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Let's Talk: The EA NHL evolution (1991 - 2019)

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EA_Aljo
3033 posts EA Community Manager
edited April 29
Hey, everyone!

This video is a couple of years old, but got us thinking about the evolution of the series including our favorite NHL titles and moments from the past.

Let's hear about your favorite experiences with the history of the EA NHL series! This is not limited to only in-game experiences. For example, has EASHL helped you stay connected with friends in other parts of the world?

Enjoy the video and thank you Video Games Evolution!

That said, this will be the final Let's Talk for NHL 21. Thank you for all the great discussions over the last several months. There's been some fantastic feedback that we've passed on to the dev team on a weekly basis. While not everything we discuss within the forums may make it into the game, the feedback we receive from you all is heavily referenced for development discussions. These discussions help get the conversation started about what you'd like to see for potential changes in future NHL titles.

We look forward to bringing back the Let's talk discussions in the future. Thanks for all the input, everyone!
Post edited by EA_Blueberry on

Replies

  • Sega82mega
    3780 posts Member
    edited April 30
    It's been a long road...

    So interesting to see.

    You get some perspective when you see how things was back in the 90's.

    Looks to me like it was first in 97 things started to be some what like hockey, I also saw the first 'cross crease' there...

    I think the developers from 93 had to answer alot of questions to the community. Today when everything looks so good - you ask yourself the question - why did we even bother to play this game back in the days? Didn't look so fun/realistic.. Hehe..

    I think you could see pretty clear when we switch from one generation to another.. That makes me excited for 22..ofc.

    I have never been so social when it comes to the online side of the game, no direct eashl club or so... But it's the last 2(?)years here on this community I have started to get involved with other people.

    Even though it sometimes can be abit tough 'tone' out here and between us all - despite that I have enjoyed my time here, thanks to the game. And I feel connected to many people - some more - and some less.

    But I like to have this all in my life - from the game serie - to this board, were we can interact.

    * I just have to say, it must be a good sign that were now able to show videos and talk around areas in the game were we find problems, back in 93-98, or something like that.. It must have felt hopeless, like it wasen't even necessary to talk around the game to make it more realistic - the graphic and the gameplay was too far away to even care for the same stuff as we today can talk about. Thanks to the progress of the technologi.

    Thanks for this year 'lets talk!'

    Post edited by Sega82mega on
  • My first NHL game ever was NHLPA Hockey on the Sega Gensis. I still remember the first time I ever played it.

    My next game was NHL 94 - the first time we had one-timers. I poured countless hours in to that game, and the subsequent NHL 95 when we were first allowed to hit people over the boards and through the glass.

    Fast forward to NHL 97 on the PC. This was a revolution in my eyes based solely on the presentation aspect. I remember being in a mall in Edmonton - late 1996 where a computer store had a display set up showing NHL 97 running on crazy graphics cards (at the time). The biggest impression I got from seeing NHL 97 for the first time was hearing rock music play in between whistles, combined with new camera angles to give the game more of a TV feel. Of course, this was also the first time I witnessed the NHL game in 3D. This was huge.

    NHL 97, 98, 99, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004 (THE BEST), 2005 and finally '06 were all played religiously with my PC. Online leagues (Rokhed anyone?) customization (NHL-Depot.net anyone?) and gameplay were great during these years.

    The biggest time sink for me was customizing audio. I spent HOURS editing music, adding echo and crowd noises (Metallica's S&M crowd noise was perfect). Then, having to decompress the 'ditties' file and re-pack it up in order to have it work in-game. Man.. those were the days.

    I think it was finally around NHL 2004 where we had folders on our PC's where we could simply place MP3's. It was fantastic - folders named 'off-play' and 'penalty-home', 'goal-away' so you could really provide real-world music for real-world scenarios.

    NHL '07 was the huge Next-Gen jump with new graphics and lighting. I played primarily on the x360. It was a very stripped down version of the game due to being the first release on next-gen (sound familiar?)

    NHL '08 finally introduced the skill stick. What a huge game-changer. I feel this altered hockey games forever. NHL 2k attempted to re-create the skill stick, but it never had the fidelity and 'feeling' of EA's mechanic.

    NHL '09 - the beginning of EASHL.

    NHL 10 saw our EASHL team play almost 1,200 games. Probably our most time-invested release.

    NHL 11 was our first venture in to physics based player interactions which was a lot of fun. Added quite a bit of nuance to the game. I think our team peaked at around 800 games played.

