Speaking with EA Vancouver’s Sean Ramjagsingh, Senior Producer on NHL 18, Stevivor delved into changes to the game’s Skill Stick mechanic.
“Players that pick both the Skill Stick and Hybrid control schemes can still use the full range of the Skill Stick,” Ramjagsingh explained, referencing the control scheme that’s been a staple of the NHL franchise for a number of years. “However, on the button controls schemes, we also opened up the ability for LB to work as a modifier along with some of the buttons to pull off some of the new moves we have added.”
The button moves still require finesse, Ramjagsingh stressed.
“The nice thing about it is that the button moves aren’t just fire-and-forget moves,” he continued. “They work on a press-and-release mechanic so that you are still in full control over the timing of your move and the release. For example, if you want to do a backhand toe drag, it isn’t just a single move with one timing. You can hold the button to out-wait the goalie before releasing your shot the same as you can with our skill stick controls.”
The change is designed to reward strategy and timing.
“There are definitely pieces of our game where twitch skill is a big differentiator but we have been big advocates that we want to reward people for the right intention and performing the right action at the right time rather than for being able to rotate the stick a certain way or press a certain number of buttons in succession,” Ramjagsingh continued. “The only time our controls get more complex is so that we can open up more moves and behaviours on an otherwise limited control scheme. We always want the controls to be as intuitive as possible and continue to be accessible so that the twitch gap between players is more about how quickly they can read and react to a certain scenario and have the ability to pull off the right move at just the right moment based on their knowledge of the sport and our game.”
One area that EA Vancouver has focused on with NHL 18 is the ability for a player to truly to gain control over their own stick. Your skating will be controlled by your left stick, while your stick is handled by your controller’s right stick. A host of new stick controls will mean the difference between a lacklustre or spectacular offence or defence.
“We know that our Skill Stick has always given players a lot of great 1:1 manual control over how they want to manipulate their stick and the puck as they move up ice,” Ramjagsingh said. “We wanted to get back to a place where we were giving players more options with the puck so that they could open up their creativity and have the ability to read and react to the play in front of them using their twitch skill to differentiate themselves from other players.
“With the puck, you can now perform multiple moves from the same starting locations – for example, with the puck rolled back on your forehand side, you can either take a wrist shot, pull the puck between your legs to deke around a defender that may be over-committing to deflect your shot, pull the puck between your legs but then kick it back up the other way to change directions or if the defender has committed more to your body, you can flip the puck into space and take another stride to your forehand lane to open up even more room to skate or shoot. We have tried to open up more options so that as you are committed, you still have more options with what you are going to do with the puck next and where you want both the puck and your skater to end up as you perform those moves.”
With these new changes come new tutorials, aimed to provide players with the new skills they need to excel in-game. In doing so, EA Vancouver has teamed with a trusted source when it comes to hockey development: Hockey Canada.
“We are really excited this year about our improvements to our training for players,” Ramjagsingh continued. “Building off the success of the last two years with the On Ice Trainer and Coaching Feedback system, we have now partnered with Hockey Canada for our all new Hockey Canada Training Camp to put players into more controlled environments where they can fine tune their skills in different mechanics as they do hands on training after getting tips and suggestions from videos that showcase Hockey Canada players and alumni teaching both hockey strategy and how to perform the actions in our game.”
Ramjagsingh confirmed that the Training Camp will focus on basic and advanced deking when dealing with stick-handling specifically.