EARLY DAYS <ul><li>Before I got a PC I had an Amiga 500. And there was </li></ul><ul><li>one game in particular that would occupy my interest </li></ul><ul><li>for seven years. </li></ul><ul><li>The name of the game was Wayne Gretzky Hockey. </li></ul><ul><li>It was a very simple game when it comes to graphix </li></ul><ul><li>compared to the stunning games of today.But instead it </li></ul><ul><li>had a very complex tactical aspect. </li></ul><ul><li>It was the first time that the pixelated men on the </li></ul><ul><li>ice actually acted like hockey players. </li></ul><ul><li>One of the greatest things about WGH was that it came </li></ul><ul><li>with a Team Editor that enabled you to create a team </li></ul><ul><li>of your own complete with player names, numbers and </li></ul><ul><li>ratings in different categories. This enabled you to </li></ul><ul><li>create retired players or even yourself. This way you </li></ul><ul><li>could create a team named Idaho Dolphins, name </li></ul><ul><li>Josef Stalin as coach and have Robert DeNiro in the </li></ul><ul><li>lineup. </li></ul><ul><li>We went on to play six seasons of WGH. </li></ul>
For this final assignment for this course in Game Design I have chosen to analyse the wonderful world of player created content, or as we say in everyday speech, mods. I have selected the game that I personally have modded into something that was NHL 08 at start but now is a playground for the creativity for me and two friends. I have chosen this game in particular because It really means alot to me. Me and my friends have a league going where we are the owners of several teams. The teams can be regular NHL teams but also, thanks to modding, they can also be unique fantasy teams complete with new uniforms, pictures of players etc etc. This has been a natural transition going from playing the static games of WGH on the Amiga and continuing in greater style with the magnificent graphical experiences provided on the PC. In terms of player created content I can say that I have modded every NHL game from EA since the NHL 99 version. And I thought it would be interesting to show how you can actually redesign an already finished product into something that meets your personal demands. NHL 08 AND PLAYER CREATED CONTENT
WHAT IS ICE HOCKEY For those of you who don´t know anything about the game of hockey here comes a brief explanation. Ice hockey, or just hockey as it´s more often called, is played on a icy surface between two teams. Each team can have as much as 20 skaters dressed for a game, 18 players and two goalies. However, only six skaters are allowed on ice for each team at any given time, five players and a goalie. The teams fight to get possesion of a flat round puck in order to get it into the opponents net. The players use an angled stick to carry the puck on the ice and are not allowed to force the puck into the opponents net with any other part of the body. You can not kick or throw it into the net. It is a speedy game with lots of physical contact and it can sometimes look very brutal. It is most popular in areas with colder climate like in Canada, United States, Scandinavia, Russia and the countries of Slovakia and the Czech republik. However, the sport has grown to become popular in countries their sucess internationally have been scarce.
THE NHL The most prestigious league of them all must be the north american NHL which is played all across the United States and Canada. The teams consists of professional hockey players. Which means that they are not only good at what they are doing but they also get paid for it as a job. Lots of foreign players have sought their fortune “over there” and some of them have been quite successful. In the past 15 years or so there have been several foreigners winning the Stanley Cup. Recently the NHL has got some competition from the russian KHL league which offers enormously amounts of money to good hockey players from all over the world.
WHAT IS NHL 08 NHL 08 is a game produced by the Electronic Arts company. EA´s most successful products are the sports games under its EA Sports label, The SIMS, Battlefield and Command & Conquer series. NHL 08 itself is a game based on the sport of ice hockey. It features single and multiplayer challenges through casual games both against the computer and between two or more human players. The player can also go online and play in fantasy seasons with other players all over the world. It covers the leagues of the NHL, the AHL, swedish Elitserien, finnish SM-liiga, german Deutsche Eishockey Liga (DEL) and the czech O2 Extraliga. There are also lots of different league modes to keep players busy.
