Patents filed by Electronic Arts with the United States Patent and Trademark Office in 2016 have appeared online, and both of them involve dynamically altering the player experience. One of them is rather mundane, altering the difficulty of a game to stop players from quitting or throwing a controller through a display.
The second patent is the one that looks all too similar to Activision’s matchmaking-altering patent. EA’s patent wants to alter matchmaking so that it isn’t just skill and region that is being looked at, but instead the focus is on “engagement”. The patent uses an algorithm called Engagement Optimized Matchmaking (EOMM) looks to alter the queue to find players based on interaction, play style, sportsmanship, willingness to spend money, and skill.
After the way Star Wars Battlefront II was handled, seeing an algorithm with this focus sounds off a warning bell or two. The algorithm is based on a research paper that has the following tasty quote: “The optimization objective can be tuned for various interests, e.g., in-game time, or even spending.”
The first patent is a bit niggling if you are going to doubt every big boss encounter from now on, wondering if the game started pulling its punches to let you progress or if you got better at doing the requisite gymnastics to beat it. The second patent is a bit troubling, as it delves into the world of player spending, player retention, in-game time and much more in a way that mobile games, which are notorious for being built to maximise in-app purchases, do. Now to wait for these patents to make it into games.