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Open Source Games

Patent Issue Delays Doom 3 Source Code Release 283

Posted by Unknown Lamer
from the patents-hate-fun dept.
An anonymous reader writes "id Software is still planning to release the Doom 3 source this year, but it's been delayed by a patent issue that's causing John Carmack to personally rewrite some of the code. The patent issue in Doom 3 concerns the Carmack's Reverse algorithm and has led Carmack to rewrite it in the open-source Doom 3."
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Patent Issue Delays Doom 3 Source Code Release

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday November 16, 2011 @09:37AM (#38073042)
    So some patent troll deserves money because someone discovered something a random genius discovered again from scratch a year later, long before the patent was granted? And this helps innovation somehow?
    • by tomhudson (43916) <barbara.hudson@nOSpaM.barbara-hudson.com> on Wednesday November 16, 2011 @09:42AM (#38073084) Journal
      While it may not affect Doom3, it *could* affect anyone else using code from the open-source version for anything else. Better safe than sorry, hmm?
    • by fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) on Wednesday November 16, 2011 @09:48AM (#38073136) Journal
      If it makes you feel any better, the holder of this patent isn't strictly a patent troll; but Creative, world renowned for having not done a damn thing worth mentioning since the SoundBlaster, and somehow continuing to ship alarmingly priced cards in the face of shit that has the decency to be priced as such, from outfits like realtek, and genuinely decent hardware from companies that actually know something about audio...
      • by GReaToaK_2000 (217386) on Wednesday November 16, 2011 @10:14AM (#38073402)

        In addition if anyone remembers, there were plenty of issues between id, Creative and (wait for it) Gravis. Yes, for anyone old enough to remember those days, the UltraSound card by Gravis was the first wave table sound card and VASTLY superior to anything (non)Creative Labs ever put out.

        id's support of the UltraSound card was a bone of contention for Creative and I can easily see that Creative would have a hair across their collective ass(ets) including something they (creative) might want to litigate for.

        • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday November 16, 2011 @10:32AM (#38073614)

          I remember very well - I followed the GUS to market on Usenet and preordered one before they came out. Despite a rough initial release, especially with driver issues and a lack of much native support (due to SB/ADLIB support in software only), it was still an incredible soundcard for it's time and I remember it very fondly.

          Interestingly (and to bring this post back on topic), id Software were one of the first commercial game companies to provide support for the Gravis Ultrasound and as the parent points out it caused a fair amount of friction at the time. Bear in mind that this was back in the days of id's Doom - a smash hit that was single-handedly responsible for selling a crapton of ethernet cables, modems and routers due to the, novel and the time, 4 player networking support build in to the game. Native support of the Ultrasound (which sounded FAR FAR FAR better than the SoundBlaster) had the potential to sell a lot of sound hardware too, something Creative clearly felt threatened by.

      • " ship alarmingly priced cards in the face of shit that has the decency to be priced as such, from outfits like realtek, and genuinely decent hardware from companies that actually know something about audio..."

        Their "alarmingly high priced" cards are your subjective perception and they are still miles better then most onboard solutions in terms of features and sound quality, volume and software features. I have yet to find a soundcard that comes with simple, easy to use and clean audio tools that you get w

        • by Bengie (1121981) on Wednesday November 16, 2011 @11:14AM (#38074180)

          I had an A3D sound card back in the late 90s, that cost $20 at the time and would still kick the crap out of a modern day $80 Creative card.

          Even back then, it had better 3D sound than I've heard in the past decade from any game, and used almost no CPU time, even back on my Celeron 450a.

          What happened to them you ask? Creative kept at them with a frivolous lawsuit that eventually bankrupt Aureal with lawyer fees. Aureal was ran almost entirely by engineers, which meant very cheap high quality and innovative products/research, but they couldn't survive in the USA lawsuit world.

          I have loathed Creative ever since. They are on the same level as RIAA/MPAA for me.

      • by Nanosphere (1867972) on Wednesday November 16, 2011 @11:06AM (#38074064)

        world renowned for having not done a damn thing worth mentioning since the SoundBlaster

        Chronology of most tech companies:

        -Genius Engineer develops tech
        -Salesman buddy helps start company
        -Product becomes sucessfull
        -Salesman brings in more of his salesman/lawyer buddies to grow company
        -Group of salesmen/lawyers push genius engineer to some obscure corner of the company
        -Innovation slows to crawl or stops entirely
        -Company floats for the next decade or two off litigation and anti-competitive licensing while salesmen/lawyers rake in $$
        -Another genius engineer somewhere else develops better tech
        -Company devoid of any innovation fades into obscurity

        • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday November 16, 2011 @01:16PM (#38075826)

          -Another genius engineer somewhere else develops better tech

          -Company devoid of any innovation fades into obscurity

          Correction: Company devoid of any innovation sues new company out of existence, this is the reality of the current market thanks to the patent mess we have.

