awesome 3D audio experience.
  • Re:September 2004? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by DarkMan ( 32280 ) on Wednesday July 28, 2004 @02:10PM (#9823193) Journal
    Not really. Computer magazines use 'off self' dating. That is, when the date listed on the magazine comes around, it should be removed from the newsagents shelf.

    Most magazines use 'on date' dating, where they get put on the shelf when the date listed on them comes up.

    Why the difference? Tradition mostly. The argument is that computer magazines need to seem as new as possible (cos the tech changes), moreso than most other magazines. Thus once one magazine went with 'off date' naming, the rest followed, rather than seem a month or so out of date.

    Typically the magazine is on the shelves for a month, so a subscriber would be getting the magazine intended for same during August about now. That magazine will have September as the date written on it.

    So, it's bizzare, counter intuative, but perfectly possible to quote a 'September' issue now.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday July 28, 2004 @02:11PM (#9823208)
    Creative *doesn't* have greater market share. How many people use the built-in AC 97 motherboard sound? How many computers have Creative built-in? Hell, I haven't used anything Creative Labs has put out in years, my motherboard sound is good enough. Moreover, that nVidia-based motherboard I've got in my current system supports 5.1 surround. Why would I even bother with CL?

    Now, if Gravis updated the Ultrasound card, I might give that a look...
  • by BlueStrat ( 756137 ) on Wednesday July 28, 2004 @02:17PM (#9823267)
    I would recommend letting Creative know how you feel. My e-mail to Creative:


    I've recently become aware of the situation with Creative/Id Software regarding software patents held by your corporation, and the pressure brought to bear on Id Software as a result. I am against software patenets in general, and especially when used in the ways in which Creative seems to be using them. I've always used Creative products, and recommended them to friends, as well as used and recommended them in buisiness/industrial venues. Sadly, I find myself unable, in good conscience, to continue to use or recommend Creative products and will recommend against using or purchasing Creative products, as the patent tactics being used by Creative to maintain/increase revenue/marketshare are unacceptable to me. I earnestly hope Creative re-thinks its' position(s) on the use of the threat of patent litigation as a buisiness model/tactic. I am not afilliated in any way with Id Software, or its' partners or afilliates, nor with any other competitor of Creative.


    I know it doesn't do much, but just maybe if enough negative PR is generated they may rethink their tactics.

  • by nattt ( 568106 ) on Wednesday July 28, 2004 @02:23PM (#9823341)
    If so, then you wouldn't have to publically disclose the workings of your invention. Patents are to protect work that is publically disclose so the secrets of any invention don't get lost to society, and hence, after the patent expires, you can build upon that invention.

    But patents rarely fully disclose exactly how the invention works, and as we know, the devil is in the detail. I think a lot of people skilled in a particular art would find it hard to re-create an invention from it's patent - indeed, there are many patents for things that do not work.

    Patents are protection for ideas, but ideas are worthless when implementation is everything, which is certainly the case in software. Implementations are adequately protected by copyrights.

    Patents may have meant something in the dim, dark past when people patented physical inventions that worked, but now....
  • by Anita Coney ( 648748 ) on Wednesday July 28, 2004 @02:27PM (#9823386) Homepage
    I hate Creative as a company. A few years back it decided not to host any drivers or software on its US servers. It stated, believe it or not, that in fairness to those without broadband access, it was better to charge EVERYONE to buy and mail CDs with the latest drivers.

    That ploy didn't work as everyone simply used servers in Europe or Asia to download the drivers and software.

    But still to this day you need the original driver off the CD that came with your hardware. If you try to use the latest downloaded drivers, they'll tell you that there is no Creative hardware installed.

    What purpose does this serve? I've bought the hardware, they have my money, why be stingy with the drivers? Every other hardware manufacture lets me simply use the latest drivers WITHOUT installing the old drivers first.

