Strong IP

Techdirt points to a story illustrating how strong IP enforcement comes around after going around:

We’ve been talking about how ridiculously aggressive Sony has been lately in enforcing its intellectual property rights concerning PS3s, so it seems like there might be a bit of karmic retribution in the fact that a shipment of PS3s has been seized in Europe as part of an ongoing legal fight with LG over patents covering parts of the PS3. I’m always amazed at how frequently companies who push for stronger and stronger enforcement of IP laws never seem to consider the consequences when those laws are directed at their own activities.

There’s been a lot of talk this week about patent reform since the Senate passed a bill 95-5 that would, among other things, move the U.S. to a first-to-file system similar to what most of the rest of world uses.  Some commentators think the proposed statutory reforms wouldn’t amount to much, though others suggest that the FTC’s recent report suggest that administrative reforms may be on the way.

Vast worlds of discovery

In case you thought the age of discovery was over, Wired’s Threat Level blog is reporting that a 21-year-old hacker George Hotz who released the PlayStation 3 jailbreak has been ordered to surrender

any and all computer hardware and peripherals containing circumvention devices, technologies, programs, parts thereof, or other unlawful material, including but not limited to code and software, hard disc drives, computer software, inventory of CD-ROMS, computer diskettes, or other material containing circumvention devices, technologies, programs, parts thereof, or other unlawful material.

As Hotz lawyer put it,

The information sought at issue [the jailbreak code] is less than 100 kilobytes of data. Mr. Hotz has terabytes of storage devices….Impounding his computers, it’s like starting a forest fire to cut down a single tree.

Though the court’s order does seem like overkill, it is unfortunately a typically broad discovery request.  Sony may simply be trying to harass Hotz and/or hamper any future work, a theory especially plausible insofar as the court also ordered that Hotz “shall retrieve” the jailbreak he posted.  Given the number of websites that have re-posted Hotz’s original code, this would seem to be impossible.  As Hotz’s lawyer rather cogently quipped, ““Mr. Hotz can’t retrieve the internet.”

Wired has posted the judge’s order here (PDF).

Rigging the accuracy of video games

As video game consoles and controllers become more accurate in interpreting human movement, the designers must wrestle with a question: do they really want the machines to be 100% accurate? A Sony executive discusses why the accuracy is compromised in order to create a better gaming experience: Move is much more accurate than the Wii remote, so it can be used to create much more complex games. But will those be attractive to a general audience?

Shuhei Yoshida: We never intended to use the accuracy as-is, because that makes games totally unplayable…. But people love one-to-one, they really enjoy seeing on the screen what you are doing, actually tracked. Our teams have devised a way to make you feel that everything you do is accurately tracked….

It’s taking the intent of the player by looking exactly at what he or she is doing, but assisting, filtering it a little bit, and still giving a little bit of what he or she has done. You feel like, “This is what I intended.” It makes you feel like a good player, but still allows people to progress from entry level to advanced.

You remove the assistance bit by bit. Games become more challenging, but at the same time you understand completely that if you fail it’s your fault, and if you succeed it’s your achievement.

I think that’s a new requirement for designing games using accurate motion tracking. But unless you have accurate motion tracking, you cannot create that depth of gameplay.

I’m not sure I buy into this reasoning. So playing ping-pong on the PS3 is a game because the machine assists/interprets your actions if you are really bad. Becoming “good” at the game comes with machine assistance. Playing ping-pong in real life is something different because you can fail. This is something I’ve never understood about Guitar Hero or Rock Band: wouldn’t you rather learn to play the real instrument? Perhaps the game is more “fun” and easier to learn if you can’t fail but it ultimately doesn’t translate into any useful skills.

I suppose manufacturers must do this so gamers don’t become frustrated but it seems like the easy way out. With the new Playstation Move, is there a way to turn off this assist feature?