    • by D'Arque Bishop (84624) on Wednesday November 16, 2011 @09:51AM (#38073166) Homepage

      It gets worse when you consider that (if I recall correctly), the patent was held by Creative Labs, and they waited until a month or two before the game was to be released to inform id of the patent. They essentially blackmailed id into putting EAX-specific features to avoid a lawsuit and delay the game's release.

    • And this helps innovation somehow?

      Oh no, not at all. This helps the rich get richer. What, you thought government was looking out for you?

    • by robthebloke (1308483) on Wednesday November 16, 2011 @10:06AM (#38073308)
      Do you like shadow boxing?
      you do?
      Oh good!
      Fight a patent troll in court, win, and the judge will order the troll to pay all legal expenses. And like that, poof. He's gone! (And your company is lumbered with all the legal costs). Sadly it's normally just cheaper to comply, no matter how much evidence of prior art you have.

      A few years ago we used to have conferences where people would actually detail how the technical aspects of their games worked. These days a patent troll would be at the back of the conference, and would have submitted a patent application before the speaker had even finished presenting. It's no wonder that companies are so unwilling to let their employees write papers these days :(
    • by chrb (1083577) on Wednesday November 16, 2011 @10:21AM (#38073480)
      "The idea that I can be presented with a problem, set out to logically solve it with the tools at hand, and wind up with a program that could not be legally used because someone else followed the same logical steps some years ago and filed for a patent on it is horrifying." - John Carmack
  • by operagost (62405) on Wednesday November 16, 2011 @09:48AM (#38073138) Homepage Journal
    This time, the pages linked from the story are very helpful. Carmack independently discovered the algorithm a few months after Creative's employees. They properly patented the process. I'm not sure how it escaped litigation this long; Carmack's lawyers were right to question this issue before the code release.
    This has all been above-board WRT Creative. It merely raises the question again as to whether patents should last over 10 years, or whether patents should be issued for software in the first place.
    • by Xest (935314) on Wednesday November 16, 2011 @09:51AM (#38073168)

      It escaped litigation because id made a deal with creative to promote creative hardware within Doom 3 in exchange for not getting sued.

      Presumably that deal didn't include releasing the source at some point.

      • by jank1887 (815982)

        Since the source _is_ the invention, and the pantent requires full disclosure of the invention such that one skilled in the art could recreate the invention (they just can't sell anything sans licensing for ~17 years), then _filing the patent_ should require disclosure of the source.

    • by Zaphod The 42nd (1205578) on Wednesday November 16, 2011 @10:00AM (#38073266)

      or whether patents should be issued for software in the first place.

      I really gotta say, in cases like this it seems so insanely obvious that this should NOT be patent-able. Someone else came up with the EXACT same technique very shortly thereafter or simultaneously, without reading your patent or any of your work? If it really is just an incremental update, nothing novel but taking existing ideas and tying them together, it seems the opposite of innovative; it seems to me this algorithm was inevitable. If not these people, somebody would have very shortly thereafter discovered it. So why do we make such a big deal about who got there first? How does forcing everybody to licence a technology from that person that they could feasibly develop on their own, Chinese clean-room style, HELP innovation?

      It doesn't. Software patents do not help. They hurt. Companies like Microsoft buy tons of patents from college kids for pennies and then sit on them with no intention of actually using the patent described, just so they can litigate or strong-arm other companies into paying fees. Free money! This actually HELPS monopolies (I know ragging on MS is the oldest joke in the /. book, but seriously, they're doing some real harm to the industry. Its not just MS, but they're a big nasty troll right now, and they have enough money they shouldn't need to resort to tactics like this.)

      I mean, think about it. Carmack developed this algorithm. Now he's trying to open source it and share it with the world for free. AND A PATENT IS PREVENTING THIS. Show me how patents "help protect innovation and creativity." This is so backwards it hurts.