    Why do I still use Creative's audio cards? Normalization. It's a feature buried in Creative's EAX, but it makes all MP3s (actually all sound files) the same volume. Thus, every computer in my house has a Creative card in it so I can access my MP3 collection from any where in the house.

    Does any other sound card maker have a feature similar to Creative's normalization? Or did Creative patent that too?

  • by MattRog ( 527508 ) on Wednesday July 28, 2004 @02:36PM (#9823491)
    Modern motherboards contain on-board sound -- many of which are 5.1 or greater with digital S/P DIF connectors. With all the hoopla over Doom 3 hardware requirements I couldn't find any major ([H]ardOCP, Tom's Hardware, etc.) sites listing audio benchmarks or quality comparisons pitting on-board sound and cards like the Creative Z2 series.

    I'm not an audiophile, but for games like Doom 3 etc. if a motherboard already supports digital 5.1 (or greater) is it really necessary to go out and purchase a Creative card? Will said on-board audio provide sufficient quality for 5.1+ gaming? I'm building a gaming system to replace my aging first-generation Athlon and am not sure whether or not I should throw a sound card in the mix, too.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday July 28, 2004 @02:37PM (#9823506)
    This reminds me of a story that floated around Creative while I was working there ('93-'96), and it was about how this little independant game developer had approached Creative for some development support with their sound cards. This was '91-'92 time frame. Anyways, the guy called up asking for some help, and pretty much got the shaft. He wasn't a licensed developer, and didn't want to pay the huge amount Creative was asking for at the time.

    Some harsh words were exchanged, and the guy basically told Creative to go F themselves. Not long after the guy releases Doom and the rest is history.

    Creative changed their policy shortly thereafter and created a developer support department to help out the small developers. A little too late, IMO.

    But the real clincher was when Creative launched their new product at the time, the AWE32, with loadable Soundfont technology. iD was getting close to releasing Quake, and Creative really wanted to get iD to support their new technology.

    But Carmack, remember how he was so fondly treated, and basically told Creative to suck it, again, and Quake was released without AWE32 support.

    The AWE32 never really took off, and neither did their Soundfont technology.

    So I am a bit suprised that Carmack agreed to use their technology, but it does show everyone where his alliances lie. To the fan and consumer.

    Kudos to Carmack.

    Anyways, goes on to prove, that the toes you step on today, may belong to the ass you have to kiss tomorrow.

    Kind Herb

    "Whether you suffer from glaucoma, or you just rented The Matrix,
    medical marijuana can make things fabulous, medically!"

    -- Homer J. Simpson

  • by Slime-dogg ( 120473 ) on Wednesday July 28, 2004 @02:57PM (#9823744) Journal

    Probably not. The advantage that sound cards have over integrated stuff is that the integrated stuff uses CPU power. The PCI cards have full fledged DSP's on them, and the drivers usually offload a lot of work to the card (hardware acceleration). This advantage is slowly going away, since CPU's are so massively powerful nowadays, and noticeable sound quality only gets so good.

  • by mr. methane ( 593577 ) on Wednesday July 28, 2004 @03:09PM (#9823896) Journal
    I installed my last creative card into a machine close to two years ago, and remembering the absolute HELL of installing their driver set, I vowed never to even insert another CD with the "creative" logo on it in a computer.

    After installing a reasonably good Asus motherboard in my latest gaming rig, I figured I'd live with the on-board audio (which I assumed to be a piece of crap) because the extra $150 or so for an ub3r SB card would have stretched my toy budget.

    Ya know what? The onboard 5.1 sound (by some quasi-generic manufacturer) works quite well, rendering the positional audio of games without killing the CPU, and it handles both stereo and surround sound nicely. I've got both digital and analog in/outs, headphone jack (without the trademark Creative crappy-ground-whining-noise)..

    So I can live with a perfectly useable solution and spend the $150 on new clothes for the kids - or something *really* important - like a new Dremel.

