Kukla's Korner Hockey
by Doug Miller on 09/07/11 at 04:10 PM ET
Thanks to everyone that submitted a question on Monday. I read the questions in email form on my phone as they popped up throughout the day, so I’ve had some time to think about the answers. Excellent questions all around though. So now let me get to answering them all to the best of my ability, starting in the order that they were submitted.
Note: Sorry that I was a day late with this, it took longer to write than I thought, due to the in-depth nature of many of the questions, plus a little glitchly complication I was having with my offline BAP, that I had to spend a few hours talking to EA about to work on fixing the issue and assuring it’s patched up by the time all of you get the game when it’s released.
Q: Is there more than one dressing room for the EASHL? (BTW8892 from Long Island, NY)
A: I’m don’t know. In the time that I’ve had my copy, there haven’t been very many people online. Just myself and some of the EA Sports Community Reps who moderate the EA Forums that also got early retail copies. Barely enough of us in total to get the occasional OTP game going at times, let alone some EASHL Club action. Although based on the EASHL Club screen, which still says “Players in Dressing Room” - I’m guessing there is still only one per Club, as otherwise it would say “Rooms”.
Unless you are talking OTP lobbies, and if they fixed the issue of them all being numbered the same. Even then, I still don’t have an answer, as there is only one OTP lobby setup at the moment. I’m guessing the European early access people have more than one, but I’m not sure, as the retail version and early access downloads aren’t compatible online. I can still see all the people on the leaderboards, but the one OTP lobby is still usually empty, as I can’t play online with the early access people over in Europe.
I’m a bit curious to see if I’ll be able to download the North American early access version, and then use that to sign in to the EA Servers and still have access to my club and all the player boost slots and boosts I have unlocked thus far, so that I can get some more online play in before I write my review. Although it’s something I’ll have to ask the proper people at EA about, just to make sure I don’t somehow end up relocking my boosts or screwing up my player rank progression in the process, etc.
Q: Hi Doug, we Europeans were able to start downloading the early release since yesterday (Sunday 1pm CEST, like 7am ET). so we’re playing and enjoying the game since 27 hours ... (continued) ... this year you can be a female in Be-a-Pro ... (continued) (steph from Bonn, Germany)
A: Not actually a question, but it’s a comment I thought I’d address anyway. I figured that the early access download went out a bit early, judging by all the new names I saw pop up on the leaderboards with the Season Ticket icons before the release was supposed to happen. Also, yes, I can finally confirm the long-running rumor which steph also confirmed, you can indeed make either a Male or Female Pro this year.
Although this is among one of the many things I asked the devs about during the special media/dev team online game session last week. This is purely an aesthetic thing, and has no effect on gameplay or anything else beyond simple appearance. Also worth noting that it’s one of the few “global” player settings, that cannot be changed from build to build. So you can’t have a Male Center and a Female Left Winger.
The other global traits are things like player name, birthday info, and location info. Everything else can be changed for each position setup, from number, handedness, height, weight, even appearance (aside from gender) and of course, your player type and stat settings. It’s also worth mentioning that in your defenseman build, you can only choose from OFD, DFD, TWD, and Tough Guy as your player types, so no forward player types, aside from Tough Guy, can be used for defensemen.
Q: What, in your opinion, is the best new feature of the game? Gameplay wise, I’m speaking. I know they apparently made over ‘300’ new changes. (Itrusteddrrahmani from Ann Arbor, MI)
A: Man, it’s really hard to choose just one. As it’s really a combination of the new collision physics, new puck physics, new A.I. logic, new open ice “skating with intent” auto hustle, net-front battle system, and improved goaltending that give the game a much better, and more realistic feel than NHL 11 had. Along with several other small tweaks which I didn’t include in that list, but still contribute to the overall “feel” of the game.
If I’ve got to pick one, and only one though, it’s got to be the new and improved A.I. logic. The CPU players feel more human-like than ever. You can now actually feed your CPU teammate a breakaway pass, and then watch him go in on the goaltender and make a decent move or two in an attempt to score, instead of just shooting and looking foolish like they did in NHL 11. I’ve even seen the CPU make a deke move on a goaltender in a shootout that looked almost identical to a move I myself usually use. Your CPU teammates also seem to be in better overall position most of the time now, which makes player switching when controlling the entire team much easier than it ever used to be, as well as it makes it much easier to setup the first pass out of your own zone to get the play going through the neutral zone, as the CPU will work harder to get open, depending on how you have your breakout strategy set at the time.
