NHL 08 Create-a-Play Feature Spotlight

There's more to hockey than the one-timer and EA is out to prove it. We take a look at the create-a-play feature in NHL 08.

We've all been guilty of it: You're looking for a quick goal against your opponent in a hockey game, and your fingers automatically switch to the standard "wingers along the boards and dump the puck in toward center for a one-timer" play. It's one of the first tactics that any novice hockey game player figures out and, as a result, it's become integral to the game--and sorely overused. Hockey fans are quick to point out that there's more to the game than simply throwing your forwards at the net and hoping for the best, and with the upcoming create-a-play feature in NHL 08, EA Sports is looking to inject a new dose of tactics to the on-ice action. How will the ability to create plays change the way you attack your opponents? We've got the answers in our most recent look at the game.

You can create plays among three types of plays: rush (reserved for fast break mismatches heading into the offensive zone), offensive zone plays, and power-play setups. Each of these categories has a number of subsets that you can use as a starting base for your plays. For example, in the offensive zone category, you'll have in-zone sets such as behind the net, crash the net, or overload. Your players will line up according to the setup and, from there, it's up to you to move them where you like in order to create the play as you envision it.

With your play subset chosen, creating your play is as simple as choosing each of the five players on the ice, hitting the record button (B on the Xbox 360 controller) and moving the player wherever you want him on the ice. Once your player has reached the correct spot, you stop the recording by hitting the B button once again, then move on to the next player in the lineup. Player direction will be indicated by colored arrows that are overlayed on the ice, with the green arrow indicating the player who starts the play out with the puck. Where a play starts out on the ice is an important distinction with the create-a-play tool, as we'll describe in a bit.

Design a play from the ground up in NHL 08's create-a-play tool...

Timing plays a big part in how you create your plays, so if you want two players to crisscross in front of the net, you might have to delay the movement of one of your players during recording in order to ensure they don't run into each other. Once you have all the players on the ice moving in their prescribed directions, you can test the play out by pressing the A button, or try the play out in NHL 08's game's new practice mode which will let you practice any of your created plays in a variety of situations, against a varying number of defenders (such as 2-on-0, 2-on-2, 5-on-0, 5-on-4, and so on). According to EA Sports' Dean Richards, lead producer on NHL 08, you can create 60 in-zone plays and approximately 10 rush plays, making a total of around 70 plays you can save for use in your games. Created plays are saved to your user profile, so your user-created plays will follow you no matter what team you're using.

While testing out your plays in the create-a-play tool or in practice mode is well and good, putting the plays to work in a real 5-on-5 matchup is what really counts. Depending on the strategy you're using at any given point in a game, you'll have access to any of your created plays simply by putting your players in the right position at the right time. As you skate with the puck with a player, various "trigger" spots will appear on the ice indicating that you have a created play available to you, should you move to that specific zone on the ice. However, as Richards says, you'll need to make sure that everyone is in place in order to trigger a play. "For example, you have an overload in-zone play that starts in the corner involving the three lowest players," said Richards. "During a game if you skate your player into the trigger zone...and your other players are not close to their starting positions, you will be unable to trigger the play." According to Richards, the reasoning behind this is to prevent plays from triggering when your other players were not in the offensive zone yet (such as during a line change).

Once your players are in place, the overlayed "map" of the play will appear on the ice, giving you a quick reminder of how the play is supposed to unfold. Plays will cycle automatically, so if you set up a triangle in the corner, as long as you keep cycling players in the zone, you can run the play as many times as you like (or until the game's artificial intelligence breaks it up).

Speaking of AI, EA has spent a good deal of development time on NHL 08's defensive AI as a counter to the increasingly clever offensive plays that will be coming from users using the create-a-play feature. As Richards puts it, the AI will play specified defensive strategies until it starts to notice a pattern from the user. At that point [the AI] will adjust [its] strategy to try and shut down that particular tendency," Richards said. "[It] will focus on shutting down certain areas of the ice." For example, should you prefer to shoot from the point, the defense will play tighter to the defensemen near the blue line to try to interrupt passes; if you like to keep the puck down low, the defense does its best to prevent you from getting to the net.

… then put it to work for you on the ice.

