With NHL 23’s release fast approaching, EA invited MP1st to be part of a media event where we were given early access to the hockey sim’s info, as well as attend a roundtable interview to talk to the devs at EA Sports! Loads of questions were asked about the decision for this year’s cover athletes, line brawls, next-gen version differences, and more.
Note: Questions asked were from different media publications that attended the roundtable Q&A.
Q: Why did you decide upon a dual cover athlete this year?
Sean Ramjagsingh (VP/GM EA Sports): Trevor and Sarah really are pioneering a more expressive and inclusive future of the sport. With Trevor pulling off never before seen moves in the real world NHL in real life action. Inspiring the next generation of hockey players and hockey fans.With Sarah, first female on the cover of an NHL game, symbolizes our commitment to a more diverse and inclusive future of the sport. I think having both of them together is all symbolic of what we believe that hockey is greater together which is represented of our feature set.
Q: What are you proud about the most regarding the changes in franchise mode this year?
Mike Inglehart (Creative Director): Custom franchise is a great new addition to the series, we’ve taken something and put the power in the players hand. So people can take the mode and build exactly the way they want to play. I think people consume games very differently these days, we all have different amounts of time that we can dedicate to gaming. Previously, you would have to commit to an 82-game schedule and get through. Maybe you don’t have the time to do that but now you can customize that mode. If you want to play as few as five games during a season you can do that and take full ownership. Obviously, creating some of the cool stuff from the past, the original six partnering that with the custom roster from last year. There truly are endless opportunities with the mode, and I think it’s the ultimate franchise mode that people can take advantage of.
Q: Now with a year more of experience with the Frostbite engine, what improved or new things have you been able to do with it?
Clement Kwong (Lead Producer): Year One was just about getting Frostbite and the big lift in visual quality and the tie that really brings the entire game. This year, Year Two we want to be more focused and lean into what Frostbite is able to deliver in terms of engine.Really focus on creating the most immersive experience that we have ever seen. Everything from the presentation package, to the crowd atmosphere, to even things like the Stanley Cup celebration. All of the content creators were really excited about the immersion they were able to extend through from game to game.
Q: Why Zegras on the Cover?
Sean Ramjagsingh: He represents the next generation of hockey players and hockey fans; especially in this TikTok generation I think he is made for our current and future fans. The skill level that he possesses of an upcoming future superstar and key player for the league going forward. The stuff that he is pulling off in real-world NHL games that literally have never been seen before and changing what authenticity means for the game, and for us as developers of the game. Taking inspiration from players like Trevor that are pushing the limits and pushing us to figure out new ways to implement new levels of authenticity in our game and give players the opportunity to represent those moves in our product.
- Related Reading: NHL 23 New Features Showcased in New Gameplay Trailer
Q: How did you get Zegras flip into the game? Players Tried doing it in NHL 22.
Clement Kwong: The pool of exciting young talent coming through and the highlight reels. Last year we put in the lacrosse move, we built on that this year. We made it more accessible in terms of giving Trevor his own superstar X-Factor ability. Meaning that he is more efficient at pulling it off and players have an easier time pulling it off with the controls. It was something we definitely wanted to challenge our players to recreate in the game and as soon as I saw that we knew we had to recreate in our game.
Q: Are there any gameplay or rule changes in the way that you now have mixed teams (Men and Women’s Hockey teams) in HUT?
Clement Kwong: It was something we had to really assess and look at what it means to bring women’s teams to the game. Short of it is, there aren’t specific rule changes we have adapted to have a women’s team in HUT this year with an exception of fighting. That is really grounded in the authenticity of the game, specifically in women’s hockey there is no fighting. That is what we standby, that is what we grounded our decision for the authenticity rules of the game. Even from a ratings perspective it’s all done on the same scale, a 94 rated David for example is the same as a Hilary Knight rated at 94. We really made the decision to let the skills of these players and the strengths and weaknesses play through so that they can really play into how our players build their HUT team.
Q: Will all women be released into HUT at launch?
Mike Inglehart: HUT mode itself events throughout the course of the season, we have a live event cycle. Just like in previous years we have different events and release cycles over the course of the year. Women will be in the game with what you saw with the X-Factor Edition Women’s HUT Choice Pack is there in the beginning. They are part of the experience from the get go but expect to see surprises and changes during the live event cycle through the course of the product cycle year.
