Breaking Down: Game Informer’s 50 things we know about NHL 14


Tuesday Game Informer released it’s 50 things we know article. In it multiple things were covered from gameplay, skating, deking, Be a GM, and GM Connected. Below I will break it down in sections.

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GENERAL GAMEPLAY

  • As expected, NHL 14 is not headed to next-gen consoles. The only platforms the game supports are PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360.
  • According to EA Canada, the overarching focus for NHL 14 was properly balancing aggression, speed, and skill – the three qualities the studio believes make hockey a standout sport.
  • Given the increased focus on checks and dekes, some fans have expressed worry that NHL 14 will be too arcade-like and lose the sim aspects that drew them to the series. Ramjagsingh assured us this is not the case. “All of the great gameplay depth and the creativity that we talked about through this entire generation about giving players the tools, we focused on all of that stuff as well,” he said. “The stuff you’re hearing about right now is just focused on trying to make the game more accessible so people are able to have fun with our game, without sacrificing any of the depth. All that depth is still there, and there is a lot more new depth as well that people will see as they play the game.”
  • EA Canada says its spent a lot of time working on the AI and systems to make sure the core gameplay experience on top of the new features continues to improve.
  • Though the primary focus for NHL 14 is on cleaning up player physics with the introduction of FIFA’s Player Impact Engine, EA Canada has tweaked the puck physics as well. You won’t see as drastic a change as you will with the players, but EA is working to make more realistic bounces, tip-ins, and deflections.
  • To improve neutral zone play, EA says it spent a lot of time tweaking puck support. The  Real AI introduced in NHL 12 is being tweaked to script sequences and breakouts for two- and three-man play through the neutral zone so they get more realistic motion. This should result in more varieties of approach.
  • EA felt the poke check was too powerful last year, and now that hitting has more of a defensive tool they are dialing back the effectiveness of the poke check. Large players may benefit more from being physical, and smaller more agile defenders have a better success rate sticking with the poke check.
  • EA Canada hasn’t made any tweaks to the faceoff mechanics for NHL 14, though they are making it easier to win draws on lower skill levels.
  • Puck pickups and pass targeting are being tweaked as well. The passes should be more in line so it should be easier to lead a player properly if you aim correctly.

One thing I like it where it mentions that EA has been working on AI and systems, last year I feel EA did a solid job implementing the new systems, but the EA was still too passive, and not as aggressive as I would have liked to have seen, so hopefully that is worked on as well to make you make quicker decisions and pay for not being able to read a play. These things may sound minor but if the guys EA Canada had the balls to make the AI super tough across the board including online even if it is too hard for some rookie players than they wouldn’t need Godlike goalies. That isn’t to say goalies are Godlike as it is, but the need to make them much better wouldn’t be as important.

The physics engine is not all about the players, they also worked on puck physics, so maybe that means a little more sloppiness in some areas of the game. It seems like gamers want it to be polished and crisp, but hockey is also about sloppiness from time to time, so that is a great thing that the puck will be bouncing more and they worked on deflections and tip ins just as long as the tips don’t always go in, like tips wide of the net, or over the net.

The tweaking of poke checking is okay with me, I turn the poke checking sliders down typically when I do custom settings because I feel like poke checking is too effective, and with it being easier to hit you don’t need to make as many poke checks, so if EA can make it harder to poke check it can be a win-win for all gamers.

