NHL 10: What's New in the EASHL

Before I get into what's new with NHL 10, I've got two quick stories about the EA Sports Hockey League which was introduced in last year's NHL 09:As recently as two weeks ago, I was still receiving requests from folks wanting an invite to be on GameSpot's official EASHL team, the...

Before I get into what's new with NHL 10, I've got two quick stories about the EA Sports Hockey League which was introduced in last year's NHL 09:

  1. As recently as two weeks ago, I was still receiving requests from folks wanting an invite to be on GameSpot's official EASHL team, the Xnmnk Mockobckars. This was despite the fact that the team basically retreated to inactive status some time in early February.
  2. Next week, EA will be hosting four of the best EASHL teams for the finals of the first EASHL Championships. Team members will get a chance to travel to EA Canada's Vancouver office to play for the glory (and the prizes) that comes with being the best virtual hockey team on the planet.

The above stories are just two examples of what has made the EASHL such a huge hit since its debut; the complete focus on making the game's players the stars (as opposed to the pros on the cover); and, perhaps more importantly, the idea of fostering an esprit de corps among players who are determined to make their team the best. If you're not impressed by the spirit of the EASHL, perhaps some numbers will convince you: According to series producer David Littman, NHL 09 reached platinum status for worldwide sales (including more than 775,000 units sold in the U.S. alone) and, of that impressive sales number, approximately 400,000 people participated in at least one EASHL game. When you add that 100,000 teams registered in last year's league, you've got a huge chunk of EASHL players.

Littman hopes those numbers increase significantly in NHL 10. To accomplish that goal, the NHL development team is focusing on improving aspects of the EASHL across the board. First and foremost is the idea of changing up how the league works in order to improve the competition. How the EASHL is organized this year is going to make a big difference in how you play it and, ultimately, your chances for success.

"What we're going to do [this year] is have monthly seasons. That all comes from just the fact that it's tough to get 40 guys to stay together for an entire year and not really play other games. We don't want other people to never play other games. And if you have a league where all that matters is how often you play...because winning percentage is part of our leaderboards [as well as] how often you play...if you only play 10 games, you can't be in the top of the leaderboard-- it's impossible. So we found teams were playing thousands of games and splitting off from each other, where a club might have two or three games being played at a time. And people kind of feel like they're not on the same team.

"So with monthly seasons, you have that bond on your team of, 'OK, we're going to win this month. We're going to win the EA Sports Hockey League this month.' I think a month is a great amount of time to have people stay together and play all the time. Maybe not every night, but a few nights a week...and be able to stay together to win that championship. And so at the end of the month...the season's over."

Monthly seasons will compact your EASHL campaign into bite-sized chunks. It will also offer the added benefit of letting folks who come to the game late (after, say, getting the game at Christmas) a chance to compete for the Cup during the next month's season. The addition of "casual" and "pro" leagues is another big switch. Though the two leagues are ostensibly identical--in that you can choose to enter your team in either skill division--the NHL team is guessing that the hardcore NHL fans will gravitate toward the higher skill of competition in the pro division, with incentives that will include more significant prizes for pro division winners than those found in the casual division. That said, your team will earn medals for finishing in the top percentages of your division, and all of your earned trophies and medals will be displayed on a brand new trophy screen.

With the obvious problem of elite teams joining casual league games and mowing down the competition, Littman said that the team--acting as league commissioner--could choose to intervene with disciplinary action in such a case. Still, for those with the skill, the as-yet-unnamed rewards for winning the pro division will hopefully make this kind of grief a minor issue.

According to Littman, NHL 10 is looking to be many things to many people. At its core, it's a sports game. Yet, it also has elements of fighting games (thanks to the new first-person fighting engine). The GM mode can be seen as a management-style game, and the EASHL and Be a Pro modes are distinctly influenced by role-playing games and massively multiplayer online games, such as World of Warcraft and the like. One particularly obvious manifestation of the RPG influence is found via equipment upgrade in NHL 10.

A hockey shop has been added to NHL 10, where you'll be able to unlock new equipment by either performing well on the ice or paying out of pocket. New equipment includes sticks, skates, gloves, and helmets. In addition to having lots of different styles to choose from--the camouflage gear is particularly strange considering you're playing on ice--this unlocked equipment will include slots to which you can attach attribute bonuses. Unlocking the green camouflage skates requires you to be promoted to the first line of your NHL team as a forward, and these skates accept attribute upgrades for ratings, such as aggressiveness, agility, speed, and more. Similarly, your sticks will include slots for improving ratings, such as face-offs, slap-shot accuracy and power, and wrist-shot accuracy and power. You can change attributes on slotted equipment at any time, though the game will also include gold equipment packages that come with maximum attributes on them--these are packages for each player type and the packages cannot be changed.

