NHL 24 developers talk gameplay changes, new engine, future of GM Connected

Cale Makar in NHL 24Electronic Arts

After a less-than-stellar release in NHL 23, EA Sports is set to shake things up with NHL 24. Dexerto spoke with two of the EA Sports NHL developers on what the community can expect from this year’s game.

Year 2 of EA Sports NHL on the Frostbite engine did not go well. NHL 23 received generally unfavorable reviews, amidst strategy glitches and very few additions to the title.

After a rough launch to NHL 23, EA Sports will look to move in the right direction with changes to Hockey Ultimate Team and the gameplay — and we received exclusive insight on what the community can expect.

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We spoke with EA NHL Senior Creative Director Mike Englehart and NHL Senior Producer Chris Haluke to talk about the new features in gameplay, HUT, and the future of modes like World of CHEL and the old GM Connected.

Gameplay gets major overhaul with Exhaust Engine

The major change to the gameplay experience in NHL will come by way of the Exhaust Engine. Per the NHL team, this addition will revamp how players will attack and bring about a new kind of meta.

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Simply put, the Exhaust Engine rewards for teams for extended offensive shifts in the zone. Attacking teams will receive subtle boosts for sustained attacks, while defending teams will have to navigate fatigue. Community members will be able to see the energy levels of all players on the screen via a stamina bar.

NHL Senior Creative Director Mike Englehart believes that these changes will bring a much-needed reset to the franchise.

“We’ve tried to spend some time this year connecting with the community and also trying to look at opportunities in the game. Like, where can we refresh this thing? Where can we bring back some life and bring a new experience? The product hadn’t changed gameplay-wise, I don’t think substantially in a while,” Englehart told Dexerto.

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Offensive teams can build up a Sustained Pressure meter — one that’s visible on the ice — through puck possession, shots, and hits in the offensive zone. Those that can build up enough pressure on offense can receive what’s known as an “Adrenaline Effect,” which boosts passing speed and accuracy for up to 30 seconds.

Defending teams, meanwhile, will get the Pinned Effect. This effect negatively impacts skating, but can be wiped away with a puck clear that lasts for five seconds.

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Another layer to the Exhaust Engine to goaltender fatigue. Goalies will get tired during lengthy shifts and prolonged work, but will, per Englehart, “have their moments in the spotlight” with over 50 new desperation saves animations.

With these additions, the NHL team promises that shot danger will be increased in many different situations and that gameplay will be more balanced.

“I feel pretty confident that we have a balanced gameplay experience that more so is going to bring you back because the outcomes that you see during the game are going to create some compulsion to come back and see something different the next game,” Engelhart said.

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Sergei Bobrovsky in NHL 24Electronic Arts

Crossplay gets an expansion for NHL 24

Last year, the EA NHL team introduced crossplay to the franchise, but slow-walked some functionality to it. For NHL 24, individuals in World of CHEL will be able to invite friends to games and add players to clubs from other platforms.

On the expansion, Englehart stated that because the NHL team only had so many months of production, it didn’t make sense to add all the components of crossplay into the title last year.

“We would have had to put all our resources on one thing and so it didn’t make sense to chase it. Last year when we launched, we said, okay, we’ll start with cross-platform matchmaking…and then the promise last year was we finish off the cycle this year, which we’ve done.”

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However, one thing to note about crossplay is that a HUT cross-economy system will not be in NHL 24. Englehart told Dexerto that it’s something that the team continues to look into.

“It’s definitely something we’re looking at. With the cross-play initiative in general the product is to get everything humming together and leaderboards, economies. So it’s 100% on our radar.”

A look at HUT Moments and CHEL additions

Another new feature added to NHL 24 is HUT Moments, which will task individuals to re-create classic moments from NHL history.

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While the franchise did have something similar to this in the PS3/Xbox 360 days with Live Moments, NHL Senior Producer Chris Haluke stated that this installment of Moments will be different.

“It’s not like we’re just bringing something back that existed years ago. It’s like we wanted to reimagine it. I think that’s a really important factor with anything that we’re doing, quite frankly, as we look to the future. It’s not just re-make something. It’s like we want to reimagine it for what [today] or the future actually want and need.”

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When asked about whether new Moments will be added, Englehart said, “Yeah. There’s definitely plans with the live team.”

He added, “The idea is to have the system be something that we can react to and bring events that happen in recent times throughout the season into the game for people to play because I think it’s something people are looking for and I think it’s a great part of the future.”

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Another notable change comes to CHEL. Bags with random customization options are gone, as players can now acquire currency through played games and add specific vanity items to the collection.

NHL 24 World of CHEL will also feature free and premium Battle Passes, which will yield additional rewards. 

On the decision to allow players to unlock items that they want, Englehart harkened back to an instance in which he heard about a Ducks fan that just wanted a Ducks hat, but could never get one in a bag.

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“You’re opening bag after bag after bag. I think where we are in the market is people just want rewards with certainty. You don’t go to a clothing store and buy a mystery bag and go home and go, ‘Wow, great, I didn’t want any of this stuff.’ So if you’re going to spend the time, let’s let people pick what they want.”

Most items acquired in NHL 24 will now transfer over to subsequent titles.

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Matthew Tkachuk in NHL 24Electronic Arts

The future of GM Connected and online Career

It’s been almost a decade since online franchise — otherwise known as GM Connected at the time — was in a current-gen NHL game. When asked, Englehart stated that while neither online GM or career will be in the game, the team does continue to look into re-adding online GM to the franchise.

“Chris [Haluke] and I are chasing everything from a community wish list standpoint with really close level aggression. We really are spending a lot of time this year connecting with what the community wants…we know there’s big ticket items on there, and I just tell you we’re talking about that stuff. That’s all I can say at this point. But it’s again, [it’s] on our radar.”

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NHL 24 will be released on October 6 for the PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Xbox One, and Xbox Series X|S.

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