During the EA Sports Open House event in Vancouver last week, Canadian Online Gamers had a chance to sit down with Lead Producer for NHL 13 Sean “Rammer” Ramjagsingh. During our chat with Rammer we had a chance to ask him 12-burning questions we wanted to know about EA Sports NHL 13 slated to arrive September 11, 2012.
COG: Why has the EA Sports NHL 13 development team put more emphasis on skating this year?
Rammer: Each year we try to push the boundaries in everything we do including the gameplay. This far into the life of the current generation consoles we feel we have pretty much maxed-out our existing skating system. So in order for us to truly innovate and take that next big leap we had we had to introduce True Performance Skating. We have been called out by our fans for our skating being too ‘floaty’. There was no sense of weight, momentum or speed. So in order for us to truly innovate we had to use the True Performance Skating as the foundation of our gameplay overhaul.
COG: Do you think the new True Performance Skating system will open up more online exploits now that quicker players can accelerate past a certain defenders?
Rammer: We have had a lot of late nights in the past four or five weeks working hard to address those very issues and balance the game out. Decisions in the game will be similar to those decisions defensemen have to make on the ice in the NHL. They will have to manage the gap between themselves and the opposing forward so they do not get caught flat-footed. Much like in a NHL game, speed is a factor so if you don’t take into account the speed of your opponent and your gap, you could get burned. So it all about knowing your skill set and making decisions like real NHL players would.
COG: What kind of graphical enhancements can we expect with NHL 13?
Rammer: The team in charge of the visuals this year did a fantastic job. Every single detail from the tape on the socks to the actual socks themselves, nothing was overlooked. Jerseys, helmets and every aspect of the player has been improved. If you look at this year’s players compared to last year you will notice a difference and it is incredible. Even the stadiums received an upgrade as they have been re-lit. The jumbotron has also been improved and we have moved towards a more broadcast style delivery where players react to certain events that occur on the ice before and after the whistle. For instance if a player shots the puck over the glass and the referee blows the whistle, you will see players lift their hands. So we want to reinforce that the players are not only smarter from whistle to whistle but even after the whistle.
COG: Will fans start to ‘boo’ their own players this year?
Rammer: From that perspective we just tried to fine tune the logic driving the crowd reaction to the different situations happening on the ice. For instance this year you will hear fans booing players that injure a player on the home team. This year we tried to make sure that logic is a little more sound and relevant.
COG: We have gamers in our community that love Online Team Play. What new things can they expect this year?
Rammer: We have lots of great stuff coming up that we will probably start talking about in the next two, three or four weeks; somewhere in there. We will get into all the details about that and I think they will be pretty excited about the changes we made.
COG: Can you give me the “Readers Digest” version of GM Connected and what that all involves?
Rammer: We looked at our data and listen to our fans. We wanted to take a big leap with the game this year and we wanted to create something for our fans who have been asking for a multi-user online dynasty. So GM Connected is the largest online dynasty ever seen in a sports game. Up to 750 people can compete in a single league from anywhere in the world. So you can start off as a Commissioner, set up a league, get 29 of your buddies to join up in your league with you or get strangers to join in your league with you. Each can control a franchise. We then wanted to make it accessible to everyone so that you didn’t have to be great on the joystick to play the mode. If you just want to be more the manager type than the fantasy type, you can do that in GM Connected. You can play the games with your buddies in a co-op experience on a single console, or you can recruit up to 24 people to play the games for you in an OTP experience. So we really wanted to make a big mode connecting hockey fans from all over the world but also keep it accessible to everyone else.
COG: How to you make the game more accessible to newcomers to the NHL franchise?
Rammer: First off I would say that the great thing about NHL is that not only is it great hockey but it is a great sports game. You don’t have to be a fan of hockey to really enjoy the experience that we offer. The first thing we are doing this year is when you boot the game up, it will ask you who your favorite team is and then you customize your experience towards your favorite team. Then we ask you if you are new to the franchise, and if you want to go through the tutorial to teach you the basic controls. The other thing with over a thousand new animations and new skating system we wanted to make sure it was accessible. So all the explosiveness, top end speed and momentum are all just on the left stick and then the additional control we gave you is for creativity. The left trigger and left stick will give you access to the entire depth of the new skating system. We didn’t want to put in a control system where you have to manage 15 buttons. For our game it is left stick, right stick and right trigger, that is all you basically need. The experience can be as simple or as complex as you want it to be.
COG: How do you determine the player ratings in NHL 13?
Rammer: We have a pro scout that we work with and he does lots of work for television stations. He even provides analysis for TSN’s Bob McKenzie. He is not just someone we hired he is someone in the business. He helps us determine the player ratings and helps us compare one player to another. He will rate and rank all the players for us and then give us the rankings. We go through them and eventually finalize them. As we move through the season we try to update as we go along. As for rookies, international players and players from other leagues, this scout rates them as well. We just try to be as accurate as possible.
COG: What kind of enhancements can we expect in the sound department this year?
Rammer: We have a sound track we will announce real soon that we are excited about. It will be much more diverse and include some Canadian content. We have a music department that is very much in touch with the music scene. We also pay attention to every little detail in the game. Such sounds as the sound a skate spray makes is just a little example of the sounds we try to replicate in our game. Our sound department wanted to better support the skating this year and they did a fabulous job. If you play our game in Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround Sound, our game sounds pretty incredible.
COG: What kind of improvements have you made with the goalies this year?
Rammer: The goalies now have the ability to anticipate. They will now anticipate a secondary scoring threat and sometimes you will catch a goalie leaning. The goalie can now individually control each limb. We really wanted to focus on the initial and secondary goalie saves this year. We wanted to have the goalies be more alive and more true-to-life.
COG: Given the size and scope of NHL 13, was there anything you wanted to add to the game but couldn’t for one reason or another?
Rammer: Pre-production is always a tough time of year for us as you have all these ideas but we cannot include everything in the game. Whenever we look at the next year’s hockey game we go back and look at the items we cut. So I can’t tell you what we wanted to include in NHL 13 in case it is in next year’s game.
COG: Why don’t you use the NHL goalies actual masks in the game? Likewise, how come actual Team Canada jerseys are nowhere to be found?
Rammer: There are legal issues around the use of the player’s masks and the goalies do not own the rights to the artwork on their masks. So for us to actually use the goalies mask in the game we would need to get a contract with each artist. Also, sometimes on the mask you will see “Metallica” or “Mike Tyson”. In those instances we would have to get permission from them as well. So as you can see there are lots of legal issues around the masks. The same thing applies with international jerseys as there are legal issues regarding the use of those jerseys as well.
Special thanks to Sean “Rammer” Ramjagsingh for taking the time out to answer our questions.
- EA Sports NHL 13 Arrives September 11, 2012.