Thursday, October 3, 2013

NHL 14: Build of the Week -- Two Way Forward Center

This week features a two way forward that will help you take over the center of the ice.

Two-Way Forward
Legend 1
Regular flex
Second curve from the bottom
11" Skates

Deking: 75
Hand-Eye: 85
Offensive Awareness: 75
Passing (+7): 87
Puck Control (+7): 87
Slap Shot Accuracy: 66
Slap Shot Power: 65
Wrist Shot Accuracy (+7): 85
Wrist Shot Power: 75

Aggressiveness: 81
Body Checking: 70
Defensive Awareness: 89
Discipline: 79
Faceoffs (+7): 95
Fighting Skill: 65
Shot Blocking: 68
Stick Checking (+7): 90

Acceleration (+12): 90
Agility (+7): 81
Balance (+7): 80
Durability: 77
Endurance: 90
Speed (+12): 90
Strength (+7): 80

Props go out to for their awesome NHL 14 player creator.

Offense is not bad on this build. The wrist shot is just about perfect for scoring in a variety of ways including screened wristers against both CPU and human goalies. Puck control and passing are solid. Hand eye is solid. Deking and offensive awareness are low so it is not the greatest on breakaways and don't try a lot of no-look passes with this setup.

Defensively this is a very strong build. Poke check is great, defensive awareness is great, faceoffs are maxed, and despite the seemingly low body checking this build will lay a lot of people out. The aggression is nice for picking up loose pucks and also intimidating people you hit. There is a smattering of discipline but this build shouldn't take a lot of penalties if you are smart with it.

Athletics are pretty strong top to bottom. Acceleration and speed are what stir the drink. The agility is reasonable and with the 11" skates it allows for pretty good turning.  Strength and balance are good so this build can take and give a hit pretty well. Endurance is high also so that you can keep skating fast all game.

This build can play it anyway you want. It is good on the rush, cycle, or in front of the net. It can also shut down teams by cutting off passing lanes, dealing out big hits, or taking away the puck with a well timed poke check.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

NHL 14: Build of the Week -- Playmaker Winger

And we are back! First up is a playmaker winger. Let's get right to it:

Legend 1
Regular flex
Second curve from the bottom
13" Skates

Deking: 78
Hand-Eye: 85
Offensive Awareness: 80
Passing (+7): 90
Puck Control (+7): 90
Slap Shot Accuracy: 67
Slap Shot Power: 65
Wrist Shot Accuracy (+7): 85
Wrist Shot Power (+7): 79

Aggressiveness: 84
Body Checking: 72
Defensive Awareness: 85
Discipline: 65
Faceoffs: 65
Fighting Skill: 65
Shot Blocking: 66
Stick Checking (+7): 85

Acceleration (+12): 90
Agility (+7): 81
Balance (+7): 80
Durability: 75
Endurance: 86
Speed (+12): 90
Strength (+7): 80

This build will look pretty familiar to anyone who has seen my builds before. This has pretty good first five stats with an emphasis on puck control, passing, and hand eye. Then you have a beefy wrist shot good for beating both human and CPU goalies. I don't use one touch dekes much instead using the side to side dekes to slow down and create separation between defenders and I. It is enough to score somewhat on breakaways but will probably get increased along with offensive awareness once legend two and three roll around.

Defensively this is pretty good all around. Good stick check as long as you don't poke directly from behind (that probably goes for all builds but this one seems to trip easier than others). Good defensive awareness to cut off pucks in passing lanes and a high aggression to help scooping up pucks. This build does not hit well at all. This is however a bonus in that you can run into people almost at will and never pick up a penalty over it. You won't flatten them but you will jar the puck loose frequently.

Athletics are good from top to bottom. Agility is a bit low especially with the 13" skates but the straight line speed helps make up for that and it turns far better than you would think. Endurance is key for the ability to skate fast all day. Strength and balance are also bolstered to help with being jostled along the boards and to help maintain puck control. Almost no amount of this will help you from getting leveled this year but some is definitely worthwhile. The new thing you might notice is added points to durability. With the crazy amount of hitting and injuries I really think that adding some points here is worthwhile. Being injured, especially a skating injury, will keep you from being effective. The spare points there let you take some hits to make plays without getting hurt as often.

