NHL 20 Content Update October 25th
Check out our CHEL notes with our October Patch update here.
Gamechanger Event Recap
EA Gamechanger Event Recap
This was one of the largest Gamechanger event's to happen in quite awhile. A total of 15 Gamechangers attended the event, with 4 of them being completely new to the program. With a working build we were able to have constant gameplay and open discussions with the developers on all facets of NHL 19 in preparation for a final launch build.
I am Tonyferelli. I have been a Gamechanger since November 2015, shortly after the release of the extremely underwhelming NHL 15 title. I was selected along side of a few well known people from youtube, various communities and twitch. I am still extremely thankful and humbled from the support I received from the EA Forums as well as Leaguegaming when I was selected. My goal is to continue to bridge the lines of communication between fans of the game and the developers. The game modes that I focus on are primarily EASHL (online teamplay) and be a GM. I moderately play some Be A Pro and casually play HUT and Versus. If you ever need to contact me, I am constantly available on twitter or through the forum PM's.
@kodencurial - Twitter
Quick explanation of what a Gamechanger is, skip if you already know.
When we were first brought on as Gamechangers after the release of NHL 15, we had long meetings on where the series was at and where it needed to get back to. At that time, the series had just made its first jump to the Xbox One and PlayStation 4. We can all agree that jump was not the greatest and resulted in a game that felt more like a shell of what it was expected to be. So in order to make a bounce back, EA decided it would be best to find a way to involve the community in some sort of capacity as it started to rebuild existing and future game modes. That is how the Gamechangers came to be.
The Gamechanger program has seen itself grow much larger than it initially was a few years ago. While some of the originals are still around the program has expanded to include members who can provide more focused feedback and opinions from their main game mode of choice. The program has had plenty of heated discussions and strong opinions between the Developers and Gamechangers on specific game modes, direction choices and gameplay features. I don't mention that as a negative but more as a positive. It means the program is working as intended and allows us to vent our frustrations that the community has been through in the series and the Devs can see where we are coming from. The ability to have a bridged connection to the developers from an openly traded company is a challenge and this program creates that bridge. EA, being openly traded means any dialogue that the developers get to have with the community is restricted to specified topics that don't include anything that is being worked on or considered for future titles. However, with the Gamechangers and signed NDA’s (Non-Disclosure Agreements) we can have these talks openly and share our feedback and help determine what fixes and changes should take priority over others. In the end, EA is a business and decisions being made need to ensure that the limited resources the NHL team has are put to good use. This means we can give our full input and feedback but it might not be what's best for them to work on at that time. It also means that we might get modes or features that the hard core players don't agree with but the casuals enjoy.
The event was two days long in which all the Gamechangers and Devs were locked into close quarters of intense gameplay and feedback. Maybe not all that intense but some Gamechangers sure made it seem that way. Each of the two days started early and ended close to midnight, and it still didn't feel like enough time to cover everything we needed too. We do maintain constant communication before and after events with developers to help with this.
I'll jump into my thoughts on the modes first, and then end with my thoughts on gameplay as a whole.
Day 1 started with us all jumping into ONES and getting good amount of games before stopping for feedback and discussions. ONES is a mode I think a lot of the more casual players will enjoy, however it did have some intense competition when it was taken slightly seriously. The king of the hill style will have some players trying to stay at the top for as long as possible. It is a flexible mode, in my case it will be the perfect thing to kill time while I wait for clubmates to get online. I don't see it as something I would personally play long term, but it does have the option to get competitive for those that really get into it. The pond arenas look amazing and the art team definitely killed it. My biggest complaint is that it doesn't exactly help enforce good habits for online teamplay, but inherently the mode is fun. ONES was also the mode to play the entire event while Gamechangers were waiting to play other modes.
Next up was drop-in's. This was a good chance to really see how the new customization would play into a teamplay environment. The screen felt slightly cluttered with the amount of different colors and clothes that the players had on the ice, but it was manageable to an extent. It really did feel like a drop-in hockey with the street clothes. The colors are separated by the home and away so it wasn't that intense in a 3s environment, I still personally found it slightly distracting. It was interesting to see what everyone did for builds, it was a big mix of big and smaller players with different traits and specializations. Some going for more hitting power and others opting for more speed. I guess we will have to wait and see what type of builds people prefer for 3s.
