EA SPORTS NHL 15 is the newest installment to the hockey video game franchise which has amassed a total of 26 awards this year, and there are a lot of questions still needing to be answered for those not willing to wait until the title’s release this fall.
While the man on the cover of the game is going to be revealed at the NHL Awards in Las Vegas on Tuesday, June 24 at 7:00 p.m. ET on NBCSN in the U.S. and on CBC in Canada, it will be either Boston’s Patrice Bergeron or Montreal’s P.K. Subban. The two were the finalists in the NHL 15 Cover Vote which was conducted by the fans.
So, we asked NHL 15 Line Producer Sean Ramjagsingh (with help from Producer Peter Sobzcak) a couple of frequently asked questions about the game and its new, riveting features:
1. How has next-gen console hardware allowed you guys to overhaul the NHL franchise as a whole?
When we looked at what Xbox One and PS4 gets us – more memory, faster processing power, better graphics – we said, wow, next-gen really changes everything and here’s an opportunity to change everything in NHL. So we did, we changed almost everything. We changed our players, our physics, our broadcast package and our in-arena experience.
For example, in the last generation of consoles we had collision physics on 2 players. With the power of next-gen consoles, we’ve been able to extend that to all 12 players. Now when there are many players crashing the net or battling in the corners you may see 3, 4, 5 players get crushed, some stumble, some fall. Since it’s physics based, you never get the same hit twice.
Another example is the puck. You may have noticed that in the past the puck behaved more like a ball than a puck. With the power of next-gen consoles, we now have real puck physics. Now the puck moves, spins and interacts with players and the rink in a realistic manner.
One more example. In the last generation of consoles we had 400 unique fans in the crowd, the rest were duplicates of those 400. In the next generation of consoles we’ve added 9,000 unique fans to the crowd. This means that we can essentially have a whole lower bowl of unique fans. We also added much more crowd behavior. You’ll now see things like the annoying away fan cheering for his team, people holding up signs, and the super fan pumping-up the crowd. This all means we can bring the arena to life like never before.
2. How have you improved the player models as well as creating individuality within the game? We saw P.K. Subban and Patrick Kane showcase their particular skills in the E3 Gameplay Trailer, care to expand on that?
If you stripped away the uniform from the last gen player model underneath you would see a player that resembled the Michelin man rather than a hockey player. This was an optimization we had to make on the last-gen consoles. With next-gen power, we’re now able to model the player in a lot more detail. We build the player in a layered approach.
We started with a real player body. We then added the player’s shoulder pads, elbow pads, shin guards, and pants. We then borrowed technology from the fashion industry to build and fit a proper jersey on the player. A jersey that reacts to the movement of the player, his equipment, and collisions with other players. If you look at skates, pants, gloves, anything really on the player, you’ll see a lot more detail than before. Guys like P.K. also have big expressions and show lots of emotion. We worked closely with the UFC team to bring over their facial animation technology into NHL and bring our players to life.
We didn’t stop there. We also wanted to make the player play better. In last-gen, we introduced the Skill Stick – basically using the right stick to controls a player’s hockey stick. In NHL 15, we added more tools to your control arsenal like stride dekes. We also separated the upper and lower body. This means you have more control and more creativity. We’re calling this the Superstar Skill Stick because it make you feel like a superstar.
The last piece is creating a player that thinks like a real hockey player, so we revisited the AI system. In the last generation of consoles the AI was fairly linear – making decisions one at a time. But in real life, when P.K. or Kane are skating down ice, they have to make a lot of fast decisions to get themselves to the right position to score. We wanted to build an AI that could “see” and understand plays. One that sees things like open passing and shooting lanes, and defensive coverage. Since the AI can see what is happening, it behaves more like a real hockey player. We’re calling this Vision AI because of the way it sees the game from a player’s perspective. This all ties into our player rating system, so players like P.K. and Kane have individual attributes, behaviors and traits. This way, P.K. and Kane skate, think, and move differently from all other players in the game.
3. Will there be an in-game model for the new commentary team of Doc Emrick, Eddie Olczyk, and Ray Ferraro similar to what Madden has done?
At ice level you’ll see Ray Ferraro behind the glass, but we wanted to do more with Doc and Eddie in NHL 15. One of the pillars for our team has been innovation. We realized that our game was getting closer to real life than ever before. So, instead of creating models of Doc and Eddie, we green-screened them and put their actual footage in the game. This created a game-day presentation feel that brings what you see on TV into the game.
4. Can you reveal any information on the EASHL and Ultimate Team modes in terms of any advanced customization than what we’ve seen in the past?
We’ll have more on our game modes in the near future.
5. When can we expect NHL 15 to hit the shelves in North America/as well as a demo release date?
NHL 15 will hit shelves September 9th. The demo date is still TBD.
There you have it, NHL 15 will be available for both next-gen consoles, Xbox One and PS4, as well as Xbox 360 and PS3 on September 9th.
I’d like to personally thank Sean and Peter for taking the time to answer these questions for their fans.
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