    NHL 12 was the first title I was invited to play early at the EA studios. Such a great experience and the game itself continued to evolve the physics engine making it 'feel' better in your hands.

    NHL 13 - GM Connected. Great Idea - poor execution. The only reason this mode wasn't played as often was due to poor-performing menus. It was absurdly slow.

    Who can forget NHL 15? LMAO

    NHL 16 saw the return of EASHL after being absent in NHL 15. That was a great relief.

    NHL 17 saw our first 'public beta' which allowed us to play in the summer to help provide feedback for online modes. I feel this was generally successful and laid the groundwork for the 'betas' we get today.

    Yea it's been a wild ride. So many NHL games.

    I sometimes feel for the younger folks who didn't grow up being entrenched in the NHL series while it evolved from 2d, to 3d, to being (somewhat) physics based. I feel experiencing the evolution of the NHL series has really helped me continue to be a decent player and stay competitive online.

    I guess it's also why I seem to 'defend' the game so much - I really do see the strides taken year after year and I'm always so impressed at what is added to the game. It does bug me when some people don't appreciate these changes and say things like 'the game is a copy-paste every year'. It clearly isn't and anyone really paying attention wouldn't say that. Sure - there are issues that persist year-after-year but you have to take in to account just how complicated it is to create these games.

    I am hopeful for the future of NHL games. I would be over-the-moon if customization for music were to make a return. I may be in the minority here, but I feel being able to liven up the atmosphere with music really goes a long way in adding longevity to these titles.

    I'd also add that one of the biggest issues that should be addressed in this game are the menus. There are too many transitions and too many assets that are web-heavy making the menu speed reliant on a user's internet connection.

    Although I understand that it's hard to not have a menu in a game these days that doesn't rely on assets hosted on the web, there are games such as MLB The Show which seem to really have quick and responsive menus while simultaneously pulling content from the internet.

    If EA can make the menus really snappy - I feel it would drive more players to play more often.

    Combine that with some A.I. fixes and maybe an overhaul of the puck physics and the way it interacts with player models to be more realistic - I dunno - EA could be just a few design decisions away from being the perfect hockey game.



  • What a great trip down the memory lane. Had to zip on a beer the same time I was reading.. Hehe.

    "hit people over the boards and through the glass." I remember so much.. And break the glass with a shot.. First times it happen.. You just sat with the mouth open.. Amazed over how cool it was to be alive and get the opportunitie to play hockey on videogame. Especially this cool game!

    But booy.. What a memory you got... I dont know what happen to my memory...

    ... Cheers! ... 😎🙄🤔😬😏
  • Sega82mega wrote: »
    What a great trip down the memory lane. Had to zip on a beer the same time I was reading.. Hehe.

    "hit people over the boards and through the glass." I remember so much.. And break the glass with a shot.. First times it happen.. You just sat with the mouth open.. Amazed over how cool it was to be alive and get the opportunitie to play hockey on videogame. Especially this cool game!

    But booy.. What a memory you got... I dont know what happen to my memory...

    ... Cheers! ... 😎🙄🤔😬😏

    If only we could enjoy some beers together! Fingers crossed for cross-console play for '22!
  • Sega82mega wrote: »
    What a great trip down the memory lane. Had to zip on a beer the same time I was reading.. Hehe.

    "hit people over the boards and through the glass." I remember so much.. And break the glass with a shot.. First times it happen.. You just sat with the mouth open.. Amazed over how cool it was to be alive and get the opportunitie to play hockey on videogame. Especially this cool game!

    But booy.. What a memory you got... I dont know what happen to my memory...

    ... Cheers! ... 😎🙄🤔😬😏

    If only we could enjoy some beers together! Fingers crossed for cross-console play for '22!

    Hehe Yup.. For one thing .. And I can definitely see myself visit Canada some day in the future.. So we might be able to enjoy the life toe to toe.. Show me your Canada! 😉👊
  • EA_Blueberry
    4639 posts EA Community Manager

    NHL 97, 98, 99, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004 (THE BEST), 2005 and finally '06 were all played religiously with my PC. Online leagues (Rokhed anyone?) customization (NHL-Depot.net anyone?) and gameplay were great during these years.

    The biggest time sink for me was customizing audio. I spent HOURS editing music, adding echo and crowd noises (Metallica's S&M crowd noise was perfect). Then, having to decompress the 'ditties' file and re-pack it up in order to have it work in-game. Man.. those were the days.

