Yesterday Nintendo Lord Shigeru Miyamoto invested in a US Patent for some gameplay and data storage ideas. Many are already speculating that this is in reference to the next Zelda game, which is currently in production. This fits considering the pictures that went along with the patent description and how many times the word “temple” and “puzzle” were used (7 and 86 respectively), but it means so much more than how the next Zelda game could be. These ideas could finally bridge the divide between casual gamers and hardcore gamers (cue the dramatic crescendo).
The entire idea is for “preventing a player who desires to clear a game by him/herself from losing his/her interest in the game.” More specifically in regards to larger and more expansive story-filled games like RPGs, action adventure games and action RPGs. First off are difficulty settings. Nearly every game already has this, but this game would allow players to switch between “hard” and “normal” settings if they come to a part that is just too difficult for them.
There will also be a comprehensive hint system that players can use when they’re stuck. This would be completely optional, so advanced players can keep it off or It can be activated when the player gets close to a point where continuing action can take place. Players could also hit the hint button and a cinematic “approach movie” will play directing the player to the how the hint can be solved. Think Lego Star Wars when the camera zooms in to make it obvious what the next objective is, or how to move an obstacle to progress.
Players can even create, edit and upload their own approach movies online demonstrating how they tackled a challenge. These can then be accessed when players hit the hint option and based on their previous play style a comparable method video can be shown. That way a more difficult solution can be shown to more adept players. This once again is in the effort of keeping the game fun for all levels of players.
The patent also goes into great detail on save data and game progression. Not only will this game introduce chapter selection a la Atari’s Alone in the Dark, but players can even choose Digest saved-data. This feature allows players to watch a digest movie of the game from start to finish and stop at anytime to jump in a play the parts that look good. Yes, this sounds incredibly like cheating, but it gives people a chance to experience the scope and story of the game.
Think about it, the next time you want to show a friend the best part of a game for them to try playing, you can let the check out the game up to that point to see what they’ve missed. Once a player has jumped in the character will have all of the HP, stats, items and weapons that they would have the player actually started from the beginning and made it to that point. Now, this isn’t a complete cheat either because games played this way can’t be saved. The Digest save-data also won’t be available for the game immediately. It could be turned on after playing for so long, how long you’ve had the game or even by a predetermined date and Nintendo would unlock it online. What’s more is that this feature’s memory would be stored on a separate designated server and accessed online, saving space on the console memory.
So, how could this help create a game that both casual and hardcore gamers would love? I present you with a personal example. My father fell in love with Zelda: Twilight Princess by playing my nephew’s copy. Despite my encouragement he never finished it. Some of the puzzles were too much for him since he didn’t grow up playing these types of games. Hitting the hint feature and watching the approach movie would help him progress and build his skills, so he knows what to look for in the future. Also, having just a few hours a week to spare he could enjoy the story, which is what he got into the most, by watching the Digest saved-data. Also gamers that get interrupted in the middle of playing a 40 plus hour game can come back after months and just review what’s happened up to that point and jump back in.
No mater how this really turns out in the end and if it is for the next Zelda, it at least serves as a reminder that Nintendo will not stop its casual crusade and is constantly thinking of ways to bring in new gamers, make them feel welcome and then get them hooked like crack addicts like the rest of us.
There were also several sections discussing the difference between acceleration detectors and gyro-sensors in regards to game control. In the end the argument is summarized that, even though gyro-sensors help by directly detecting rotation, it is more cost effective to do things the way they currently are. Can we afford them not to? The Wiimote is already $40!