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Will Sony’s Adaptive Difficulty Technology Be Useful To Gamers?

Will Sony’s Adaptive Difficulty Technology Be Useful To Gamers

We have seen a flurry of interesting patent filings from console makers and video game companies this year. In November it was Activision trying to recommend games based on livestream. Also, Nintendo filed a patent for a dual-screen handheld console. This time it is Sony patenting adaptive difficulty.

Will Sony’s Adaptive Difficulty Technology Be Useful To Gamers

The patent, which was filed on May 2, 2023, was only published on December 7, 2023. Titled “Adaptive difficulty calibration for skills-based activities in virtual environments”, the technology will presumably alter the settings of the game to match the skill level of the player.

For that to be possible, Sony will collect player feedback in real-time. From what we can deduce, the patent goes beyond just flicking the difficulty from easy to hard. Instead, the patent explained that game elements may be altered like increasing the number of enemies, tuning up certain player abilities, and so on.

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“Methods of the present disclosure may collect data when a user plays one or more different types of games when determinations are made as to whether the difficulty of a game should be changed,” read the abstract. The collected data may be evaluated to identify whether a user’s gaming performance level corresponds to an expected level of performance.”

Will Sony’s Adaptive Difficulty Technology Be Useful To Gamers

Will Sony’s Adaptive Difficulty Technology Be Useful To Gamers

Furthermore, the patent document said that if the performance of the player doesn’t correspond with the expected level, the parameters that affect the game’s difficulty “may be changed automatically”.

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“Parameters that relate to movement speed, delay or hesitation, character strengths, number of competitors, or other metrics may be changed incrementally until a current user performance level corresponds to an expectations level of a particular user currently playing the game. The process may be repeated as skills of the user are developed over time.”

The brains behind the technology are Dorn Victoria, Bean Celeste, Juenger Elizabeth, Ramirez Kristie, Karimi Sepideh, and Azmandian Mahdi.

How will adaptive difficulty change video games?

Well, not all patents make it to the consumer. However, every patent exposes the thought pattern of the company that filed it, as well as the things they plan to do in the future. With the current evolution of AI, it is interesting to see that Sony is already exploring ways of exploiting the power of AI in games.

Will Sony’s Adaptive Difficulty Technology Be Useful To Gamers

Earlier this year, Sony filed a patent for a controller that can store and charge wireless earbuds. While Sony has previously filed intuitive patents, some of the company’s patents have been considered wacky, like a patent that will heat up or cool a player’s controller depending on their environment.

There are at least practical use cases for adaptive difficulty. We imagine that it has the potential to streamline video game development to some extent. Developers will not have to worry about putting the work into making two or more different difficulties for a game. Also, that would mean one less setting for players to worry about.

Let’s face it, there are times when you are checking out a new title at an easy difficulty and along the way become so used to the game that it feels too easy. Sadly, for most games, once you have picked your difficulty level at the start, you will stick with it to the end of the game. If you wish to change the difficulty mid-way through the game, you will have to start all over again.

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However, with an adaptive difficulty, the game will automatically tune the difficulty level up or down at every point in time. What this will do is offer players a fairly even challenge that matches their skills throughout the game. One of the challenges that comes to mind with the idea is how AI will accurately tell the skill level of the player at each time.

“The downside [of] adaptive difficulty is that an AI can’t tell how good the player is [with] 100% accuracy as it will just check the metrics and success,” said Ismael Jorge Soler, an IP licensing BD manager at Yodo1 Games. “We have seen something similar in Resident Evil 4 before as if you were quite accurate and took only a few hits, the difficulty would become harder.”

One thing we do know is that if adaptive difficulty ever makes it to video games, a lot of players will find it useful. However, to others, it would simply be an additional feature. However, for trophy hunters who gain a dopamine rush from beating the toughest difficulty, this is bad news.