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Old 28-Jul-2004, 02:19   #1
Reverend
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Default Creative claims similar shadowing tech as id Software

Creative apparently has a patent on a shadowing technique that appears to have some similiarity with id Software's soon-to-be-available DOOM3's shadowing technique (story). Now, without attempting to raise any controversy on this matter, this reporter thinks that software patents in general are a Bad Thing. It is a little suspicious that Creative posted about their technique on their company's developer forum first. To have later filed a patent and then challenge id Software is in this reporter's opinion inexcusable. This is tantamount to blackmailing game developers -- inventing a technique, talking about it before filing a patent that hasn't been published and then telling a game developer that there is some infringement is just unethical behaviour.

[edit]It is wise to visit this page to see some history behind Creative's claim. But this does not change the basic opinion this reporter has about the gist of this matter. Please visit the comments on this news post.

This reporter emailed id Software's John Carmack, touching a little on his "reverse shadowing" technique (info here and here) and the state of patenting in general before asking him for some comments on this Creative "agreement" with id Software. Here's what he had to say :
The patent situation well and truly sucks.

We were prepared to use a two-pass algorithm that gave equivalent results at a speed hit, but we negotiated the deal with Creative so that we were able to use the zfail method without having to actually pay any cash. 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.

John Carmack
It appears that id Software "backed down" by resolving this quickly in order not to hurt the gaming industry (including gamers). For a company that is tied so closely with gaming, Creative's actions is just plain wrong. It would be awful to think that this matter is setting a precedent for others to follow Creative's behaviour.

[Edited – 29/7/2004 13:14 by DB] The Inquirer approached Creative about this story and they have posted Creative's full reply here. Note that we are not suggesting Creative were doing anything other than protecting their IP in relation to the deal struck with id in relation to Doom3, however the concerns voiced here stem from the shadowing solution apparently being evangelised to games developers at a Creative Developer Conference before the patent was filed.

[Edited – 1/8/2004 by Reverend]Just after the original news post, this reporter contacted Mr Sim Dietrich at NVIDIA about the contents of our news post. The following is Mr Dietrich's email to this reporter :
I really shouldn't comment on the legal or moral aspects of it, but I updated my post on Gamedev.net about this just to set the facts straight.

Basically, I actually presented it even earlier, at GDC in March '99 in my 'Using the Stencil Buffer' Talk.
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Old 28-Jul-2004, 02:31   #2
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Default Re: Creative claims similar shadowing tech as id Software

Quote:
Originally Posted by Reverend
Creative apparently has a patent on a shadowing technique that appears to have some similiarity with id Software's soon-to-be-available DOOM3's shadowing technique (story). Now, without attempting to raise any controversy on this matter, this reporter thinks that software patents in general are a Bad Thing. It is a little suspicious that Creative posted about their technique on their company's developer forum first. To have later filed a patent and then challenge id Software is in this reporter's opinion inexcusable. This is tantamount to blackmailing game developers -- inventing a technique, talking about it before filing a patent that hasn't been published and then telling a game developer that there is some infringement is just unethical behaviour.

This reporter emailed id Software's John Carmack, touching a little on his "reverse shadowing" technique (info here and here) and the state of patenting in general before asking him for some comments on this Creative "agreement" with id Software. Here's what he had to say :<blockquote>The patent situation well and truly sucks.

We were prepared to use a two-pass algorithm that gave equivalent results at a speed hit, but we negotiated the deal with Creative so that we were able to use the zfail method without having to actually pay any cash. 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.

John Carmack
</blockquote>It appears that id Software "backed down" by resolving this quickly in order not to hurt the gaming industry (including gamers). For a company that is tied so closely with gaming, Creative's actions is just plain wrong. It would be awful to think that this matter is setting a precedent for others to follow Creative's behaviour.
I absolutely detest creative. It PAINS me that there isnt a viable competitor (as far as a quality gaming soundboard goes) in the consumer space. If nvidia would just license or release their nforce APU I would mail my audigy ZS back to creative headquarters in peices.
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Old 28-Jul-2004, 02:44   #3
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thanks for following up on this Rev, i though creative's pr comment seemed rather fishy.