Q: Will the camera shake for Away opponents when the crowd is loud?
Mike Inglehart: It’s a great idea, we don’t have any camera shake that we have added this year. The crowd itself is going to play a massive part in the experience. I think it’s really going to affect the energy and emotion. It’s definitely something I will write down after this and take away as we go forward with the franchise. I think the crowd is a very good surprise that I think people are going to enjoy. I think we did a good job thrusting people into the arena, taking you from the couch to that stadium seat. It is probably justified that the camera should shake given some of the reactions. But all in all I think it’s going to shake up the emotion and energy you feel, and really make the game more compulsive and bring you back to those big moments that we crafted and taken a lot of pride in this year.
Q: Could you recap on the improvements being made to EASHL? It’s my favorite mode.
Mike Inglehart: For this year the real focus we had was the cross-platform matchmaking. We can always add new features to every mode, every single year we spend on the game. I think it is important to take a step back and look at the foundation of the mode and what’s needed to set it up for the future. This feature in cross platform matchmaking was highly sought after for a long time and it was time to finally answer that bell and bring that forward. Without that, we can’t make the progress we want to make. We’ve put all of our energy into that, we want to have that there, so people can have a better experience overall. That sets us up for the future so we can now invest more into the mode, build it out, add some more breath of depth but we needed to start with cross-platform matchmaking and finally bring that to the forefront within the mode.
Q: You mentioned Shiny Gear, such as Helmets and Gloves. Does this mean custom Teams are able to add a shiny finish to Helmets in the Creation Zone?
Mike Inglehart: You’ll have access to the materials within creation zones. Obviously it’s going to be represented with some of the authentic teams within the NHL. There are surprises within that creation zone for you to take advantage of. IT is something that is part of the game, it is not going anywhere. I’m not sure how big it is going to grow. We tried to take all of those quirks of the league and make them available to people so they can truly express themselves the way they want to. The clubs you create within the world are your own brand and your own expression and we want to keep filling that basket with as many things going forward to give you that ability to be exactly who you want to be as a team.
Q: Will there be any Russian and Belarusian teams in the game?
Clement Kwong: We’ve removed the Russian and Belarusian teams in NHL 22, and that’s based on what happened in the real IHF competition where both of those countries were removed. We are here talking about a video game but are still very much aware of the ongoing conflict. And as a team here at EA, we very much stand in solidarity with Ukraine.
Q: Is it possible to play with teams from Europe, especially from Germany?
Clement Kwong: Yes, that hasn’t changed.
Q: Have you been able to implement any supportive functions to assist for example in disconnect cases? Or perhaps a separate broadcast mode for streaming purposes?
Mike Inglehart: In terms of broadcast mode, it’s something that we know that is desirable out there from leagues that run their competitive circuits in competitive leagues. It’s not something that we have this year but it is something on the list for the future as we go forward. We want to be able to provide those groups with the ability to create quality broadcasts. In terms of competitive gaming obviously we want to make sure people are incentivized to play and finish games. We don’t want toxic behaviors to ruin the online experience. It’s a topic we have discussed a lot this year, there are more conversations to happen. We are considering lots of different angles to improve players’ integrity online and we are going to look at that and address it in the years ahead of us.
Q: I see the Hartford Whalers Jersey, will reverse retro jerseys return again?
Clement Kwong: Last year we had the NHL reverse retro campaign, we had all the authentic jerseys. Those are still in the game. We always look to partner with Adidas and NHL to make sure we are as authentic as possible when it comes to equipment and gear. At this time we don’t have any plans to add new jerseys.
Q: Can you start your career from the beginning and not like from CHL (LIIGA)?
Mike Inglehart: Currently for this year the process of the game is the same as what it was last year. We added some small additions. The mode itself is largely intact from what you have been able to play and enjoy in the past. That path is similar to what you have experienced in similar years.
Q: Are there any notable differences between the Gen5 and Gen4?
Mike Inglehart: The big differences are the visual differences with the exception of the player visors, the improvements to the player models. The lighting changes, the improvements to the ice and the wear in the stadiums. Those tre the specific things in Gen5 this year; the rest of the stuff you see are on both platforms. Just some key art changes we are taking advantage of Gen5 console for 23.
