Insane in the game: Is this the worst software patent ever?

The Yogg-Saron encounter in World of Warcraft is patented.
The Yogg-Saron encounter in World of Warcraft is patented.

Judith Rauhofer has sent me this gem of a patent. I present you U.S. patent 6,935,954 which protects a “Sanity system for video game”. The abstract reads:

“A video game and game system incorporating a game character’s sanity level that is affected by occurrences in the game such as encountering a game creature or gruesome situation. A character’s sanity level is modified by an amount determined based on a character reaction to the occurrence such as taking a rest or slowing game progress and/or an amount of character preparation. That is, if a character is prepared for the particular occurrence, the occurrence may have little or no affect on the character’s sanity level. As the character’s sanity level decreases, game play is effected such as by controlling game effects, audio effects, creating hallucinations and the like. In this context. the same game can be played differently each time it is played.”

I can tell you my sanity levels dropped after reading that. The rest of the patent is similarly delightful:

“In an exemplary embodiment of the invention, a method of operating a video game including a game character controlled by a player includes (a) setting a sanity level of the game character, (b) modifying the sanity level of the game character during game play according to occurrences in the game, wherein a modifying amount is determined based on a character reaction and an amount of character preparation, and (c) controlling game play according to the sanity level of the game character. Step (b) may be practiced by reducing the sanity level of the game character upon encountering a game creature or a gruesome situation. In this context, the modifying amount is reduced if the game character has been prepared for the respective game creature or gruesome situation. Alternatively or additionally, the modifying amount may be reduced if the game character is rested after encountering the respective game creature or gruesome situation. Step (b) may be practiced by increasing the sanity level of the game character if the game character locates a mind aid during game play.”

The originality levels of this patent are seriously lacking. Moreover, some famous encounters in MMORPGs could be found to infringe this patent. Anyone who has played World of Warcraft will recognise that an important part of the final Ulduar boss, the infamous old god Yogg-Saron (Yoggie to his friends), involves fighting to maintain sanity levels, or the player will go mad and kill her companions.

Yoggie is infringing a software patent, who knew?

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