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NHL'94 Game Variables


kingraph
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PLAYER VARIABLE

Game Knowledge (pre-game)

  • Player attributes/players
  • How to score in various ways
    • Understanding angles, distance and probability of success
  • Different ways to defend
  • Different ways to check
  • Breakouts & Zone Entries

Execution / Mechanics / Mental Focus (in-game)

  • Execution of game tactics
    • Reducing mistakes
  • Overall Reaction time
  • Manual goalie control
  • Anticipating opponent's play
    • Adapting
  • Choosing the most effective option at a given situation considering players, game status and opponent
    • Creating more high percentage plays than low
    • Passive vs Aggressive defense
  • Ice vision/awareness
  • Awareness of game momentum, team cohesiveness, "hot/cold"

GAME/CPU VARIABLES (Non-controllable / Random)

All of these examples highlight behavior that is considered above or below reasonable expectations

  • AI controlled players defensive effectiveness
    • Stifling, shadowing defense
    • "Parting of seas" defensemen
  • AI players set up properly on offense, or not
    • Center ready for one timer
    • Wingers behind net
  • AI players picking up loose pucks, rebounds
  • AI players skating in right/wrong way more often when switching
  • AI players organized vs getting in your own way
  • Checks more successful or solid checks being unsuccessful
  • Shots hitting open net, directly at goalie, or wide
  • Goalie making extra saves or letting in easy goals
  • Passes connecting
  • Passes going to target player
  • One timers executing
  • Player holding onto puck or having tipped away
  • AI penalties away from play
  • Penalty frequency
     
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I wanted to document my thoughts about how we can look at a game result and understand what consistently separates (human) players from others. There are differences from "A" vs "B" players, but I want to further look at why guys like Mikhail and @annatar are consistently on top of the SNES side and why me and @angryjay93keep meeting in the finals in Genesis.   

The outline above represents my original thoughts and I welcome all feedback.

In the most simplest terms, I believe there are two things that separate players:

Game knowledge/Understanding of the Game
Execution / Actually playing the Game

Underneath those broad topics, there's a lot more to discuss.  This is NOT a strategy guide, but I will highlight some quick thoughts on the topics.  And this applies to Genesis and SNES.  

When I say "game knowledge", that can mean broad understanding, but there are also a granular details that separate the top players.

A broad example would be understanding player attributes.  A Genesis player trying a slapshot with Wayne Gretzky may not understand he has a weak shot.  It may be a good play, but with the wrong player!

Another broad example would be where I (kingraph) know how to score in SNES with a deke.  However, at a more granular level, I don't have the knowledge of how far back I can shoot the deke, what angles are feasible, etc. than guys like @TheProfessor or other top SNES guys understand.  So during the game, I wouldn't even try certain shots (they wouldn't enter my mind), or on the flip side try defend those dekes because I don't perceive them as a possible scoring threat.  (I'm learning!)

I think most of the "A" players excel in knowledge, but it's important to note that there are still those details that certain players know better than others.  There can also be game-changing knowledge that happens.  Think CB check that Plabax discovered or the Goalie Dive Across save in SNES that Mikhail has recently introduced.  Before Mikhail (very effectively) demonstrated that technique in KO94-4, I didn't see anyone even trying these saves.  That knowledge is a differentiator before the game happens.  In Genesis, if you're not aware of the rebound goal, you won't try to score with it, OR defend against it.   

Now the biggest differentiator is the in-game execution.  Some of the mechanics can be learned, such as quick one-timers, pass shots, "Y" button get up, rebound goal, goalie control, dekes, etc. that is visible.  The top players more frequently finish one timers, finish dekes, get shots off, etc. 

Reaction time to the puck, to the play, to goalie control is also something that you can witness and differentiate.  Many people say manual goalie is one of the biggest skills that separate the best players, and I think that's obvious. 

The mental game is harder to define or observe because it's unique to each individual.  But ultimately it's trying to understand the decision making that happens many times throughout the game.  From setting a lineup, to choosing which shot to take, to pass vs skate, to check or sit back, etc.  In general, I feel the top players make better decisions throughout the game that lead to better scoring chances and better defensive options.  And seeing those top players adapt each game based on what's working vs. what isn't.  

Having said all of that, we have the magic of NHL'94 variables that are overlayed on top of everything.  These game variables are what causes all the variances from one game to another between two given players.  The player variables will outweigh the uncontrollable variables over time, but in a given game anyone can win.  You can make the right decisions, execute your one-timer, but Roenick will miss an open net from 2 feet.  I tried to list out some of the things that happen each game that are somewhat uncontrollable.  To be clear, this would be measured above what would be considered "normal".  If that slapshot from Gretzky is stopped by the goalie, that isn't an abnormal result.  If that slapshot gets passed Eddie Belfour, that would be considered above expectations.  

