In late 2021, GameReactor published an article showing details on patents filed by Nintendo. These patents revealed 3 gameplay features that would end up being in Tears of the Kingdom. I looked into what the patents protect. This article will tell you everything you need to know about the 3 Tears of the Kingdom (TOTK) patents: US20210370179, US20210370175 and US20210370178.
When these patents were discovered, the name of the game (Tears of the Kingdom) wasn’t even revealed yet. As such, the Gamereactor article gave a lot of insight into what the game could feature. These patents protect gameplay features of the sequel to Breath of the Wild, which could be bad for the game industry. For information, Tears of the Kingdom will be bigger than Breath of the Wild, which was much bigger than other games like Death Stranding.
What is patent US20210370179 ?
This TOTK patent (US20210370179) revealed one of the features that ended up being in The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom. That feature is gyro aiming while your character is in free fall. More specifically, using the Switch console or Switch controllers.
When you’re falling, you can shoot in the direction you’re looking by pressing a button.
Here is a more detailed explanation:
- In the game, there is a special mode that allows you to shoot while you’re falling;
- To enter this mode, you need to press a button;
- When you’re in this mode, you can shoot in the direction you’re looking by pressing the shoot button;
- This is useful for shooting enemies or targets that are below you, even if you’re falling.
The patent spends a lot of time describing how the posture of the player character changes depending on the orientation of the camera. It seems like Nintendo could argue that this feature as well is protected by the patent.
It also spends some time describing different types of falling. More specifically:
- Normal falling;
- Low-velocity falling;
- Diving falling,
- High-velocity falling;
- Backwards falling.
In the game Fortnight, for example, all these falling states (except backwards falling) where already implemented. Nintendo is seemingly attempting to patent a gameplay mechanic in a way where developers either can’t implement it for their games on the switch, or have to pay Nintendo if they do.
This is one of the Tears of the Kingdom (TOTK) patents discovered late 2021. It was filed by Nintendo on May 26, 2021 and published on December 2, 2021. Nintendo of America Inc. owns the patent. Like the other 2 TOTK patents, it allowed players to predict that this feature would be in the game.
What does this patent protect ?
The patent protects a method for allowing players to aim with gyro controls (with the Switch console or controllers) while an in-game character is falling. This is done by tracking the orientation of the Switch controller and using that information to adjust the direction of the in-game character’s view.
The patent would prevent other game developers from implementing this method in their games without the permission of Nintendo. This could include games that are released on the Switch, as well as games that are released on other platforms but that use the Switch controller.
What this means is that, with this patent, developers cannot implement a gameplay feature where your character aims using gyro controls while free-falling on the switch. It also seems to protect the feature of having your character change its posture through gyro aiming while free falling.
It was filed by Nintendo on May 26, 2021 and published on December 2, 2021. Nintendo of America Inc. owns the patent. Like the 2 other TOTK patents, it allowed fans to discover the gameplay features that would end up being in Tears of the Kingdom (TOTK), the sequel to Breath of the Wild.
What is patent US20210370175 ?
Patent US20210370175 is one of the Tears of the Kingdom (TOTK) patents. Specifically, it protects a gameplay feature called the “phase ability“, and a method for implementing it. The phase ability allows a player character to pass through solid objects. The patent describes a number of different ways to implement the phase ability, including:
- A raycast is used to determine if the player character is in contact with a solid object. If the player character is in contact with a solid object, then a collision detection algorithm is used to determine the exact location of the collision. The player character is then phased through the solid object at the location of the collision;
- A physics engine can be used to simulate the player character phasing through solid objects. The physics engine would need to be modified to allow the player character to pass through solid objects.
The patent also describes a number of different ways to restrict the use of the phase ability. The solid object above the player character needs to fulfill some requirements, as shown with the images below.
What does this patent protect ?
The gameplay feature that developers would not be able to implement in their own game is the ability to phase through solid objects in the exact way that is described in the patent. This is because the patent protects the method for implementing the phase ability.
If a developer wants to implement a phase ability in their game in a way that is substantially similar to the method described in the patent, they would need to obtain a license from Nintendo.
The patent protects the following aspects of the phase ability:
- The ability to pass through solid objects;
- The conditions that need to apply to use the phase ability;
- If there is a destination above the ceiling that the character can be placed on, then the character will move to the destination when the player presses a button.
What is patent US20210370178 ?
Patent US20210370178 is a TOTK patent filed by Nintendo on May 24, 2021, for a method and apparatus for rewinding time in a video game. The patent describes a system that allows players to rewind time on an object, moving it to a previous point in the game. The system works by recording the state of the game world at regular intervals, and then allowing players to rewind to any of these recorded states.
This patent protects the “Rewind” ability in Tears of the Kingdom (TOTK), in the way it is implemented. It was filed on patent filed by Nintendo on May 24, 2021. Thanks to this patent, players were able to predict that this gameplay feature would be implemented in Tears of the Kingdom (TOTK), the sequel to Breath of the Wild.
What does this patent protect ?
This TOTK patent (US20210370178) protects the specific implementation of the rewinding time mechanic described in the patent, including the use of recorded states to rewind time. This means that other developers would not be able to implement a rewinding time mechanic that is identical to the one described in the patent.
However, there are other ways to implement a rewinding time mechanic that would not infringe on the patent. For example, a developer could use a different method for recording the state of the game world, or they could use a different method for rewinding time. As long as the developer’s implementation is different from the one described in the patent, it might not infringe on the patent.
Here are some examples of gameplay features that developers would not be able to implement in their own game without infringing on the patent:
- A rewinding time mechanic that uses the same recorded states as the one described in the patent;
- A rewinding time mechanic that allows players to rewind time to any point in the game, regardless of whether or not the state of the game world has been recorded.
- A rewinding time mechanic that is triggered automatically, such as when a player makes a mistake.