Patents are a funny old thing. You’ll often see the biggest gaming firms file for them, locking down their potential only for the idea never to materialize. Nonetheless, it’s always fascinating to see what the likes of Sony and Microsoft could be getting up to when it comes to PS5 and Xbox, and for Team Blue this latest PS5 patent could introduce real-time balance across the latest games.
Published earlier this month and initially spotted by Insider Gaming, Sony’s ‘Adaptive difficulty calibration for skills-based activities in virtual environments’ patent does pretty much exactly what it says on the tin. By utilizing your data, taken from all of the best PS5 games that you’re currently playing, games will switch up the difficulty of certain parameters to ensure that you’re able to comfortably play at your current level.
As for what those parameters may entail, Sony offers up high-level examples including enemy numbers, movement speed, and health. In practice, let’s use Sony’s example of hand-to-hand combat in some of the best FPS games. If a player is proficient with a rifle but poor at hand-to-hand combat, the game would slow the latter down in certain scenes using parameters like “speed, sensitivity, and/or proficiency.”
There’s an argument to be made that such a system would remove much of the joy of iterative mastery that comes with repeatedly challenging a boss, section, or level that is giving you grief. Certain games – looking at many of the best Soulslike games in particular – are designed to be unforgiving at points, and dynamic difficulty could compromise that vision.
Conversely, as we’ve seen with some of the best games like Elden Ring and the Resident Evil series which are either innately designed to give players agency over how difficult they make their experience, or already have dynamic balance levers in place, a widespread system could provide a more enjoyable ramp up to mastery that boosts replayability – something Sony alludes to. There are also accessibility considerations to be accounted for, as tailoring difficulty in real-time can help improve the quality of life for gamers living with certain disabilities that make specific mechanics difficult to navigate.
While such tech would undoubtedly take several years of development before it saw the light of day, it would certainly be a welcomed change across the board – provided developers get on board. After all, adding dynamic difficulty for third-party titles on Sony’s hardware alone might not see widespread adoption due to the extra efforts required. As such, we can imagine it would only be rolled out for PS5 exclusives initially should it materialize.