Nintendo Is Trying To Patent Some Really Broad Tears Of The Kingdom Mechanics

Zelda is seen standing on a sky island.

Screenshot: Nintendo / Kotaku

Nintendo is registering several new patents from The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom that are extremely broad, to the point where they seem unreasonable for other developers to be beholden to.

Automaton, a gaming website that focuses on Japanese games like Zelda, has a roundup of the 32 patents Nintendo put forth. Some of them are specific to Link’s latest adventure, including things like Riju’s lightning ability, which lets the player target enemies with a bow and bring down a lighting strike wherever the arrow lands. The weirder ones are related to baseline game design and coding that applies to plenty of other video games on the market. One of the hopeful patents relates to the physics of a character riding on top of a moving vehicle and reacting dynamically to it in a realistic manner.

A character is shown standing on top of a moving vehicle.

The distinction, according to Automaton’s translation of Japanese site Hatena Blog user nayoa2k’s post on the matter, is down to how Tears of the Kingdom codes these interactions. Link and the objects he rides on move together at the same speed, rather than Link being technically stationary on top of a moving object as is common in the physics of other games. The two are functionally the same, but given that plenty of video games displayed characters who can walk around on top of moving vehicles, it’s highly unlikely this kind of approach hasn’t been utilized before.

On top of trying to patent the tech, Nintendo seeks to patent the loading screen that shows up when the player is fast-traveling across Hyrule. This specifically refers to the screen that shows the map transition from the player’s starting point to their destination. Sure, that’s pretty specific and not something every game utilizes, but it’s still such a general concept that it feels almost petty to patent it when it’s hardly an iconic draw of Tears of the Kingdom.

It’s not uncommon for game developers to try to patent mechanics and features. One of the most famous examples is when Bandai Namco had a patent on loading screen mini-games, which finally ended in 2015.

Who knows if these patents actually go anywhere? But when game design concepts are gatekept like this, it only leads to a loss of innovation for other devs. Though these specific patents are small in the grand scheme of things, they can be a slippery slope for things like WB patenting Shadow of Mordor’s Nemesis System, which should be in more games.

New Nintendo Controller Patent Shows Possible Joy-Con Drift Fix

A patent for a new Nintendo controller, published by the United States Patent Office on September 7, indicates the Super Mario developer is at least considering how to permanently shake its Joy-Con drift issue. Joy-Con drift, a phenomenon in which your Switch responds to phantom Joy-Con movement, has frustrated Switch owners since the console’s 2017 debut, triggering class action lawsuits, and begetting an official apology from Nintendo, which outsourced some drift repairs to a constantly overwhelmed repair shop in Syracuse. But through all of this Joy-Con misery, Nintendo has failed to incorporate a permanent fix until, maybe, now.

According to the controller patent, which was first filed on May 11, it proposes “a resistance section using a magnetorheological fluid whose viscosity changes with a magnetic-field intensity and which becomes resistance when the operation element is displaced.”

A screenshot from Nintendo's patent shows a square-shaped controller.

Screenshot: Nintendo / Kotaku

“I hope this means we’re getting Joy-Cons that use magnetism not to drift, as a change like that is long overdue,” games writer and accessibility advocate Laura Kate Dale told me over Twitter DM. However, some think the patent could instead hint at Nintendo introducing “force feedback analogue sticks similar to the resistive triggers on PS5” to a future console, Dale says. If that’s the case, “my main hope is that they can be switched off on a system level for disabled players,” she continues.

Read More: Nintendo Switch Joy-Con Repair Center Was Constantly Overwhelmed, Claims Former Supervisor

Nintendo’s patent is also kicking up more rumors about the much-asked-for Nintendo Switch 2, which appears to be scheduled for a 2024 release, though some developers reportedly received hands-on time with the device earlier this summer. Kotaku reached out to Nintendo for comment.

“There are a lot of rumors doing the rounds that the Switch 2 is going to basically be a Switch, but with more power under the hood, and a reliance on DLSS-style upscaling to improve framerates and resolution,” Dale, who leaked Switch news in 2016, told me. “As a disabled gamer, I’d love to see a hypothetical Switch 2 make an effort to be more accessible” by adding some features that “are now standard on PS5 and Xbox Series consoles, such as system-level colorblindness filters and accessibility tags on the digital store.” Out with the Joy-Con drift, in with the more accessible gaming future.


GTA 6 Patent Hints At Rockstar’s Most Immersive Game Yet

A recently uncovered Rockstar Games patent suggests the developer could be using new technology to make NPCs in its games more immersive, particularly when it comes to the highly anticipated action-adventure crime sim GTA VI.