Slotted equipment should be a boon for fans who want to quickly progress their players, but my question to Littman had to do with the realism of such a system. Did he feel that this kind of artificial player boost would jibe well with the NHL's simlike gameplay?

"Real life is very similar," Littman said. "I played pro hockey for 10 years, and believe me, you get the best equipment in the world. And when, you know, you look at the sticks players use nowadays, and even if you're an amateur skating at your local rink, I guarantee you the player that bought the $300, you know, composite stick that's super light and has the perfect whip to it is getting a harder shot than the guy who uses an old wood stick.

"Now, new equipment isn't going to make a superstar. You can't be Gretzky if you're not Gretzky. But you can make yourself a bit better by having new equipment. You know, goalies [it's the] same thing. When I was young, gloves were super heavy, pads were super heavy. When I was younger, I wore the leather pads that had deerskin--or deer hair in it. When those got wet, you were dragging about 15 pounds on each leg, man.

"Just like in our game, this isn't going to make you 99 across the board in everything; this is just a way to make you five, six, seven points better than you would have if you didn't wear this equipment."

Late last year, I wrote a post in this blog with ideas on improving the EASHL. Among my complaints were such things as improving online league organization, improving the interface for inviting team members, and including more variety when it comes to creating your EASHL team. Thanks to the monthly seasons and the split divisions, the league structure has improved. When it comes to more variety, the team has taken another step in the right direction by adding 20 to 30 new jerseys.


With the success of the Teambuilder system in NCAA Football 10, could we see a similar feature in next year's NHL game? Littman said that they'd like it to be part of the game next year but wasn't willing to commit any further. Personally, it seems like an obvious choice for NHL 11. After all, the whole point of the EASHL is creating your team's individual identity in the game--one that doesn't necessarily have to have any ties to reality. A Teambuilder feature would be an ideal way to make that happen.

My biggest pet peeve from last year's EASHL implementation was the process of adding team members. It was tedious and took far too long, especially when adding those not on your friends list. Thanks to a new club campus screen, those problems look to be behind us. Players can easily request to join a certain club, and you will even be able to scout players on other teams via a dedicated scouting screen that shows you a list of teams and players you've recently played against. From there, you can find the player you're looking for and directly send him an invite to join your team.

Yesterday, I played a couple of EASHL games with fellow game writers and the NHL 10 development team, and I had a good time playing as a defenseman. I even managed to score an overtime win with a slap shot from the point. As with last year's game, the pace of EASHL games is slightly slower than that in the main game or in the Be a Pro mode, but it certainly didn't take away from the fun. Communication between teammates is still the key, as is making sure that you're playing your role on the ice, and not just zipping to the puck whenever it's free.

In many ways, EA Sports hit the nail on the head with the EA Sports Hockey League. Despite initial connection hiccups, the feature worked like a charm right from the get-go, and it will be interesting to see how this feature evolves in the coming years.

So, is it too early to call for sign-ups for the Xnmnk Mockobckars?

Written By

Want the latest news about NHL 10?

NHL 10

NHL 10

Follow

Discussion

56 comments
Gooey26
Gooey26

I've played the demo a few times... it seems that the deke from the side is still almost a guaranteed goal. Anyone tried the wrap around goal? I hope they are not there. This is what i would like to see. I would like to be able to have my own league. Where i can invite other teams that i've played against online and in this league we have our own cup and that way we play for a cup without cheaters. I don't care its not for the real thing, i just want to have fun. I don't know how it would work, but thats my idea.

Captainwinkie12
Captainwinkie12

OH CRAPPPP!!!!!! WHY DID I HAVE TO READ THIS? GAMESTOP!!!!!!!! "Reserve NHL 10 and get the in-game Kane-Bauer boost Pack. Patrick Kane’s Authentic Bauer Gloves, Skates and Stick. Plus a 9 point boost for your be a pro or EASHL Player. Available online or in-store while supplies last."