      • by The Moof (859402)

        Carmack developed this algorithm

        No, no he did not. William Bilodeau and Michael Songy developed this algorithm 2 years before Carmack recreated it. The fact that this method was being presented at Creative's developer conferences a year before Carmack invented it also doesn't help the credibility of his independent discover claim. Since there's no hard evidence, it would become a Carmack's word versus Creative's if anyone takes action, and with the timeline of invention/presentation of the technique, I would be inclined to side with Cr

        • Oh, I know. I agree. I'm talking theoretical here, what should be, rather than what is.
          Certainly he should cover his ass here, they did it first, they got the patent successfully, and yeah, his own lawyers are saying rewrite it, so he's rewriting it. As the law currently is, he wouldn't have a leg to stand on.

          I'm just saying that, as a software developer, this scares the shit out of me.
        • by SecurityGuy (217807) on Wednesday November 16, 2011 @11:57AM (#38074828)

          Yes, yes he did! He did not develop it *first*. I don't even like the word "recreated" unless Carmack knew of their work. If he didn't, they both developed it, by which I mean went through the intellectual exercise of coming up with the idea and implementing it in code.

          I'm not opposed to ALL software patents, but vehemently opposed to patents on things that aren't true innovations. Carmack's complaint that he shouldn't be able to sit down, solve a problem in an obvious way, and be told his code is infringing because someone else did the same obvious thing earlier is entirely valid.

          The problem I see is that the underlying technology changes, which makes solutions possible or practical that no one would have done before simply because they didn't work. If Intel/AMD/nvidia/whatever comes out with a billion core chip tomorrow and I solve some problem today in a trivial way that only works on billion core chips, who innovated? It wasn't me, I was just the one who used today's new hammer to whack yesterday's old nail.

      • by Kjella (173770)

        Well, consider if the patent is the "prize" and compare it to the X-prize foundation. You can't assume that just because multiple competitors came up with nearly the same solution but one nabbed the prize slightly before the others that this was just about to happen anyway. Maybe not Carmack himself, but I'm pretty sure someone over there values their IP portfolio and that's part of the reason they get paid. That's what patents do, create a scramble to invent as fast as possible and run to the patent office

        • by Zaphod The 42nd (1205578) on Wednesday November 16, 2011 @11:00AM (#38073980)

          That's what patents do, create a scramble to invent as fast as possible and run to the patent office. The downside is of course that the innovation is locked up in a patent the next 20 years. You can argue that this is wrong but that's roughly the way it's worked since Edison and Bell, there's nothing special related to software here.

          The "scramble" you speak of isn't worth the cost of locking out algorithms for 20 years. People are already "scrambling" on their own, making good software and selling it is plenty incentive already. Having a copyright on the software is good enough. You can get out first, you can get market recognition, you don't need to have a monopoly on the underlying algorithm. Its massive overkill that is going to hamstring development and turn companies like Microsoft into patent trolls that don't produce anything of their own. They now make more money from Android fees and litigation than they do from Windows Phone.

          There is something special related to software. Algorithms can be converted to lambda calculus; they are mathematical formula. Mathematical formula are exempt from patentability for a reason; they are not your own creative solution, but rather exist inherent to the universe, they are part of the space we all exist in, and you are merely describing a method, not creating a work of art or a novel invention.

      • by snowgirl (978879)

        I mean, think about it. Carmack developed this algorithm. Now he's trying to open source it and share it with the world for free. AND A PATENT IS PREVENTING THIS. Show me how patents "help protect innovation and creativity." This is so backwards it hurts.

        Under the conditions of obtaining a patent, Creative has already released all the details necessary to reproduce the process/algorithm/whatever. So the whole notion of "this is preventing the information from getting out to the public" is wrong. It's already on public record.

        Patents "help protect innovation and creativity", because one has to release the details about how to do whatever it is that they're patenting. Once the patent ends, anyone can pull up the patent information and reproduce it. The proces

        • Under the conditions of obtaining a patent, Creative has already released all the details necessary to reproduce the process/algorithm/whatever. So the whole notion of "this is preventing the information from getting out to the public" is wrong. It's already on public record.

          Yes, of course. I can go read it, and find out how to reproduce it, but then I can't actually USE it unless Creative says I can. However, if I was able to come up with it on my own, without their help, I still wouldn't be able to use it without their permission.

          Yes, I understand the basic theory on how patents work. When it comes to software algorithms I reject that answer and I feel it does more harm than good.

