U.S. Patent No. 8,976,184: System and method for controlling animation by tagging objects within a game environment

Issued March 10, 2015 to Nintendo Co., Ltd.
Priority Date October 9, 2013


U.S. Patent No. 8,976,184 (the ‘184 Patent) relates to animations. Many recent movies contain remarkably realistic dinosaurs, aliens and other fantastic creatures. Such animations are possible due to computer graphics. A problem graphics system designers have had is how to create realistic looking animations in real time. One way is to make the animation engine responsible for characters more intelligent. It is possible to define an “intelligent” character within a three-dimensional environment and allow the character to react to the environment based on its programming. Complex reactions can then be created “on the fly” by the animation engine.

This patent develops a new technique to cause a character to pay attention to an object within a virtual world by tagging the object. When the animated character moves sufficiently close to an object, the system checks to see if the object is tagged. If the object is tagged, the animation engine makes the character pay attention to it. The animation engine can animate the character to face the object. The tags can be given characteristics designed to cause a character that comes close to the tag to react to it. By defining several tags in a scene, the animation engine makes the character appear as if it is coming to life through its reactions. The tags are associated with objects that would typically cause a human to have a certain type of reaction. This results in the character having human-like reactions to its environment, and it appears as though it has “come to life.”



A game developer can “tag” an item in the game environment. When an animated character walks near the “tagged” item, the animation engine can cause the character’s head to turn toward the item, and mathematically computes what needs to be done in order to make the action look real and normal. The tag can also be modified to elicit an emotional response from the character. For example, a tagged enemy can cause fear, while a tagged inanimate object may cause only indifference or indifferent interest.


Illustrative Claim:

1. An electronic image processing system for displaying a virtual environment, comprising: processing resources including at least one processor; and wherein the processing resources cooperate to at least: process manipulations of a user-controlled object, provide a display of the virtual environment using a display device, detect when a user-controlled object comes into proximity to a tagged object, the tagged object having tag information associated therewith, and update the display of the virtual environment by modifying the display of at least one object, other than a representation of the user-controlled object, in the virtual environment, based on instructions retrieved from the tag information, when it is detected that the user-controlled object comes into proximity to the tagged object.

Research By: Rachel Johns
Edited By: Andrew F. Thomas and Alex J. Nealon

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