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Online Draft, Line Matchups and More to Love in Strat-O-Matic Hockey 2015
 
By Glenn Guzzo
 
            Draft leaguers and solitaire gamers both will be getting a lot of love with the forthcoming latest release of Strat-O-Matic’s computer hockey game. One of the improvements literally will be music to gamers’ ears (read to the end of this article).
 
            For draft leaguers, the first star in Strat-O-Matic Hockey 2015 clearly is the FREE Online Draft component that will allow leagues to include all coaches simultaneously in real-time drafts. It’s a commissioner-run draft exclusively for your league with plenty of useful options.
 
            Solo gamers may have a tougher time ranking their stars of the game among multiple new features that will save game-playing time, improve the computer manager and make it easier to execute line changes.
 
            Maybe you’ll award the stars to two features that make it easier to take advantage of the home team’s ability to match lines. When the new “Prompt Home Team Line Changes” option is activated, the manually coached home team will be prompted for a line change as soon as the computer-coached visiting team changes lines. That will speed play as well as prevent oversights.
 
            Next, the new “Remember Home Team Line Changes” option will do some serious time-saving handiwork for manually coached home teams. From the Help file:
 
            Once you decide which line should be used against the visiting team's line, the program will automatically remember that matchup and pre-fill the lineup screen for you for the rest of the game. This will be a great time saver! If you decide to switch up your matchups during the game it will remember your most recent matchup, and that is the one that is pre-filled when your lineup screen appears.
 
            This is for even-strength situations only. Maybe we shouldn’t call this a Godsend, but a “SOMsend” might do nicely.
 
            That’s not all. The computer manager is going to start correcting a common human error: Not having the forward(s) in correct position when a short-handed situation changes due to overlapping penalties. “The computer manager will now sense that the needed position is empty and automatically fill it,” the Help file tells us. “A message will appear in the play-by-play area indicating this was done so that you are alerted to the situation. This allows you to choose a different player to fill the missing position and also serves as a reminder that your computer manager should be fixed to prevent this from happening in the future.”
 
            And, thankfully for all who are aggravated easily, the computer coach no longer will make line changes in the midst of rebound situations. While this always was theoretically possible in the real NHL and especially considering the way hockey sims are timed, many gamers will be satisfied that the rebound will be treated as the completion of a sequence.
 
EYE AND EAR CANDY
 
            All gamers should appreciate a few cosmetic changes that stem from Strat-O-Matic’s annual advances to enliven the hockey game’s realism, such as using the team abbreviations on the scoreboard (instead of “Visitor” and “Home”). In addition, team nicknames now can be imported in a flash for the whole league, rather than via team-by-team manual editing. And there will be much better synchronization of the penalty clock(s) and the scoreboard clock. Gamers had noticed that once in a while the time of a power-play goal was recorded a second or more after the penalty expired.
 
            For both realism and (potentially riotous) fun, each home team can have its own celebratory sounds following goals. Just import your sounds and go to the Team Information section to set the “Goal WAV” sound to be played. Power users who have craved variety after hearing the same music following thousands of goals may be especially appreciative of this improvement, even if they already hum the traditional music in their sleep, on the job, during church hymns, as lull-a-byes to their infant children …
 
            Here is the official lineup of improvements in Version 2015:
 
1) Free Online Draft - Now your league members can hold your draft in real-time on the Strat-O-Matic servers, and the best part about it is that this is a free service! To hold the draft, the commissioner of the league sets up the league files using the Windows game, then uploads them to the Online Drafting website. From there, the entire draft is held online, in real-time. After the draft, the commissioner downloads the files and imports them back into the Windows game so that league play can commence. 
 
2) Prompt Home Team Line Changes: - This new option is located on theLeague Options Lineups tab. When using it, you will be prompted for your line change as soon as the computer-coached visiting team changes lines. No longer will you have to watch the play-by-play to see line changes and then click a button to display the Lineup dialog box. Instead, as soon as the computer-coached visiting team makes the line change, the Lineup dialog is displayed allowing you to make your changes quicker. Important Note: This feature is only available for games where you are manually coaching the home team and you’re playing against a computer coached visiting team.   It is not available for Netplay games.
 
3) Remember Home Team Line Changes:- This new option is located on the League Options Lineups tab. When using it while you are the coach of the home team, you will be allowed to match your lines against the visiting team. Once you decide which line should be used against the visiting team's line, the program will automatically remember that matchup and pre-fill the lineup screen for you for the rest of the game. This will be a great time saver! If you decide to switch up your matchups during the game, it will remember your most recent matchup, and that is the one that is pre-filled when your lineup screen appears. Important Note: This feature is only enabled for regular-strength situations, it is not available during power plays.  
 