The CPU is also much better at setting up plays on their own now, as they no longer just pass the puck around aimlessly. Playing as a goalie in my Be a Pro, I noticed a nice variety of plays being run by the computer A.I. on offense. For example, a lone puck carrier coming into the zone will usually drive wide, and then based on a number of factors, including where I am positioned in net, and how my defensemen are positioned, and their own player type, they will either try and snipe a shot short side (if they see an opening) or drive so far down low that I’m forced to cover the post, and then throw a pass back into the middle, which usually results in a quick shot, or occasionally, a wicked one-timer, which isn’t easy to stop, and constantly keeps me on my toes as a human goaltender.
They are much better defensively too, although they might still collapse a bit too often, however the way in which they collapse back makes much more sense now, as they do a better job of limiting your shooting angles, and cutting off passing lanes when you are trying to setup a basic cycle. Not to mention that they do an excellent job of protecting the slot, much more so than ever before. The A.I. could probably still use some slight tweaking when it comes to dumping the puck into the zone on the rush, which happens a bit more often than it should, and they also seem oblivious to the open cross crease pass at times, but I have a feeling these things will get tweaked in upcoming tuner sets over time. As I said, overall, the CPU A.I. feels much more human, and they seem to anticipate so many more things much better this year, hence the appropriate title of “New Anticipation A.I.”. Obviously there is a bunch of other stuff to get into with this, and expect to hear much more in my full review next week.
Q: How are they handling historical numbers (already retired, certain to be, current young players?) (Guilherme from Brazil)
A: One of the first things I noticed when looking around the Joe Louis Arena in Detroit, was the retired player numbers hanging from the rafters in their appropriate location. Except for some unknown reason they were missing Yzerman’s number 19, which seems like a major oversight, and I know has nothing to do with him being playable as a Legend, since Howe’s number 9 is still up there. You’ll also notice other retired numbers hanging from the rafters in various arenas around the league. When you first start your Be a GM or Be a Pro Mode, there is an option to play with retired numbers on or off. When they are on, you can’t assign any player on your team to a number retired by that team.
As for “certain to be” retired numbers, like Nicklas Lidstrom for example, it took me several simmed seasons to finally get him to retire, but once he did, his number wasn’t retired by Detroit. Normally, on the select jersey numbers screen, if you have retired numbers on, and go to select that number it will say “retired number”. No such luck for Lidstrom, who was the best example I could think of for a player who’s number will surely be retired the moment he retires. Nothing in the game though, no banner raising of the retired number or addition to the newly retired number on the roster. Kind of a shame, as I was sort of expecting this along with the retired numbers this year.
So I suppose the same will go for current younger players. The exception might be in your own created Be a Pro, since the goal is to “Become the Next Great Legend” there could be some kind of number retirement and banner raising going on there, if you achieve Legend status and break several of those legendary milestones while remaining with one team for the majority of your career. This is just speculation though, it will take me quite awhile to figure out if this might be in the game or not.
Q: How is player separation? In the past, the CPU didn’t seem to be married to any of its attributes. Chris Simon could pass and shoot just as good as Sidney Crosby, while your all-star players felt like they were skating in mud and had the shooting & passing accuracy of a blind monkey.
Q: In NHL12, will players actually play like their real-life counterparts?
Q: Can we expect the CPU’s 3rd and 4th line scrubs to make more mistakes and look like lesser players than the 1st and 2nd line. And at the same time, will your good players feel like good players? (Hank1974)
A: Alright, a few questions here, but I don’t mind that at all, so let’s get right into them.
As far as player separation goes, it’s noticeable. It might only be mild, but it’s an improvement for sure. All-Star players generally feel like the usually have an edge over average players. Although, still, most NHL-level players can still pass, shoot and skate pretty well, as would generally be expected of an NHL level player. Yes, though, there is a notable difference between your top players and the rest of the team and league in general.
In terms of players feeling like their real-life counterparts, that is much better this year, with the implementation of the new signature traits system, which was put in for this particular reason. From my time spend playing with the Red Wings, the team I’m the most familiar with, I can confirm that this new system works very well for the most part, although, like anything, could probably use a slight tweak here and there, but generally speaking it’s all gravy, and a major improvement over past years.