So how do you go about creating effective plays? In our experience, misdirection is a great start, anything to get the goalie heading in one direction so you can get the puck to his blind side. Behind-the-net plays are a lot of fun to experiment with, especially with a strong puck-handling center behind the net and a few speedy wingers to keep the goalie on his toes. Richards provided us with a few tips of his own to keep in mind when creating plays: "Start by trying the rush plays and then practice them. When you feel more comfortable with the tool, go into creating in-zone plays and start by only using two or three players. Again go into 5-on-5 practice and try them out to see how effective they are. As far as specific plays, try a cycle play, or plays where the puck carrier goes behind the net and your [defensive] moves into the slot for a one-timer play."

The create-a-play feature is just one more aspect of EA Sports' three-year plan for the next-gen version of NHL 08. So far, it seems to be one of the more compelling aspects of this year's game, and one that players will likely spend a load of time experimenting with. Could this be the start of an entirely new level of strategy unfolding in your online puck matchups in the future? We'll find out once the game is released this September. For more on EA Sports' create-a-play tool, check out this official video of the game.

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Discussion

63 comments
maxmax1234
maxmax1234

this is way more acvanced then 07...

zux2000
zux2000

really nice will buy this (probably)

zinstro
zinstro

I am wondering why they don't do something like this for madden nfl too

69
69

@Chubhold Who cares who's on the cover of a game? If a fantastic movie has a bit part character on the poster, is the actual movie any less good? Besides, being on the cover of any EA sports game is a 'kiss of death' lol. And Staal already got arrested since then. Its the power of the curse! @newfg311 Be better then 2k "as usual" ? 2K is a solid series, and was/is generally considered the superior game as far as having the game play out as a "sim" Personally, i think both companies are putting out quality hockey games, even if neither of em are getting it exactly right, quite yet.

deth420
deth420

i usually go with 2k hockey, doesnt seem as cluncky. but this si sounding pretty good may have to check it out.

chubhold
chubhold

Looks like a good idea. But Eric Staal on the cover? Are you kidding? He was 40th in scoring last year and has no star power.

Lightz39
Lightz39

Ya, breakouts would be nice......can any one say "Flying V"

8sardinr
8sardinr

WTF, most important plays are left out.... Wheres building breakout of ur end plays

newfg311
newfg311

I like that they are adding this feature to the game along with the AHL affiliates. As usual, this game will be better than the 2K series and their cardboard player animations.

l34052
l34052

EA Hockey always stinks in comparison to the ESPN games so i'm not holding my breath for this one either i'm afraid.

heznave
heznave

[This message was deleted at the request of a moderator or administrator]

ocdog45
ocdog45

this is cool for anybody who plays hockey

ToniteWeFade
ToniteWeFade

PLEASE MAKE THE GOALIES HARDER!!! THE DEKE GLITCHES ARE SOOOO BAD BUT I LOVE NHL 07!

Lightz39
Lightz39

I hope the plays showing up on the ice while your playing doesn't happen to much... EDIT: Kubina changed from 73 to 31....great job EA >.>

RoliOwns
RoliOwns

one thing i hope they fix is the puck dinging off the post every 3rd shot u take

xboxlover175
xboxlover175

yeaa!!! leafs and canucks!! CANADIAN TEAMS!! WOOHOOO

Dexmeister
Dexmeister

argh....no hockey games out for the wii yet...I want a hockey game. Tucking in a players left jersey is a superstition thing for players. Wayne Gretzkey did it all the time.

Ar13ls
Ar13ls

TKandPBC said : i could care less right now. whenever i play 07 it freezes on the third game... fix that, and i'll buy it. well that's either ur cd or ur console, not the designers or a bug

chex81
chex81

feature sounds AWESOME! They game could not come any sooner...GEEZ!!! NHL 07 is possibly the greatest hockey game ever made, NHL 08 looks to clean up some of the glitches for a solid title! I just hope the online is a little meaty, but i have my doubts.

nuck44
nuck44

I know what my PS3s getting this fall :D

TKandPBC
TKandPBC

i could care less right now. whenever i play 07 it freezes on the third game... fix that, and i'll buy it.

