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
Finally here are the follow-up questions and the answers provided by Ben Bishop.
Can you describe the various injury scenarios a player in NHL 2K10 can be involved in? Can players play injured? Is this choice given to the gamer? Are statistics drastically affected, and are the statistics those related to the current injury, or all stats? How many different types of injuries does the game allow?
NHL 2K9 introduced a very robust injury system that was expanded upon in NHL 2K10. Users can control how many injuries occur in a game by adjusting the injury slider. All players can be injured by making contact with another player, the boards, or the puck, with their durability rating being a key factor. We have a number of different injury types in the game. Below are a few examples of the classes we have. They are applied to most major body parts, and the data was taken from actual NHL injuries.
o Hair Line Fracture
o Compound Fracture
To answer the question about stats being affected, we are assuming you mean the player’s attributes, which in turn affect statistics. If so, yes, there are classifications of injuries that will allow a player to remain in the game, but he will do so with attributes that are adjusted to reflect the current injury. An example would be a sprained wrist. If you had Alex Ovechkin sprain his wrist, it might drop his Puck Handling, Passing, Poke Check, Shot Accuracy, and Hand Eye attributes by a small amount. It’s unlikely to be enough that you’ll want to scratch him in upcoming games, but for a third or fourth line player, you may want to call someone up to fill his spot until he is back at full strength.
Are there any differences in franchise mode games played online against live opponents vs local to the console against AI, other than the competition? Is this taken into account in statistics?
No, there is no difference. It’s essentially as if you have an online opponent subbing for the CPU. Stats are still tracked as they normally would in an offline Franchise game, standings will be affected in the same way, and you will progress as if you played the game offline. That’s the great part about it, as now there are unlimited options in terms of what type of opponent you can have.
It was mentioned that there were features that didn't make it into this years version do to time constraints. Can you run down the top 5 features that would at the top of the list if development on 2K11 started today?
Unfortunately, that’s not something we can get into the specifics on quite yet, but rest assured, we’ve got some pretty interesting ideas being thrown around. You can count on us taking a close look at things NBA 2K10 and MLB 2K10 have implemented that we don’t have, along with what various other sports games out there have to offer. And of course, we will definitely be putting a lot of consideration into the feedback we get in reviews and on message boards for NHL 2K10.
The competition to NHL 2K10 has placed an increased emphasis on fighting it its upcoming release. What is the development teams thought on fighting in hockey games, and has the NHL provided any guidance as to how it prefers fighting to be handled?
We feel like fighting is something that is a part of the sport, so it is important for it to be included in the game. The key thing is to try to portray it as accurately to real life as possible. So you’re not going see 3 or more fights in every game, and you’re generally only going to see players drop the gloves that typically do in the NHL. We added a new fighting engine to NHL 2K9, and made some small tweaks to it for NHL 2K10. Our bigger focus this year was on the actual game play though, and we feel like our current implementation of fighting fits in with it rather well. We also do work closely with the NHL to make sure that what we include in the game is a good representation of what you might see in a real game.
During the developer call, it was mentioned that Alex Ovechkin and Phil Kessel were involved in the development process. Were lesser marque names involved? If so, do you look for input from players who specialize in different facets of the game (face-offs, fighting, defense, goaltending, etc.) Do you solicit specific players (ie Ovechkin) involvement from players, or does it come naturally as they see and play the game?
We had Ovechkin and Ryan Kesler do some motion capture for us this year, and we’ve been able to maintain relationships with several players over the years that helped us out in a variety of ways. Our cover athletes always play a big role in specific areas (Joe Thornton with face-offs, Marty Turco with goaltending, etc.), but we’ve also been fortunate enough to work with players like Igor Larionov, Darren McCarty, Steve Ott, Anson Carter, Matt Carle, Kyle Turris, Ken Belanger, Jason Marshall, and plenty of others. Besides motion capture, we’ve done things like recorded player chatter, had strategy sessions, gotten feedback on player ratings and the game itself, and brainstormed feature ideas for upcoming releases. The development team can watch games until we’re blue in the face, but actually sitting down and talking with someone who is out there on the ice on a day-to-day basis is a great resource for us.
It was mentioned that Ovechkin selected a song for the tracklist. Which song did he pick, and can the full playlist be provided
I believe we’ll be releasing the full track list soon, but the song Ovechkin chose was “Superstar” by Lupe Fiasco featuring Matthew Santos. It’s a great song, and it fit in well with our overall soundtrack. We’re definitely happy with this year’s batch of music.
We'd like to thank Mr. Bishop for taking the time to answer our additional questions as well as Chase who help set everything up.