Drop-in sixes is where the street clothes started to become more than just a distraction. There were too many different colors on screen for me to really focus. In a game where it's heavily focused on team-play and split decisions the clashes in colors was too much. There was plenty of feedback and potential solutions flying around the room. It was really something that needs improvement and will struggle for some players until it is has a solution in place.
There was one big change this year that could affect drop-ins positively. You will only earn xp and hockey bags for completing the game, this should help with the drop-ins becoming barring waste lands of AI and ~2 real players on a team after a few goals have been scored.
EASHL sixes is where the game really excelled for me. The more competitive environment and the more pro hockey jerseys set a much better stage to show case the gameplay. I really enjoyed the fact that you can still use your custom hockey bag gear for your stick and skates. I was scared it might cross a line that didn't fit into the competitive scene that some people see as "clown" gear. I thought it had the right balance to it. I also thought there was some struggles to get prepared for club games but once you hit the ice it was awesome.
EASHL threes is very similar to sixes in terms of the customization options and getting prepared. I started to become a fan of this mode last year and it seems to keep growing as a fun competitive scene for smaller teams. The mode was fun, but just like last year I still wish the mode took on its own personality and moved slightly away from the traditional rules of hockey. It would be more beneficial for penalties to result in the player being removed from the ice and the power play being 3 on 2. Any an additional penalty would be a penalty shot. Gives some wiggle room and allows the transgressing team to kill it off without putting all the pressure on the goalie from a small mistake.
Pro-Am: early on it was an interesting idea for a mode but in the end it feels like that one mode that gets added every year that fails to live up to its potential. Without the ability to play with friends, most of the Gamechangers quickly dismissed the mode. It does have some XP tied to completing the objectives and once you earn it there is no reason to ever return to it. It feels like a one and done mode, and some veteran players might not even bother to touch it.
Gameplay, this is the one thing that makes this year stand out far more than anything year before it. This is the true star of the show for NHL 19 and I can't wait for people to see how it feels. During our final briefing with the devs the positive vibes surrounding the gameplay was amazing. One by one, each gamechanger started with how great the gameplay was for this year, albeit without some small feedback suggestions, it was something I haven't really seen yet in my three years of being in this program.
So many titles have gone by with constant complaints on True Performance Skating and its ability to handle online play. Any sort of lag and your player felt like the titanic trying to make turns. At the studio we played on an eastern connection with 40+ ping. The game felt good, it felt smooth and it gave me some hope that this could be the year it becomes fun to just play the game. The next test for me is to see if that changes during peak hours as the servers become more populated. However, I’ve never been this optimistic about gameplay being fun in awhile. The small movements on offense and defense feels the way they should, they no longer feel as clunky as past titles. Passing the puck around the offensive zone feels like I can actually make moves and create proper cycles without players awkwardly receiving the puck and being unable to turn. I actually feel like I can properly control my player on the point with a defense man, which led to me actually getting more creative with the puck. It really actually finally feels like the movement we deserved once we jumped to the next generation of consoles. It really is hard to explain in words and once you get your hands on the controls and try moving on the ice for the first time you will really understand the significance of the new skating engine.
I do think the vision control could use more tweaking to get a little bit closer to always facing the play when you hold the button. I also think sometimes the player rotates his body the wrong way when you try to face the play. This isn't as big as an issue as with the TPS where a wrong rotation is the difference between you being able to do anything and being stuck in clunky controls to get back to feeling in control. Now, it just seems a bit minor with how responsive the controls are.