This build is good at both passing and scoring and solid enough defensively to get the job done there as well. I am not sure there is a better offensive class available in the game.

Monday, September 9, 2013

NHL 14: Early Release Impressions

I have updated my lists to reflect what I have seen in 40 or 50 EASHL games so far:

The Pros

  • Passing seems less random and more reliable.
  • There are some shots now that have a decent chance to beat the CPU goalies 
  • CPUs don't automatically take the puck away on cross ice passes.
  • Hits from behind are penalized more frequently now.
  • Poke check doesn't work from forever away anymore and is generally just less powerful overall.
  • Skating feels better. Fewer big turns and just overall smoother.
  • Backskating and transitions from forward to backskating feel much much better.
  • I have seen cross crease goals actually work at a semi-reasonable rate. Still a few too many crazy saves on those for my liking but better than before.
  • Overall offense feels better.

The Cons

  • Forced fighting after big hits. It is dumb in the NHL it is dumb in NHL 14. It is in everything and probably not as bad as I made it out to be but I have been forced into fighting a couple of times I didn't want to. (left stick hitting can end up with some crazy unintentional hits)
  • No turtle option for those of us who don't care about fighting.
  • Still no easy way to pick which of two players who are skating near one another that you want to pass to. I don't get why they haven't at least attempted to fix this after years.
  • Still can't pick up a puck right near you at times because you can't turn in a circle quickly even going at the slowest speed.
  • Hitting window still seems a second too long. Need to call interference more often on later hits.
  • Overall defense feels more difficult.
  • Hitting is easier. 
  • CPU goalies still throw the puck out randomly, already lost a game because of this.
  • Tie ups in front of the net are still annoying. They are easier to get out of it seems.
  • Faceoffs are still broken, can spam a faceoff move or change at the last second still.
  • Incidental contact still not being called and you can be jostled from behind to lose the puck.
  • Short passing is still terrible.
  • AI still unable to make easy passes yet somehow make crazy outlets at times.
  • AI can still just destroy you on hits no matter what your build or how fast either of you is going.
  • Wrap around is way too effective.
  • Intimidation effects are still way too effective.
  • Latest tuner seemed to scale back scoring.
Since the last tuner 14 is now basically like 13 but with better passing, skating, and slightly better scoring. Hitting and fighting are also better in that they seem a bit more realistic (not as many crazy flying bodies) but a lot of the fundamentals of these systems are broken (forced fights and not enough penalties for late hits). They need to fix some of these simple things that have been broken for ever and balance out playstyles so that running around hitting everything isn't rewarded as much.

Sunday, August 25, 2013

NHL 14: Demo Impressions

I have spent a decent amount of time kicking the tires on the NHL 14 Demo and I figured I would give my impressions.

The Pros

  • Passing seems less random and more reliable.
  • There are some shots now that have a decent chance to beat the CPU goalies (toe drag through a screen seems to work a lot).
  • CPUs don't automatically take the puck away on cross ice passes.
  • Hits from behind are penalized more frequently now.
  • Can't hit people skating away from you unless they slow down quite a bit.
  • Poke check doesn't work from forever away anymore and is generally just less powerful overall.
  • Skating feels better. Fewer big turns and just overall smoother.
  • Backskating and transitions from forward to backskating feel much much better.
  • You can hang onto the puck easier while being jostled and even get a weak pass away while being bumped.
  • I have seen cross crease goals actually work at a reasonable rate.
  • Overall offense feels better.

