If you were to take a snapshot of what hockey is today, whether referring to a major league like the NHL or others further down the chain, you might be surprised by what the sport used to look like in comparison. While the game is no less demanding of the players, it has definitely lost a chunk of the physicality that existed just mere decades ago. Before a higher awareness of the effects of head contact became more prevalent, there was a sort of lawlessness that took place on the ice on a fairly frequent basis. Bone-crushing open-ice hits, cheap shots, and plenty of fights used to be a normal sight at any given game. It was a true testament to the saying, "I showed up to a fight, and a hockey game broke out".
No one could blame you for being completely unaware of how things were in the past, especially when it comes to the sport's relation to video games. When 2K pulled out of hockey after NHL 2K11 (NHL 2K10 was the last entry to appear on Playstation), EA's NHL series was left as the lone franchise to represent the sport on consoles. Aside from occasional throwbacks to NHL 94 in recent entries, EA has put their focus solely behind making the NHL games as realistic as possible in an effort to mirror today's modernized style of play. While they've been largely successful in that regard, an unfortunate side effect has been the inevitable loss of any attention given to this iconic period in the sport's history.
Fortunately, hockey fans will soon have a chance to return to the spirit of 1970's hockey with the upcoming Old Time Hockey from the Vancouver-based studio V7 Entertainment. I recently spoke with one of the founders of the studio, Mike Torillo, to find out more about the game's inspiration and how it would differentiate itself from EA's series.
What is the team's past experience with hockey? For some, does Old Time Hockey represent a way to relive the glory days of what the sport used to be?
Being Canadians, it’s hard not to love hockey. Some on the team play hockey regularly, while others remember watching the teams of yesteryear. I can tell you my friends and I loved watching Don Cherry’s Rock’em Sock’em tapes on VHS over and over back in the day.What motivations played into the decision to set the game in a period of the sport's past, rather than the more modernized style of today's game?
There’s something special about those older years of the game. Today’s modern style is very technical and structured. We wanted to provide an experience that is very raw and gritty. The older generations are filled with blue collar players with over the top personalities, which really played a part in why we decided to set the game in the past.You've said that Old Time Hockey takes inspiration from classic hockey video games like NHL 94 and Blades of Steel. Did the game have any movie inspirations, such as Slap Shot, that played an important role during development?
We’ve been inspired by tons of various media. From retro video games, to sports movies, to old hockey games. I can tell you we watched countless hours of classic games played in the 70s. Whole seasons worth of games from several teams back in the day. We even got hockey coaching books from the 70s to shape our gameplay. The history of the game has really played an important role in our development.
EA's NHL series has held a monopoly of sorts over hockey in video games during the past few years. Other than its general appearance and tone, what is it about Old Time Hockey that you're hoping will make it stand out on its own?
We think the game’s pick up and play style will help make it stand out. New and old gamers alike should be able to sit down and enjoy playing together. It was important to us that we delivered a great couch-gaming experience. We have fond memories of playing hockey video games on the couch with buddies and above all else, this is what we focused most of our attention on.Can you delve more into the game's story mode and explain some of the things that players can expect to find there? Are there other game modes that players can also expect?
Story Mode drops players into the middle of a season of a last placed team. We don’t want to give away too much but there’s plenty of hijinx during the season. It’s meant for the player to feel like how it was like to play in the 70s. It’s a simple period piece reflecting things that just wouldn’t fly in today’s present game. Gameplay-wise, players are provided game objectives to complete to improve their team or collect hockey cards. We also have a mode where players can choose their favorite team to play a regular full season.
Many of the teams you've revealed seem to have unique personalities, from the team's backstory to their uniforms. Do any of the teams play differently from one another, whether it's a more aggressive play style or something more?
There’s some variance to the teams and our gamers will find their favorites. Some teams tend to prefer playing back while others always forecheck. However, we didn’t play this up as much as during playtesting we discovered we wanted to deliver a more arcade experience. The game encourages and rewards players for playing aggressive hockey no matter the team.In many ways, the tone of Old Time Hockey's ruthlessness resembles the NHL Hitz series from the past. Can you elaborate on what sort of involvement referees will have during games and what similarities, if any, the two games share?
Powerplays play a big part of the momentum of the game. Hilariously, hitting an official will cause them to “forget” they were going to call a delayed penalty. However, this can backfire and hitting an official can also get you thrown into the box. Hockey rulebooks commonly refer to these as “Molesting Officials” match penalties.I imagine that "Beer Mode" is something that will grab a lot of attention. How did this idea come about, and can you delve more into how this works?
One of our early goals was to deliver a play control that would work on just two buttons. It’s a really retro fun way to pick up and play. We were laughing with a friend over some HMB (Hold My Beer) memes and next thing you know Beer Mode was born!
Aside from couch co-op, will Old Time Hockey feature any online multiplayer functionality?
No, unfortunately we couldn't deliver an online multiplayer feature for the game. It was a hard thing for us to cut. We actually worked on it but could not confidently expect to deliver it well with the resources available. We know the nightmares of a badly delivered online experience and we didn’t want to go down that path. So we’ve focused on making the best couch-gaming experience we can that delivers the same nostalgic feelings of when we used to play together with friends.TrueTrophies is, true to its name, a site that's dedicated to hunting down trophies. Can you give a sneak peak of what some of the trophy requirements are going to be? Will any require the player to channel their inner Hanson brother?
There are some ridiculous hockey focused trophies in the game. One has to do with getting the goalie to leave the net to fight you while having a teammate score on the empty cage. There’s a fair amount that have to do with hitting and fighting so we think gamers are going to have a good time collecting them. Old Time Hockey will be arriving on the PlayStation 4 and PC on March 28th.