The just-released New Super Mario Bros. Wii comes with an all-new feature: The Super Guide. When players fail to pass a level eight times, they are given the option of having the computer play through the level for them. That way, players who might abandon the game in frustration would instead finish it, albeit without the glory of having conquered its challenges unaided.
Now, according to a US Patent and Trademark Office filing uncovered by gaming blog Siliconera, Microsoft may have been planning something similar to the Super Guide as far back as February 2008. That's when the company filed an application for "User-Powered Always Available Contextual Game Help" inside a game.
According to a copy of the patent application obtained by GameSpot, the technology would allow players who can't pass challenges to access a guide installed on the console through an in-game user interface. The guide would then analyze the "current context of the game including the encountered challenge," using a system in which "each object in the game is supplied with a tag having a unique ID."
Once identifying information about the challenges and in-game objects are analyzed, the game would then offer possible solutions drawn from a "list of entries" in the guide. Each of those entries would be "relevant to succeeding at the encountered challenge as represented by the received current context of the game."
When asked about the in-game guide system and its current status, Microsoft reps told GameSpot they would look into the matter, but offered no further comment. However, the patent does explicitly reference "a video game console," meaning it is likely intended for use with the Xbox 360 or one of its successors.