The PR team over at EA SPORTS was kind enough to connect me with NHL series producer Sean Ramjagsingh. I tried to shy away from any of the standard interview questions and dive a bit deeper into the development of the series.
You’ve added more and more game play modes to NHL 14, both online and off, since you have been the producer of the series. Does your team have access to mode usage data? If so, How do you use that data in shaping future editions?
We definitely do track game mode usage data. Every day, we are forced to make tough calls on priority and where to spend our time. Understanding where our users are spending most of their time allows us to make more informed decisions on where to spend our precious resources. Conversely, if we have a feature that not many users are playing, we can identify that through the data then dig in to understand why users may have shifted away from a specific part of the game. At the end of the day, we use the data to aid us in making the best experience possible for our loyal fans.
I took a look back at NHL Hockey and was amazed at just how far the game has evolved. The series has gone from a single player experience to having multiple types of season and career modes as well as a robust online portion with the EASHL with 12 players participating. Just how complex has development become as you are not only programming advanced gameplay mechanics but also management items across different modes?
Game development is extremely complex. No two days are ever the same and the deadlines that come with an iterative sports title are extremely aggressive. The reason that NHL has been so successful is people because of the tight-knit team that we have working on the product. The NHL team is EXTREMELY passionate about hockey and just as passionate about the NHL game that they work on. Not only are they developers but they’re also consumers that care about every detail.
What is a typical day for you during the early stages of the development cycle?
To be honest, I don’t know if I’ve had a typical day in 13 years of game development. J The early stages of a product cycle are focused on creating and designing the most compelling features that we can. In order to do this, we spend a lot of time in meeting rooms, in front of a whiteboard and just brainstorming. We look at the features that we had to cut the previous year to see if they’re still relevant enough to pursue. We also look at the fan feedback to identify the features that our fans are requesting and then we also look at different games both within sports and outside of sports to see how different dev teams around the world are trying to raise the bar. This part of the project is really about creativity and being able to communicate a clear vision.
NFL players are pretty vocal about their Madden ratings. Has there been any NHL players that have been upset about their ratings?
I wouldn’t say upset but there’s typically a question or two about why they’re low in a couple of categories. In general, everyone wants to be a little quicker, a little faster and a little tougher! It’s all in good fun though.
A huge thanks to Sean and the team over at EA SPORTS. Be sure to follow Sean on Twitter.
NHL 14 releases this September.