Middle-Earth: Shadow of Mordor and Shadow of War’s Nemesis System is easily one of the most innovative gameplay ideas of the 2010s. Essentially allowing you to create custom rivalries with enemies, the Nemesis System was used primarily to create a personal foe who would dog you across the lands of Mordor, with your battles shaping the development of your unique arch-enemy.
Bring up any other sandbox game made in the years since Shadow of Mordor was released, and conversation generally shifts towards “man wouldn’t it be cool if it had its own Nemesis System?”. In an industry where inspiration is obvious, doing just that is about to get a whole lot more challenging as Warner Bros. has patented the idea.
As reported by IGN, Warner Bros. was granted a patent for the Nemesis System from the US Patent and Trademark Office, that will be valid as from February 23. The parent of video game publisher Warner Bros. Interactive had been trying for years to grab the intellectual rights to the Nemesis System ever since the release of Shadow of Mordor, with a filing from 2016 describing the idea as “managing non-player characters and power centers in a computer game [that] are based on character hierarchies and individualized correspondences between each character’s traits or rank and events that involve other non-player characters or objects.”
What this means is that Warner Bros. now owns the idea of “hierarchies” that can be influenced by your actions and help create a personal story for the player character. If any other studio wants to use a similar system, it’ll have to either cough up some cash to implement the idea or risk being attacked by an in-real-life version of the Nemesis System that replaces Orcs with lawyers. Or possibly one horrible old advocate who asks you if you know what the definition of Nemesis is.
As for what Warner Bros. has planned for the gameplay mechanic, that’s uncertain. The current Middle-Earth saga is all but done, but the idea is too good not to be used in other games. Give me a new Batman Arkham game where you tangle with the Court of Owls and you can shape one of the Talon enforcers into a brand-new Bat-Nemesis, and I’ll consider that a patent that was worth pursuing.
Last Updated: February 8, 2021