The Cons

  • Forced fighting after big hits. It is dumb in the NHL it is dumb in NHL 14. This better not make it into the EASHL or even HUT.
  • No turtle option for those of us who don't care about fighting.
  • Still no easy way to pick which of two players who are skating near one another that you want to pass to. I don't get why they haven't at least attempted to fix this after years.
  • Those shots that work all the time can be a bad thing.
  • Still can't pick up a puck right near you at times because you can't turn in a circle quickly even going at the slowest speed.
  • Hitting window still seems a second too long. Need to call interference more often on later hits.
  • Overall defense feels more difficult.

Too Early to Call

  • Extended board play range lets you actually board play people. Not sure if this is going to cause problems or not.
  • Hitting is easier. There were already enough teams that ran around hitting like crazy not sure making hitting easier is going to be a positive.
  • Poke check doesn't block shots reliably anymore. This is part of the poke check not being godly but I liked being able to block shots standing up rather than having to crouch. You can still just get in the way of shots.
  • Screens work better. This is great from a scoring perspective but it is going to require some adjustments on defense to not screen your goalie.
Given how bad NHL 13 was (the worst of the EASHL versions by far) this is clearly a step up. The game just feels better overall. The offense feels more varied and CPU goalies can be beaten. Defense will be somewhat harder but that is fine if it means the offense will be more creative and fun. NHL 13 always felt like a slog even when you made good plays. This doesn't feel that way at least in the demo. The forced fighting is a concern but I am guessing they are just doing that in the demo so you have to see what the fight engine looks like. That is my most serious concern. Forced fighting in EASHL or even HUT could ruin the game. The other issues we will work around as we always have. 

I will be playing the prerelease and will try and post my impressions of how the EASHL works once I get some time with it.

    Thursday, June 20, 2013

    NHL 13: Player of the Week -- Giant Playmaker

    This week features a large sized playmaker that is surprisingly effective in all areas of the game.

    Legend 3
    220 lbs
    13" Skates
    2nd Curve from the bottom

    Deking: 87
    Hand Eye: 85 (+5)
    Off Awareness: 81
    Passing: 87 (+5)
    Puck Control: 87 (+5)
    SS Accuracy: 75
    SS Power: 70
    WS Accuracy: 80 (+5)
    WS Power: 70 (+5)

    Aggression: 76
    Body Check: 76
    Def Awareness: 72
    Discipline: 87
    Faceoffs: 65
    Fighting: 65
    Shot Blocking: 66
    Stick Check: 80 (+5)

    Acceleration: 82 (+8)
    Agility: 75
    Balance: 71
    Durability: 65
    Endurance: 80 (+5)
    Speed: 82 (+8)
    Strength: 75 (+5)

    When does a playmaker look like a power forward? When you make him 6'4" and 220 pounds. I kind of deemphasized the offensive and defensive awareness attributes on this guy to try and crank up other areas and to keep my overall low. We tend to play with fewer CPU players but it seems like having a lower overall tends to make them better and maybe even give you bounces. We played a team the other night of all 50ish rated players and they scored 4 goals on our excellent goalie by basically shooting the puck through him. This guy is 72 overall so not low but not the normal 79/80 you would get on a playmaker wing.

    Anyway, on to the discussion. The offense here is strong. With a slightly lower offensive awareness you can have two reasonable shots and everything else loaded up. It passes well, shoots well, and generally can handle the puck well with high deking and puck control.

    Defensively you are pretty much maxed out everywhere except defensive awareness. With the poke check block though you can knock down any pass that comes near you so you don't really need it. This build hits surprisingly well despite having what seem like low checking numbers. The poke check is decent but not amazing and as always with a playmaker you need to watch carefully or you trip people pretty easy. The +5 boost there seems to help but isn't a panacea.

    Athletically you are looking for acceleration and speed in skating. Those two being maxed along with the 13" blades let you hunt people down. Max strength lets you hit them and take a hit as well. A minor bump in balance helps you keep the puck along the boards and maxed endurance allows you to skate all game long. As I am sure you notice the agility is seriously lacking. I have found with this build and in general you can change direction by just using the left trigger pivot and at the larger size you still move around pretty well.

