Unlike the previous two posts in the series, this one is not about a new, unexploited idea, but one that's already been put into practice: use of connectivity as a help system. I was planning on writing about this type of feature last year, until someone put it in their game! It's still worth a mention, since a) it's really cool and b) it fits in perfectly with the topic at hand
In the game Demon's Souls, players can leave messages for other players to stumble upon as they traverse the game in single-player mode. These messages are rated by the players who read them. Highly rated messages have longer persistence and give their creators a reward in the form of healing for their characters. Although the messages are highly constrained in format and vocabulary, they are generally a welcome aid in a deviously difficult game.
The game also generates bloodstains that, when activated, show you the demise of another player. This foreknowledge of hazards ahead gives you an advantage in overcoming them.
Microsoft seems to have been working along the same lines, as well. This patent application, also from last year, is for a system that shows players user-submitted tips for their current game context.
It seems a little less exciting to me, perhaps because it would be difficult for game developers to integrate such a general-purpose system into their games as smoothly as Demon's Souls has done with their custom system.
This type of system seems very useful in preventing players for seeking out spoiler-style tips on the web. When players are stuck, they may go to GameFaqs or elsewhere in order to get past a challenge.
There, players typically are exposed to more help/information than necessary to overcome that specific challenge, lessening their enjoyment of other parts of the game. Thus, context-specific help that provides no more information than necessary seems like a very useful feature.
Anyone else have clever ideas on how to use connectivity to provide player guidance in single-player games? And are there any other games out there already doing something similar?