As spotted by Reddit user Tobbelobben30 (via Eurogamer), former Rockstar Games lead AI and gameplay programmer Tobias Kleanthous issued a patent in April called “System And Method For Virtual Character Locomotion.” The 11-page document, as Kleanthous described on LinkedIn, was “architected and implemented for games” at the Grand Theft Auto and Red Dead Redemption studio. According to the paper’s abstract, the patent houses “a system and method for controlling the animation and movement of in-game objects.” In layperson’s terms, Kleanthous’ tech should make characters way more life-like. Tobbelobben30 detailed the patent’s contents in their Reddit post:

“Based on this patent, it seems like they’re using a clever system. They’ve built a library of small building blocks for character movements. These blocks can be combined in various ways to create a wide range of animations. For instance, think about a character in the game walking in the rain, feeling tired, or getting injured. Instead of designing separate animations for each of these situations, they use these building blocks to put together the character’s movements naturally. This means GTA 6 can have more diverse and lifelike animations. So, when you play GTA 6, you’ll see characters moving in ways that match the weather, their energy level, and their injuries. This makes the game feel more immersive. It’s like having characters that can adapt to different situations, making the game world feel more real and thrilling.”

“Immersive” can so often be an empty marketing buzzword thrown around ahead of game releases, but when it comes to this patent, the adjective couldn’t be more apt. Based on the tech described, Rockstar Games’ games—particularly GTA IV—should have characters with more dynamic animations, giving their worlds unparalleled realism. While Tobbelobben30 couldn’t verify if the system was used in Red Dead Redemption 2, they did say that the animations in Rockstar’s upcoming game will be “incredible.” (Kleanthous gave a talk during GDC 2021 about some similar tech used in the cowboy RPG.)

Various Reddit users have shared their reactions to this new locomotion patent. “Yeah it’s gonna be mind-blowing, even in the leaks the animations and physics looked insane,” ArkhamIsComing2020 said, referring to leaked development footage from September 2022. “Soo procedural animation? Niceeeee,” quipped ProceduralFish. “So basically if my arm gets hit with a bat I won’t be able to shoot as well? That’s kinda cool,” noted rustynutsbruh.

Kotaku reached out to Rockstar Games and Tobbelobben30 for comment.

We still don’t have a definitive release date for Grand Theft Auto VI, despite learning a lot about the game in recent months and years. A plethora of details have been made public, though, including the city in which the game will take place and the characters we’ll play as, all thanks to an 18-year-old hacker who used an Amazon Fire Stick to gain access to Rockstar Games from a hotel room.


Nintendo Patent Hints Switch 2 May Be A Lot Like the DS

A photo show's Nintendo's logo on a screen.

Photo: Kazuhiro Nogi (Getty Images)

Nintendo recently filed a patent for a handheld device with a design that might surprise you. The patent reveals a handheld that looks a lot less like what you might expect of the upcoming Switch 2, and more like if the 3DS had a third screen.

The patent, first spotted by Game Rant, shows schematics for a dual-screen device that can operate like a 3DS—which flips open to reveal two playable screens—when joined with an extra, exterior touchscreen that works even when the device is shut. The handheld can also be split into two separate devices. According to Games Industry.Biz, Nintendo submitted the patenting application for the handheld on November 11, 2022, which could hint at what the company envisions for its next generation of gaming devices.

Here are images of the dual-screened device.

An image shows the patent for Nintendo's dual-screen handheld gaming device.

Image: Nintendo

An image shows the patent for Nintendo's dual-screen handheld gaming device.

Image: Nintendo

Although Nintendo filing a patent for the dual-screen device doesn’t guarantee it will ever be released, the device would certainly be a big win for video game conservation if it lets you play games from your DS library. Perhaps the handheld device could also be a (knock on wood) less expensive alternative to buying a Switch 2 for folks without disposable incomes. More selfishly, I’m hoping the bizarre device—should it ever see the light of day—will allow me to play the upcoming remaster of Another Code: Two Memories the way it was originally meant to be played: with two screens, DS-style. A boy can dream.

Kotaku reached out to Nintendo for comment.

Read More: Nintendo Accounts Will ‘Ease’ Transition To Next Console, Exec Says

Speculation aside, the design for the handheld is pretty bonkers even by Nintendo standards. While I respect the bold decision to give the DS another screen, my biggest query is what happens to the bottom-facing screen on the detachable part of the device when the device is in two-player mode? Will it revert to a black screen that is unusable for the player, or will it function just as a display screen that shows the time or in-game information? Also, could you mix and match different device parts together into one dual-screen handheld Switch JoyCons? It confounds me.

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