Hardcore Gamer recently ventured out to EA’s headquarters in Redwood City, CA to get hands-on time with NHL 18 and speak with some of the minds behind the game. One such mind was NHL 18 Producer Clement Kwong, who sat down with us to provide background on what gameplay changes have been implemented, the challenge of adding a technically non-existent team to the proceedings before the season begins and why Threes is set to be a unique experience for the franchise.
[Hardcore Gamer] Can you talk about some of the new features you added this year?
[Clement Kwong] With our gameplay specifically, we wanted to make sure there was creative tools in the gameplay for users to pull off highlight reel moves. Stuff like between the legs dekes, backhand toe drags, that kind of thing. We wanted to make sure users had the opportunity to explore that within their gameplay experience. That’s what we’re calling the Creative Attack Dekes. And then also in terms of balancing that out with the defensive skill stick which has been exciting. Having the new dekes and putting in new shot lanes and passing routes gave us the opportunity to do that so I think there’s a good balance there. And obviously rounding out the gameplay feature set was being shown the AI was also using the same tools when you’re playing with them or against them, but also things like improving AI passing. They’re making smarter passes now and catching the D-men on the breakout.
And as for new modes?
We were talking about how we can bring back the couch experience from NHL 94 and we realized that 3-on-3 already existed and took that and thought “what’s the next step?” Talking about speed, skill and creativity, it’s bigger hits, more goals, being able to jump in and have fun. Then we thought about making the ice smaller and adding other exciting features and that’s how Threes came about. It’s quite exciting when you think about the number of ways you can play multiplayer, whether it’s offline, against a CPU or you playing co-op with your buddies against the CPU or just playing multiplayer. There’s a vast number of ways you can play with or against your friends this year.
To be honest, when we initially were designing that we weren’t aiming to create an eSports experience. We’ve heard people suggest that because of the pace, scoring and the smaller rink, it definitely creates more opportunities [for eSports]. So we’ll see where that leads. Hopefully we get a lot more feedback from hockey fans; it’s something that we’re waiting to see more about.
You can play Threes fairly seriously, but there’s sillier elements as well. Do you think that will make the mode a good entry point for more casual hockey fans?
The Vegas Golden Knights are the first NHL Expansion Team in years. What challenges did adding a team to NHL 18 that hasn’t yet played a game bring about?
Aside from all the leaked stuff, within our game and how our technology works there was mostly challenges there. How do we future proof ourselves for other expansions that the NHL are talking about? We ended up [allowing players] to play right off the bat with Vegas’ authentic rosters or jumping in as Vegas, but changing history, all the way to being the 32nd team, creating a fantasy team and going through the exact same process.
Franchise Mode is all about the fantasy experience. Having Vegas there opened up the door for us saying “why don’t we had a 32nd team?” Because I’m sure people will want to go through it again and draft their own team.
For devoted players who play NHL year in and year out, what’s the one feature or mode this year you think will get them the most excited?
I would hope it’s gameplay and Threes.
NHL 18 will be released on September 15 for PS4 and Xbox One. For more on the game, be sure to read our hands-on preview.