With all the tournament action and updated frequency of streaming games, I am considering doing some deep dive reviews of a game.  Deep dive means either reviewing possession by possession, reviewing scoring chances, key plays/sequences, or maybe just goals.  I may never get to it, but I'm definitely interested in trying to look at game with all of this in mind.

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1 hour ago, kingraph said:
  • Shots hitting open net, directly at goalie, or wide
  • Goalie making extra saves or letting in easy goals

These two specifically. When your star player pumps multiple one timers into the chest of the goalie when there's two open sides to choose from... He cold baby.

And when your goalie is "there" but lets in that wide angle one timer... Same thing.

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Great nuanced breakdown. I've been thinking recently about incremental improvement through analyzing my own play. After my recent OHPL loss to Schmidt (with some ridiculous stats), I went back to the drawing board. I had some good strategy discussions with Scribe99 and with an extra set of eyes, was able to make some adjustments that have made an immediate difference in Classic.

I love these evolution of the game discussions. Your examples of Mikhail's goalie strat and the Plabax CB strat remind me of Thomas Kuhn's "Structure of Scientific Revolutions". These breakthrough strats are like Einstein's theory of relativity, compared to Newtonian mechanics; an extension of accepted knowledge. These jumps in collective knowledge cause immediate progress in the game, but earlier strategies are still commensurable. 

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If I may add a few items to game knowledgeable off the top of my head it would breakouts and zone entries.

These items don't fall under defending or scoring...it's basically turning your defense into the opportunity to be able to create a chance.

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Great topic. I have quite a few thoughts that I have been testing. The org structure above is perfect. There's the technical execution side of the game and a strategic side. 

On the technical side, you have to study or have someone show how to perform certain moves. The different pass shots come to mind. Or the rebound goal that AJ is so deadly with. You have certain angles, combinations of buttons presses, etc. It can be hard to see it, reproduce it, and use it if you don't know where to begin. For instance, I'd love to hear AJ break down his step by step rebound shot, or Schmidt or Corbett explain their dekes. There's a technical knowledge there.

On the strategic side, perhaps the most basic question I ask myself and cannot easily answer on offense is, why? Why I am skating or passing it here versus there? Is this way more efficient or productive than doing something else? How should I initiate my offense and why? 

I think that the answer maybe lies in how reliant offense in the game is on flow. When I try for a tactic I'm predictable and miss opportunities. As I said recently to Sheehy, the more I play the more convinced I become that great offensei is about time and space. You shouldn't really look for your move. It's initiating offense by making that first defender miss or chase and skating or passing to open ice even if there's no immediate purpose. This creates flow and leads to openings in the defense that your brain will know what to do with when they happen.

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1 hour ago, Scribe99 said:

Great topic. I have quite a few thoughts that I have been testing. The org structure above is perfect. There's the technical execution side of the game and a strategic side. 

On the technical side, you have to study or have someone show how to perform certain moves. The different pass shots come to mind. Or the rebound goal that AJ is so deadly with. You have certain angles, combinations of buttons presses, etc. It can be hard to see it, reproduce it, and use it if you don't know where to begin. For instance, I'd love to hear AJ break down his step by step rebound shot, or Schmidt or Corbett explain their dekes. There's a technical knowledge there.

On the strategic side, perhaps the most basic question I ask myself and cannot easily answer on offense is, why? Why I am skating or passing it here versus there? Is this way more efficient or productive than doing something else? How should I initiate my offense and why? 

I think that the answer maybe lies in how reliant offense in the game is on flow. When I try for a tactic I'm predictable and miss opportunities. As I said recently to Sheehy, the more I play the more convinced I become that great offensei is about time and space. You shouldn't really look for your move. It's initiating offense by making that first defender miss or chase and skating or passing to open ice even if there's no immediate purpose. This creates flow and leads to openings in the defense that your brain will know what to do with when they happen.

This is a great discussion on strategy and is so naturally correlated to this topic even though I said this is NOT a strategy guide :lol:.  I would agree with you on what you said about how reliant the offense is based on the flow of the game.  If you have the knowledge of different offensive strategies (whatever they may be), how much do you adjust/execute/react to those during the game?  This type of thinking you are already doing makes me want to review one of your games as a "deep dive".  Who knows if we find anything, but I think it'd be fun.  "FUN"

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Awesome stuff @kingraph! I agree with everything you've described here. A few thoughts of my own:

You're absolutely right that most of the "A" level players already have the knowledge parts down, and like you said there are still some players that are slightly better in the knowledge or I'm just going to call it the "skills" department. I think the biggest thing that sets the elite apart from the rest is the mental game. For lower skill levels, I would say that results are 80% skill based and 20% mental. Usually the higher skilled player will win the game and the bigger variance there is in skillset the less mental effort is required to win. What I mean is an A level player will have to focus a bit more to beat a B level player than they would to beat a C level player. As the skill levels increase, and the variance between skills of the opponents decrease there's a huge shift in the skills/mental breakdown to where I think results become based on 20% skill and 80% mental. When it's the best guys playing the best guys, it is a gruelling mental game. They both have the skills to know how to score and how to defend, it really comes down to who has the stronger mental game. Most goals aren't determined by a higher skill level, they're usually caused by one of the opponents making a mental error. I know for me personally the difference between me feeling mentally strong vs not can mean the difference between winning by 5 goals or losing by 5 goals vs the exact same opponent. I think the best of the best are where they are because of their mental strength. They have the ability to get "in the zone" and stay there for the duration of their game/series. 

