Blizzard Entertainment was granted a patent recognizing its Play of the Game method of scoring and displaying scores, according to the US Patent and Trademark Office.
The abstract of the patent, submitted Dec. 9, 2016 and granted June 14, 2018, describes the manner in which several events during a match are recorded and then revealed, showing the time stamp for when the events occurred. A “sliding window” then passes over the recorded events, picking one category and then choosing the top player for said category before displaying a replay of the event selected.
The manner in which players can then share the selected clips to social media is also included in the patent.
Within the patent, the various Play of the Game winning categories are also listed with descriptions, perhaps intended to prevent copycats from imitating the exact iteration of scoring methods and categories of “Overwatch.” For example, the Life Saver category in which players who save teammates from imminent death are recognized, or the Shutdown category in which a player prevents a powerful attack from the enemy team.
The intent behind the Play of the Game feature is to showcase the most exciting moments that might be missed in the fast-paced matches, so that teammates can enjoy them together afterward. The feature has gone through revisions over the years, as players have complained that characters dealing damage get recognized far more often than support or healing characters. Other complaints were that the algorithm would sometimes catch random, completely un-noteworthy instances of players wandering around the map.
In an interview with Waypoint last year, lead designer Jeff Kaplan talked about their ongoing plans for “Overwatch’s” Play of the Game feature, primarily tweaking the algorithm to pick better moments. In the interview, Kaplan mentioned new categories at that time, Sharpshooter and Life Saver, and how they wanted to improve the camera tracking when capturing these moments to make the playback more cinematic, among other features.
“I would say that we’re at about a 70% of where we want Play of the Game to be,” Kaplan said. “It catches a lot of cool stuff, but it’s nowhere near as awesome as I think it will be some day.”
Whether or not Play of the Game is quite where the developers want it to be at this point is up for debate, but now that they have secured a patent, Blizzard can concentrate on perfecting it.
Activision Blizzard, the parent company of Blizzard Entertainment, came under harsh criticism in 2017 for filing and then being granted a patent which would purposefully match expert players with lower-skill level players in multiplayer titles, such as “Destiny 2,” in order to encourage the less-skilled player to make micro-transaction purchases of weapons or other boosters. However, Activision Blizzard claimed that this was an exploratory patent, and not being used in any of their titles.
Other than that PR snafu, patenting core gameplay mechanics is generally a good idea for publishers looking to protect their assets. In 2017, “Overwatch’s” characters and core gameplay were clearly copied by Chinese title “Heroes of Warfare,” for which Blizzard sued 4399EN GAME, the creators.
And Blizzard is certainly not the only publisher taking action against copycats. On Friday, Bethesda filed a law suit against Warner Brothers for their “Westworld” mobile game, which they claimed was a “blatant ripoff” of “Fallout Shelter.”