Saturday, August 30, 2014

Features I'd like to see in Future NHL Games

The release of NHL 15 is just around the corner, which means I should've written this about a year ago, just in case someone at EA reads this blog and was thinking about what new features one fan wants.

No matter what a developer does, there's always a desire for more (to go along with endless gripes).  Video game developers might even have a worse job than sports referees. At least the vitriol they experience is keyboard-based nerd rage as opposed to 15,000 plus hockey fans screaming "Ref you suck!" at every penalty called.  But overall, the overworked and underpaid developers rarely get the kudos they deserve.

So thank you for all that you do so I may live vicariously through pixelated avatars.

What are some features that I'd like to see added to a future version of the NHL games?

  • Goal celebrations with teammates.  Things like group hugs, helmet taps, or the Bang-Bang dance (Colorado only)
    • I've never been a fan of  the individualistic celebrations.  I want hockey hugs besides the overtime winning mob the teammate.  A little fist pump, board jump, or point at the assist man is all good but then bring it in the way goals are meant to be celebrated.
  • Team based goal songs (Pennywise's Bro Hymn for Anaheim, Fratellis' Chelsea Dagger for Chicago, etc.).
    • I understand the logistical issues with trying to secure the rights to 30 songs across different labels but this is my pipe dream.
  • Fancy Stats!  For GM mode and the Live the Life, it'd be fun to see how my Corsi is doing.  Also have some commentary wrapped around these stats.  It can help some people understand the concepts, much in the way that many people, including myself, learned how icing and offsides worked in hockey by playing the early versions of these video games.
  • Coaches tasks that aren't so selfish (shoot a lot!) or outside your player's play style (hold the puck, get in front of the net).  This is where advance stats could be very useful with tasks like be a positive possession player tonight, advance the puck, etc.
    • In general, I think tasks should always be team-based.  I doubt Coach Q is telling Patrick Kane, "Kaner I want you to spend 60 seconds screening the goalie tonight.  It'd be great if you could do that, thanks." *Grabs his junk for emphasis*
  • For Make a Pro/Live the Life be able to adjust the handiness of each player.  In 14, I set up my forward to shoot right (like I do in real life) but I couldn't change my goalie to catch right (like I did in real life).  A left handed goalie shoots right-handed but maybe they saw me as American and figured if I shot right I was a righty but if I was Canadian I'd be a lefty.
  • Lessen the focus on fighting.  It was an unfortunate choice for EA that the year they make fighting a large focus of the game the NHL started making huge strides to eliminate the enforcer type players.  One way to do this would be to tone down the number of post hit fights.
    • In NHL 14, in 81 games in one season, my power forward racked up close to 700 penalty minutes (and somehow didn't get Shanabaned)
  • And speaking of suspensions, there should be some complete with videos so when a player gets suspended you get the NHL-style clip of why with the reasoning, including prior history.  To make it easier, I could see using the existing commentators instead of getting someone from the Department of Supplemental Discipline to robotically narrate why your chowder head forward can't just Weber someone into the boards, unless it's a Red Wing, apparently.  If there's budget issues, Down Goes Brown and Blog Salming, have made these before (and it was hysterical).  
  • Improved AI.  There's times when I question the algorithms that decide when to pass, when to look for a pass, or when to go for a line change (usually at all the wrong times).  Some of it may to be force the user to be more engaged but I feel it gets to centered around your star player.
  • Year to Year - allow for GM Mode, Live the Life, Be a Pro, and other multi-season modes to port from year to year.  Investing a year into a career, or a team and having to start all over can diminish the desire to buy the new version of the game.
Overall the EA Sports NHL series is excellent and, with a few exceptions, are always improvements upon previous iterations with constantly improving animation, gameplay, physics, and graphics.  At times, the only way to tell it apart from the real game is to see if the Sharks or Leafs won the Cup.

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