    I think it was finally around NHL 2004 where we had folders on our PC's where we could simply place MP3's. It was fantastic - folders named 'off-play' and 'penalty-home', 'goal-away' so you could really provide real-world music for real-world scenarios.

    I take it custom music is a huge wish list item for you then? Anything else you remember outside of the sound customization for 2004 that really made it stand out?
  • jrago73
    692 posts Member
    @KidShowtime1867

    We have a remarkably similar history in terms of timeline and activity.

    t9e5u4jf1qkg.jpg

  • NHL 97, 98, 99, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004 (THE BEST), 2005 and finally '06 were all played religiously with my PC. Online leagues (Rokhed anyone?) customization (NHL-Depot.net anyone?) and gameplay were great during these years.

    The biggest time sink for me was customizing audio. I spent HOURS editing music, adding echo and crowd noises (Metallica's S&M crowd noise was perfect). Then, having to decompress the 'ditties' file and re-pack it up in order to have it work in-game. Man.. those were the days.

    I think it was finally around NHL 2004 where we had folders on our PC's where we could simply place MP3's. It was fantastic - folders named 'off-play' and 'penalty-home', 'goal-away' so you could really provide real-world music for real-world scenarios.

    I take it custom music is a huge wish list item for you then? Anything else you remember outside of the sound customization for 2004 that really made it stand out?

    Oh man - any chance I get to announce I want custom music, I will take it.

    That said - it's clear that there are limitations to this on new consoles. MLB The Show has even removed Sounds of the game from the PS5 version and it was not included in the Xbox version.

    But yes - for the love of all that is holy.. if there is a slim chance custom music is possible, that would be such a fantastic addition to the series.

    Gameplay wise, there isn't anything in NHL 2004 that says 'sim hockey'. The only element I might like to see in today's game is the icons next to a player that indicate a hot/cold streak, whether the player was a sniper or a physical presence - it would be neat to see a modern take on that:

    I3LRmTd.png


    That said - presentation had some nice little things it did. It focused on players post-whistle whereas right now it seems there's an emphasis on the camera showing the environment.



    Goal celebrations were interesting:



    And presenting all 3-stars was a nice little touch:

  • jrago73 wrote: »
    @KidShowtime1867

    We have a remarkably similar history in terms of timeline and activity.

    t9e5u4jf1qkg.jpg

    Thats old-school!

    Imagine gather a couple of old people, to play a tournament with that game.

    Beers, snacks, to end the night with music and chit-chat.

  • NHL 97, 98, 99, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004 (THE BEST), 2005 and finally '06 were all played religiously with my PC. Online leagues (Rokhed anyone?) customization (NHL-Depot.net anyone?) and gameplay were great during these years.

    The biggest time sink for me was customizing audio. I spent HOURS editing music, adding echo and crowd noises (Metallica's S&M crowd noise was perfect). Then, having to decompress the 'ditties' file and re-pack it up in order to have it work in-game. Man.. those were the days.

    I think it was finally around NHL 2004 where we had folders on our PC's where we could simply place MP3's. It was fantastic - folders named 'off-play' and 'penalty-home', 'goal-away' so you could really provide real-world music for real-world scenarios.

    I take it custom music is a huge wish list item for you then? Anything else you remember outside of the sound customization for 2004 that really made it stand out?

    Oh man - any chance I get to announce I want custom music, I will take it.

    That said - it's clear that there are limitations to this on new consoles. MLB The Show has even removed Sounds of the game from the PS5 version and it was not included in the Xbox version.

    But yes - for the love of all that is holy.. if there is a slim chance custom music is possible, that would be such a fantastic addition to the series.

    Gameplay wise, there isn't anything in NHL 2004 that says 'sim hockey'. The only element I might like to see in today's game is the icons next to a player that indicate a hot/cold streak, whether the player was a sniper or a physical presence - it would be neat to see a modern take on that:

    I3LRmTd.png


    That said - presentation had some nice little things it did. It focused on players post-whistle whereas right now it seems there's an emphasis on the camera showing the environment.



    Goal celebrations were interesting:



    And presenting all 3-stars was a nice little touch:


    Yeah soo cool.. It's the little details that mather..

    Not everything is better now.
  • jrago73 wrote: »
    @KidShowtime1867

    We have a remarkably similar history in terms of timeline and activity.

    t9e5u4jf1qkg.jpg

    That's friggin awesome! Glad to see some real OG's around here!
  • TTZ_Dipsy
    496 posts Member
    edited May 1
    My household had 96 and my grandfather had 94 - both played relatively the same but it was so fun to win the cup as either Hartford or the Red Wings.

