Recently, NHL 24 held a playtest, allowing several players to try some game modes before launch. NHL 24 isn’t reinventing the wheel by doing this, and it isn’t something new; they have done this in previous years before release. What felt different about it was the involvement of the community from the beginning and having creators of the game speak to their experiences of playing the game at a preview event that our very own Steve Vegvari was able to attend.
Changes are coming to NHL 24
Yes, the media was there, but so were streamers — the people who live and breathe the sport on YouTube and Twitch, whose opinions can sometimes be trusted and who know that they’re not going to tell EA Sports the game is good for the sake of looking good. The likes of Cam, aka Sleeveless Gaming and other notable creators spoke to what they liked and didn’t like but also told us to sign up to play the game ourselves and mentioned that the NHL 24 team would listen to what we all had to say about the game after the playtest.
I was skeptical because we have heard this before but have seen other games and listened to the NHL 24 Community. I’ve been playing the NHL franchise since 1993 and have seen some ups and downs and times when I felt the game was rushed and not a priority for EA. I remember during the launch of the PS4 when EA Sports didn’t give NHL 14 a next-gen version of the game until the second year of the console’s life cycle. Yet we got next-gen versions of FIFA and Madden, so I’m allowed to be skeptical when I’m told they will listen this year, and it will be different for NHL 24. In any case, NHL 14 was one of the sport’s best years in a long time, and it still felt like it was an afterthought during its launch.
I was selected to playtest this year’s NHL 24 and had fun trying out all the new features they added to the game. I saw firsthand that they wanted to make NHL 24 feel more like hockey than previous game versions. I was surprised by all the new features in NHL 24 and was happy to see what they had added. Like any new game version, when the developer makes changes, it can backfire and upset the NHL 24 Community. However, there’s still much to do if EA wants to win fans this year.
The NHL 24 team sent out a survey to everyone who played during the NHL 24 playtest, and as I was filling it out, I didn’t believe significant changes would come, or if they did, they would be done haphazardly. Then, on a Friday afternoon, I saw NHL 24 trending in my circles, and to my surprise and delight, they released an update regarding the feedback from the NHL 24 playtest.
The most significant difference I found was it didn’t feel like a PR statement, and again, they spoke to creators from the community to deliver an update along with the developers. The NHL 24 dev team addressed concerns in all aspects of the game and informed us that these changes would occur before launch and some post-launch. They did say they’re listening; they showed us and let us know they will continue to listen, and I believe them.
So before the release on October 6, the developers will adjust the game and some after launch. I don’t feel these minor changes will make for a better game.
Hybrid controls and NHL 23 goalie controls will be added post-launch, and significant backlash seems to be a big hot-button topic during the NHL 24 playtest. With NHL 24, they introduced a new control scheme, total control but took away hybrid, a very popular control scheme. Well, they’re bringing it back and not removing any new features.
Below are the patch notes from the NHL 24 playtest survey results.
SUSTAINED PRESSURE SYSTEM TUNING
Community Feedback – The puck possession aspects of the Sustained Pressure System are too powerful for the growth of the system, which encourages puck ragging. Additionally, the defensive team does not have many ways to counter the system making it feel unbalanced at times.
Puck Possession Tuned Down 30% – We have lowered the impact that possessing the puck has in the offensive zone with regard to building sustained pressure. The value of possessing the puck has been lowered by 30%. Shots on the net and big hits in the offensive zone are now strengthened as the best way to build sustained pressure.
Decay Rate of Pressure Meter Increased by 100% – The new tuning sees the meter decay faster once the puck is cleared outside of the defensive zone by the defending team. This creates a more authentic feel to sustained pressure as the offensive team must keep a consistent attack in the offensive zone in order to activate full pressure. Previously the offensive team could attack, leave the zone and then re-attack to slowly build the meter which ultimately did not feel authentic to the sport. Full pressure as a result will be slightly tougher to trigger during each period of play.
GOALIE FATIGUE SYSTEM
Community Feedback – The new goalie system and its tuning has resulted in the goalies being way too active, flopping around far too frequently resulting in netminders that feel too loose as they seemingly are always using desperation saves. This always makes the goalies feel less authentic.
Goalies Recover When Puck Exits Defensive Zone – Previously goalies would only regenerate their energy during active play when the puck crossed over the opposing team’s blueline. This resulted in the goalie remaining tired for too long and throwing too many desperation saves. We have changed this now by having goalies start to recover immediately when the puck exits the defensive zone. This means more peaks and valleys with goalie fatigue rather than consistent fatigued states.
Fatigue Meter Always Visible – To create better overall understanding of the state of the goalie’s fatigue during gameplay the respective fatigue meter will be visible at all times. This will enable players to attack and defend better based on always knowing the relevant state of the goalie’s fatigue level.
Goalie Attributes Have Increased Impact on Drain & Recovery – We have increased the impact that a goalie’s respective attributes have on both energy drain and recovery. This means breaking down a higher-rated goalie will be more difficult as compared to a lower-rated goalie as they will recover energy faster and fatigue slower.