I0oELiTEo0I
I0oELiTEo0I

This is gonna be amazing...best NHL game yet

Kwamster007
Kwamster007

Totally awesome, I'm hoping they will have a 3 on 3 or a 2 on 2 online tournament for those who can't get all there players on.

kwame303
kwame303

this is going to be the best nhl ever

Zawiex
Zawiex

wow online for this game looks amazing! i cant wait to get it.

Bdrrob
Bdrrob

To quote from what Mr. Littman has said: And when, you know, you look at the sticks players use nowadays, and even if you're an amateur skating at your local rink, I guarantee you the player that bought the $300, you know, composite stick that's super light and has the perfect whip to it is getting a harder shot than the guy who uses an old wood stick. I know he said Amateur Rink, but I have to disagree. Names that shook fear with their slapshots and used Wooden Sticks: "Al Iafrate, Bobby Hull, Al MacInnis" How many years did it take for someone to break Iafrate's All-Star Game Hardest slapshot? 16? It's not the stick, it's the player. The stick helps, but not that much.

flamesown
flamesown

EA said that there would be no more glitch goals.

fsem10
fsem10

dosnt mean anything if they dont fix the glitch goals glitches have always been part of EA games, dont know why they would change now, lets hope they fix it.

skeleton11
skeleton11

God, I don't think an NHL game has looked this great in a long time!!!

jtmoney430
jtmoney430

Yeah I agree with you LilPeachyy. I am not trashing the game. The game was unbelievably awesome to play. It just got really annoying with all the glitchers in 09. So I do think EA will implement something to help that out, just the glitchers will find a way. You know they will, they always do. But I do expect this to be the best NHL game ever. I cannot wait.

LilPeachyy
LilPeachyy

For the people tht are talkin bout the glitchers nd how they will take over the leauge once again, you guys shuld really take into consideration that maybe, just maybe there wont be any glitches this year. Even though I still think there will be a glitch or two in the game, there will always be that possiblity that there wont be any. So dont trash the game b4 it comes out, when its out nd if there are glitches, then trash away.....

jtmoney430
jtmoney430

I think adding the two different leagues will be a big help. This is because you know you will find those people out there trying to find those glitches and cheats to make them all 99's or whatever. At least they will basically be forced to play in the upper division. So when I try out the upper division and it is like that, I will just play in the lower division with everyone who does not do that. Cause I am sure if you do, they will get booted out of that division quickly. I can definitely see the upper division being a lot of those glitchers though. EA will never be able to get rid of all of that. I wish they could. It got quite irritating last season.

glimpus
glimpus

LITTMAN, CAMO GEAR IN HOCKEY IS STUPID. ONLY LITTLE GLITCHING TURDS WILL USE IT.

halosniper52
halosniper52

Can't wait for this one, and start my Club back up. Good thing I'm getting Madden to help pass the time till this comes out.

ChrisGamer5757
ChrisGamer5757

Best Sport on the Planet, only fitting that the Video game is the best as well. Year after Year.

Hoodstock
Hoodstock

Not on Wii! Screwed again! Thanks a lot rom Detroit EA!

gameguy0697
gameguy0697

this game is just getting better and better!

hatyfranco
hatyfranco

What's important will be the gameplay. Not the equipment, not the jerseys, not the bells and whistles. Sure, they are a fun addition, but first and foremost, I want the gameplay to be smooth. If the physics make more sense and glitching is dealt with, then we have ourselves a winner. I just hope the effort of making this game was focused in the right places.

Arrondi
Arrondi

@BigBadBully Agreed, 100%! All EASHL was last year was a glitch-fest! I am in no way awesome at the game, I really can't aim my shots to save my life... And then when you get a guy streaking down the ice who just goes to the same position and does the same thing over and over and wires home about 5 goals, it's really discouraging! It got to the point where I totally gave up playing NHL 09 and until I know thats fixed, I have no intentions of buying NHL 10! That and the fact that I think the new additions to the gameplay are going to be cumbersome...

BigBadBully
BigBadBully

He mentions nothing about the nightmare that EASHL has been on xbox live. I'm not interested until I know things like the 99 glitch, goalie glitches, and all the shot glitches, 3-0 glitch, pause glitch. It was extremely difficult to play a decent game in the EASHL. Pretty much the league was a battle of whoever could gltich the most successfully. I'd like to see these top 4 clubs play for this championship and see how clean these teams are. From my experience every division just get's worse with the glitching as you get closer to Division 1.

