The Unlikely Story Behind One of Gaming's Greatest Sports Titles
NHL 94 was programmed in a cabin in Maine by a guy who knew nothing about hockey.
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Professional hockey game NHL Hockey 94 is considered to be one of the most iconic and influential sports games of all time. So you might be surprised to learn it was developed in a barn in Maine by a man who knew nothing about hockey.
Maine news publication The Bangor Daily News has profiled NHL 94's lead programmer, retired game developer Mark Lesser, offering a fascinating look into his life and career.
"I'd never watched a hockey game, I didn't know anything about it," Lesser, an MIT graduate with a bachelor's degree in electrical engineering, said.
To get up to speed, Lesser took a trip to Electronic Arts' campus in California. Other developers working on the NHL franchise--intense hockey fans--took Lesser to a professional hockey game and taught him more about the sport.
"I didn't know what the heck they were talking about. I just smiled a lot," Lesser recalled.
Armed with this knowledge, Lesser returned to his cabin in Brooklin, Maine to get to work programming what would become NHL 94. It wasn't uncommon back then for a single person to program an entire game, with others working on art and other elements.
NHL 94 turned out to be a breakaway hit, introducing franchise-firsts such as one-timers and goalie control. A sailing slapshot could shatter the glass behind the goal, something never before seen in the NHL series.
Lesser, now 66, developed NHL follow-ups through 1999. His final game for EA was a motocross title released in 2000. He is now retired, living in his coastal Surry home overlooking Union River Bay.
NHL 94 is so beloved that 2013's NHL 14 included an "NHL 94 Anniversary" throwback mode that brought the look and feel of the SNES/Genesis game to modern consoles.
The full story is a fascinating read and is well worth your time if you're interested in video game history.
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