The first trailer for NHL 15 was released yesterday and a lot of the new graphics make the players look as if they were modeled after wax figurines.
Among the numerous changes to the franchise, more realistic arena details will be included thanks to the technology in the next-gen consoles. But I’m not here to give a review of the game, the new features or anything like that. I’m here to point out how EA Sports has continued to miss the boat with some of the smaller, but more noticeable details in the only worthwhile hockey franchise available to gamers.
The developers at EA continue to add more and more authentic gear to the NHL series and that is a welcome addition that I look forward to every year. It not only adds authenticity to the game itself, but for gear nerds like myself, it’s a cool addition to play with whether you’re creating a player or making trades in Be a GM mode. However, for as detailed as they’ve been in adding gloves, skates, sticks and goalie equipment, they’ve been just as lazy in ignoring the most important piece of gear in the game: goal masks.
Each team has two very, very generic masks that each goalie can use that fall somewhere between the old Franklin SH Comp team masks and an MS Paint creation of jersey stripes and team logos. This all from the leading company in sports video games. There seems to be little or no effort being put forth to bring more mask options to the game, nor does there appear to be any effort being put forth to bring actual masks to the game. As an aside, Rick DiPietro had his actual mask featured in a previous version and EA also added Martin Brodeur’s timeless design in NHL 13. But that’s where it ends. Two real masks and a collection of poorly designed masks for the rest of the game.
Perhaps EA was devoted to capturing all the intricacies of each team’s arena for NHL 15 which caused them to overlook their goaltenders. That is a respectable excuse in that more people will notice and complain about generic, cookie cutter arenas than they will about generic, cookie cutter goal masks. Hell, EA not only has the orientation of First Niagara Center wrong but they’ve been using an incorrect jersey numbers and lettering for the Sabres for some time now. Not to mention the Sabres have two different colorways for home and away gloves – I’m a gear nerd, like I said.
The solution here isn’t much different than the solution EA came up with for the arenas. They simply need to devote the time to adjusting the designs for each team to better reflect actual masks. They could also get the rights from each painter for their masks and actually build out each goaltender’s authentic design. The latter would take more effort, but it would also make the game much cooler.
I took count of 64 goaltenders from around the league to determine which painters are used around the league. While I didn’t account for every goalie to appear this season, I touched on at least the assumed starter and backup for each club. What I determined is that the overwhelming majority of NHL goaltenders used DaveArt for their mask art with a handful of other mask artists sprinkled around the league. Other notable names are Eye Candy Air, Headstrong, Bishop Designs and Diel Airbrush.
Even if EA didn’t want to track down each and every starter and backup’s artist, they could hit on DaveArt to serve as a mask art consultant which could either see him bring over his actual NHL work or simply serve as the artist who guides the EA developers on how the masks should appear. It would be ideal if he could do both as that would not only account for a major chunk of the league’s two deep goaltending depth charts but also injecting a few more choices for each team that features the work of a real NHL mask artist. One way or another, there are a number of talented artists out there who EA Sports should be contacting. So long as they steer away from David Arrigo they’ll be in good hands.
One step further would be to actually create a mask customizer that would allow the player to plug in various features on different portions of a blank mask. That may be a bit too complicated for the time being but I could see it down the line.
EA takes steps towards making the NHL series more realistic every year, more options when it comes to goal masks is the next logical step. I just hope they figure it out in time for the next iteration.
The mask customizer is not at all too complicated. Papyrus’ Nascar Racing 2 for PC had a Car paint scheme customizer that let you upload a .bmp template and create your own paint scheme. All you need is a 2D template file that is mapped and stretched around the mask. The community is hardcore enough to figure out how to make all the real stuff.
Custom masks, custom ice/board ads, should all be in the game.