By: Matthew Rondina
WGN was able to get the inside edge on NHL 19 with William Ho, Creative Director for the series. We discussed big changes from NHL ONES, RPM Skating tech and the impact all these changes will have on the pro scene.
Read on to see what’s in store for this season!
What can you tell our readers about the new NHL ONES mode?
William: ONES was intended to be the ultimate Winter Festival pond hockey tournament, and we wanted it to be a place where players could go online and have this sort of soft landing pad to and compete by themselves. Allowing them to learn their skills and practice, all without having to cooperate with teammates, it’s quite a simple, fun mode.
What we found after we implemented ONES, it’s actually quite a competitive mode and a very deep mode. There are tons of different strategies, every goal counts. So you might want to be a great dangler or you might just park yourself in a slot and go for deflections and rebounds. What we found is it’s actually quite an addictive mode, it’s fun, it has a lot of depth to it.
It’s great to see THREES is making a return, what are some of the improvements coming to NHL 19?
William: THREES was a great experience offline or cooperating with a friend, but now for people who want to be more competitive with THREES, we’ve added a THREES drop in mode. You can be matched up with the best THREES players around the world, so that’s fantastic.
Also, to expand on that is we do have this new ecosystem called World of CHEL, and it’s meant to consolidate all of our online team play modes. So if you want to take your created player who’s all customized visually and customized with attributes and suits your style and skill, you take that created player into multiple modes.
You take them into ONES, you can take them into THREES drop in, take them into EA Sports Hockey League, we’ve even introduced a new mode for you to hone your team skills. A mode called Pro Am where you can lock to any position you want through a series of challenges.
How do you balance realism and arcade-like play style in your design of NHL 19?
William: We believe that realism and playability are one and the same thing.
With the addition of RPM tech and revising our skating completely from the ground up for NHL 19, we’ve achieved enhanced realism and animations that really show off the athleticism of today’s best skaters in the NHL.
We made them more responsive so that people don’t get the impression that they’re fighting physics or animations, actually being able to give our skaters more agility. Skaters like McDavid and Larkin and Barzal, but also makes all skaters more responsive for better game play.
How do you feel these changes in gameplay, throughout the entire package, might affect the NHL esports scene?
William: We’re pretty thrilled with the NHL Gaming World Championships that went really, really well this year. We were thrilled about the level of competition in that tournament, but I feel that with the enhanced skating, the enhanced agility, we’ve given our players more tools to compete with.
There’s a lot more room for creativity, more strategies for competitors, like the World Championship participants, to just raise their game.
Which gameplay mode enhancements or changes should competitive players be aware of going into NHL 19?
William: I think what our most dedicated fans are going to notice is that there’s a real emphasis on the possession game and on beating defenders with agility.
We’ve addressed puck pick ups from last year, there was a conversation about that, it’s a non-issue now. So now with the enhanced agility, the enhanced ability to play a possession game, I think you’re going see kind of chess matches that way.
Also, with traits and specialties, you’re going to see a lot of strategies with how players are equipping their created players. There’s dozens of different traits and specialties to experiment with, create your own favourite load outs, to match your performance and match it to your particular style and skill.
What are some of the changes incoming to Be A Pro mode?
William: What we’ve done is we’ve taken the traits and specialties from World of CHEL, but also put them into Be A Pro. As you level up your character, you earn trait points to spend on skills that are ranged in skill trees, so that you have that extra layer of customization and extra way of evolving your character over the course of the season.
So it’s almost like an RPG for hockey?
William: I actually love that phrase. We do have RPG level of depth and strategy in a sports game.
NHL Legends, how’s that going to affect Ultimate Team and what other modes is it going to touch upon?
William: We’re so thrilled to have Legends in NHL 19, with an agreement with the NHL Alumni Association. We’re really thrilled to bring them to multiple modes so in Play Now, you’re able to select from a number of Alumni teams, pre made for you so you’re playing with players from different teams, different eras, right away.
We’ve added legends to our Pro AM Mode, where you can practice your skills against active NHL players, legends alone but also multi generational teams, like Wayne Gretzky on the same squad as Connor McDavid, that’s really awesome.
We’ve also added over 200 players to hockey ultimate team so that you can collect all these legends and put them on your fantasy team along with active players.
Do you think the Nintendo Switch could ever see the EA Sports NHL treatment? Hockey on the go would be great!
William: Well you never know… NHL 19 is coming out for PlayStation 4 and Xbox One but we’ll see about other platforms in the future.
Anything else you wish share with our readers about NHL 19?
William: I think with our improvements to skating, our improvements to hitting, the addition of legends, enhancements to Be A Pro mode, we have a complete overhaul of scouting in our franchise mode that makes it even more realistic for fans of being a GM.
I really believe that NHL 19 is one of the biggest leaps that NHL has ever made.
A special thanks to William and the EA Sports NHL 19 team for taking the time to chat all things chel.
NHL 19 arrives on Xbox One and Playstation 4 on September 14, 2018, game on!
About the Author: Matthew Rondina
Matthew has been involved in all things gaming since the 8-bit era. He is a veteran of the video game and tech industry who has been passionate about technology and gaming for over 20 years. Follow Matthew’s gaming adventures on twitter and join in on the fun!