CONTROLS The gameplay in this game is controlled by a joypad connected to the PC. The player can however use the keyboard to play as well only this is alot more difficult and takes away the joy of using the analog sticks to control dekes and stickhandling. The control of skaters of your team is handled by a single press of a face button on the joypad. The skater closest to the puck is then selected and you can move around the ice with or without the puck. Participating in the offensive or defensive aspects of the game is also controlled via the joypad as you can use its analog sticks and buttons to order a skater to pass, shoot, deke, block a shot or even try to hook the opponent in order to slow him down.
Scoring goals is what makes you win the game. But the goal is defended by a goaltender doing everything in his might in order to shut you out. So by using the joypad you must try to aim for a spot which is less covered by the goalie and try to trick him to move before you take the shot.
PLAYER EXPERIENCES You could talk about two important things in this game. Its Core and its Shell. The core would be the basic rules on how to play hockey. You win by scoring goals. Throughout the NHL series the core has always stayed the same. You could have stick figures playing with little or no graphical effects and it would still be hockey. The shell however with the graphics, sounds, different types of leagues and the option to create a player or even a team has changed very much over the years. Remember the 2D graphics from the very first game and compare it with todays spectacular 3D environment.
So for this particular game in general one could easily say that the core hasn´t changed much over the last 20 years while the shell has been immensely improved with the technical evolution giving us better and faster computers and game consoles. When you examine the semiosis of this game you come to the conclusion that the signs are pretty much straightforward. Everything points to hockey from the flashy menu screen at the beginning to the team logos when selecting teams to play with. Even the more subtle signs in the game like the crowd chanting “go team go” during play heightens the overall experience. There is no doubt what you are doing.
Same game - different meaning! What NHL 08 is for me and my friends doesn´t actually have to be the same for somebody else. Even if we feel the same joy when playing. Some people get a kick out of playing a casual game with some friends on a Friday evening drinking some beer and having some fun. For me it´s bloody serious. Everytime I start up the game to play against my friends in the league we have created I get a bit nervous. What will happen? Will I win or will I loose? There is much as stake here. Will my favourite players score a goal or not? Will I be able to shut his star players down?
No game is ever the same it is said. It´s so true. Anything can happen once the referee drops the puck. From that moment everything else seize to exist. Nothing can disturb me. If the phone calls I won´t answer. You could say that this game which I get intensely engaged with creates immersion. Immersion as explained by Professor Frans Mäyrä is a concept where you loose awareness of your surroundings because you are concentrating so very hard on the game you are playing. Time flies by when you have fun, so they say and nothing could be more true. I can sometimes loose track of time when I play World of Warcraft for example, and that hour that I was supposed to play easily becomes three or four.
When using the SCI model to analyse this game´s immersion level we could actually go one step further and dwelve into my world of modding. SCI is an abbrevation for Sensory, Challenge-based and Imaginative immersion. S C I
The Sensory immersion comes from all the magnificent effects in the game which can get a grip on you both audiowise as well as visually. Everything from the player uniforms to the intro before a game. The game is delivered to you with already finished sensory elements and it provides a magnificent experience as it is. But since you are able to mod it to your own taste you can make it into whatever you want. Me for example has changed many of the textures in the game to create new teams with new uniforms, new players with facial textures and photos etc. The teams have got new ice textures, teamlogos etc. All this to heighten the experience of the game and to further enhance the past transition from the basic WGH game. Basically it is the same created teams, the same fantasy players as we have always played with but now you can actually see the person scoring and experience his or her joy with the teammates. You could say that the activities off play creates immersion since I get so focused on my work when modding. I can later play games just to apreciate the work I have spent so many hours on. In a way I have altered my own sensory experience with the modifications to the game.
The Challenge-based immersion deals basically with the action of the game. And since hockey is a very action filled sport, there is plenty of it! I have no idea on how many joypads have been used up from just regular play over the years. I think I have a total of a couple of 1000 games played by now. You always try to better yourself. Always trying to find more and better ways to score or handle the puck. There are different difficulty settings in the game which takes some time to master. I remember when I could hardly score at Beginners mode. Now I usually beat the computer played team on Difficult setting. It can be very time consuming since a game often takes 20 minutes or so to play and you hardly ever just play one game. There is always something you could have done differently. The old phrase “just one more game” comes to mind.