Hitting physics is something I didn't expect to see revamped and once we got to see it in action and get some hands on... I am so glad they did. It started to become a little bit stale with hits and wasn't really that fun to do as players could just rotate off most of them. The big hits were okay and unless you cut into their lane they are skating in for head on collisions it was almost useless. The new collision system creates for unique scenarios based on speed, height, weight and angles. The big hits often led to loud "OOOooo" in the room as someone got rocked. The idea of the system is to really let the physics and players limbs take control during bumps, falls and big hits. This results in many times where the game was paused to watch how the players on the ice reacted to the collisions. One situation where I had a massive enforcer retrieving the puck in the corner and a short, fast player tried to line me up for a big hit. This resulted in my guy almost being nudged where his player looked like he had just ran into a brick wall and got destroyed. Another situation occurred when I played as a smaller player that attempted a hip check on a tall lanky player. The hit missed the players legs and because the collision system really works on body and limb collision my player went through the middle of his legs, his player stumbled slightly but quickly got control back. Oh and yes, if the hip check connects with players, the resulting hit is awesome.
Poke checking has received another pass and the logic and utility behind spamming poke checks are a thing of the past. Positioning, angle, timing and distance is going to be a massive factor when performing poke checks. You will have to feel extremely confident in your poke before letting it go as well as mindful at where you swing your stick. With the new bumping and hitting your body has become a massive tool for defense and the “nerf” to poke checking counter balances it. You should now feel like you have more tools to work with, but none of them are over powered. The Gamechangers took a while to adjust to the new change but overall it felt like the penalties you took were because you made a mistake or poorly made use of your stick checking. It will be interesting to see how players adjust to this change.
Once again, the gameplay is something that is so hard to explain in words, but the game definitely feels like something new, exciting, responsive and fun. Now, with the massive focus on gameplay some other things might have felt like they were overlooked and didn't receive much attention but if I had to choose what should receive priority.. it would be the gameplay hands down. Much of the feedback and strong criticisms stemmed from this during the event but to an extent most of the gamechangers were happy with the choice of focusing on gameplay.
World of Chel Newer Players
The biggest issue with the NHL series is guiding newer players with enough padding so they don't just get beat down over and over till they quit playing. Once a player actually gets to the point where they are having fun playing more serious games of hockey they actually stick around for longer. Unfortunately for me, the past few years the gameplay has been so frustrating that the competitive games were not fun and the non-competitive games felt just as annoying. With huge changes to the gameplay to improve the players control and responsiveness it will hopefully spark the fun once again to play.
The World of Chel really actually provides a decent flow for newer players and I hope to see it playing out like this:
Pro-Am is the first step into joining the online teamplay community without actually jumping into online play. This mode features a series of challenges for you to complete that will earn you XP and potential hockey bags to use in the World of Chel.
ONES seems like the next step for a new player to jump into online play. They have the ability to try new things and get used to the controls with little to no consequences. Other than getting scored on and losing, however the games are super short so even if you are getting your butt kicked it won't last long.
Threes Arcade, this mode might be the step that is skipped by more of the hardcore players but it is against others online with a ton of freedom. It fits the arcade bill for the people looking for that style.
Drop-ins, the step just before entering the competitive areas of the game. This will feel much more like drop-in hockey and less like pro hockey. This will probably still be the go to for most players while they wait for club members to hop on or just prefer to play some teamplay without being on a club.
EASHL, the final step for new players to hopefully achieve. If they have reached a club and started playing some more serious games of hockey then the flow of World of Chel will be working. I do feel like there is actually a sufficient amount of modes to guide players to this step, but whether or not they get stuck at a mode from frustration or just not having fun remains to be seen.
This event was mostly a focus for HUT and World of Chel, the previous event I got more hands on with Be a GM and Be a Pro so I didn't include it in this. My HUT opinions are of that of an extremely casual player and while I think some of the new changes plus additions might get me into the mode more, it most likely won't be enough to pull me into becoming more serious at this time. Take that with a grain of salt.
I wasn't entirely sure if I should make this post as it doesn't necessarily contain any new information for you guys, but some of you might have been interested on my thoughts for NHL 19.
Please keep the feedback and questions coming! I constantly check my twitter and these forums to see what the community is thinking and I will continue to relay those suggestions and opinions directly to the developers.
Thanks for taking the time to read this ridiculously long recap,
EA NHL Gamechanger
Tonyferelli | NHL Gamechanger | twitch.tv/tonyferelli
Post edited by EA_Roger on