          "Public record" Doesn't matter. Oh look, we can go read the algorithm! How fun! Uh, unless y

      • I really gotta say, in cases like this it seems so insanely obvious that this should NOT be patent-able. Someone else came up with the EXACT same technique very shortly thereafter or simultaneously, without reading your patent or any of your work?

        1. So? Maybe you were working for months and months to come up with the technique, and maybe they were also working for months and months to come up with the technique. Independent invention doesn't say anything about whether the idea is obvious - it merely means that two people were working on it simultaneously.
        Dozens of pharma companies are working on a cure for cancer right now, and have been for decades. If two of them happen to finish their research and come up with a successful idea at roughly the sa

        • 1. So? Maybe you were working for months and months to come up with the technique, and maybe they were also working for months and months to come up with the technique. Independent invention doesn't say anything about whether the idea is obvious - it merely means that two people were working on it simultaneously.
          2. Both the patent act prior to the AIA and the newly reformed statutes include procedures for what to do when two inventors independently invent and apply for the same patent... and the answer is not "neither gets it". Congress certainly doesn't think that it's obvious.

          Fair enough, maybe obvious is the wrong word. But still, if two people both get done at the same time, giving the one who got done atomically by a day or two on years of development a patent and monopoly on the item while the other party has to pay the first party is just wrong. Maybe you say somehow they share a patent, but then what about if somebody else is done a week later as well? How long does the window stay open? Either way it doesn't help things. I understand that if I don't want to have to re-do

        • Dozens of pharma companies are working on a cure for cancer right now, and have been for decades.

          Actually, that bit is why whatever they come up with to cure cancer is NOT obvious and IS worthy of patent protection. As an example of something that wouldn't be worthy of patent protection, imagine SARS-II emerges next year. No one has ever tried to cure or prevent transmission of this new disease. You take the revolutionary step of wearing a surgical mask, quarantining infected people, using negative press

      • by ultranova (717540)

        I really gotta say, in cases like this it seems so insanely obvious that this should NOT be patent-able. Someone else came up with the EXACT same technique very shortly thereafter or simultaneously, without reading your patent or any of your work? If it really is just an incremental update, nothing novel but taking existing ideas and tying them together, it seems the opposite of innovative; it seems to me this algorithm was inevitable.

        An innovation is all about taking existing ideas and putting them togeth

      • "Companies like Microsoft buy tons of patents from college kids for pennies"

        Please consider, no one forces them to sell?

        imagine if with offer to sell in hand- they instead donate the patent to a 501c qualified free software organization and derived a tax benefit
        the offer to buy should stand as evidence of value.

  • Props to Mr. Carmack (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Xeleema (453073) on Wednesday November 16, 2011 @09:56AM (#38073220) Homepage Journal

    I realize there may be a financial incentive for rewriting what is no doubt a fair chunk of one of the key "selling points" of the DOOM 3 engine, however I'm glad to see that this is being done so the source can be released *publically*. Even if not much comes from it, I personally enjoy going over the code released from id Software...it's like going and in time and watching Da Vinci with a hammer and chisel.

    (Yes, yes "Carmack's no Da Vinci", but he is as close to one as most Programmer's can get.)

    • by TheCarp (96830)

      Yah but, let's see Da Vinci's impaled head take more than one or two blasts of rocket splash damage without being reduced to gibs. We KNOW where Carmack's cranium stacks up in that test.

  • by MetalliQaZ (539913) on Wednesday November 16, 2011 @09:58AM (#38073254)

    It's like we're trolling ourselves.

  • Saw this coming.. (Score:5, Interesting)

    by mewsenews (251487) on Wednesday November 16, 2011 @10:00AM (#38073264) Homepage

    I sent John Carmack an email about this back in April 2009:

    Hi John,

    I believe you've said publicly that you are planning a GPL release of the Doom 3 source code, but I remember around the time the game was launched you had Creative holding a patent on the shadows algorithm, and you assuaged them by including support for EAX. Is that still causing problems?

    -Dave

    When we release the code (no date set), anyone that uses it would potentially be infringing. There are workarounds at a modest performance cost.

    John Carmack

    It sounds like id's lawyers are asking him to implement one of the workarounds he mentioned before he makes the public release.

    • And at the same time, "modest performance cost" is probably negligable at this point. Doom 3 was released in 2005 according to wiki, and via Steam in 2007. While the margin of improvement has slowed, systems will be quite a bit beefier by the time it is released. And when open source takes hold of it and makes derivative games (I mean that in a good way) the hardware will be able to compensate.