A bad game can really get to you. You continue thinking of it after it has been played and annoys you. Maybe you are irritated because you just lost a game to your arch rival 10-2. You begin to think of better strategies to beat that team next time. Maybe you could do something to your own team to make it better? Finally you begin to build up a certain worry to play against that particular team being afraid that you might loose. This is called Imaginative immersion. In our own world of hockey this is something that engulfs us because we are so interested in hockey in general and our own hockey league in particular. We can get irritated over the fact that the opponents star player left the game with 3 points jumping ahead of your own star player in the race for the high score award. This is only fun however and contributes to the feeling that our league is “for real” and alive. We have our own homepage where my friend puts up the scoring statistics after every 5 games played. And it is not just the game of NHL 08 that makes this phenomenon so exciting for us. It is everything in between. The statistics, the rewards at the end of every season. New interesting players in the real NHL that you begin to follow and later put on your team. To be honest I love this imaginary world of hockey.
WHAT IS MODDING? The term “modding” derives from the word “modify” which simply means that you change something. Many computer games have been objects to modding. There are user made maps for Warcraft like DOTA. Or the Counter-Strike mod based on the Half Life engine.
ADDON COMMUNITY There are some very talented people out there creating great stuff for the NHL games. Two of the best websites providing addons for the community are http://www.nhldepot.net/ and http://www.crashthenet.ca/web/ These pages functions as forums for fans and modcreators of the NHL games. Modcreators can upload their work for display and get feedback on their work. The sites also have special downloads sections where people can download usermade texture files for free. It provides all the necessary tools to start modding and people usually help each other out with tips and tricks. Some of the art created is sometimes so stunning that you begin to wonder if EA really need to work so hard on the graphix. There will always be modders doing a better job at the end so it seems.
ADDONS There is a variety of addons relesed by the community on a regular basis. You are able to mod the following in NHL 08: Arenas Everything from the icetextures to board ads. Rosters Players on the teams Goalie gear Masks, goaliepads, sticks etc Jerseys The team uniforms Cyberfaces The faces on the skaters Facepacks The photos of the players shown in the lineup and when a player scores Audio files Unfortunately only music nowadays. You were once able to edit the player names. Logos Team logos shown in the game
MY OWN ADDONS Picture of the actress Salma Hayek. Facial texture created for the player model in game.
CONCLUSION We can go as far back as to when me and my friends still played WGH. We were very satisfied with the game although there were games with even better graphix. The main reason for us playing WGH was not the graphical experience but the ability to create teams and players. We hadn´t played a legitimate season for like ten years until we decided to start again with NHL 08. The big question was: Would we have as much fun with NHL 08 as we used to have with WGH? Would the high playability we had before last? Another big question was how well could we modify the game to suit our personal needs?
From the modder´s perspective I must say that NHL 08 exceeded all expectations. I have been able to create the world we had when playing WGH and even go beyond that with all the graphical updates provided by myself and alot of talented modders in the community. As far as playability is concerned I must say that we are at the exact spot where we used to be with WGH. I mean we continued to play that old game for six years. We have the same feeling with NHL 08. Even though we could move on to play the Next Generation version on a console we keep playing this older game. One of the reasons is of course the Windows version´s huge modding possibility. We feel that we would loose everything we created in and around the game by switching.
A good game in not just about good graphix and sound. The sensory immersion fades away when you have seen it all. It might be fun to play once but then it holds no more surprises. While games with less spectacular effects can keep you busy for weeks, months, years only because its playability makes you return to it over and over again. Although there is a NHL 09 released we see no real reason to “mend something that isn´t broken”. NHL 08 works for me and my friends and will probably last for many many years to come.
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