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SKATING/DEKING

  • For its second year, True Performance Skating is being adjusted to address some fan complaints. When a players reaches his top speed it should no longer feels like you are turning the Titanic when turning.
  • Defensive players have been given more mobility to allow them to better shade attacking skaters. More mobile defensemen Kris Letang can pivot more quickly to change directions faster than they could in NHL 13, and you can strafe to cut off angles of attack.
  • The main reason EA added the one-touch deke system was to make dekes more accessible. The loose puck deke system, which is still in the game, requires you to plan your move in advance. The new system is much easier to use in a read-and-react situation. If you can tell the defender is going in for a big hit, you can quickly deke out of the way. This makes stickhandling more of a game within the game.
  • Don’t expect to deke your way down the ice like Pavel Datsyuk every play with every player, however. Players with less stick handling ability won’t have the efficiency of movement that danglers have, resulting in more turnovers.
  • Tapping the left trigger results in a spin move. From here the game reads the left stick and the direction you are going and then picks the right direction for you to spin.
  • All the other one-touch dekes are on the left bumper. Depending on how you are using your left stick and the situation on the ice, the game picks from a variety of moves.
  • You can string moves together as well, but at the sacrifice of speed. For instance, if you attempt more than two spin moves in a row your forward essentially comes to a standstill.

I like the idea of making it easier to turn when going top speed, I just hope that it isn’t to easy, because at top speed you cannot cut the way you would if you were going at a slower speed and cutting across, so to me there is a fine line to be had I hope EA knows what that is. I love how the defensemen have better mobility to “shade” the skaters, this and the strafing mentioned in the one touch dekes diary will make playing defense so much easier. And that will allow for some of the goal scoring to be toned down, which will counter balance the shooter part of this coming up.

SHOOTING

  • A lack of goal scoring was once again an area fans called out in NHL 13. For this year’s game, one of EA’s big focuses is goal-scoring balance. One engineer has spent the entire year working on goalies so users see more realistic goals. EA says you can expect to see more pucks squeak through under the goalie’s arms and in the five-hole.
  • The other big change in goal scoring is EA wants the players to be rewarded more often for reading the goalie and shooting in the right spot.
  • The default skill level now allows players to score more frequently to bring the goal total up to a realistic level.

I’m actually kind of baffled that EA would make scoring easier, as a vet of the series I feel like it is too easy to begin with.

But I hope the aforementioned defensive ability washes out whatever EA did to make the scoring easier. We’ll have to wait and see but this was truly a head-scratcher.

But I think there can be a good balance if this engineer did his job properly and helped the goalies get better at angles, lateral movement, and reading the play without having to go into the desperation dives that lead to wide open nets. Again I am trying to give EA the benefit of the doubt but goaltending has always been sort of EA’s NHL series issues, and if they truly made it easier to score how will people react? I think this is where the other parts of the game can be a huge benefit if the execution is down pat.

CHECKING

  • The developer diaries previously told us that speed and momentum were accounted for in the new collision system. EA Canada confirmed to us that size matters just as much. The dev team uses Boston Bruins big man Zdeno Chara as the test case to make sure he’s an immovable force when tiny forwards try to throw a check.
  • The size differential requires you to play the game a different style if you are in control of a smaller team like the Montreal Canadiens or a large team like Chara’s Bruins.
  • The board play remains largely the same as last year, but EA Canada said the new collision system makes it tougher for little guys to win pucks if they get pinned against the boards.
  • Listening to fan requests, EA Canada wants penalties to be more realistic in NHL 14. Expect boarding and interference to be called more frequently, and to see a bigger variety of penalties called in general.
  • FIFA’s player impact engine was a positive addition to the franchise, but the strange player animations it sometimes delivers also has created some of the most embarrassing (but mainly hilarious) glitches we’ve seen in years. In porting the system to hockey and tuning the game, however, the NHL teams says they have seen very little of the crazy limb flailing.
  • The development team spent over a month focusing on unrealistic hits from behind and awkward hit animations when both players are going the same direction. This should hopefully clean up this frequent point of contention we had with NHL 13.

I like what I have seen from the checking system, I can’t even really comment on it until I play it. I will comment on the fact that they want to push towards having more penalties, I feel like this is a great thing, especially more so towards the offline modes where the CPU gets away with murder.

But I also want to see the CPU throwing hits, even dirty hits, it would make the games more balanced if the CPU got physical, and played with an edge as well.

