NHL 2K10 Interview

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posted 9/11/2009 by Ben Berry
other articles by Ben Berry
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Last week, I had the opportunity to participate in a developer call with the team in charge of creating NHL 2K10. For the uninitiated, a developer call basically gives journalists the opportunity to conduct a group interview with development teams. A moderator asks all of the questions of the development team. As a writer, you submit a few questions in advance, and hope your questions get asked. You also hope that the other writers do a good job with their questions. Sadly this isn’t always the case, and you hear a lot of repetition and frankly, a lot of questions that could easily be answered by reading the games web site or a press release.

On the the call was with
  • Ben Bishop (Producer)
  • Nick Shewchuk (Producer)
  • Abe Navarro (Lead Gameplay Producer)
  • Anthony Yampol (Gameplay Producer)
I recorded the call, but frankly after listening to the call, I realized no one should ever have to listen to that call all the way through to get the information contained within. So between my copious notes and listening through the call I believe I gleaned the important information from the call, and I grouped it according to the area of the game discussed. I’m not bothering to break down which team member answered which question, because it wasn’t always announced, and frankly it really doesn’t matter.
On the next page of the call recap, you’ll find a few exclusive answers I got in a follow up email from producer Ben Bishop in response to questions I emailed following the call.
On the major changes over 2K9
-          “Game Play. Overall it’s a better game of hockey. A lot better and a lot different. The visuals are a lot better than last years.”
-          “Exclusive Mii superskills game, better graphics on the Wii, and much better online”
-          “A brand new player model, players are propotional to their equipment, drastically improved player likenesses, a new intro for each arena, the arenas look more realistic, and new lighting”
-          “Site support for online leagues such as stats, personal pages, the online create a team has a page as well.”
-          “The game modes, specifically the addition of hardcore”
On the process of upgrading since 2K9
-          “2k09 ran late, and with the work on the Wii version, 2k10 allowed us to work on some of the stuff we didn’t get into 2k9”
-          “The biggest benefit going into this year was having learned the new codebase, and having experience working on the Wii for 2k9”
-          “We begin the development process by reading reviews, reading the (2K) forums, and listening to friends, fans, and even family to come up with a list of the items to consider for the next release”
-          “It’s not that hard to come up with reasons for gamers to buy the new version each year. Rather, it’s harder to get more into the game in the amount of time we have. We look at the competition, the fans and press, and what we can focus on, and figure out what has to wait for next year.”
-          “We wanted to head a little more towards our sim(ulation) roots. We also wanted to focus on upgrading the visuals”
-          “We’re slowing down the pace of the game a little, slowly take back the up and down game play, and moving towards a realistic feeling”
-          “We had a list that came directly from the gamers including improving stick handling, backwards skating is improved, a new game play camera and providing a better perspective on the zone you’re in. Create team mode has been on the list for several years. Plus the Wii control has a more natural, less motion focused control. The 2K user forum is a big part of what we do”
On the competition
-          “We pay attention to them, but we also learn from fans, media, and of course our own interests. It’s good to have the competition because it provides more for players to like”
-          “We don’t know much about NHL 10 yet, but I think our game has a more organic feel.”
On what brings fans to sports titles and developing for these fans
-          “Sports games are not as the same as adventure or other games, because each time you play is a different experience”
-          “We look at real life as an idea, and then how do we make it fun and implement it well inside technical constraints”
On working with the NHL and players
-          “We are always in discussion with players such as (Stars goalie Marty) Turco, (Blue Jackets forward) Rick Nash,(Capitals forward Alexander) Ovechkin, and (Bruins forward) Phil Kessel but we can’t get too in detail on that”
-          “In regards to uniform changes, the league and teams are very nice to work with and we get them before they (the jerseys) are made public. There are some in the game already that will unlock after being debuted”
-          “Alex Ovechkin picked a track for the game that will be released shortly”
On new features for NHL 2K10
-          “2k has always had a retro control, but it’s no longer our default, the default control scheme has button controls”
-          “The slider controls offer a lot more flexibility in the control on the user end in terms of the experience you get out of the game, through game settings”
-          “In terms of the controls, passing is better; especially for one timers. One on One moves and dekes are improved and more realistic. Defensemen can now do stick lifts. Defensive live stick is much cleaner”

On Franchise mode
-          “It’s the main offline mode so it deserves attention every year”
-          “It’s the most played offline mode for the hardcore player. Now we’ve moved franchises on line, and added team budgets and GM personalities”
On the Wii
-          “We had so much fun working with the Mii’s, that involving the Xbox avatars in the future is a possibility”
-          “The new SuperSkills mode on the Wii is quickly becoming a favorite of the development team”
-          “Controls on the Wii use motion, and the Wii Motion Plus allows us to provide much more accurate control. Wii motion plus allows for an enhanced contol scheme exclusively available while using the Plus”
-          “The Wii has a bit more of an arcade feel in comparison to the 360 and PS3
-          “Miis can be used in 5 of the mini games”
-          “We tried to make the Wii version easy to pick up and play. Between that and the inclusion of Miis we hope that will bring players who normally wouldn’t play a hockey game”
-          Wii Motion Plus controls might take some work to get used to, and there’s a practice mode specifically to support that”
On whats NOT in the game
-          “The winter classic is not a playable game as part of the season. You can duplicate the 2009 Winter Classic in a standalone game, right down to the stadium and uniforms; but it’s not part of a season”
-          “The Winter Olympics are not a tournament type supported in the game”
-          “No injuries in online league play”
-          “Unlike NBA 2k10, NHL 2K10 does not offer a draft combine mode, at least this year”
-          “No online lobbies in the traditional sense, but you can see who else is online”
-          “The only downloadable content this year will be rosters”
-          “No rights to historical players this year”
-          “No breaking glass”
-          “While you can’t do a full 360 deke, you can put the puck behind you or pull it between your legs”
-          “Custom logos can’t be added in this year, however lots of logos from NHL, vintage, and fantasy teams along with lots of colors”
-          “No PSP version this year, perhaps in the future”
Technical changes to the game
-          “The stumble shot. There are a lot more variables other than distance to the goal. Some players can’t even take the shot based on shooting and stick handling skills. They are tough to score on, and even if you get the shot off, a lot of times it won’t go in”
-          “Users can share slider sets, rosters in certain modes, and stats via the team blogs”
-          “The new menu system on the 360 has Xbox Live ‘built in’ on every screen, so you can jump right into a game from anywhere”
-          “There’s a lot more variety in goal scoring; deking has been improved. Still, the best way to score is the natural way of passing the puck around.
-          “The defensive AI is smarter with better positioning. There are new defensive ratings, and combining this with stick lifts and poke checks. The last man back on defense is not going to be trying poke checks, he’s going to play positional defense”
-          “Skilled stick handlers get more space. The AI does a more realistic evaluation of the situation going on in the game before acting”
-          “There’s a bigger difference between stars and scrubs in 2k10. Checking with a player who isn’t known to be physical can really backfire”
-          “A players height, weight, and speed at the time of the hit are taken into account, but still the bigger guy goes down less, just like in real life”
-          “You can now pull the goalie on the fly”
-          “The camera from the north view has been adjusted, the default camera has been changed, a new camera has been added, and better adjustment controls”
-           “All game modes can be played online
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