In October of 2019, Sony filed a “Cross-Platform Spoiler Block Service” patent with the United States Patent & Trademark Office. With this particular patent, Sony intends to keep users from encountering spoiler-related information too early. Given this past weekend’s events, wherein major The Last of Us Part II’s story details leaked online, it’s no surprise that such a patent has now emerged.
RespawnFirst discovered the patent, which aims to stop users from stumbling upon narrative-sensitive content too early. The “spoiler block” program will take note of in-game content that players come across, i.e., characters, story beats, weapons, etc. Sony’s program will then use said data to prevent the player from interacting with user-created content, trophies, lore details, and so on related to potential spoilers, all in an effort to ensure players discover spoiler-related content organically.
Developers play a part in the feature, too. They’ll be able to mark and hide certain information until players encounter the information independently. Ultimately, users will have control over the function with the ability to turn it on and off at leisure. In many respects, the “spoiler block” could work in a manner similar to PlayStation’s Hidden Trophy feature. With the latter, users can reveal a Hidden Trophy’s contents by simply pressing ‘Square’ in the Trophy menu.
It seems all of the above will work courtesy of a “Uniform Data System.” Sony’s patent describes such a system with the following outline,
[UDS] can be aware of what in-game entities and activities users have engaged with, and thus support players in avoiding unwanted spoilers, giving them confidence to engage with the community without fear. The general solution pattern is that any object type can be considered a spoiler, and as such, can be marked as ‘hidden’ by the developer in the metadata for that object type.
When that object type is discovered by the player (e.g., an example of a UDS event), it is no longer treated as a spoiler for that player. This pattern can be applied to activities, entities, settings, outcomes, actions, effects, locations and character stats. This approach can result in an increase in the number of single-player and co-op PvE gamers who engage socially around those games, with their friends, and the broader community.
Of course, a patent doesn’t mean an idea will definitely be put to practice. Regardless, it’s interesting to note that Sony is considering ways of at least reducing the chances of players encountering sensitive story information ahead of time.