U.S. Patent No. 6,139,433: Video game system and method with enhanced three-dimensional character and background control due to environmental conditions

Issued October 31, 2000, to Nintendo Co. Ltd.
Filed: June 6, 2005 (claiming priority to November 22, 1995)


U.S. Patent No. 6,139,433 (the ‘433 patent) and related to the Nintendo 64 console (“N64”) and the smash hit game, Super Mario 64 (“SM64”). The ‘433 patent details the N64 console, the joystick controller, and the first ever player-controlled camera, as well as several SM64 controls and mechanics. Normally, patents for consoles do not include information about a game but here the N64 was a huge technological leap forward, and the first N64 prototype came after some development on SM64, meaning that the N64 was designed around certain game functionalities which needed to be exemplified in the patent. The ‘433 patent reflects that SM64 and the N64 were developed closely in tandem.

The ‘433 patent claims a gaming system which has an input device that generates player control data which represents the amount of inclination and direction a player objects moves with in response to a player’s manipulation. For the three-dimensional graphics, the N64 uses two image-generating storage locations, one for generating the player object and one for generating a 3D environmental condition the player object occupies. Then a display processing system generates a three-dimensional display for the player object and the environmental conditions based on the player’s input and environmental state instructions.

The ‘433 patent includes comprehensive control schemes for SM64 and how the player object reacts to inputs directionally, with different animations, as well as accounting for speed of movement and animation based on slopes. The joystick allows different amounts of directional input to result in different speeds and distances situationally. The 3D environment storage location stores terrain, slopes, and velocity information which alter how far and fast a player object moves in response to manipulation of the controls. This includes environmental conditions such as wind which will control the players movement, for example to move in the direction of the wind.

The camera also can change based on these detected conditions and has different modes, including parallel tracking for levels like Rainbow Ride, a fixed mode which can be seen in some rooms of Boo’s Big Haunt, and modes that allow functions like swimming and flying.


The N64 and SM64 were widely influential on game and console designers, as after this the player-controlled camera and joystick controls became commonplace. The game was designed with free roaming in mind and player choice, which has since become a staple of game design. The game and console were both extremely successful and SM64 is still popular, with rereleases on the Wii and Switch, nearly 2 million followers on Twitch, and competitive speed runners still breaking records in 2021. The camera used in the game is now complained about by players for being unwieldy, but is still important amongst speed runners to create glitches to achieve record runs. Interestingly, some coins cannot even be reached in the game without use of glitches and one coin was collected for the first time 18 years after the games release.

As the game and console celebrate the 25th anniversary of their release this month, the concepts that they introduced to game design remain staples of the industry.



A video game system includes a game cartridge which is pluggably attached to a main console having a main processor, a 3D graphics generating coprocessor, expandable main memory and player controllers. A multifunctional peripheral processing subsystem external to the game microprocessor and coprocessor is described which executes commands for handling player controller input/output to thereby lessen the processing burden on the graphics processing subsystem. The video game methodology involves game level organization features, camera perspective or point of view control features, and a wide array of animation and character control features. The system changes the “camera” angle (i.e., the displayed point of view in the three-dimensional world) automatically based upon various conditions and in response to actuation of a plurality of distinct controller keys/buttons/switches, e.g., four “C” buttons in the exemplary embodiment. The control keys allow the user at any time to move in for a close up or pull back for a wide view or pan the camera to the right and left to change the apparent camera angle. Such user initiated camera manipulation permits a player to better judge jumps or determine more precisely where an object is located in relation to the player controlled character. The video game system and methodology features a unique player controller, which permits control over a character’s exploration of the three-dimensional world to an unprecedented extent. A player controlled character may be controlled in a multitude of different ways utilizing the combination of the joystick and/or cross-switch and/or control keys and a wide range of animation effects are generated.


Illustrative Claims:

  1. A video game system for use with a display unit which displays a player object and other objects in a video game as a three-dimensional image, comprising: an input device having an operations control member for generating player control data indicative of an amount of inclination and a direction of said operations control member in response to a player’s manipulation; first image data generating storage locations for storing data for generating first image data for displaying a player object; second image generating storage locations for storing data for generating second image data for displaying an environmental condition in a three-dimensional space where the player object exists; program storage locations for storing environmental state related instructions for determining, at least in part in response to the second image data, whether the environmental condition in which the player object is to be displayed is a condition which requires a change in the display state of the player object; a display processing system for generating first three-dimensional display data for the display of the player object, based on the manipulation state of said input device, the first image data and the execution of environmental state related instructions and for generating a second three-dimensional display data for displaying the environmental conditions in which the player object exists based on the second image data; and (g) image signal generating circuitry outputting an image signal to said display unit based on the first and second three-dimensional display data generated by said display processing system system.


  1. For use with a video game system console having a game program executing processing system to execute said video game program to create a display simulating a three-dimensional world, and at least one player controller having a joystick control member and a plurality of control keys and operable by a player to generate video game control signals, a portable storage device for controlling the operation of said video game system console comprising: a memory media for storing video game instructions and graphics and sound data; interface circuitry for coupling said video game instructions and said graphics and sound data retrieved from said memory media to said video game system console; said video game instructions including instructions for causing said game program executing processing system to display a player-controlled character and to respond to changes in the joystick position to control the direction of motion of the player-controlled character, and further including instructions in said memory media control said game program executing processing system to detect whether a player controlled character is moving on a sloped surface and to modify the character’s moving speed as a function of the slope of the surface.