Call it hints 2.0.
Nintendo is working on a gameplay system meant to ease the pain of completing a difficult game, without watering it down so much that it turns hardcore gamers off.
The new system, described in a patent filed by Nintendo Creative Director Shigeru Miyamoto on June 30, 2008, but made public today, looks to solve the issue of casual gamers losing interest in a game before they complete it, while still maintaining the interest of hardcore gamers.
The solution would turn a game into a full-length cut scene of sorts, allowing players to jump into and out of the action whenever they wanted. But when played this way, gamers would not be able to save their progress, maintaining the challenge of completing a game without skipping or cheating. It would also allow players to bring up in-game hint videos and skip directly to particular scenes in games.
While the patent doesn't describe how the automated gameplay (referred to as "digest moving image" in the patent) would be presented to gamers, either as a true cut-scene or as a recorded play-through, it does state that the playthrough will likely come from a game developers playing of the game.
In a game, this new play style would be broken up into three options: Game, digest and scene menu, according to the patent.
Game allows gamers to play the game in the normal way, though they can bring up video hints whenever they get stuck. These hints will appear in a screen that pops up in the top right corner of the screen.
Digest allows gamers to watch a video of a game developers play through of the game, which lays out the storyline and "flow of the scenario" from beginning to the end. At any time a player can press a button to jump into the action of the scene currently being shown. This is done by loading game saves downloaded automatically through a network.
Players will start the scene with the appropriate character attribute boosts and items for that part of the game. Saving is not allowed in digest mode.
The scene menu allows gamers to skip directly to a specific scene to play, without having to watch the digest or load a saved game.
This patent, if implemented correctly, could successfully help gaming make the leap from narrative fun, to something more open-ended and free range, the first real sandbox video game.
Imagine being able to play a game with all of the benefits of characters, story and goals, but without having to spend 10 to 20 hours of your life to enjoy doing so.
Of course, that's the best case scenario. The worst, is that this turns gaming into an interactive cut-scene, removing all of pleasure of achievement from gaming and instead turning it into a glorified demo.