I compare it to Tiger Woods in his prime. He was the best because of his mental game. Every player on tour can hit it 300 yards and never miss a 2-putt. So there's not a huge difference in the skills, its the mental game that sets the elite apart. If Tiger had the lead on Sunday, it was an automatic win. He intimidated opponents with his mental game.

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@dangler, well said and I think you're 100% correct here.  This is what makes long tournaments against good players so difficult.  You have to stay focused the entire time....and it ain't easy!

I think I will change my title from "mechanics" to "mental game", or some way incorporate that as pretty much all my bullets are aspects of the mental game.  

 

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3 hours ago, kingraph said:

This is a great discussion on strategy and is so naturally correlated to this topic even though I said this is NOT a strategy guide :lol:.  I would agree with you on what you said about how reliant the offense is based on the flow of the game.  If you have the knowledge of different offensive strategies (whatever they may be), how much do you adjust/execute/react to those during the game?  This type of thinking you are already doing makes me want to review one of your games as a "deep dive".  Who knows if we find anything, but I think it'd be fun.  "FUN"

I would definitely check out any deep dives you do. I enjoyed the breakdown you did of your game at Edge of 94. The concept reminds a bit of the Detail series. 

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11 hours ago, kingraph said:

With all the tournament action and updated frequency of streaming games, I am considering doing some deep dive reviews of a game.  Deep dive means either reviewing possession by possession, reviewing scoring chances, key plays/sequences, or maybe just goals.  I may never get to it, but I'm definitely interested in trying to look at game with all of this in mind.

I know we had mentioned doing one of our games together ages ago. If you want to revisit that idea just send me a DM.

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Another piece of the puzzle is the ability of the top level players to understand how the AI works from both experience and game knowledge. 

@danglerintroduced me to a better d-man partnership for Montreal using Odelein instead of Schneider, which works better for my style of play because the way Odelein positions himself on defense is 'better' than Schneider. @angryjay93and I have discussed the spread of AI defenders in the defensive zone and how he sets up his man controlled defender depending on zone entry and how he expects the AI to respond. @danTML7has mentioned on his stream how elite players place their offensive pieces in general areas before passing during possession moves after zone entry which allows for better organization of attack. @JSchmidtand I discussed while playing his ability to eliminate AI threats from his consideration because the AI skated out of position which allows him to attack my skaters with no worry of leaving a true threat open, forcing me into movements that are self defeating. @kingraphhas discussed chemistry issues (as has AJ) on streams about certain teams inability during games to have the AI move in expected ways to maximize the talent on the roster and how elite players recognize it early enough to adjust on the fly. We've all seen UncleSeth manipulate his AI attackers through judicious use of Defensemen entering and exiting the zone to create matchups for other players the AI has moved into the zone at speed. 

C level players are not thinking on that level - the question: 'why did he do that?' when referring to an AI player doing something 'odd' is greater in C. B level players such as myself understand that the AI is going to move the players in a certain way, and try to manipulate our attacks/defenses to maximize what we perceive the AI to be doing. low-A players start to manipulate through their own skating and player movement the AI coupled with a greater understanding of what the AI is doing depending on circumstance. The top A players are actively maneuvering their players on the ice to 'force' the AI to compensate by moving into better, more advantageous positions on the ice. 

I've exhied/league played against all of the top guys and outside of my own mistakes (which i need to fix and is a big part of moving from B to A) - the huge differentiator, once adjusting for the experience gap, is the ability of the elite players to 'know' where the AI players are at almost all times while also forcing the AI to adjust to better positions through movements in both the attack and defense phase of the game. 

N.B. - AI is just an easy way of talking about this, it is obviously a set of logic in the game to move player sprites in ways depending on the various IF-THEN statements that define the player sprite movement on the ice

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This is stating the obvious, I guess, but the lack of different difficulty settings in the game itself is an issue for me. 

Anyone can give an AI opponent a regular kicking in the game but it is no substitute for going mano a mano with a human opponent, which is where people like me (solid C level players) can hone their skills.  Then, it is a catch-22 of sorts, as unless you play against better players (B & A), you just revert to the old tricks that will work against lesser opponents but will get batted away by others, or you chance your arm and play a big boy and then spend ages licking your wounds.