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FIGHTING

  • EA’s biggest focus for the new enforcer engine was to make fighting more realistic and more within the moment. The players not engaged in the fight now stay on the ice and the players on the bench no longer disappear.
  • The new fighting engine has a better understanding of why players drop the gloves in real life and thus does a better job of making fights happen naturally during the course of the game. You can still pre-plan a fight or get into a post-whistle scrum, but if you target a star player for a check and leave him a disheveled heap on the ice your antagonist may not have the option to avoid the fight with his on-ice bodyguard or another player that takes offense to the hit.
  • Once a fight starts you see all players on the ice react accordingly. If tough guys are on the ice they start to pair up. Less violent players may go down on one knee to watch the skirmish.
  • Some fighting mechanics are integrated directly from EA’s excellent Fight Night franchise. Tall guys like Chara could get in a fight with a smaller player like Martin St. Louis. You can now throw punches before the players enter a clinch. Once you are tangled up, you can throw uppercuts, rabbit punches, and hooks. Your offhand can be used to tug the player into position for a knockout punch. This is an especially effective tool if a long-armed guy is matched up against a much weaker player.
  • To properly balance the fight, the enforcer engine looks at fighting ratings, size, and strength of the player. Bigger, stronger players drain more of their opponent’s health meter when landing a punch than a smaller guy like Henrik Sedin would. However, EA says a really skilled user who masters the fighting mechanic could still pull off a David vs. Goliath upset.
  • The fighting system works the same in the EASHL as well. EA isn’t sure yet if the players outside of the central fight will be able to pair up and drop the gloves, but it’s something they want to include if possible.

The fighting system has me excited, admittedly I like to goon it up from time to time so this is a welcome change for me. I am interested if there will be multiple fights at once on the ice, if they want to add it then it is an encouraging sign that we may get it. Which could also mean the removal of the fight limit, which drives me nuts, since there is no need to cap it off at five fights, if I am playing Montreal as Boston and there is a dirty game going on, then all hell should be able to break loose. So line brawls and the removal of the fight limit could be a great feature to add. Same with the checking, I can’t comment on the feature until I play the game either by demo or release copy, probably the demo.

GM CONNECTED

  • The troubled GM Connected online experience is coming back with a few tweaks to improve usability.
  • One NHL developer spent almost all year working to improve the cripplingly slow menu navigation. GM Connected now runs at a much faster speed comparable to what you see in the front end of the offline Be A GM mode.
  • EA added several tools to improve the minute-to-minute experience of being in an online league. GMs now have a schedule that shows who has played games in the league instead of depending on the messaging system to check that.
  • The revamped messaging system now allows GM-to-GM as well as GM-to-commissioner messages. You can also counter-propose trades directly from your mailbox or refresh the mailbox without exiting the menu.
  • You can now decline and accept trades from the trade detail screen.
  • New commissioner improvements include an “invite to league” functionality and surfacing gamertags so it’s easier to tell who is controlling which team.
  • EA has added a time period in before the league starts so teams can make trade offers and other roster alterations before stepping on the ice for their first game.

Obviously the menu system needed to be improved so I am glad to hear that they are working on it, it would have been bad to see them not support a mode has potential to be an insanely fun league to run and be part of but the first year of it with it’s speed made it a bit of a nightmare to start, a lot like the first year of the EASHL but only this time I wasn’t on the EA forums having do deal with all of the complaints from the GM Connected.

The messaging system is also a welcome addition, I think this will make the league more functional in terms of not having to hop from one menu to another and so on. The counter proposals for trades is huge. It was a pain in the neck having to remember and redo the trades with players swapped in or out of the trade to accommodate what the other GM wants.

Adding a decline/accept function to the trade details screen is huge, it again makes for less menus to hop through, which saves time and aggravation.

The addition of time to the start of the league is a cool idea. That will make doing quick moves before the season that much more critical.

