Difficulty modes in games too rigid? A Sony patent intends to change that in real time

Robin Lamorlette

December 18, 2023 at 2:02 p.m.


God of War Ragnarok © Sony Interactive Entertainment

Who has fond memories of the God of War difficulty in Ragnarök? ©Santa Monica Studios

Soon a thing of the past, the straitjacket of difficulty modes on PlayStation games? In any case, this is the idea of ​​this patent published by Sony.

Very pragmatically named “ Adaptive difficulty calibration for skill-based activities in virtual environments “, the said patent easily announces the color. The concept is not new in itself, but the Japanese giant intends to push it even further in order to make the experience more “organic” and tailor-made.

Difficulty modes, ancient history?

After a patent roughly allowing games to be transformed into DVDs, Sony is back at it again with a new invention. New is not really the exact term, however, an adaptation of the difficulty based on the player’s skills being a notion already seen in the past.

In multiplayer games, we talk about a widely used concept called “ skill-based matchmaking ”, or “skill-based matchmaking”. In single-player games, however, this is much less explored. The most telling example that comes to mind dates back to Resident Evil 4 first of the name, in 2005.

Resident Evil 4

Resident Evil 4 was revolutionary in more ways than one © Capcom

Even if we were asked at the beginning to choose a difficulty mode, the endurance of the enemies adapted more or less in real time in relation to our progress. If you died too much, the game was more forgiving. If you moved too well, opponents would suddenly turn into walls. The patent that interests us here is inspired by such a concept, but clearly improves it.

A completely tailor-made experience

This involves various algorithms as explained and illustrated in more detail on the page dedicated to the patent on the website of the World Intellectual Property Organization, cited in the source below. These will analyze at any time how a given player approaches certain mechanics, situations and others.

Depending on the performance recorded, the difficulty will be adjusted on the fly, in order to make one or more of these elements easier or more difficult depending on the needs. A rather clever way of making the game always engaging and more or less perfectly adapted to everyone’s level, for a truly tailor-made experience.

Elden Ring Guide

A real heresy for fans of FromSoftware games… isn’t it? © FromSoftware

The downside to such a concept is that it would be…difficult to judge the difficulty of a game by watching someone play before buying it, as each person has radically different strengths and weaknesses. . For games like those from FromSoftware, which still resist the demand to add “easier” difficulty modes, this would also be difficult to implement.

Regardless, Sony is known for publishing a lot of patents, many of which never make it to the stage of practical application. Know in any case that the idea was posed by the Japanese giant, and we could perhaps one day see PS5 (or even PS6?) games exploit it. However, this is a future that is still… difficult to envisage.

Source : World Intellectual Property Organization

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