    I rented either 2000 or 2001 from Rogers Video and trounced my dad 24-12 and he refused to play me in video games since.

    My sister got me HITZ (I think 2001) and I played that religiously, 110%+ completion. My goalie Art Vandelay was unstoppable, as was my created pro Solid Snake (mad props to Cosmo Kramer aka "011010" for setting me up all those times).

    2005 was a laugh with big head mode and winning/losing a LOT of Runescape gold betting my friends in matches.

    2010 - played this with a few buddies at a party. On the mic was a kid who thought he was good... sounded like a bumblebee he kept making wiord buzzing sounds. Comeback of the century -- it was the start of our EASHL team "The Teeter Todderz".

    Fast forward to now - we don't play as much but still dominate when we do. I miss the good ol days.
    Post edited by TTZ_Dipsy on
  • Sega82mega
    3780 posts Member
    edited May 1
    wasn't it more of an innocent time back then?

    Things wasen't so serious? No money involved.. You were happy just being able to play video games online with other people and friends.

    There was no 'e-sport' or anything like that.

    I feel today it's a much more competitive society, were everything we do is more a question of life and death then to 'just' have fun.

    But I dont know, I might be wrong here..
  • TTZ_Dipsy
    496 posts Member
    Winning=fun. Everyone knows that
  • Sega82mega
    3780 posts Member
    edited May 1
    TTZ_Dipsy wrote: »
    Winning=fun. Everyone knows that

    I agree. I would not play much if I never could win a game.

    But isnt it 'more then just winning' today.

    First you got a rank, diffrent divisions, then you have rewards, comp.seasons..and the GWC... and you could even make a career as a gamer.

    I dont remember it being so serious.. I had a time were I was at least top 50 in the 'world rank', but I dont know, it was just a straight ranking list, nothing more, nothing less. I took it serious, but I feel it's on a whole nother level today. People invest money, time - soul and heart into this 'lifestyle'.
    I didn't even knew what a 'router' was when I was in my peak.

    Feels like the gaming industry has exploded, grown out to be a pretty big deal.. Perhaps not so strange, you just have to see the difference between NHL 93 and NHL 21..it's not even comparable, two diffrent things.

    Well well... Just some thoughts.. 😋
  • Efbomb
    174 posts Member
    This thread makes me sad.

    It makes me sad when I think of all the guys I grew up watching from the 90’s (the greatest era of hockey, by the way) that I can’t make for my Alumni Teams because I HAVE to assign a play by play name and their name isn’t available.

    Guys like:
    Turgeon, Damphousse, Ciccarelli, Verbeek, Kariya, Tocchet, Ronning, Dineen, Craven, Weight, Guerin, Janney, Smolinski, Drury, Conroy, Rafalski, Weinrich, Gill, Sweeney, Wesley, etc, etc.

    I really hope CAT gets an overhaul and some more names are added. Not only the ones above, but most especially European names.

    Names like:
    Fedorov, Kovalev, Yashin, Zubov, Zhamnov, Samsonov, Kamensky, Zhitnik, Afinogenov, Sykora, Nedved, Hamrlik, Reichel, Rucinsky, Klima, Kaberle, Sturm, Hecht, Ozolinsh, Zholtok, Bondra, Demitra, Satan, Palffy, Stumpel, Zednik, Khristich, Sandstrom, Norstrom, Dahlen, Holmstrom, Renberg, etc, etc.

    So many more names I’d like to add, but this is all I could think of off the top of my head.
  • Jagavekov
    154 posts Member
    I started with NHLPA hockey 93 on Sega. NHL 94 was and is a masterpiece, and is a big part of the reason I have been so involved with the sport for over 25 years. I've spent at least some time with every EA NHL game since then. I have fond memories of playing all those mid 90s games, especially 94 and 96. I played Nhl 97 - 99 on Playstation/Pc a decent amount, but much preferred the NHL Powerplay games (and to a lesser extent Faceoff).

    I remembered hating 2000-2003, I remember a lot of gimmicky arcade features being put in. The 2k games at this point (and Nhl Championship 2000) blew the EA games away in my opinion, and I spent TONS of time playing them instead of the EA games. In the 2k games play felt organic, when you scored you felt like you actually beat the goalie, rather than executing a high percentage money goal.

    2004 was good, while it had some gimmicky and arcade aspects it felt way more like real hockey and was difficult. I remember that Nhl 2005 and 2006 were bad, with more stupid arcade features. Nhl 2k5 was miles better.