As for team’s 3rd and 4th lines, well, it really depends on the team, and how much depth they have. With a team like Detroit or Vancouver, that has tons of depth, you won’t see a huge difference in those latter lines, as they have some pretty good players on them. For the most part though, this is slightly noticeable, so to answer your question, yes, but it’s nothing too dramatic.
The real player separation that is clearly noticeable is between NHL, AHL, and CHL players, for obvious reasons. This really only comes into play with your HUT Team though. Oh, and even though I already answered your above question about good players feeling like good players, I’ll repeat it again, as yes, it is noticeable. You’ve still got to play to that player’s strengths though, for maximum success.
Q: How is be-a-gm mode going? For someone who mainly sticks to that game mode, it’d be sweet to know how the game-tracker changes have made a difference. (dlachine from Kingston, ON)
A: Be a GM Mode is going great thus far, I haven’t gotten too deep into either of the two main ones I’m playing at the moment, one being a fantasy re-draft that me and a friend of mine do every year, where we tend to load up our team with a ton of high-quality prospects as the CPU always drafts by best available. We then round out the roster with some older free agents, to buy us a season or two while we let our top prospects develop. Then I have my Red Wings GM team going as well, in which I tried to make as accurate to real life as possible, as Ozzie, Draper, Modano, and Salei are still on the current roster update, but I suspect they will be gone with the roster update when the game ships out. So I dropped them all off into free agency before I started, as well as moved over Ty Conklin and Chris Conner, and adjusted their contracts to the appropriate amounts before beginning my season, since I’m playing with the Salary Cap in place.
As for the Action Tracker. It’s really nice to have in all game modes, as any play that hasn’t been simmed through, you can go back and pull up replays of every single goal, shot, hit, and penalty. As well as checking how you are doing on faceoffs in each circle on the ice, plus the added net tracker, which lets you see where you and your opponent are putting their shots on net period by period. It’s nice to have the ability to pull up all these replays though. As something might happen during a period that you didn’t notice in the heat of gameplay, and then you’ll see it in the highlights in between periods, and then go back on the Action Tracker, and pull up the replay of that “wow” moment, and save the video or take a screen shot.
For example, I had a multi-way collision happen during play, that I never noticed until the highlight reel after the period. So I pulled it back up in the Action Tracker, so I could save a very nice replay illustrating the new physics at their best. As I had a player on my team check an opposing player into another player of mine who was along the boards at the time. The energy and momentum of the hit carried all the way through, causing my check on the opposing player to knock my own teammate over the boards and into my bench!
Personally my favorite new improvement when playing through Be a GM now, is all of the new presentation features. As they now highlight and talk about more little things than ever, such as player point streaks, where a player currently ranks in points, goals, hits, and plus/minus, among others. In addition to the new player highlight packages now in the game, that highlight a specific player who is making in impact on the game, either with his scoring, hitting, or in the case of a hot goaltender, his spectacular saves. I’ve also seen one for goaltenders who are playing badly as well. I’m sure there might even be a few more I haven’t seen just yet.
There are some other minor improvements in Be a GM as well, but I’ll talk more about them later in this preview and the review.
Q: 1) Seems in the demo that the short side deke is even easier to pull off than in NHL 11. Please tell me that the goalies stop this shot SOMETIMES in the actual game.
2) Can you give any information on the boost slots for BAP and EASHL. Is it the same format as last year, where you had to unlock both the slots and the boosts? It seems each year they add a little wrinkle. Any changes here?
3) Do you have more options for creating jerseys in EASHL? (Posted by Len)
A: 1. I know the “side of the net” deke you’re talking about. Personally, I’ve only pulled it off once, and that was in the demo. There has been one tuner set update since then, so I don’t know if this has been addressed or not, as I generally don’t even go for it all that often. For a number of reasons, mainly because he CPU defense protects the front of the net better than ever before. Also, I usually like to setup a good passing play instead of just driving the net. Even if I am driving to the net, the CPU Defense seems a bit better at protecting you from getting in that close, so I’m more likely to try a slight body fake and snipe a corner, which is very satisfying when you can use the d-man as a screen, and put the shot through his legs and into the top corner. Of course, I don’t pretend to be anything that I’m not, I consider myself about average skill level when it comes to playing forward or using an entire team, as goaltending is my specialty. Although the few times I’ve attempted this move, I’ve noticed a few things, the goalies are more agile, and tend to stop it, unless you can execute the move perfectly. Which to me, feels a bit different than in NHL 11, as you’ve got to pull the puck in tight, around the side, which because of the new puck physics, which effect shooting angles, it feels like it is generally harder to pull off this year. Again, that’s just my opinion, I know there are plenty of people out there who are better at scoring than myself, and might find this much easier.
