Presentation Overhaul – NHL 13
The EA SPORTS NHL team development team has been working hard to deliver major innovations that will change the way you play the game, such as True Performance Skating, GM Connected, EA SPORTS Hockey I.Q., GM Brain and many more.
Presentation elements are as important to bringing an authentic hockey experience to your favorite console as gameplay. In NHL 13, we wanted to make sure the presentation overhaul matched the gameplay overhaul we’d undertaken this year. From lighting, to stadiums, to player models, our goal was to ensure that the game looks as good as it feels.
Dynamic Skate Spray
Shadows have been completely redone this year as we’ve modeled the stadium lights after their real-world counterparts. What that means is that players can now cast shadows on other players on the ice, something that we’ve never had in the series before.
Anyone who’s been on the ice in an arena knows that the overhead lights don’t just make you cast one shadow, but multiple shadows. Multiple shadows are an element we’ve brought into the game this year with the angle of the shadows determined by the positioning of the overhead lights in relationship to the player. This also more accurately simulates how shadows interact with the ice surface.
Lastly the way players’ facial features shadow themselves has been greatly improved this year, becoming much more accurate. Character shading has also been completely rewritten for NHL 13. Lighting better simulates indirect and ambient light.
New bounce maps simplify and improve the way that we’ve been able to create realistic lighting effects by mimicking bounced light from ice surface on to players. For example when a player crosses the red line you’ll be able to see light and colour transference from the ice to the player’s skates and socks.
All of these lighting calculations are performed in linear HDR (high dynamic range) space. This dynamic range exceeds the range of what current TVs can currently display (without dynamic range exposure), so we’re lighting for the future of your living room.
The team also added what’s called SSG (Sub-Surface Glow) lighting effects. This simulates how light looks when it passes through skin such as players’ ears and noses.
There are also all new HDR reflection cubemaps, a fancy way of describing how the environments are reflected on players’ helmets and visors. To capture all of this detail the development team went to the home of the Vancouver Canucks Rogers Arena with a special 360 degree camera to capture images. This allowed them to better model reflections in NHL 13.
A lot of post special effects have been added or reworked this year as well. These include:
· Film grain
· Dynamic colour cube – Filmic colour grading of final renders
· Camera Motion Blur
· Exponential fog – Adds atmosphere and depth to environments
The arenas in the game have been upgraded this year with improvements to:
· Lighting – from the ice surface to the nose bleed seats lighting is now better simulated in all environments.
· Coverage Maps – Players, equipment, nets, particle effects and other things that fall inside the shadowed areas of the playing surface will appear to be shadowed.
· More accurate dynamic ice wear – Ice will only show signs of wear in areas that players have actually skated.
True Performance Skating changed the way we animated our skaters. With those changes in animation we also reworked skate spray this year adding procedural skate spray. This means that skate spray in based on velocity, angle, and relative direction of skate movement to the player.
Skate spray also now sticks to players, goalies, boards and the glass.
Animated power rings can be seen in the background
The arena power rings have also been overhauled adding:
· Full animation
· Context – PowerRings now react to situations such as Home Goals, Home/Away Powerplays, Home Wins and more.
· Lighting – the light cast from Power Rings now affects the lighting of elements around them. They also more closely simulate real-world LED screens.
One thing we’ve learned over the years is that while making a game that feels like hockey to those people who play it is important, more people experience the game by watching their favorite team on television than actually lace up skates on a regular basis.
With that in mind, we wanted to make the game feel much more like you were experiencing it as a television broadcast which is why we worked on a New Broadcast Presentation.
This year we are moving away from using traditional canned cut scenes and we ensured that between plays we are cutting in on the real time action.
This means we’ve added AI Driven Post Whistle elements which include:
· Players are now where they are on the actual ice, which adds continuity to all post whistles scenes.
· Broadcast cuts to realistic broadcast camera angles.
· Players now react in real time to events. You’ll see players looking up at the scoreboard to see a replay, grimacing in pain after being hit or adjusting a pad after delivering their own bone crunching body check.
NHL 13 also includes a new gameplay camera the True Broadcast Camera which replicates a real world broadcast camera. Unlike the Broadcast camera, the True Broadcast camera is anchored in place and moves, swivels and zooms like to better simulate hockey coverage on television. Users can also now select multiple gameplay cameras as their shootout and penalty shot camera.
We’ve also added new touches to the commentary including:
· Replay Analysis
· Updated core commentary
· The commentary team will also interrupt what they’re saying to talk about big moments such as great saves or big hits
Replays now get stronger, more accurate analysis which means that the game will now:
· Choose the correct highlights to show, even if it’s been a long time between whistles the team will be able to focus on the best play within that sequence.
· Players featured in the replay are highlighted in real time after the whistle.
· Commentary speaks to the highlights with specific detail.
Making sure that during replays the cameras match what you’d see in a real broadcast was also important. For that reason we’ve added a Net Cam angle. Further the replays will use a goal line camera and a new camera motion that will track and zoom the action like a real camera operator would.
Also added are new highlight packages to highlight things like:
· Team Packages: Missed Opportunities, Team Hits, Team Breakaways
· Player Packages: Multiple Assist Night, Blocked Shots, One Timers, Point Shots, Net Presence
The between period and post-game flow of the broadcast has also been changed with new highlight packages as well as the commentary team recapping a final highlight in detail while explaining how that play impacted the period or game.
The Winter Classic Returns to NHL 13 as we add the 2012 Winter Classic which saw the Philadelphia Flyers face the New York Rangers.
Showing off a number of element effects the Winter Classic looks beautiful. The venue is in sunny conditions, a contrast with the night in the snow at Heinz Field from NHL 12 (which is also included in NHL 13). It also features authentic Winter Classic uniforms, coach attire, fan clothing and props.
New Front End
The development team also reworked the menus to more closely mimic a real world sports broadcast.
This includes the ability to dynamically update the menus with video content throughout the year including highlights and real NHL footage.
When you first boot up NHL 13, you’ll be asked to select your favorite NHL team. This will customize your menus and other aspects of the game. You’ll be able to follow along with your team’s actual real world schedule as your team’s next opponent will show up in the front end and will also update as the default game in Play Now.
Your favorite team will now be be selected by default in many game modes. Pick the wrong team? Don’t worry, you can still change it in the My NHL Menu.
Making the game look as much like the hockey you know and love is just as important as making sure gameplay feels right. Even the small things that you might not notice at first go a long way to making NHL 13 the closest thing to real hockey without actually needing to learn how to skate.