Hey, my name is Novell Thomas and I’m a producer on NHL 12. As mentioned in an earlier blog by Sean Ramjagsingh called Gameplay Enhancements, NHL 12 has over 300 gameplay refinements and many other great additions as well. One of those additions, which I’m going to go into detail about, is Signature Traits.
Improving the behavior of CPU players and ensuring that CPU players play like their real life counterparts was a goal for NHL 12 gameplay. Player differentiation has been somewhat limited within the NHL series and the team has taken great strides to ensure that we address this for NHL 12. From a physics standpoint (specifically the Full Contact Physics Engine), we’ve talked about how size matters in NHL 12 - bigger, stronger players will truly feel like physically dominating forces. Basically, we’ve tried to capture this differentiation through physics as well as thorough animation and AI behavior. I’m not going to jump into physics for NHL 12, as that’s a discussion in itself, but delivering player uniqueness in gameplay through Signature Traits was a must for us.
We knew that we were on the right track when we received positive feedback from community members who had the opportunity to play early versions of NHL 12 at our EA SPORTS Canada studio in May. They noticed how traits affected gameplay and felt that many of the tendencies were spot on. Other hockey enthusiasts who’ve play-tested NHL 12have echoed community sentiment and we’re excited about what this brings to the game. It was great to get this initial feedback knowing that as time passed, we’d continue to fine-tune and improve Signature Traits.
Before going into Signature Traits, it’s probably worth defining what it is so that we are all on the same page. Signature Traits are qualities assigned to players that will result in positioning and play-style that causes AI players to mimic the tendencies of their real-life counterparts when in possession of the puck, or off puck. To put it bluntly, players will position themselves in areas and go to areas on the ice where they tend to go in real life and when a player has the puck, he’ll tend to favor certain moves over others. The key word here is tend, because these assigned qualities will only influence the AI, it won’t dictate behavior entirely. From a positional standpoint, expect to see players like Joe Thornton set up down low more often; Steven Stamkos, favor the slot and half boards; or Tomas Holmstrom position himself in front of the net.
The following positional and non-puck carrier traits are in NHL 12:
- Net Agitators – players who position themselves in front of the net and are consistently screening and distracting the goalie. Example: Tomas Holmstrom
- Net Presence – players who hang out in front of the net looking for screens and deflections. Example: Ryan Kesler
- Peripheral Players – players who prefer the corners and shay away from the net and the grittier areas. Example: Alex Kovalev
- Setup Players – players who setup down low and look for shooters in the slot. Example: Joe Thornton
- Finishes Hits – players who will finish their hit after the puck is gone. Example: Matt Cooke
- Non-Physical – players who rarely throw hits. Example: Henrik Sedin
- Offensive Opportunists - players who aggressively anticipate the play and look for the quick breakaway pass. Example: Marian Gaborik
- Shooter Slot – players who frequently position themselves in the slot, when setup in the offensive zone. Example: Mike Cammalleri
- Shoots on the Rush – players who are more likely to shoot during the rush than dump the puck in or maintain possession. Example: Alexander Ovechkin
As mentioned, there are puck carrier traits as well:
- Drives the Net – forwards who like to drive hard to the net. Example: Sidney Crosby
- Dump and Chaser – players who dump and chase. Example: Many third and fourth liners
- One-time Specialists – players who frequently and effectively put themselves in position for on-timers. Example: Steven Stamkos
- Puck Protectors – players who control the puck by maintaining possession during the rush, looking for passing opportunities. Example: Henrik Sedin
- Pinching D – Defensemen who are more likely to attempt riskier plays in the offensive zone. Example: Brent Seabrook
- Rush Joining D – Defensemen who aren’t afraid to and excel at leading the rush. Example: Duncan Keith
Note that players can and if deserving, will have multiple traits. third and fourth liners, who may or may not be your marquee players, are also eligible.
The result of having all of these Signature Traits really adds to the authenticity of the AI and the gameplay as a whole. As mentioned, players will play more like their real-life counterparts but you’ll also notice that each team will play slightly different and will have different attack points, because of the Signature Traits of the players on that team. I hope that this answers many of the questions that you had around Signature Traits for NHL 12.
In the meantime, make sure to pre-order your copy of NHL 12 and look out for the demo in August.