Interview: NHL 16 Bringing Back Fan-Favorite Hockey League

After a short hiatus, EA Sports Hockey League will be returning as a playable game mode in the coming NHL 16. Fans were not too thrilled about its missing status in the 2015 edition and EA took notice. Not only are they bringing back the beloved mode, but also making a few changes to make gameplay and the experience feel more authentic.

For those new or unfamiliar with Hockey League, this has been a mode that allowed you to create your own pro, join a team, and compete against others from around the world. The amount of online players may vary but most editions have seen a 6v6 full team style.

In the past, the focus was to start your created player from scratch, stats included, and work your way up through the leveling system. Alternately, one could simply pay 10 to 15 bucks for a stat cheat and immediately increase their player’s skills. This year, one of the main focuses is to allow for a more even playing field for players. There will be no more situations where Joe Shmoe will have a clearly higher rating than Joe Shmoe if he have been playing a lot. Now, everyone will create their skater but instead of going through the leveling system, you will pick a player style type and use the predetermined stat settings. So if you choose "sniper," he’ll mostly have a high shot accuracy but less defense, amd a passer of course will pass well but may have bad shot power.

I had a chance to have a short Q&A with Ben Ross and Sean Ramjagsingh, two producers with NHL 16 and they were able to shed a little light on what we can expect in the future for the mode.


Ben Ross: With NHL 15 being our first edition on the new console, we started focusing on gameplay and presentation, making sure that the core foundation experience was correct. We didn’t get to all the in-depth prep we would have liked to and the most notable mode we were missing was the EA Sports Hockey League.

So for us it was an opportunity for us to reach out to our fans. We’ve done more research this year in understanding what our fans want from our game that they didn’t have in the past. So we engaged them very early to understand what they wanted and they came back with three things that were important experiences that had to be there:

One, they wanted to use their created characters, they wanted their name on the back of the jerseys,

they wanted to customize their guy. Number two, was an even playing field. This year they wanted their skills on the controls and their ability to communicate and play with their teammates would be the determining factor in the outcome with majority of games. And the last was the customization because you are using your own characters… From visors, to ear guards, to how you can tape your stick, the colors you can use, all so you can look as unique as possible or match your teammates and have some uniformity.

GameRevolution: Jumping back to customization, in a statistical sense, is there no longer an option to level your player up, no more working your way or paying that 12 dollars?

BR: Yeah, no, not with the player class, which are locked. But you also aren’t just locked onto that player class for the eternity of Hockey League, you can actually change your player class as you like. But I think people will go in and determine the team they are currently playing with and which player class will best compliment that team.

GR: Would you say it’s now more team-oriented?

BR: Much more team-oriented. I think that’s what grounds it much closer to the game of hockey. When you’re trying to put a line up on the ice, you have to think about what kind of players you need on your team. Each guy has to work well together and picking each player is key. That’s where you have to find the pros and cons of having certain guys on the ice, as well as finding a playstyle that works for you.

GR: I read that you would implement player morale to the system. Is that going to be introduced?

BR: Right now it's just in GM mode, but I’m sure it’ll be present in Hockey League. It’s just right now more about you playing it yourself. In GM mode there’s a mechanic so as you’re balancing your team of virtual superstars you have to look at not just their ratings but how they’ll fit in different situations.

GR: When playing online, will you still be able to form custom teams with friends and preferred players or will it be a jump in and out style?

BR: That’s the foundation of EA Sports Hockey League. Purely about trying to get a group of friends together and [staying] with that team. We do have a lot of open team play, which is more of an opportunity to play in random games and that’s maybe were you meet new people for potential teammates.

The overall feel of their presentation seems to be about bringing people from all over to form teams and bonds, in hopes of playing out an entire season together. All about that real-to-life hockey experience. Finding out how you like to play and not having to be worry about catching up to higher ranked players. It's about your skills along with the skills of your teammates working together against other formed teams, however they come about.