Makal10
Makal10

Hey I'm happy...too bad they don't have the same thing for defensive zone

metaljeff
metaljeff

I love create-a-plays, but unfortunately, it is too easy to create unstoppable ones.....well, I wish them luck with this....and that is coming from a guy who despises EA

Maverick2448
Maverick2448

Sounds great! It looks like it's going to be another great year for hockey videogames. It just goes to show what happens when more then one company competes against one another year after year. It forces each one to try and out do the other and you wind up with cool ideas like this.

pleasurengineer
pleasurengineer

Wow, I posted a request for this on the EA website several months ago. I'm amazed that they actually listened. I suppose many of you have done the same but I can't help but feel like they heard my voice. I also requested that we could save these as videos that we could send friends. I'm a soccer coach and seek to e-mail them pre-determined plays that I wish to see on the field. Perhaps my wish is finally coming true. Having Ronaldinho, Eto and Messi carrying out my conjured up plays and demonstrating to my team what I expect of them would be priceless! Pleasurengineer

curua02
curua02

Looks like the jersey's tucked into his pants on one side, for some reason. But yeah, this shows a lot of promise, if it's as intuitive as it looks.

joebob522
joebob522

Well Steel_Cyclone, I assume you are commenting on the Vancouver Canucks and Toronto Maple Leafs image. If you've seen a real hockey game, at times, some players sweaters get stuck in their pants like that. So, in my opinion, nothing is broken; they made the players even more realistic. But the whole Create-a-play concept does seem great.

Steel_Cyclone
Steel_Cyclone

This is a pretty interesting idea, I kind of want to see how it plays ou- woah, what the hell is going on with the guys jersey in that picture? Is it supposed to be like that or are the jersey physics broken?

dannyodwyer
dannyodwyer staff

seems like a great idea, they are doing similar things with manual through balls in the new FIFA. oh crazy EA!

Joshywaa
Joshywaa

Indycolts, i don't think the arrows actualy appear in the real game during a match, but in the actualy create a play mode...... you dont create the play during a real game...

abuser1
abuser1

Haven't played a hockey game for years, but this seems interesting.

SpiderLuke
SpiderLuke

I think the feature is quite innovative. Fresh and new ideas give me more reason to pick up a new installment in this series. Then again they could always just update the roster, slap the number 2008 on it and call it a day instead, right?

pungaboy
pungaboy

I love that it's so easy to call a play. That's how it works in real hockey, even. One guy starts skating his route and the rest of the guys recognize it and follow suit. Oh, and EA said that you can turn the arrows off, if you want. Overall this game looks more like the actual sport of hockey than any game I'ver ever seen. 2K included.

indycolts112
indycolts112

that looks really stupid i really dont want to see arrows on the ice when im trying to sim a hockey experience

red-orc
red-orc

Great feature, but you have to take your time with it. Makes me wonder if it's a feature for the ordinary sportsfan or the sportsmen. Here developers are making the game-experience much more deeper and there they try to make it easier to access (which obviously is successful, see Nintendo). The learning-curve for sportsgames gets a little too rampant.

Hyaku68
Hyaku68

This looks great, Is there any news on a create-a-player feature?

frostedflame
frostedflame

dumb feature i probably wont be playing this game when halo 3 comes out anyway

NightRain
NightRain

This is a cool feature but i'm used to play hockey games with instinct. I go around the way I think i'll beat the defense... and shoot the puck. Nothing super fancy there. But it's cool anyway. I might try it to perfect skills...

arawk
arawk

very cool feature. i hate having to decide between hockey games each year though.

Saranis
Saranis

First off Hockey wasn't invented in Canada. There are reports of it (and paintings) of it being played by the Dutch in the 17th century. Even earlier reports place it in ireland in the 15th Century. The earliest the game was ever reported in Canada was by Sir John Franklin in 1825. Intrestingly enough all the earliest reports of Hockey in Canada were made by Englishmen.

surppo
surppo

[This message was deleted at the request of a moderator or administrator]

Crystal_Lands
Crystal_Lands

damnnn i would give anything for a french version of the game... I mean the commentator would speak french like when I watch it on RDS French Canadians have done soo many great thing in and for hockey and the french hockey fans are the craziest their is!!! God I love The Montréal Canadiens 24 stanley cup!!!! their are the ultimate kings of Hockey!

mp4ever
mp4ever

man that create a play feature is gonna save me a lot of headaches on the power play now, thats for sure GO LEAFS GO!

albedos_shadow
albedos_shadow

This actually looks like something that could bring me back to hockey video games.

Death_Razor
Death_Razor

Dang i want that game... but its not comming to the wii =(

DeltaSpirit
DeltaSpirit

seems, look but you never know until you try it first hand *crosses fingers* hope it's good and not something people can exploit -GO SHARKS