Q: What updates have you included for winning puck battles?
Mike Inglehart: One of the big improvements this year is what we have done with the poke check with gameplay tuning will help in those scenarios. We actually have now put those forces in the poke check, being able to knife the puck forward in the NHL or any game of hockey is a tactic, it’s something you can take advantage of. If you can actually lance the puck if you will with the tip of the stick on the poke check, you will be able to push that puck out of the corner if its getting caught up in between legs of players battling and being pinned against the boards.
The last chance puck movement helps in this area too. When pucks are loose, you have the ability to dive and even make a great pass from the corner before that traffic comes in and becomes congested. Both the poke check tune we have done and the last chance puck movement should help with those congested battles in the corners.
Q: How has Covid-19 affected the development of EA Sports NHL 23?
Sean Ramjagsingh: Covid has definitely impacted our development. When we first moved into working from home there was a significant impact. Our team was super resilient in terms of figuring out overnight. Throughout the pandemic we have learned a lot. We learned to collaborate better and be more efficient with our communication. Now with NHL 23 our studio has been opening up a little bit so we had the opportunity to have proper collaboration sessions, proper gameplay sessions where we can review. We can come in the morning, we can review the build, we can identify the changes we want to make. We can review again and do it like 3 to 4 times in a single day.
Q: Will NHL 23 have a ratings hotline akin to Madden 23?
Sean Ramjagsingh: Right now we don’t have plans for a rating hotline. We all have our own opinions on who is the most contentious players would be. Right now there are no plans for a ratings hotline for the NHL.
Q: Will the AI implement these new PP strategies as well?
Mike Inglehart: The AI will use the new special teams formations and things we have in the game. I’d say as well the part I spoke to in the presentation as well the x-factor tendencies is playing a part as well. We chose some high frequency things to attack this year, passing is obviously something that happens a lot in the game. You are going to see the AI spring themselves for stretch passes, getting behind your defenders and in certain cases going to feel the body a lot more, it’s going to be harder to penetrate over the blue line when you are attacking. It’s an area we want to keep looking at, obviously AI is a huge part of any game. We have made some improvements this year and especially by attacking passing, you are going to notice some definite changes that surprise you.
Q: With immediate rewards in HUT, will there still be a weekly release for some rewards or will all of them be based on when you achieve them?
Mike Inglehart: In terms of HUT rivals playlists, that stuff is going to be immediate. It’s really about focusing about the weekday events and trying to improve the experience there for players. There will still be weekly awards, so there are short and long term incentives you are striving towards. It’s not everything immediately at one time, but there will be short term and long term rewards so you have that compliment of both over the course of the cycle.
Q: How will NHL 23 handle the Arizona Coyotes playing in an NCAA arena?
Mike Inglehart: We do have them in a smaller rink for NHL 23. It’s not the replica rink that they are playing in real life. We wanted to make sure we are staying as authentic as possible. They will be in a smaller venue for NHL 23 and personally, I hope to get down to Arizona to watch Buffalo play there this year. I think it’s going to be quite interesting.
Q: Why hasn’t the NHL series added line brawls yet?
Sean Ramjagsingh: If you tie back to authenticity, in today’s games, so much focus on the skill and the creativity of the players. The fighting and the line brawls you see less and less of every single year. However, I will say that in the EA Sports Hockey League the occasional line brawl will still break out.
Q: Does the ice wear impact gameplay?
Mike Inglehart: There’s a small amount of friction that affects the puck. It’s not anything that really alters the game too much. We didn’t want to have to retune the entire game based on that puck friction because it affects a lot of things. ITs a small impact, you aren’t going to notice it.
Q: Are there any changes or improvements planned for post-launch as a live service update?
Clement Kwong: Aside from cross platform matchmaking coming in November we don’t have major feature updates coming your way. We will be fully focused on delivering on NHL 24.
Q: Can we customize our HUT teams? Like goalie gear or player helmets?
Mike Inglehart: Not this year in NHL 23. It is something that we are looking into the future. We understand there is a brand in HUT to be unlocked as well. As we look at the ability with how expression plays a part of all games these days. It is definitely something we are talking about and have it on the list for the franchise going forward.
NHL 23 is scheduled to release on October 14, 2022, on the PS4, PS5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X/S. The game is now available for pre-order on EA’s official website.