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Archived: Interview: Developer Call - NHL 2K8

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Interview: Developer Call - NHL 2K8
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I was invited to attend a developer conference call for the upcoming 2K Sports title NHL 2K8. The interview was moderated by Chase, the Media Relations Director for 2K Sports' PR firm and was with Ben Bishop (Producer, Visual Concepts), Scott Krager (Project Manager, Kush Games) and Colin O'Hara (Lead Designer, Kush Games).

The interview lasted just over an hour, and Chase asked quite a few pre-submitted questions from the audience regarding the upcoming release of NHL 2K8. I have transcribed the interview and posted eight relevant questions to the Xbox 360, but there is much more to this interview, so the full audio file is available for download below. All questions and answers are paraphrased unless direct quotes used:

MOD = Chase asking the question
KU/VC = Ben Bishop, Scott Krager and Colin OHara paraphrased answer

To get the interview started, Ben was asked to provide a brief overview of NHL 2K8.

MOD Ben, why dont you lead off with an overview of NHL 2K8?
KU/VC One thing we wanted to do was take the game to the next level and make a whole new experience. You should notice that right away with a new look to the menus, the graphics are significantly improved from previous years and it looks a lot better visually from the outset. There is a whole new control scheme (Pro Stick) that makes a big difference and makes the game feel like a whole new game. Some of the new/improved features include ProStick, Super Star Mode, a new face off system and a ton of work with Franchise.

MOD Scott, how much easier is it to develop 2K8 in comparison to the previous games, especially the launch title on the 360? Have you found any development problems with the PS3?
KU/VC Well, it is easier in a sense that we have an existing technology base to build upon and we have more experience as 2K8 is the third version that will be released on the Xbox 360 and the second version on PS3, so more experience and more time (rushed with launch titles). At the same time though, we are trying to out due ourselves on something from the previous year, so in that sense we are trying to do new and better things. There is still more to learn and more to experiment with. As far as the PS3, we have a year more on 360, but each system presents its own challenges. One example of how tit can be challenging is that the memory is handled very differently on the PS3. It is tricky to make things work on different platforms when you are dealing with a common game engine or assets.


MOD Ben, Are there any noticeable differences between the 360 and PS3 versions?
KU/VC There actually are not a whole bunch as the games are quite similar. A few I can point out on the Xbox 360 we are offering 2K Reel Maker this year for download to store and display your highlights on Xbox Live. Also, the Xbox 360 will have custom soundtracks again. On the PS3 we have SIXAXIS support for crease control and also for body checks.


MOD Scott, Any consideration to incorporating a feature like in MLB The Show into a future hockey release which follows the players career from the minors up to the Bigs?
KU/VC Talked about a feature like this in past versions, but would be a big feature and mode. It would be very cool and involved, but will be something we will talk about again for future versions as we are not planning it right now.


MOD Ben, Why has there been a move in spots games over the last five to ten years to sacrifice the enjoyment of the game itself to gain in realism and authenticity?
KU/VC That is a pretty interesting question. I dont know that I would necessarily agree with that, at least not speaking for other sports titles, but for us working on NHL 2K series one of the biggest goals is trying to balance the two rather than sacrifice enjoyment. We always strive to be a good simulation representation of hockey, but we want it to be a fun game and not so hard and realistic that you get frustrated. We also want to make sure that people who arent necessarily into hockey can still pick up the game and have a good time. We have always been good about adding customization such as options and sliders.


MOD Colin, With the rivalry with EA has lead to greater leaps in the NHL games than other sports, from a developers standpoint, what does having a very capable competitor out on the market pushing during the creation of NHL 2K8?
KU/VC Well, when you work on a sports title your main competition day in and day out is the sport that you are re-creating. We feel more excited and inspired by making sure that we have all the realism from the real NHL that we can. We also take into account our fans and what the hockey gamer is looking for in general. It certainly makes us work harder, no doubt about that, and I think the quality of both games is super high and is a direct result. It is definitely more satisfying to beat your rivals when you are trying your hardest.


MOD Scott, With regards to your rival EA, it took three years to release a game that ran at 60 fps on the 360. How difficult is it to create a hockey game that runs smoothly on the Xbox 360?
KU/VC Well, for the first 360 version (2K6) it was tricky because we were dealing with new technology and hardware, and on top of that we had the pressure of completing the game in time for launch. We made running at 60 fps a goal from day one. Driven by the fact that on old gen hardware it was a goal and a top priority, it was easier with more time and resources on 2K7. Graphics on 2K8 is where big improvements are in regard to frame rate, where we were able to maintain 60 FPS while elevating the graphics.


MOD Colin, Since sports games should b more than just a roster update, what features were added that will entice buyers to get the new game vs. sticking with last years title?
KU/VC ProStick for stick handling in a 360 degree arch, player differentiation where top line guys will play differently than fourth line players. We implemented all new poke checks to accurately animate the poke check based on puck location. All new Super Star mode, with some of the most famous moves in hockey and a new face off system.

To hear the entire interview with Ben, Scott and Collin, download the 9MB audio file HERE.
Re: Interview: Developer Call - NHL 2K8
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Nice! nhl 08 and 2k8 are about to have a bloody battle this time for supremacy.
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