2. No real changes to the BAP in EASHL boost slots and equipment boots, it’s the same system we saw in NHL 11. If anything, some of them seem a little easier to unlock than last year, but I haven’t looked over every single one yet, that’s just the general impression I’ve gotten. Some are still tough to unlock though.
3. No new logos, or new number fonts, but there is one new additional jersey style. Might not seem like much, but it further adds to my speculation that we might see some kind of advanced uniform editor down the line this year as part of that “premium web content” that remains unknown still.
Q: This and how did the new sim engine turn out? No more RJ Umberger winning the rocket richard every year? Or goalies winning the calder/conn smythe every year? And is the Cup celebration ANY different? (you’d think they’d reward you for beating the game with new cutscenes…) Thanks for all the updates. (Bosephus, Denver, CO)
A: The new sim engine seems very solid, and definitely guarantees different results from year to year, even when simming the same season. Of course you are still likely to see top players like Crosby, Ovechkin, and Stamkos up there in the scoring and goals races though, along with the occasional surprise of a good player who happened to have a career year, or a younger player who really had a breakout season, such as a sim I did, two seasons in from now, when Taylor Hall put up 40 goals for Edmonton.
Here is a little taste of the sim engine in action, as I simmed four full seasons from now to see how things would go, although to be fair, I did handicap Detroit a bit, as I was just quickly simming though years trying to get Lidstrom to retire so I could see what would happen with his number after he did. Anyway, here is a sneak peak of some of the results of that 4 seasons worth of simming, which I’ll talk more about in my review…
Simmed Vezina Winners:
2014/2015 - Ryan Miller
2013/2014 - Carey Price
2012/2012 - Corey Crawford
2011/2012 - Ryan Miller
Simmed Selke Winners (this just made me laugh)
2014/2015 - Jonathan Toews
2013/2014 - Pavel Datsyuk
2012/2012 - Pavel Datsyuk
2011/2012 - Pavel Datsyuk
Simmed Ted Lindsay Award Winners
2014/2015 - Sidney Crosby
2013/2014 - Alexander Ovechkin
2012/2012 - Jonathan Toews
2011/2012 - Jerome Iginla
Simmed Rocket Richard Winners
2014/2015 - Alexander Ovechkin
2013/2014 - Loui Eriksson
2012/2012 - Alexander Ovechkin
2011/2012 - Sidney Crosby
Although, as I pointed out before, I simmed another version of next season using the new sim engine, and got completely different results for the 2011/2012 season, with the exception of Datsyuk winning the Selke and Crosby winning the Richard. Also, player retirements were all over the place, depending on a number of factors. In one sim of next season, I saw Selanne, Jager, Pronger, and Timonen all retire, and then I re-simmed the same season, and none of those players retired.
The one major change to Be a GM this year, that has the biggest overall impact on both playing it as well as simming, and that is injury frequency and severity. Injuries in NHL 12 are much more frequent and usually of longer severity. This is all based purely on actual data collected from real-life NHL statistics though. However, aside from seeing more concussions than usual, you’ll also see some of the longer injuries change over time, like a broken wrist eventually become a sprained wrist, and then a bruised wrist, and then back to normal. Some people might complain that there are too many injuries in Be a GM now… however, this is a hockey simulation we are talking about here, and as I said, this new injury model is based on real life statistics.
As for the Cup celebration, from the one game series I played in Battle for the Cup mode, no, it’s the same as it’s been before. Only difference now is the addition of Stanley Cup Finals Patches on each team’s sweaters.
That wraps up this little preview. Expect to see a preview of the Red Wings HockeyFest tomorrow, and then a special EASHL related announcement coming on Friday. Anyway, I’ve still got a ton of things to catch up on to by ready to start writing my review soon, so back to work for me.
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Paul Kukla founded Kukla’s Korner in 2005 and the site has since become the must-read site on the ‘net for all the latest happenings around the NHL.
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