Ghost_702
Ghost_702

There are going to be enough improvements to this game to justify buying it even after owning '09, at least for me. There may not be a lot of MAJOR improvements, but there are so many minor ones that I can't wait. Well there are major ones too, like battling for the puck in the boards and what not.

MajinDante
MajinDante

". Despite initial connection hiccups," --------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- wow after the connection problems with 09 on the ps3 last year, this comment worries me.

WalkMan99
WalkMan99

Should I stick with NHL 09 or is NHL 10 going to be a lot different and a lot better?

RussianWrath
RussianWrath

Cant wait to become champion of one of the seasons!

paddeboy91
paddeboy91

NHL 10 wow this will be the best game this year

ChamomileBaths
ChamomileBaths

I'm split. I'll get one sports game, but I'm not sure whether this NHL 10, Madden 10, NHL 2k10, NBA 210, or Fifa 10 is the way to go.

bleedgreen2-1-5
bleedgreen2-1-5

man im pumped for this game! ill prolly play other modes besides EASHL and Be a Pro, those were the only 2 i played last year because franchise mode was stale but they added new stuff making it sound good cant wait! Go Eagles! Go Flyers! Go Phillies! Sixers............meh

Maagi
Maagi

So now there's going to be a guy with some sock on his head (or a helmet with a purple/blue tint). Of course he's also "black" with blond corn-rows and both eyes black (because he's been already told twice), named The Best Ever, yet not having any real skill in playing. Along with the said casual and pro leagues, will we also be having one for these retards? Flashy colours and funny hair-do's might keep'em away from proper games.

kinggamer101
kinggamer101

this games looks so cool i want it so bad the graphics are awesome

malsin187
malsin187

Gamertag: N A J I B C 488 add me and I m goona kick your ass in this awesome game x360 Nhl10

aBiNeR1
aBiNeR1

World of Warcraft Littman? Blizzard would never allow players to buy a full set of the latest tier of PvP gear on day one with real money. Characters in WoW are restricted to getting gear only from your online progression and accomplishments. Please David, you need to actually play WoW and study arena gear before making a statement like, "the EASHL and Be a Pro modes are distinctly influenced by role-playing games and massively multiplayer online games, such as World of Warcraft and the like".

LilPeachyy
LilPeachyy

So just to be clear on this cuz I dont think it said it clearly in wat was written. The "Pro Shop" that is being implemented, and the equipment u can get from it can be used in online play AND offline Be a Pro mode?

hockey89
hockey89

camo skates ! lol im usin them :P

savoie10
savoie10

"Year in and year out the NHL franchise is the best Sports game out there. Take a lesson Madden" No, take lessons EA and the fans need to recognize. This is why having 2K Hockey around is a great thing. If not for 2K Hockey once being such a great game, EA may have never beeen so motivated to make a "sim" oriented game. EA say the fanbase 2K was drawing in and finally realized that was the best direction to go. Now look at them, as popular as ever. Hopefully 2K uses EA as motivation as well. I'm sure they will. EA buying the NFL license was the downfall for fans and the company as Madden and NCAA have both been lackluster. Madden10 looks what the series should have been to begin with.

Thrice8
Thrice8

one of the most annoying things about playing the EASHL in NHL 09 were little kids who probably couldn't even skate in real life making their players have dreadlocks and tinted visors and then attempting to glitch constantly instead of actually playing a game of hockey. now this year these little turds get camo gear, stocking caps instead of helmets, and gold plated gear?! as if REAL hockey players didn't want to carve them up to begin with, are you effing kidding me?! WHERE IS ALL OF THE NEW STUFF FOR THE OTHER 80% OF EASHL PLAYERS WHO AREN'T SHAMELESS RODEO CLOWNS?!

tennisacerg
tennisacerg

This is going to be so awesome!!!!!!! I want to sign up for Xnmnk Mockobckars :)

strudel420
strudel420

Just over a month left and it can't arrive quick enough. Here's to NHL '10 retaining the crown as best sports game.

timboutillier
timboutillier

This is gonna be great! Best sports franchise out there hands down!

mechberg
mechberg

@The_PC_Gamer -- Yes, it is!

thrjpo
thrjpo

Year in and year out the NHL franchise is the best Sports game out there. Take a lesson Madden

sTyLnK
sTyLnK

Ok now THAT is awesome!

The_PC_Gamer
The_PC_Gamer

Just to be clear, is EASHL available for PS3 as well? because I havent played NHL09 so Im not sure