oh and i too think that nvidia should go into the sound card business, given their close ties with the top teer developers like id i think they could really put a hurt on creative's current monopoly.
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Old 28-Jul-2004, 02:46   #4
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Yeah, there was hope for awhile. I was hoping that Audigy would be the "3dfx" of the audio industry and provide viable competition for creative plus some innovation, instead Creative killed them off. The sad thing is, Intel might be able to kill Creative off, but then we're stuck with an Intel monopoly on audio, and without any innovative standard to differentiate and expand on, like "Wavetracing" ala Audigy, audio becomes commodified and there just isn't a reason to purchase an external card anymore. It'll be hacked up EAX-style reverb and occlusions rather than something more physically simulated.
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Old 28-Jul-2004, 02:52   #5
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i think you mean "Aureal" there, "Audigy" is what Creative calls their newer cards.
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Old 28-Jul-2004, 02:54   #6
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Just a small caveat, Sim Dietrich did a presentation in 1999 on a simular method ... which was at a Creative Labs developer forum apparently, but not presented by Creative themselves.

More details in this thread at Gamedev. You might want to add that link to the news post for clarification. Also it might be nice to get some additional comments from mr. Dietrich, at the time he made those comments he was not aware of them going after developers ... he might have some more choice words now.

BTW I would like to commend B3D for taking the time and having the guts to get the ball rolling, and mr. Carmack for his remarkable forthrightness.
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Old 28-Jul-2004, 03:17   #7
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Marco, who did Dietrich work for at the during he made the presentation? Can't locate his email add... do you have it? (PM me)
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Old 28-Jul-2004, 03:39   #8
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http://developer.nvidia.com/attach/1807

There is his presentation with his email address at the time. He worked at that time for Nvidia (so suprisingly enough his email address is SDietrich at some place nvidia.com).

Edit:
Good job btw Reverand on getting Carmack's comments which confirm our fears.
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Old 28-Jul-2004, 03:39   #9
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Well in the presentation on NVIDIA's site from around the same time he had a nvidia email address. Interestingly the presentation while present seems no longer linked anywhere on NVIDIA's site.

He actively posts on gamedev, and has simmer@spies.net set there. I think he is still at NVIDIA though (hope they wont prevent him from commenting :( ) so SDietrich@nvidia.com might also work.
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Old 28-Jul-2004, 04:05   #10
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/me crosses off Audigy 2 from his list of planned upgrades.

Reverend, excellent work. It's nice to see that you want to pursue this. I hope this issue is picked up tomorrow on the mainstream gaming sites.
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Old 28-Jul-2004, 04:10   #11
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Apparently Mr. Dietrich posted in that GD thread:

Quote:
Originally Posted by [url=http://gamedev.net/community/forums/viewreply.asp?ID=1110231
SimmerD[/url]]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'!
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Old 28-Jul-2004, 04:15   #12
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I've ranked Creative pretty low for quite some time, but I'd thought that at least 3D graphics was somewhat safe from them. I'd also thought that the 3Dlabs acquistion might have a positive effect on some aspects of their management.

Unfortunate surpises today, it seems.
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Old 28-Jul-2004, 05:46   #13
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Default Re: Creative claims similar shadowing tech as id Software

Quote:
Originally Posted by John Carmack
that would only have hurt the users.
Tough argument there.

When a AAA-publisher, not to mention one of the industries brightest and most respected programmers, publicly refuses to use patented gaming software alogrithms, this stands a good chance of lessening the influence of patent extortionists like Creative. This is even more the case considering the number of games which will use the Doom 3 license in the coming years.

-Blue
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Old 28-Jul-2004, 05:46   #14
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Sent the following to SDietrich@nvidia.com and simmers@spies.net (thanks Marco) :

Quote:
Originally Posted by Reverend
Sim,

I hope this email gets to you.

First of all, please visit :

http://www.beyond3d.com/index.php#news14459

Since that news post of mine, I've found out that you did that presentation prior to John discovering his now-famously-called "Carmack's Reverse".

However, the point of this email isn't to debate who invented this algorithm first.

I am hoping that you have some comments on what Creative did and perhaps comment on John's email to me on this. I stand by what I wrote in my news post, that what Creative did stinks, that a precedent is set that holds software developers to ransom ("let's keep our invention quiet until some big time developer comes out with a game/app that uses a similar technique... and then we'll legally threaten them with a financial compensation the aim") and basically set the industry back to the stone ages.
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Old 28-Jul-2004, 05:59   #15
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Quote:
Originally Posted by MfA
BTW I would like to commend B3D for taking the time and having the guts to get the ball rolling, and mr. Carmack for his remarkable forthrightness.
The truth is I hate this as much as you, Marco. Dave doesn't like B3D staff to be sensationalists (it's unprofessional and at times just plain immature... some websites likes to do this to generate hits and hopefully get noticed) and while this is a particularly sensitive issue and I didn't consult Dave about making this news post of mine, the underlying nature of this matter is too serious for me to not make some noise.

