NHL 13 Developer Profile
Name: Ben Ross
Position: EA SPORTS NHL 13 Gameplay and Presentation Producer
Question: Where are you from?
Ben Ross: I’m from Vancouver.
Question: What’s your favorite real life hockey memory?
BR: Last year I went with my wife to Game Seven against Chicago and Burrows scored that goal. Just the utter chaos in the building was probably the best moment.
Question: How long have you been in the industry?
BR: Just over nine years; all of which have been at EA.
Question: What did you do to qualify for your first job in games?
BR: I went to Vancouver Film School and took their 3D Animation and Visual Effects program. I was originally doing animation but then started to do modeling and texturing. I did a couple of other jobs after graduating, some television and movie stuff before finding a spot here. The goal all along was to come to EA.
Question: What was your first industry job?
BR: I started at EA as an artist. I worked on a bunch of titles. I started on a few different soccer products the Euro, a few FIFAs and Champions League. Then I was on NHL for 07, 08, 09 and a bit of the beginning of 10 as a character artist.
Question: What was your next job?
BR: I moved on to the Fight Night series and was leading the character art team. I was really proud of what we achieved on Fight Night Champion but wanted to pursue a different challenge than Character Art. I moved back to NHL and was working on Presentation. This year I took on Gameplay as well, so I’m kind of back where I started and in a role I am very passionate about.
Question: What does your role entail?
For Gameplay, I handle any of the core gameplay experiences, so that mostly means the twitch game that is played on ice. So that includes anything from offense to defense and goalies, both from a control and AI standpoint. Although I am not responsible for setting player attributes in the database, I work with our software engineers to look at how those attributes effect Gameplay and what causes our players to make the decisions they make on ice so that we get a balanced and realistic experience. From the presentation side it’s from when you first load into the game, the visuals you see in the front end all the way into your game experience. That means any of the on ice visuals, overlays, replays, audio, commentary and post-game stuff.
Question: What’s your typical day?
BR: It changes throughout the cycle. At the start we’re going back and forth trying to figure out what features we’re going to do. This year when we decided to do skating that became the really big one, and all the pieces for gameplay that were going to be able to benefit from that change. Since skating touches everything we had to look at everything again and were able to take each concept further since we were removing some previous limitations.
Throughout production we have a task list of what we want to accomplish throughout the week. So I’m meeting with software engineers, artists and other producers. It’s kind of a management role at times but even then it is also very creative, following up with the designs and making decisions to ensure we get a balanced experience and that everyone is talking and coordinating.
As we get further along, once all the pieces are in place, it comes down to tuning and making sure the game is balanced once all the pieces are put in. So with a big feature like skating we want to make sure we don’t end up with an offensively heavy game, so it requires working on the goalies, the defense and our systems just as much. It has really allowed us to make some great changes. It also really helps to have a passionate team that love the sport and enjoys playing the game.
As we near the end it is more about tuning and bug fixing, preparing for demos and meeting with media to showcase the game, while still pushing to get as much into the game as possible before we hit code lock – there are endless great ideas on this team so it is all part of balancing.
Question: What was the first NHL game you played?
BR: The first EA one was NHLPA Hockey. Before that it probably would have been Blades of Steel (from Konami), that’s probably the first hockey game I played. Then friends of mine had Ice Hockey (from Nintendo) and there was always the competition of which title on the NES was better or more fun. They had a lot of fun with that, picking the big guys and the skinny guys but I always liked Blades of Steel more.
I had a Genesis instead of a Super Nintendo because I thought that was better for playing sports games, so that’s where I played NHLPA Hockey and the NHL series. I was even writing into EA at the time thinking that they’d listen to my ideas. I got a response back one time saying that my suggestions were sent onto the design team, so maybe that was at the back of my mind when I pursued working at EA.
Question: What’s your favorite videogame?
BR: Though there is definitely bias now, I have always enjoyed the NHL series, far before working at EA. I really enjoy the simulation side of sports games so I have been playing a lot ofiRacing lately (an online racing simulation).
Question: What videogame made you want to get into the industry?
BR: There are numerous games that have influenced me over the years. It has always mostly been about sports games though, starting with RBI Baseball for the NES, then onto numerous EA SPORTS titles on the Genesis. Later on, I moved to PC gaming where I would often mod the games, creating goalie equipment and player faces for friends and other fans online. It was that online community and the multiplayer experience that really showed me the potential of this industry and I knew I wanted to be a part of making it better rather than just taking part in the end experience.