    Or, I can shell out $150 for a sound card that doesn't really give me anything new, plays havoc with my hardware, and installs 80 varieries of spamware on my PC before crashing it.. Gee, let me think.... I'll skip the SCO.. I mean, Creative, hardware.
  • All i have to say is (Score:2, Interesting)

    by chaos4u ( 13695 ) * on Wednesday July 28, 2004 @04:11PM (#9824656)
    why do software companies use eax in the first place

    there is a standard that works very well when implemented has superb postioning and has been around for years

    its called dolby digital

    what is causing the problems with dolby digital not being an accepted standard ?

    in my opinon a dolby digital setup will always best creatives reverb crap and ill never understand why companies feel they have to include eax support in there games. when there is a better standard available
  • by megalomang ( 217790 ) on Wednesday July 28, 2004 @04:39PM (#9825042)
    What about the Switzerland approach? If he files NO patents and freely gives his ideas to the world, could he be able to find other entities that can rely on his ideas to such an extent that they will use their patent database to threaten the would-be oppressors?

    For example, IBM is Linux' biggest savior today. Why? Linux has no cash, but IBM has a vested interest in Linux. Can Carmack leverage this strategy by freely giving his ideas and technology to other organizations (after a "cooling off" period, of course, to ensure his games succeed) or even to GNU or Linux so that FSF and IBM or other Linux advocates will use their portfolios or weight to squash Creative?

  • by Jelloman ( 69747 ) on Wednesday July 28, 2004 @05:06PM (#9825401)
    Agreed... honestly I've already pre-ordered Doom 3 anyway, but I would be really happy with id if they had taken a stand here. I disagree that it would hurt only the users; it would hurt id a bit, it would hurt creative more (lots of people would switch over to using their mobo audio or buy a new sound card).

    In any case I will certainly never buy any Creative products again. I realize every tech company has patents and most of them have bad patents; it's the bad patent bullies I won't forgive.
  • playing with fire... (Score:4, Interesting)

    by WiPEOUT ( 20036 ) on Wednesday July 28, 2004 @08:31PM (#9827044)
    I've been a purchaser of Creative Labs sound cards since the SoundBlaster16, with the exception of a foray into Diamond's Monster Sound 3D II MX300 due to A3D 2.0 and it's support in Half-Life.

    I admire the folks at id Software, for all the usual reasons. I have no problem with any company contacting id Software and requesting that their proprietary technology is supported to improve a game. What I thoroughly dislike is the concept of software patents. What I dislike even more is the use of software patents as leverage. What frankly pisses me off is someone using software patents to threaten a company like id Software, who selflessly contribute a ridiculous amount to the development of computing, both directly in releasing unpatented software and indirectly by driving the take-up of new hardware and software technologies in their games. Doubly so when it's a distinctly uninnovative company like Creative Labs.

    The only way a regular gamer like myself can punish a company is by refusing to buy it's products.

    Are there any credible gamer-centric alternatives to Creative Labs' products?

    I will be doing some research now, and if there are, CL will have just lost a customer. I have no problem with throwing a few hundred dollars in a different direction every year or three. Hell, I'd even be willing to donate money to id to have them say "see you in court" to the spineless worms.
  • by dizzydazed ( 795256 ) on Thursday July 29, 2004 @05:20AM (#9829587)
    My story with iD was a bit nicer. Way back when, one of their games had this little memory glitch. Would not work properly with certain memory manager. iD sends us the snippet of code that intialized the memory. I pass it to our fellow who wrote the memory manager. His response "that's wrong, use this" He rewrote their code we sent it back, a week later I get another copy of their game in the mail. Memory problems are gone. The game was Wolfenstein. Memory manager was QEMM. WinWin for both, (pity I'd already paid for a copy of the game, since I would have gotten one free at that point. oh well, money well spent)

How many NASA managers does it take to screw in a lightbulb? "That's a known problem... don't worry about it."