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EA patents Dynamic Difficulty Adjustment system in games

by Mark Tyson on 8 April 2021, 11:11

Tags: Electronic Arts (NASDAQ:EA)

Quick Link: HEXUS.net/qaeqgj

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EA is considering implementing Dynamic Difficulty Adjustment (DDA) in its games. This isn't a first for adaptive difficulty in games, but a recently renewed patent shows precisely what the games publisher is thinking, and it is considering using AI/ML methods to fine tune game difficulty to maximise player engagement and enjoyment. To be clear, this isn't a brand-new patent but a resubmission of a patent application that EA originally filed back in 2016.

The patent document identifies two main reasons that EA is renewing this patent and looking closely at game difficulty settings. First, software developers wish for gamers to play their games for as long as possible, and this length of engagement is a good measure of the success of the software in being a source of entertainment. Secondly, games that are pitched at too easy or too difficult levels will mean less play time from most users.

Thus, EA is looking at "automatic granular difficulty adjustment" in games it publishes. It foresees a system where the adjustments are transparent to the user. Furthermore, it proposes being able to adjust difficulty using an 'interactive computing system' in the cloud, based upon:

  • User progress speed in the current game vs the expected duration of gameplay segments (your skill level).
  • User cluster categorisation compared to other players of the game.
  • User history in a range of games that use this Dynamic Difficulty Adjustment system.

As mentioned in the intro, dynamic difficulty settings in games are not new but are relatively rare. Left 4 Dead and Resident Evil 4 have used such adjustments to maintain a challenging game environment before. However, EA's system seems to be one of the first to use the power of cloud computing and AI/ML technology for granular difficulty adjustment.

Personally, I like games to be on the easy side, so would still hope for some kind of manual slider difficulty adjustment. Part of the lure of many video games is your character's /vehicle's unrealistic levels of power and special abilities.


EA has emailed HEXUS to highlight that the 2020 patent is a resubmission of a patent it originally filed in 2016. It adds that the use-cases of DDA in games as outlined in the patent are just examples and not indicative of any intentions. EA is particularly keen to point out that it doesn't use DDA tech in FIFA, Madden or NHL in online multiplayer as this has been the subject of some lawsuits.

HEXUS Forums :: 36 Comments

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Basically, if you suck, the game will makes things easier so you believe you're totally Epic. You're not. You suck.
Ha ha, I wonder what will happen to the algorithm when a speed runner completes an hour long level in 5 minutes xD

Well, I seem to recall Elder Scrolls IV Oblivion have this over 15 years ago… but go ahead EA, be a patent troll. And I remember some other games' AI was too advanced with difficulty they had to dumb it down (can't recall the name, but it was old)

Imagine dying in a game! And having to restart! The HORROR! Seriously, this just sounds like more dumbing down of games to “attract more audience”… and knowing EA's history, they'll likely roll this out on if not all, MOST of their games…. I really DON'T want more rubber-banding AI in my driving games… wait a sec, that's another way devs made games easier in the past…. sure EA will patent that soon as well.
Basically, if you suck, the game will makes things easier so you believe you're totally Epic. You're not. You suck.
Or if you have difficulties with particular aspects due to a disability or something, you will no longer be excluded from playing the games…

The thing about games is that they're supposed to be fun, which in the majority of cases means you need a reasonable chance of winning it… otherwise it's just hard work and a pointless waste of time.
Basically, if you suck, the game will makes things easier so you believe you're totally Epic. You're not. You suck.

Or if you really are epic, then it can make the game harder for you and leave it possible for me.

It's a good idea, which is why it has been done countless times, and why that doesn't seem to be the patent here. The new bit is that this is cloud based, so before just the the local game would scale difficulty. Now they can look at player retention levels and work out which scaling works best for which people.

It does mean that EA will know that I suck at a game. Perhaps I will see adverts for “Least Valued Player” T-shirts :)