    The skill stick in 07 changed everything. While the game itself leaved a lot to be desired, the feeling of controlling the puck with the right stick was just amazing and mind-blowing and is fantastic to this day.

    The games after that honestly all kind of blend in to one another for me. The skating was improved at some point, I forget when. I remember loving the create a play feature, but that was taken out. There was a lot of promotion of AI learning at some point but I don't see any evidence of that even 10 years later. The slightly better neutral zone pressure by the AI is one good thing this year.

    EASHL is cool, but the gameplay issues prevent me from enjoying it as much as I should, and the world of chel stuff, silly outfits, and dancing do absolutely nothing for me, and actually make me not want to play the game. I usually give franchise a shot every year, simming through regular seasons and playing playoffs, but between all the broken and glitched aspects of the mode and the mind numbingly boring gameplay against the AI, that doesn't last long.

    Looking at the features list for all the recent games, there is a lot of fluff and a lot of things that don't work as intended. 3 on 3, celebrations, special dekes, etc are all fluff. They promoted all these improvements to goalies, but they fall for the same short side glitches that they have for decades, and rebound control is a joke. The dss is a great idea but doesn't work all that great, considering how perfect you have to be with it to block a pass or separate the puck from the puck carrier, yet grazing a guys laces results in a tripping penalty.

    The skating is still very unrealistic, the amount of stopping and starting and wiggling and backward skating and lateral movement is absurd. Agility and acceleration need to be toned WAY down, it feels like they are wearing cleats not ice skates a lot of the time. Hitting is not great, if they hold out the puck on their backhand and glide they are invincible, and most checks into the boards and up being boarding. Board play is the same it was since NHL 2K3, loose pucks and puck scrums are nonexistent. Player separation and differentiation other than speed is nonexistent, I think we have pretty much the same player attributes as NHLPA hockey 93.

    I guess I thought by now we would have more realistic skating, more of a "loose puck" feeling, more varied ways to score goals, and more physicality. With the focus on milking every penny out of the customer base through microtransactions with minimal focus on making the game more authentic and deep, I am doubtful any of the things I am looking for will happen, but we will see.
  • Sega82mega
    3780 posts Member
    Efbomb wrote: »
    This thread makes me sad.

    It makes me sad when I think of all the guys I grew up watching from the 90’s (the greatest era of hockey, by the way) that I can’t make for my Alumni Teams because I HAVE to assign a play by play name and their name isn’t available.

    Guys like:
    Turgeon, Damphousse, Ciccarelli, Verbeek, Kariya, Tocchet, Ronning, Dineen, Craven, Weight, Guerin, Janney, Smolinski, Drury, Conroy, Rafalski, Weinrich, Gill, Sweeney, Wesley, etc, etc.

    I really hope CAT gets an overhaul and some more names are added. Not only the ones above, but most especially European names.

    Names like:
    Fedorov, Kovalev, Yashin, Zubov, Zhamnov, Samsonov, Kamensky, Zhitnik, Afinogenov, Sykora, Nedved, Hamrlik, Reichel, Rucinsky, Klima, Kaberle, Sturm, Hecht, Ozolinsh, Zholtok, Bondra, Demitra, Satan, Palffy, Stumpel, Zednik, Khristich, Sandstrom, Norstrom, Dahlen, Holmstrom, Renberg, etc, etc.

    So many more names I’d like to add, but this is all I could think of off the top of my head.

    Just reading thoose names give me chills. Great list of players!

    Glory days.
  • Efbomb
    174 posts Member
    edited May 3
    I stand by my statement. The 90’s were a great era. Possibly the best ever.

    Just look at the top 100 All-Time scorers. More than half of them played through the 90’s. And a few of them had careers that ended in the 90’s. Just imagine what their numbers would be like if they played today and not in the “clutch and grab” era.

    And some of the most iconic (or ugliest, depending on how you look at them) jerseys were introduced.
  • kyl_35
    149 posts Member
    I feel like I’ve been beating this horse forever and will likely never stop.

    My ideal NHL game would allow you to start your Franchise in 1994 and build your team through historical drafts. Maybe you can make Alexandre Daigle not a bust? Maybe Bure never gets traded to Florida? The selling tag for the feature could be “change history”.

    For front office activities, at certain years you could be the deciding vote on where expansion franchises go, or whether or not a salary cap is implemented.

    If this game were ever created I’d probably play it for a week straight without eating or sleeping.
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