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NHL 12 Producer Blog: Signature Traits

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


Defensemen traits:

  • 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.


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Member Comments
# 1 plaidchuck @ 07/13/11 01:39 PM
So does this mean player types are gone?
 
# 2 bwiggy33 @ 07/13/11 01:44 PM
It all sounds great, the only problem is if it will actually hold true in the gameplay. Ever since like 2004ish they have always labeled players as a sniper, grinder, playmaker, defensive/offensive defensmen etc. The only thing is, you could still never tell the difference between them. At least since the game has been on 360 and ps3. I can't completely recall last gens games and if players played differently then one another. I just pray to god this can show in the gameplay department. It is IMO the biggest thing missing from this game. It can truly become a thing of beauty if this plays out well.
 
# 3 plaidchuck @ 07/13/11 01:46 PM
Quote:
Originally Posted by bwiggy33
It all sounds great, the only problem is if it will actually hold true in the gameplay. Ever since like 2004ish they have always labeled players as a sniper, grinder, playmaker, defensive/offensive defensmen etc. The only thing is, you could still never tell the difference between them. At least since the game has been on 360 and ps3. I can't completely recall last gens games and if players played differently then one another. I just pray to god this can show in the gameplay department. It is IMO the biggest thing missing from this game. It can truly become a thing of beauty if this plays out well.
Agreed it all sounds well and good but it will remain to be seen until we can actually play it. IMO I think the attributes need an overhaul but I doubt that will happen this gen.
 
# 4 Money99 @ 07/13/11 01:46 PM
Thanks Chase!

If it works as advertised, I'll be very happy. I'm also glad to see that they recognized that player separation hasn't been very good for a while now.
 
# 5 beal99 @ 07/13/11 01:56 PM
why does the Duncan Keith shot say "chicago stadium" on the ice? Did EA lose the rights to put "United Center?"
 
# 6 Money99 @ 07/13/11 02:07 PM
Quote:
Originally Posted by beal99
why does the Duncan Keith shot say "chicago stadium" on the ice? Did EA lose the rights to put "United Center?"
Classic buildings?
 
# 7 onlybygrace @ 07/13/11 02:15 PM
Wouldn't it be cool if there was a 93-94 season game mode. Imagine being able to play with all the classic players...

Bure, Lemieux, Gretzky, Yzerman, Sakic, in their primes.

Sorry, off topic, but Money99's comment made me do it.
 
# 8 addybojangles @ 07/13/11 02:32 PM
Huge Noses - Players who have a nose that rivals that of Pinocchio. Example: Brad Marchand
 
# 9 Money99 @ 07/13/11 02:33 PM
Quote:
Originally Posted by onlybygrace
Wouldn't it be cool if there was a 93-94 season game mode. Imagine being able to play with all the classic players...

Bure, Lemieux, Gretzky, Yzerman, Sakic, in their primes.

Sorry, off topic, but Money99's comment made me do it.
That would be awesome!
I'd love classic teams.

In NBA2K11, the teams are represented well against their era well. So a team from the 80's will be much slower and smaller than a team from 2010.

But I'm sure if they had these teams, every Leaf fan will try to redo '93 all over again. And possibly to snipe Kerry Fraser.
 
# 10 addybojangles @ 07/13/11 02:34 PM
Oh, are we going to see the 1-3-1 in the game?
 
# 11 plaidchuck @ 07/13/11 02:46 PM
Quote:
Originally Posted by addybojangles
Oh, are we going to see the 1-3-1 in the game?
This. There needs to be actually strategies that do something in the game, rather than them just telling us "use create a play"
 
# 12 kai123 @ 07/13/11 02:51 PM
Great read! I'm just concerned with one thing, are these traits dependent on player tendencies/ratings or player types?
 
# 13 FBeaule04 @ 07/13/11 02:58 PM
13 forwards type and only 2 defenseman type???

Shouldn't come as a surprise since any D in that game can get is jock handed to him by dangling from Riley Cote or Derek Boogard in NHL 11.

Been an NHL fan since I'm 4 years old, and it's obvious that there's only 2 traits in the NHL community for D-man.
 
# 14 Mongo14 @ 07/13/11 03:31 PM
Should have used Sean Avery for net agitator with his way of distracting goal tenders.
 
# 15 therussian92 @ 07/13/11 03:32 PM
I like this addition. I think this was a perfect time to begin introducing these traits, especially since Madden is re-introducing player traits to their game. I just hope this doesn't replace the traditional player roles such as Playmaker, Sniper, etc. While I could probably tell you every NHL player's tendency in NHL game terms by now, it's nice to have in there when it comes to younger players and prospects.
 
# 16 Money99 @ 07/13/11 03:39 PM
Chase, I know that you played mostly human-vs-human, but even then, did you notice your opponents strengths and weaknesses when controlling different player types and sizes?
 
# 17 Al_Tito13 @ 07/13/11 04:09 PM
Quote:
Originally Posted by FBeaule04
13 forwards type and only 2 defenseman type???
I have to say that I had the exact same thought as you. I couldn't believe there were only 2 defensemen types!

Traits will definitely be a great addition this year if they are well implemented, this will help a lot to have more differentiation between players. However, it's easy to notice that almost all of the traits are offensive minded. This will help to improve that aspect of the game, but defensive traits would also be a must, especially for defensemen and two-way centers. Even if I doubt it, I really hope there are more traits than the ones mentioned in the text to improve the defensive aspect of the game.

It still looks very promising nonetheless.
 
# 18 The Visualizer @ 07/13/11 04:19 PM
I really hope they go a little further with this and limit the kind of loose puck dekes non-skilled players can perform. It's not enough that they are less likely to be successful as I have been able to come down the ice with 4th liners and do what I please which isn't very realistic. Yes, some of these players very well may be able to pull these off in practice, but wouldn't dare try them in a game. 4th liners should be forced to play like them, simple hockey, dump and chase, not be able to weave thru traffic and loose puck deke at will.
 
# 19 Vikes1 @ 07/13/11 06:22 PM
Very cool addition.

Looking forward to seeing how it all plays out within the gameplay.

If this first attempt really works as well as I hope, it'd be great to have to actually give some real thought to how you put your lines together. It'd be fantastic if you really had to consider who you were playing against. And an actual worthwhile tactic was to possibly shuffle your lines around...or call certain players up, scratch others, etc... To have to actually think a little bit, would add a lot to the game.

Nice addition EA Canada! Can't wait to give it a try.
 
# 20 BlueNGold @ 07/13/11 06:29 PM
Awesome. This has been needed for awhile now and I'm glad a lot of their focus this year has been improving how the AI works and how the game plays offline. Those were some of my biggest requests.

They probably could have added something like stay at home d-man and big/aggressive hitter d-man though.
 

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