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Custom games allow you to create your own hockey leagues from scratch. You can define various details of a custom league, including the league format, team names, cities, and various other settings. Custom leagues will take the place of the NHL in the game; the rest of the hockey world will exist normally (although you can choose to use either real or fictional players.) You will also have a minor league, in the same format as your won, to provide farm teams for your top-level league - this league takes the place of the AHL, in other words.
When setting up a custom game, you are brought to the "Start a Fictional Game" selection screen. There, you have several options.
Select a Pre-Defined Structure: You can choose one of several dozen different combinations of league structure and season length, anything from a 6-team league with no divisions to a league with the size and structure of the modern NHL or KHL. We will be adding more structural options in the future to expand the number of possible selections.
Hold Amateur Draft: This determines if your league holds an amateur draft every season to assign team rights to players who are entering their first year of eligibility to play in the league.
Schedule Playoffs: This determines if your league has a post-season playoff system to determine the champion. If not, the champion is the first-place team at the end of the regular-season schedule.
Fictional Players: This determines if your game will use players from the real database, or fictional players.
After choosing these settings, you are brought to the league setup screen, which has been populated with random teams. There, you can customize your league, changing the nation, geographical region (note that this setting is optional, and is mainly intended for multinational leagues), and the names and abbreviations for the league, conferences (if any), divisions (if any), and teams. The home city and nation of each team can be changed as well, even outside the specified Country/Region for your league, but be aware that doing so may create some problems with the out-of-area team's ability to scout the rest of the league and complicate any rules restricting the number of foreign players.
Next, you will see an identical screen, only for your minor league. It will have the same structure as the parent league; additionally, the parent team of each minor league club will be identified, so you can see which team belongs to whom (note that you cannot change this affiliation on this screen.)
If you chose to have an amateur draft, you will be allowed to set its options next, in the draft options screen. You can choose the name, number of rounds, whether the draft order is determined via lottery or inverted standings from the previous season, and set the minimum and maximum age for players to be eligible for the draft (note that once a player has passed through the draft once, he may be signed by any team.)
Next comes the Settings screen, where you can adjust the trade frequency and statistical settings for the league. The trade frequency setting controls the trading behaviour of the AI-run teams in the league; as a rule of thumb, set it to approximately the number of trades you would want to see on the league's trading deadline day if your league had 30 teams. Statistical settings, which govern scoring and penalty levels in the league, can be set to whatever you desire, but be aware that extremely high or low numbers in these game engine settings could lead to game-breaking issues like excessive penalties keeping teams from putting enough players on the ice, so we recommend keeping those settings somewhat close to reality (the default settings.)
A second settings screen follows the first, allowing you to have different settings for your minor league.
The League Rules screen gives you a great deal of flexibility in customizing the rules of your league:
A salary cap, if it's activated (by entering its amount in the Salary Cap field), will operate in approximately the same manner as the one currently used by the NHL.
The trading settings govern whether or not trades can be made in your league, and the date (if any) past which no further trades are allowed; the transfer settings do the same for cash-for-player deals.
Most of the remaining league and roster rules are self-explanatory; the "Min. Prospects Needed" and "Prospects Max Age" settings force teams to use a certain number of players that age or younger, allowing a situation like the KHL's development rules to be reflected.
Contract rules are also pretty straightforward; the free agency rules, if turned on, will operate in a manner similar to current NHL rules. "The 2-Week Buyout" option allows you to instantly buy out a player's contract for the cost of two weeks' wages, a common system in some European leagues.
There are a few contraints on the game rules to prevent game-breaking situations (periods hundreds of minutes long, one skater on the ice, and so on), but you have some room to experiment. Wins will always have to be worth at least one point, and regulation losses always zero, to prevent situations that would break the league standings.
A second league rules screen follows the first, allowing you to have different rules for your minor league - although making contract rules significantly different could lead to problems with your game.
Next comes the playoff screen, which allows you to determine the structure of your playoffs, if any. Note that there are currently no safeguards to make sure playoff setups are suitable for the league structure, like an 8-team playoff being specifed for a 6-team league, so set these carefully. Exercise care with the rest day settings as well, as you could prevent the league from finishing its championship by forcing the schedule past the start of the new season on July 1. The 'Participants' settings determine how the league identifies which teams make the playoffs; 'Matchups' settings are use to decide which teams meet each other.
Again, a second playoff rules screen, this one for your minor league, follows the first.
Finally, you will be asked to enter a name for your saved game; this cannot duplicate the name of an existing game.