    This build scoops up pucks and can hold them near the wall while fending off hits. It can also go to the front of the net with gusto. It passes extremely well and has good shooting. As mentioned before you can also hit players well. After playing this build I am not sure I am changing it ever. About the only thing it really lacks is a really good poke check. 

    As an aside, I tried a similarly specced grinder and it just didn't work as well aside from having a better poke check. I really do think this is one of the better builds you can play.

    Wednesday, March 6, 2013

    NHL 13: Build of the Week -- Two Way Forward Center

    For this week I am going to share a build I have been playing when I play center. It is the versatile two way forward.

    2 Way Forward
    Legend 3

    11" Skates
    Regular Flex
    Second Lowest Curve

    Deking: 83
    Hand Eye: 84 (+5)
    Off Awareness: 82
    Passing: 82 (+5)
    Puck Control: 82 (+5)
    SS Accuracy: 65
    SS Power: 65
    WS Accuracy: 76 (+5)
    WS Power: 70

    Aggression: 80
    Body Check: 73
    Def Awareness: 85
    Discipline: 87
    Faceoffs: 87 (+8)
    Fighting: 65
    Shot Blocking: 73
    Stick Check: 85

    Acceleration: 82 (+8)
    Agility: 80 (+8)
    Balance: 74
    Durability: 65
    Endurance: 85
    Speed: 82 (+8)
    Strength: 75

    As you can see offensively it is not bad, lying somewhere between a grinder and a playmaker in that regard. It has mid level everything but a slightly higher hand eye (I like this for being able to grab passes and shoot one timers). The shot is lower end but not bad for going against human goalies and can even work in a pinch against cpu netminders if you are smart with your shot placement and timing. I will say for full disclosure we play 90% of our games 4v4 and up using a human goalie nearly all the time.

    Defensively you can see the double boost in faceoffs which I think is pretty key for a center. The only other build that can get to 95 faceoffs is grinder and while my love for the grinder is well known I think this build offers more offensively. The two way forward, the way I play it, is more of a positional defender than a hitter. Body check costs a ton and I prefer to ramp up aggression instead to help pickup loose pucks. The stick check is strong even with no boosts and this build excels at intercepting passes due to the high defensive awareness.

    Athletically you can see my typical max boost and max attribute setup for speed, acceleration, and agility. The higher than average endurance on this build is very useful. Even with no boosts you will rarely run out of energy even late in a period. 

    Tuesday, February 19, 2013

    NHL 13: Overall Player Grade Calculator

    One of the most frustrating aspects of playing NHL 13 in drop in games or the EASHL is the grading system EA has implemented. To make matters worse EA started to average your grades across all three forward positions and defense. This means that you may have the grade you need at three of your four positions but those two sloppy games you played in OTP at center where you lost every faceoff are holding you back. To this end Phil Rindone has created a spreadsheet you can find here that has boxes for all of the positions and what level you have in each metric (positioning, team play, statistics). What this will do is let you plug in your levels for all of your positions and your games played at each and come up with your overall grade. Then what you can do is adjust the levels and games played to see how to get your grade where you want it to be.

    Friday, February 15, 2013

    NHL 13: Build of the Week -- Defensive Defenseman

    Here is a quick Defensive Defenseman build I put together. I have not tried it yet but with the attribute caps there aren't a lot of choices about where to put points this year. I ran this last night for a few games and made a few changes.

    Defensive Defenseman
    Legend 3

    9" Skates
    Regular Flex
    Lowest Curve

    Deking: 70
    Hand Eye: 78 (+5)
    Off Awareness: 72 (+5)
    Passing: 85 (+5)
    Puck Control: 74 (+5)
    SS Accuracy: 75 (+5)
    SS Power: 87
    WS Accuracy: 72
    WS Power: 75

    Aggression: 82
    Body Check: 85
    Def Awareness: 87 (+5)
    Discipline: 82
    Faceoffs: 65
    Fighting: 65
    Shot Blocking: 65
    Stick Check: 87 (+5)

    Acceleration: 82 (+8)
    Agility: 80 (+5)
    Balance: 73
    Durability: 65
    Endurance: 80
    Speed: 80 (+8)
    Strength: 80

    Pretty much everything useful in every category is maxed on this build. The only real mystery is where to put your boosts so I will discuss my general strategy with boosts. Offensively I like to focus on hand eye, puck control, and one shot. In this case the slap shot. The power is already good so no need to burn more than a +5 on accuracy.