      Remember, this patent is for a speed hack, which is generally useful for about 5 years max in computer land. Th

      • by mewsenews (251487)

        And at the same time, "modest performance cost" is probably negligable at this point.

        Agreed. The wikipedia article linked from this story illustrates that the industry hasn't stood still and there have been developments by nVidia and others for alternative methods. If we're lucky the new Doom 3 source will have a better algorithm than the retail version.

  • Somebody reverse Carmack's Reverse and put it on a tshirt!

  • by MobyDisk (75490) on Wednesday November 16, 2011 @10:18AM (#38073450) Homepage

    So Carmack is doing something for the good of society, and a commercial company chooses to add a roadblock. But rather than give up, he spends his own time to rewrite the algorithm in a way that avoids the patent. That is a phenomenal level of dedication to the open-source community. He doesn't have to release the code. He doesn't have to rewrite that section.

    Thank you John.

    • Absolutely true. I propose we make this the official "Thank you" thread. Thank you John! You rock!

    • This almost makes up for Resurrection of Evil.

      Almost.
      • by DavoMan (759653)
        we have a high profile dev team going out of their way to release a AAA game as open source, and you give them crap? come on. get off the internet.
    • by delinear (991444)
      Not to take anything away from Carmack's contribution here, it's a great thing he's doing, but I don't think Creative have thrown up a roadblock just yet. He's just not giving them that option by rewriting the problematic code, perhaps they wouldn't have cared but he obviously thought better safe than sorry - kudos to him for that, but yah boo sucks to the system that makes it necessary.
    • Not to mention that I thought when Bethesda/Zenimax bought out iD, they said iD would never again release an engine as open source.

      I suspect that Carmack has had to fight considerably to make this happen.

      • by Guspaz (556486)

        No, they didn't, they simply said that they would stop licensing id engines for games that are not published by Zenimax. If third party developers want to use an id engine, they need to publish through Zenimax.

    • by MalHavoc (590724)
      I agree, Mr. Carmack is a class act. I do wonder if he can now remove EAX support from the open source version of the engine though :)
    • by xhrit (915936)
      I don't know why he doesn't just remove the offending code and release the rest as-is. It is open source. The community would develop a fix.
  • ...but on the bright side, Carmack's Reverse can always be reimplemented by the open source community, and this may hasten the implementation of shadowmaps in source ports to replace Doom 3's stencil shadows. The visual quality improvement would be non-trivial, and for all but hardware that was *ahem* not exactly groundbreaking when Doom 3 was new, the performance delta shouldn't be too massive. In some scenarios it may even be faster.
    • by Guspaz (556486)

      Shadowmaps can still look worse than stencil shadows in many situations. Especially if the stencil shadows are not of sufficiently high resolution to produce smooth edges.

      On the other hand, stencil shadows can do soft shadowing a heck of a lot easier.

  • Just remove it. While it was a clever optimization for its time, on current hardware it is unnecessary.

    This is what JC's tweet suggests he is doing, not re-writing it.

  • by DavoMan (759653) on Wednesday November 16, 2011 @10:37AM (#38073678)
    This is an amazing gift to the FOSS community. Not only are they just deciding to give away code they don't use anymore - but they are putting SERIOUS EFFORT into making it safe to release to the community. This shows without a shadow of a doubt that Id Software are GOOD GUYS. We need to give these guys our thanks.
  • by G3ckoG33k (647276) on Wednesday November 16, 2011 @10:53AM (#38073872)

    When I was your age, we http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=W1ZtBCpo0eU [youtube.com]

    Enjoy :)

    !!!

  • This is why I love id software, even though I'll admit their games may not be as great as some of the other companies' offerings. The fact that Carmack is going through the trouble of working around a potential patent issue all to open source their Tech 4 engine is awesome.
  • ...You deserve every twin-turbo F50 you can get your hands on. Mad propz.

  • by loshwomp (468955) on Wednesday November 16, 2011 @12:53PM (#38075558)

    It sounds like Carmack is implementing a workaround to the Creative patent. That's very decent of him, but there's still nothing preventing release of the original (claimed infringing) source code. At worst, anyone who *used* the source would be infringing but publishing it would not be a problem (the patent is disclosed by definition, after all).

    Seeing the original implementation side-by-side with the new workaround would be incredibly interesting, I think.

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