4) Timing of Penalties - The timing of penalties has been improved so that the scoreboard clock more accurately reflects the end of a penalty. This has always been a difficult balance to maintain because the timing of penalties is done with a different mechanism than the rest of the game in Strat-O-Matic hockey. In addition, the computer game uses a different number of action cards as described in Board and Computer Game Differences. All of this created a situation where power plays ended before they "should have" if measured solely via the scoreboard clock (although the statistical accuracy of power play scoring was still maintained). A great deal of new code has been introduced to try to synchronize the scoreboard and penalty timing systems. While it is not possible to account for 100% of the differences for every game situation (due to the use of 35 action cards in the computer game), over 95% of these issues have been resolved and will no longer occur.
 
5) Scoreboard - The scoreboard now shows the team abbreviations. The team abbreviations have been added to both the Original Game Screen and the Improved Game Screen.
 
6) Import Team Nicknames - This feature will allow you to import nicknames for teams. Strat-O-Matic cannot distribute the team nicknames due to licensing restrictions. However, using this feature, you can create your own list of nicknames that can be imported. Instead of manually typing in nicknames every time you buy a new league, now you'll be able to do this once, then import the nicknames for each league in a matter of seconds.
 
7) Custom Team Goal Scoring Wav - Using the Update Team dialog you can set the "Goal WAV" sound which defines the wave file to be played when the team scores a goal while playing at home.
 
8) Autofill Empty Positions In Computer Manager - Sometimes a position is accidentally left open when defining lines. For example, some people define a line specifically for overtime in leagues where overtime is played 4-on-4, but they neglect to fill in the center position. All positions should always be filled in except when you are specifically filling in a PK line. In the above example of an overtime line where it is normally played 4-on-4, if a coincidental penalty occurs, the teams skate 3-on-3. In that case, the center is needed. In previous versions of the game, things would halt and you had to manually sub in the missing player. A new feature with this year's version is that the computer manager will now sense that the needed position is empty and automatically fill it. A message will appear in the play-by-play area indicating this was done so that you are alerted to the situation. This allows you to choose a different player to fill the missing position and also serves as a reminder that your computer manager should be fixed to prevent this from happening in the future.
 
9) Avoidance of Line Changes during Rebound - If a line change happens to fall in the middle of a rebound situation, then that line change will be avoided (whenever possible). During such a situation, the icons and menu items associated with changing lines are grayed out. Additionally, the computer coach has been changed to prevent it changing lines during rebounds.
 
10) Help File - Microsoft does not offer a Winhelp Viewer for Windows 8.1 or later. To allow you to view the contents of the Help File, we have converted our Help File to RTF format, which is readable using Wordpad or any Word Processing software. The file is located in the Bin folder of the game and it is named "Strat-O-Matic Hockey Help Content.rtf". 
 
11) Transaction Files - Transaction files for the following seasons have been included with this year's version: 1952-53, 1983-84, and 2014-15 seasons.
 
12) Support for New Seasons - Support for the 1952-53, 1983-84, and 2014-15 seasons has been added to the game.
 
 
BUGS FIXED
 
1) Power Play Opportunities -
When a power play goal was scored during a 5-minute major penalty, the number of power play opportunities for the team that scored was not being incremented.
 
2) Drag and Drop to Free Agent Pool - Drag and drop to the Free Agent pool from a team was not working properly, causing the player who was dragged to disappear from the league. Note that this bug did not affect the Team / Release Players function, which was already working properly.
 
3) Blogger – The Blogger interface has been replaced, as we are no longer able to authenticate your blog credentials using the Blogger API.
 
 
DATA FIXED
 
Note: These data fixes cannot be used for seasons already in-progress. You must reinstall a fresh copy of these rosters in order to see these changes.
 
1954-55 NHL
-
The card Image option was toggled off by default.
- Boston player Ed Sandford's last name was spelled incorrectly.
- The default computer managers were not defined properly. 
 
1989-90 NHL
- The card Image option was toggled off by default.
 
2013-14 NHL
- The following schedule fixes have been made: 
Dec 28, 2013: NYI vs NYI should be NJD vs NYI
Apr 11, 2014: NJD vs NJD should be NYI vs NJD