The fact that I told John that I hate this, will want to speak out about this and will use whatever comments he may provide and he gave me that remarkably (in your words) frank reply basically means I have the "go ahead".

In my correspondences with various devs, we share knowledge freely, exchanging ideas. The fact (unknown to all, coz I don't see the need to spill it) that some of my software workarounds for problems (99% performance related) that these devs encountered (that they tell me) actually gets into their games is good enough for me. OK, such incidences are low but that's not the point. Or maybe the whole point. I dunno. This is both frustrating and disturbing.
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Old 28-Jul-2004, 06:46   #16
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Creative is literally the mob of the pc world. I've never seen strong arming and downright blackmail. They're the reason I will never upgrade my Game Theatre xp soundcard. I'd rather die then download 200 meg drivers for a soundcard that doesn't work properly.
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Old 28-Jul-2004, 07:41   #17
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Default Re: Creative claims similar shadowing tech as id Software

Quote:
Originally Posted by Reverend
Now, without attempting to raise any controversy on this matter, this reporter thinks that software patents in general are a Bad Thing.
And I really don't like broccoli. (Well, actually, that's a lie - I love my broccoli).

Quote:
It is a little suspicious that Creative posted about their technique on their company's developer forum first. To have later filed a patent and then challenge id Software is in this reporter's opinion inexcusable.
Are you sure about this (and the wording)? Afaik, if a certain technique has been described in a publicly accessible medium (e.g. the newspaper), it can't be patented. At least, it's a well known way of preventing others from patenting something, which you don't wish to patent yourself. Maybe bboards don't count...

On a more general note, however, I am a little uhm uneasy with frontpage news like this, because what you appear to do is to question the "morale" of a company and/or make a political statement. As far as I am concerned, companies are free to choose any strategy, as long as they respect existing legislation.
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Old 28-Jul-2004, 08:43   #18
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Reverend
The truth is I hate this as much as you, Marco. Dave doesn't like B3D staff to be sensationalists (it's unprofessional and at times just plain immature... some websites likes to do this to generate hits and hopefully get noticed) and while this is a particularly sensitive issue and I didn't consult Dave about making this news post of mine, the underlying nature of this matter is too serious for me to not make some noise.
In my books you've done enough. I think the community will try to do the rest ( I wonder how many people contacted www.planetdoom.com before they posted about this ).

I really hope the FTA with the US doesn't go through for australia or we will have to put up with this stuff down under :/
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Old 28-Jul-2004, 10:11   #19
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Pete
Apparently Mr. Dietrich posted in that GD thread:

Quote:
Originally Posted by [url=http://gamedev.net/community/forums/viewreply.asp?ID=1110231
SimmerD[/url]]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'!
If the likes of ID are not going to take a stand, then no one is going to. Until someone challenges this patent in the courts, Creative get their own way and everyone will just buckle under to Creative's strong-arm tactics.

Once again the US patent office shows it's inability to do it's job properly.
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Old 28-Jul-2004, 10:13   #20
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Quote:
Originally Posted by MfA
Well in the presentation on NVIDIA's site from around the same time he had a nvidia email address. Interestingly the presentation while present seems no longer linked anywhere on NVIDIA's site.

He actively posts on gamedev, and has simmer@spies.net set there. I think he is still at NVIDIA though (hope they wont prevent him from commenting ) so SDietrich@nvidia.com might also work.
checkout 'fast and robust shadowvolumes' as well from the nvidia site. it mentions this , "B. Bilodeau and M. Songy, talk at Creative Labs Inc. sponsored game developer conference, Los Angeles, May 1999." , i dont know if that was the GDC talk that sam gave ? It also talks about the flaws in this algorithm. So did JC amend the algorithm so it would "work", if so then surely the creative issue is moot?

-dave-
[edit] . can't have been can it.. gdc is march, *nice* wonder what this other talk was ? E3?
[edit]
it's mentioned here in the references
http://www.gamedev.net/columns/hardc...lume/page5.asp

[7]: Bilodeau, Bill and Mike Songy. "Real Time Shadows", Creativity 1999, Creative Labs Inc. Sponsored game developer conferences, Los Angeles, California, and Surrey, England, May 1999.
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Old 28-Jul-2004, 11:38   #21
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Has the patent actually been given or is it still pending? if so can we spam the us patent office?
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Old 28-Jul-2004, 12:51   #22
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Default Re: Creative claims similar shadowing tech as id Software

Quote:
Originally Posted by Reverend
Now, without attempting to raise any controversy on this matter, this reporter thinks that software patents in general are a Bad Thing.
Why?