One thing I’d also like to see that isn’t mention is that if a player is added to one trade offer then his name on the trade players list should be blacked out for any other trade offers, it is hard to remember who was put in a given trade, so adding this would make it easier to remember.

BE A GM

  • Even though Be A Pro is getting the biggest makeover of all the game modes, EA Canada claims it has done quite a bit to the GM mode as well.
  • Both GM Connected and Be A GM add many of the changes implemented in the new collective bargaining agreement between the NHL and NHLPA. The changes include new salary cap and floor calculations and the ability to trade part of salaries. Since the development team doesn’t have many real-world examples of how teams plan to use these new rules, they are working with the NHL directly to understand the parameters of the new guidelines.
  • You can still buy players out, but EA is still discussing whether or not to include the special buyouts that NHL teams can enact this offseason and next to get under the downsized salary cap.
  • NHL 14 is not adding the free agent interview period like the real league is implementing.
  • Last year’s questionable trade logic isn’t being scrapped, but EA has added new trade difficulty slider that should lessen the restrictiveness of the GMs who last year would only willingly part with prospects and over-the-hill players in the last year of their contracts.
  • EA is still tuning the trade logic on top of the new slider functionality as well.
  • Players now improve during the season, though some only grow in the offseason. This adds another layer to the progression system. This should help you see young players’ skills progress more steadily instead of waiting for the offseason to know if he’s NHL ready.
  • First-round draft picks are more likely to get skill jumps much earlier in their careers. Like last year, lower-round players won’t likely reach the NHL skill level until they are in their mid-to-late 20s.
  • Skill progression doesn’t take into account player performance on the ice or the amount of playing time they receive in the minors as much as EA Canada would like it to in the future. This means you don’t have to worry nearly as much about high-round draft picks sitting behind career minor leaguers on your AHL team as you would in real life.
  • EA isn’t doing much to change player regression, so the older players won’t have a major drop-off in skills.
  • The GM firing option is now a league setting. You can turn that off or on at any time.
  • EA has some plans for tweaking the front-end menu system, but it isn’t going into details on that right now.

One of the things at the top says EA is adding many of the new CBA items into the Be a GM and that is great. Ideally they’d also add long term and short term IR so that teams can get cap relief to call up players if they’re towards the top of the salary cap. Another thing it said was teams have the ability to trade parts of a salaries, this is interesting since I am not sure how this actually works, so this may be one of those things that I wouldn’t even know how to use or take advantage of.

EA is discussing whether to add special buyouts, I think that they should, but only if it is done within the special guidelines of the CBA otherwise it could be a nu-sense especially if they also add it to GM Connected.

EA has added a trade difficulty slider, which is both good and bad, it can be good if people want it harder to pull off rip-off trades, but also bad if people slide it all the way down and rob the CPU ultimately ruining the experience for themselves.

Skill progression looks like it will be a work in progress for future games, I personally don’t have an issue with the progression stage of the game. I have other worries about the mode more than player progression. Player regression I feel needs a little work so that players who aren’t that great fall off faster then say a player like Sidney Crosby who will still be a very solid player even when he is older. So as you can see there are things I feel can be tweaked in terms of regression.

I am interested in hearing about the front end menu, will it be a physical change, or a stability change? I’d like to see both, but I want to see the stability change more so. Lets put it this way, there is no way I should be able to sim an entire 162 games of baseball with injuries off faster than I can an 82 game NHL season with injuries on.  I think part of what can help is if there was a decrease in injuries in the mode, not only is it not that realistic, it is also annoying and time consuming. Add in the AHL and that only doubles the time you put into it. Which is why I think EA would be wise to have line change settings for both the NHL and AHL, that way if you’re more concerned with the NHL team then you can let the CPU run the AHL team. Or the exact opposite if that’s your thing.

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Posted on June 13, 2013, in News, Special Features, Technology, Video Games and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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