Goalies More Stable When Rested – Goalies have been tuned to be more stable and positional when above 50% energy. This means that you will see fewer desperation saves overall when a goalie is in what is deemed a reasonably rested state.
Community Feedback – The hitting has some points of concern such as hip checks at slow speeds resulting in massive collisions that make little sense, the reverse hit is way OP and appears to disregard player size which is unrealistic.
Big Checks Deal Slightly More Stamina Damage – Any big checks that are landed during gameplay will add more stamina damage to the target player and bringing into play the longer recovery get up states.
Player Size Carries More Impact on Reverse Hit Outcomes – Player size now factors more predominantly into the reverse hits that connect during a game. Smaller players will be far less likely to run through a larger player due to a size mismatch whereas a larger player will be far more likely to run over a smaller player.
Performing A Reverse Hit Results In Some Slowdown – We have added a small slowdown event that occurs when any reverse hit is thrown during gameplay to provide more balance to the mechanic. This will address the issue where a player can reverse hit a defender and then continue at full speed up the ice.
Hip Checks in Low Speed Situations – The relative speed of both the puck carrier and defensive player throwing the hip check will now be taken into consideration in these game situations resulting in less dramatic hip checks during slower pace of play moments.
GLOBAL LACROSSE DEKE TUNING
Community Feedback – With the lacrosse deke now being accessible to everyone it is constantly being used and seems to be far too OP which hurts the moves authenticity as compared to the NHL.
Lacrosse Deke (The Michigan) Effectiveness Tied to Deke Ability – In an effort to help control the impact of the lacrosse deke on the overall game experience we have connected it to a player’s deking attribute. The tuning change results in the speed of the deke being impacted. A lower deke attribute will result in the animation taking longer to execute and a higher attribute will result in a faster execution of the deke. This applies globally no matter which controller setting you are playing on.
X-FACTOR TUNING in NHL 24
Community Feedback – The Close Quarters X-Factor remains too powerful and needs to be adjusted so it can be used in a balanced state. In the current tuning it tends to be outlawed in competitive leagues despite the desire to want to employ this X-Factor.
Close Quarters – This X-factor has had the following tuning to make it more balanced for competitive play.
Reduced the distance required to activate Close Quarters from 30 to 20 feet
Reduced the accuracy bonus of Close Quarters by 50%
Reduced the accuracy bonus of Close Quarters Superstar Ability by 75%
HUMAN GOALIES TUNING
Community Feedback – Bring back Legacy Goalie Controls for core goalies. The current tether system feels too restrictive in terms of how far the goalie can challenge and move making it hard to cut down on angles. Fatigue system appears to be impacting human goalies too much based on active adjustment. And the instinct system feels too punishing in terms of guessing incorrectly on a save location.
Increased Tether Distance – A human goalie using the new Tether Controls now has an expanded area to move within this control set. We have increased the movement range from 3 feet to 5 feet allowing for more ability to cut down angles and overall freedom of movement.
Increased Goalie Instinct Boost When Correct – When a human goalie guesses the shot target correctly after engaging the Instinct System, they will receive a higher boost to their respective save probability.
Removed Goalie Instinct Penalty When Incorrect – The penalty applied to a human goalie when they guess incorrectly within the Instinct System has been removed. Any incorrect guess will not carry any additional impact on the save scenario.
Reduced Fatigue Impact on Human Goalies – Given how human goalies will potentially make more adjustments in game as compared to AI goalies, we have slightly softened the over-fatigue impact on human goalies.
Community Feedback – The poke check has become too difficult to use based on the new tuning changes for NHL 24. Now when I poke check not only do I recover slower but I incur a speed loss which allows puck carrier to easily blow by me if the poke check fails to connect.
Reverted Speed Loss to NHL 23 Tuning – We have tuned back the speed loss that was added during production back to the same tuning that was shipped in NHL 23.
GENERAL GAMEPLAY TUNING in NHL 24
Community Feedback – The nets come off way too much during gameplay, and you can try and skate at the net to stop a scoring chance without penalty, which is unbalanced. And the glass breaks way too often, making it annoying rather than a fun moment.
Nets Being Knocked Off Less – We have tuned down how often nets are knocked off the moorings to have it happen less frequently.
Glass Breaking – We have tuned down how often the glass will break so that it happens less frequently.
These aren’t some little changes that they’re making. The sustained pressure tweak will also eliminate ragging the puck, which had become a massive issue in NHL 23 online play. It will force players to play more physically, move the puck, and shoot it more to get goals. They have also introduced a delay of game penalty, so you must move the puck up the ice instead of skating around with no forward momentum when you have the lead. So all you puck raggers out there, look out because they have finally nerfed it.
The developers on the NHL 24 team showed us they’re listening and want to make the best NHL game.
All these changes are a great start, and if you ask, have me more committed to NHL 24 than ever before. There’s still work to be done, but this year feels like a fresh start, and I hope they continue to listen and look to improve the game by listening to the community. If they can expand on some new features , then the series has the potential to feel like you’re a pro.
NHL 24 will launch on PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Xbox One, and Xbox Series on October 6, 2023.