I know its hard for some people to understand the viability of software patents and why they are necessary; especially given the current state of the tech industry.

What is a bad thing is the misuse of software patents. And this responsibility rests squarely on the PTO. The way it is right now, you could patent crystalized dog shit if you wanted to.

If Creative own the patent on a technique, they own it. Its just that simple. iD had a choice (just as JC stated) in how they would handle it.
JC is not exactly the poster child for non-tech conversation and his statement (as excerpted) is just the simplification of the choices they had.

Apart from the two choices he indicated, the third choice would have been to challenge the patent; and from the face of it when all is considered, they probably stood a pretty good chance of winning. They [wisely] chose not to. This PR nonsense you see over here, is most likely one of the "arrangements" which iD had to agree to so that they didn't have to fork out any money for their use of the patent.

Yeah, it sux.

If I were in iD's place, I'd have gone the other way and just boycotted all advanced Creative (starting with EAX) sound processing in games. Made a very, very loud noise about it. And being iD, it won't be before long that more devs would have followed suit. ESPECIALLY when you consider the number of Doom3 tech licensees that are sure to - very soon - come tumbling out of the closet, Creative would have had no choice but to back down.

When someone develops a particular piece of software that is specialized in a certain form, they have the right to patent it; and they have the right to defend said patent. There are literally thousands of software patents held by companies and which are NOT enforced. Most people who think software patents are bad, don't just understand why patenting software (even hardware) is a necessary evil.

I am of the opinion that nowhere on this God's Earth, would Creative have even considered suing iD over patent infringement. I mean, just think of the ramifications of that particularly foolish act of braindeadness.

IMO
  1. iD did the right thing. They're a gaming company and the gamer comes first. The question one has to ask is, what really did iD have to give up in order to alleviate this particularly nasty fiasco.
  2. Creative has the right to defend their patent and to advise companies of this if they intend on using said patent. It is up to the other party to challenge the patent and put the PTO elves to work.
At the end of the day, Doom3 was in development long enough and I'm quite certain that had this not been a last minute gig (when did this whole patent issue come about anyway?), we'd be reading something different by now. Just think of how this would have played if this came about a year into Doom3 development. I can just hear the subtle words fack off echoing down the halls of the iD office.

/cue in ass chewing music. Think of a Klaus Baldet theme you like.

Its like that Linux vs Windows nonsense all over again and just because people like free stuff, even if it doesn't work well in all instances. As long as its free, people are willing to ignore the nuances. Yeah, most core Linux distros - for the most part - suck; and simply because a bunch of incompetent assholes decided they were going to delve in and piss around with it just because it was free.

ps: When I previewed this, there were no less than eight occurences of the word shit in this text. So, if you would like the real version, as you read this, please try to picture in your mind just where Derek Smart would have added this word. If you came up with eight occurences, you deserve to take the day off. If you came up with more than eight instances where this could have been used, you need to lay off the caffeine.
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Old 28-Jul-2004, 12:53   #23
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Default Re: Creative claims similar shadowing tech as id Software

Quote:
Originally Posted by mrchtech@yahoo.com
Quote:
Originally Posted by John Carmack
that would only have hurt the users.
Tough argument there.

When a AAA-publisher, not to mention one of the industries brightest and most respected programmers, publicly refuses to use patented gaming software alogrithms, this stands a good chance of lessening the influence of patent extortionists like Creative. This is even more the case considering the number of games which will use the Doom 3 license in the coming years.

-Blue
IMO the right solution is to go to court and prove the prior art case. By giving in to Creative id more or less said that their patent is valid. It's good for letting Doom3 out of the door right now, but it certainly doesn't help other developers using or planning to use this method, and I have no idea what it means for other Doom engine games (since I don't know what the settlement was). Might be interesting getting Carmack's response on that.
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Old 28-Jul-2004, 12:57   #24
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How and why exactly are software patent a good thing ?
You didn't explain it (or I fail to read that part).
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Old 28-Jul-2004, 13:39   #25
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Ingenu
How and why exactly are software patent a good thing ?
You didn't explain it (or I fail to read that part).
Well, the last time I checked, this topic was not about that. Besides, defending software patents covers a broad spectrum of issues and which probably need their own topic to which I will heartily participate.
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