    Defensively you can see that basically everything useful is maxed with spare boosts in defensive awareness and stick check. The defensive defensemen I have gone up against and played with all seem to be vacuums when the puck gets around them and you can see from the defensive stats why.

    Athletically I always spend 3 +8s on acceleration, agility, and speed. This is a skating game and you need to have the ability to turn and keep up when needed. I do run 9" skates with my defensive builds because I think being able to pivot is one of the most important abilities for a defender. I run a at 5'10" 180lbs because the skating feels smooth but I don't feel tiny. I don't think this build is going to be crushing anyone but if you play positionally sound then you should be able to break up almost any play. I could definitely see going larger for a better poke check range, more reach, and better hitting but you have to be comfortable with the skating dynamics of a larger player. I ran at 6'0" 195lbs last night and it was still relatively maneuverable and could hit people when needed. Still not a giant crushing build but had serious shut down ability.

    Edit: I went from just putting together a concept to actually playing the build and made a few changes in this entry. I really like this build and may stick with it on D for a while. We played 3 games 4v4 with human goalies and gave up 2 goals total. Passing felt good and it was great defensively.

    Friday, February 8, 2013

    NHL 13: Recruiting

    Edit: this season is going rough due to recruiting. Don't let our record fool you. We have been top 100 at one point and are usually around 250 overall. Once we get a few more active players who fit our style we will be back towards the top of the league.

    Despite all of my complaints about the game we are still playing. Our team the Hamilton Mustangs are now recruiting if you are interested in trying out. We are only playing 4v4 (with a human goalie) and up. Here is what we need in order of importance:

    • Good defenders -- right now our two top forwards take turns playing D because our top two defensemen rarely play. You need to be able to stop scoring opportunities and make good outlet passes.
    • Backup goalie -- we have a regular goalie who is very good but occasionally we could use someone else to fill in when he is not around. It would be nice if you play goalie if you could also skate as a defender or even forward if needed.
    • Forwards -- who can control the puck, enter the zone under control, and make good decisions passing. Really we like to move the puck well and people who go 1 on 1 all game need not apply. This is the category we need least but if we were able to bring in a quality forward or two one of our other forwards might be persuaded to move to D. 
    We do two tiered tryouts. First tryout will be either 5 games or a night of playing with us. The extended tryout is 20 games after which we figure out if you fit our team concept.

    We don't play every night but we are shooting to play 3 to 4 times a week if we have the people to do it. We are by and large east coast timezone and play mostly from 7-11pm NHL schedules allowing. Feel free to message Xaroc on Xbox or drop your gamer tag in the comments along with what position(s) you play and we can try to work something out.

    NHL 13: Things to Fix for NHL 14

    NHL 13 is definitely a better game when you always use human goalies. This has the drawback of needing at least four people to play (in my mind 2v2 with human goalies is pretty terrible). There are, however, a number of things the NHL team really needs to clean up in the next version. Some of these I have mentioned but I figured pulling them together in one post would be useful.

