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I was looking to create a game mechanic where save game files from the first title in a series could be loaded by another game in the series so that actions the player took in the first game could affect game play in the second.

An example would be this: The player chooses to help a beggar in the first game. In the second game, the beggar, having become a successful merchant, repays the player for their kindness.

It appears that EA has created a patent for this behavior which would appear to cover this use case. Is this interpretation correct?

Assuming this behavior is covered by the patent, would the patent also prevent me from saving/distributing the game data on a remote database (i.e. not in a file)?

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A patent's coverage is defined by its claims. In particular, it is good to start by focusing on the independent claims (in this case claims 1, 13, 19, 24 and 27). Lets look at claim 1:

  1. A method for enabling interaction with a shared game data file using a game device, the method comprising:

    providing logic to perform one or more actions associated with the shared game data file;

    providing logic to cause the game device to perform an action in the one or more actions with the shared game data file as part of operating a game of a plurality of games, the shared game data configured to store at least first game data associated with accomplishments attained in a first game of the plurality of games and second game data associated with accomplishments attained in a second game of the plurality of games, the shared game data being such that at least one accomplishment attainable in the first game is distinct from accomplishments attainable in the second game;

    and providing logic in the second game to use the first game data to provide a user game opportunities in the second game not available to the user based on accomplishments attained in the second game alone, wherein at least one game opportunity made available in the second game is the result of an accomplishment in the first game distinct from accomplishments possible in the second game, wherein the logic to perform one or more actions is included on a game medium.

A cursory review seems to suggest that this patent indeed potentially covers your scenario. In addition, the claim doesn't seem to limit the location of the game data file to local storage so it indeed may cover storage on a remote database. However, this might hinge on how the term "data file" is defined within the specification.

Regardless of my brief review, I strongly suggest you get a freedom-to-operate evaluation by a qualified patent attorney. Especially with software patents, details and precedents are important. I certainly wouldn't rely on unqualified opinions provided on the internet. Just to be clear, I am not an attorney so my comments do not represent legal opinions.

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