EA Patent On Adaptive Difficulty System Outlines Ways To Keep You Playing Longer

The 2016 patent contains a series of systems designed to adapt difficulty to a player's skill level.

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EA recently filed for a continuation of a patent involving adaptive systems that attempt to adjust a game's difficulty to your skill level. This adaptive system is designed primarily to keep users playing a game for as long as possible, although EA has made it clear it's not used in any of its sports franchises or online games.

The patent continuation (via Op Attack) was filed for in October 2020 and was made public in late March, although it's a continuation of an existing patent that dates back to 2016. So while there isn't anything new here, it does provide a look at how the system would work in theory, as it automatically adjusts the difficulty setting of a game based on a player's skill level and the desired duration of a game session. The systems mentioned in the application separate players into "user clusters" based on their skill level and adjusts a difficulty to a particular "seed" in order to keep those players engaged.

"Software developers typically desire for their software to engage users for as long as possible," a portion of the application reads. "...Often, games that are too difficult or too easy will result in less enjoyment for a user. Consequently, the user is likely to play the game less."

EA's website states that despite the publisher owning a patent for dynamic difficulty adjustment technology, it's not used in the Madden, FIFA, or NHL series or any of its online games. It also said it would not use anything similar to adjust the difficulty in Ultimate Team matches, and that a lawsuit over just that topic saw the plaintiff dismiss its case.

Adaptive difficulty settings are nothing new in video games, though they are relatively rare. Notable examples of such systems include Left 4 Dead and God Hand. However, there are many games where the "adaptive difficulty" is hidden from the player, such as Resident Evil 4. In other video game patent news, Warner Bros. recently patented the Nemesis system featured in Shadow of Mordor, and a lawsuit from earlier this year alleges that Valve stole a design feature for its Steam controller.

This story has been updated to clarify this is the continuation of an existing patent.

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