A video guide of sorts for certain things would be helpful (and I know that @kingraph and @danTML7 have a couple knocking about on YouTube) but these can be pretty involved and time-consuming to create.

Alternatively, I would certainly buy a self-published book if anyone ever has the spare time (ha, what's that then?!) to brain dump everything into a Word document.

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3 hours ago, LaTormenta said:

This is stating the obvious, I guess, but the lack of different difficulty settings in the game itself is an issue for me. 

Anyone can give an AI opponent a regular kicking in the game but it is no substitute for going mano a mano with a human opponent, which is where people like me (solid C level players) can hone their skills.  Then, it is a catch-22 of sorts, as unless you play against better players (B & A), you just revert to the old tricks that will work against lesser opponents but will get batted away by others, or you chance your arm and play a big boy and then spend ages licking your wounds.

A video guide of sorts for certain things would be helpful (and I know that @kingraph and @danTML7 have a couple knocking about on YouTube) but these can be pretty involved and time-consuming to create.

Alternatively, I would certainly buy a self-published book if anyone ever has the spare time (ha, what's that then?!) to brain dump everything into a Word document.

For a strategy guide, I think the best would be a website that combines the text with video example.  That's what I set out to do with www.nhl94strategy.com

But to your point, it takes a bit of time and I lost my passion for updating the site.  However the little that I did update has been referenced and used many times over, so I think I can set a 2021 goal to update at least a few more sections.  Yes, I'm on it!

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2 minutes ago, kingraph said:

For a strategy guide, I think the best would be a website that combines the text with video example.  That's what I set out to do with www.nhl94strategy.com

But to your point, it takes a bit of time and I lost my passion for updating the site.  However the little that I did update has been referenced and used many times over, so I think I can set a 2021 goal to update at least a few more sections.  Yes, I'm on it!

Yeah, I know what you mean about the motivation part.  I have a list as long as my arm of "to do / finish" stuff and it's difficult, especially where the audience is relatively small by comparison to, say, an NHL' 21 deke guide.

An updated website would be a good idea (I have the strategy site bookmarked!) and that would allow different people to contribute towards it, rather than you doing the lion's share (and having the burden of being responsible for it). 

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I really enjoyed listening to Raph, Smoz, Dan, Chaos & AJ on the mic during that recent online KO94.  It's such a complex game and you all notice & point out things that other's might not.  Would be great to hear 2 of you collaborate (on video) on the deep dive idea.  

Edited by Uncle Seth
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Hey Latormenta, the 1v1 and 2v2 roms are great for developing skills. There is even a goalie rom 5 versus 0 or 1 on the forum to work on goalie control. I like the 3 on 3 rom to work on Moving AI in the game. 

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  • 6 months later...

I just re-read a lot of the comments here, and I find this thread to be great.  I'm coming back to the idea of a deep dive into a game (likely with @angryjay93) and could use some feedback for the initial attempt.   

I want put together some kind of "advanced analytics" that we see in sports that's based on the OP topics.  And to do so in a feasible way that wouldn't be too burdensome.  In time, I hope this provides another view to a game that we anecdotally mention ("they were cold/hot", "momentum", "roll of the dice", "unlucky", "bounces went my way", etc)

I'd appreciate your feedback as to what we could possibly track, or what makes more sense than not.  

Some initial thoughts I had, which could be tracked and potentially be useful:

  • Possessions
    • Control of the puck for 7 game seconds or more
  • Scoring Opportunities
    • Y/N based on observation
  • AI Loose Pucks
    • Count which team AI (not player controlled) picked up a loose puck.
  • Human vs AI Penalties (self explanatory)
  • GC
    • Saves or actions (check, intercept pass, switch on/off) made because of manual goalie efforts that would have otherwise led to a scoring chance/goal.
  • AI Factor - +1/-1
    • There are examples of the "Non-controllable/Random" AI behavior in the OP.  Measuring AI helpfulness will be difficult because it is hard to define an expected "norm" against where an action could be deemed a +1 or -1.  For example in GENS, if Mike Modano takes a slapshot from top of the circle and misses the net, that is normal.  If he buries that slapshot, that is also normal. However, if he misses 4-5 times in a row, that may be considered a "-1".  And if he buries two in a row that may be "+1".
    • In SNES, let's say Stevens has a clean hit on Roenick in front of the net, but Roenick stays up and scores.  Is that a "-1" for the defense and "+1" for the offense? 
    • Those are easy actions to isolate and already hard to decide.  We'd have to look at all AI action throughout the game.  This may be too much to track and too subjective.  TBD.

So I imagine watching a replay with 1 (or more) people with these categories being tracked as we re-watch the game.

Any other thoughts, recommendations?  Would really like to pilot this soon.

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