The last time we unearthed a big new Nintendo patent, we found hints of a video game paradigm shift. This time, Nintendo may have locked up a multiplayer mode from a 2004 GameCube game.
On June 23, the United States granted Nintendo patent number 7,5489,923 a more than 11,000-word patent invented by WarioWare director Goro Abe and two other men that is summarized as follows:
A game apparatus includes: a plurality of operation controllers to be operated by separate players; obtained partial area storage locations for storing a partial area obtained by each player as an obtained partial area; a partial area choice mechanism for allowing each player to choose a partial area in turns; a single-player-mode game execution mechanism for, when a partial area is chosen, executing a single-player-mode game for a player who has chosen the partial area; and an obtained partial area adding mechanism for, depending on a result of the single-player-mode game, storing the partial area chosen by the player who has played the single-player-mode game as an obtained partial area of the players in the obtained partial area storage locations.
Untangling that and reading through the patent, we believe Nintendo has affirmed its right to an integration of mini-game video games and the classic black-and-white token-flipping game Othello.
The invention calls for a video game's game board set up like a grid of spaces. Players stake control of those spaces by playing mini-games, by themselves or against the other players. The mini-games get harder for players who have more skill.
The patented concept reads exactly like the description of the Milky Way Delirium mode in 2004's WarioWare: Mega Games for the GameCube. Remember that WarioWare games are comprised of hundreds of mini-games, which are fired at one or more players in rapid succession, leaving the game just seconds to succeed in each one before the next comes along. The GameCube version of the game was focused on multiplayer and included the Othello-like Milky Way Delirium mode.
The Nintendo inventors explain in the patent filing that traditional Othello "is monotonous because it is prescribed so that players can place their pieces on the board whenever their turns come." And they lament that games like Mario Party are potentially imbalanced because really good players can beat inferior ones at every mini-game: "A player of great competence will hold an overwhelmingly dominant position from start to finish, making the development of the game so one-sided that the enjoyment of the game will be spoiled."
The company's solution is the patented technique described here, which tunes the difficulty of each mini-game that is launched in the Nintendo video game to the player it is being launched at. Head-to-head competition among potentially differently-skilled players in the same mini-game only on rare occasions. (One thing we haven't been able to confirm is whether Milky Way Delirium managed per-player dynamic difficulty as described in this patent).
Milky Way Delirium didn't make any headlines in 2004 as far as we can recall, but Nintendo thinks this is an idea worth protecting.