    Here is my list in no particular order:
    • AI Goalies -- They are just too good. They stop chances that should be nearly sure goals 90+% of the time which is highly unrealistic. It turns the game into a low skill throw the puck at the net and hope kind of game play. 
    • AI hitting -- The AI is far too good at hitting and can knock you down at the drop of a hat even if you are 6'3" 225lbs with 85 balance and 13" skates. They shouldn't be pushovers but they shouldn't be able to hit like they do.
    • AI passing -- The AI is terrible at passing when you call for it and can't complete a 5 or 10 foot pass at times. Pee wees can complete these passes. Much like they need to tone down the hitting they need to up the competency of short passing for the AI.
    • AI decision making -- please stop the AI defense from walking right in front of the goal on defensive zone draws. This has been happening for years and no defender in any league does this.
    • Hitting from behind while skating away from someone full speed -- this needs to go away, if I am skating full speed away from someone and they are slightly faster than me they should not be able to knock me down from behind. There is no physics model that supports that. Mind you this has happened to me playing grinder at 6'195lbs and 80 balance and 70 strength.
    • Hitting in general -- hitting in general is way too effective and there are far too many teams that just run around like idiots and hit all game and never get penalized enough for it. And god forbid you give them the first goal the (non-existent according to EA) momentum plus intimidation means suddenly your team can't hit an empty net now. It needs to be toned down and more calls need to be made for illegal hits.
    • Incidental contact -- With the new skating model people can skate right into opponents and stop their momentum with no call. While I don't think it should be called 100% of the time I do think interference needs to be called enough to dissuade people from doing this all the time. I don't mind some body contact while skating the same direction but when people meet from opposite directions I think there needs to be calls at least some of the time.
    • Amount of low skill random goals -- even with human goalies the percentage of low skill pinball goals is way too high. I really think the game needs to reward skill more rather than rewarding slop like it does now. Over half the goals scored against us are just terrible low skill goals.
    • Changing face off handedness right before puck drop -- This is a problem that has been around since the series started. How this hasn't been fixed by now I don't know. If you change your faceoff grip less than a second before the puck drops you should lose every time yet they reward cheating.
    • Passing -- the passing in this version is really all over the place, it is muddy and imprecise even with high end passing. I preferred the cleaner passing of NHL 12.
    When you combine the muddy passing, improved ability to knock down passes on defense (I like this), and the crazy AI goalies you end up with a lot of low skill luck goals. This is a general problem I have with game companies that do balance changes from year to year or even patch to patch. Every single one of them instead of just toning something down a little they go overboard and make whatever they were trying to fix totally useless. The one timer is a great example. Before it was probably 80% effective which was too high. What they should have done was get it to around 30% effectiveness like in real hockey. Instead they have made it less than 10% effective which renders it no better than any other shot (a lot of times worse) and not worth trying against the AI.

    Anyway, I am sure a lot of you have other things you want fixed in the next version. Throw them in the comments so we can discuss them.

    Friday, January 4, 2013

    NHL 13: First Game Back

    I realize this is a bit granular but I decided to hop in Online Team Play (OTP) just to see if anything had changed and honestly not a lot has. I know you are saying OTP is a wretched hive of scum and villainy and I agree but nothing happened that was an OTP specific problem. Players played their positions for the most part, played defense, tried to pass, etc. We did have multiple players quit after the first goal but everything can't be perfect. The main game was mostly five of us against two or three of them with CPU goalies.

    So off the get go I am playing center and the opposing center is doing the hitching cheat faceoff that EA can't seem to fix (incredibly lazy this is still an issue). It took me a while to adjust but I managed to battle the guy to a draw on the faceoffs (I am normally like 65% in club, I blame rustiness and of course the other guy cheating). We outchanced the other team about 30 to 5 and I managed an assist (double rebound netmouth scramble so no skill involved) and a tip in goal (decent positioning but obviously a bit lucky). That was it for our scoring. I don't remember the other team's first goal but the 2nd was on a quick turnover in our zone that a CPU forward shot past our goalie from like the dot (no skill at all). The game went to three overtimes (because why wouldn't it?) and the game winning goal was a 5 hole goal off of a rebound from around the dot (no skill).

    So just to summarize we outchanced the other team badly and lost in triple OT and 4 of the 5 goals in 5+ periods of hockey were not skill based. If it's in the game it's in the game.

    I will try to play some with my club when I can get them back together but it is looking like play human goalies or just give up for this year because trying to score against the CPU is just laughably bad.