Every sports game needs a roster share or general “share” feature. But in a sport like football, soccer, baseball or hockey it becomes even more useful due to the wide breadth of leagues and teams available. What’s unfortunate here is that only two of those sports have quality “share” features: baseball and football. We made another stink this year during pre-release when we were informed there would once again be no NHL 21 roster share feature, but it’s not the only culprit here.
Madden’s roster share feature has had some rough moments where it simply does not work for long stretches, but the point is it’s there. In The Show, between the roster sharing and carryover saves, it’s helped keep a stagnant franchise mode from becoming completely frustrating. In NBA 2K, they have tried to do the most with the “share” feature out of any franchise besides maybe PES, and while it can be very spotty in some areas, the point is they’re trying to give people ample opportunities to share rosters, draft classes and a multitude of other elements.
With FIFA, the fact that there’s no roster share — or share feature of any sort — is truly confusing. It prides itself on having more leagues than any game, and yet we can’t share tactics, or rosters or sliders. Being able to share tactics alone would really open up a lot of helpful authentic stuff in career mode. On some level, NHL has a little bit of an excuse because it’s a smaller development team, but with FIFA there’s just no reason for a share feature not to exist at this point.
Then there’s PES, where you can share kits, logos, team names, tactics, rosters and logos. Microsoft consoles have missed out on some of this due to how Microsoft has designed the sharing features, but the share feature has really helped PES continue to stay relevant even while losing some licenses here and there.
NHL 21 Roster Share Should Exist Already
But returning to the main point here, an NHL 21 roster share feature is so desperately wanted because it could really open up a lot of new avenues for the series.
EA NHL developers should be commended for really trying to beef up their franchise mode and career modes the last couple years. NHL was woefully behind the competition, and EA has mostly put those two modes back into a stable place that can now be added to in future years to keep it up to date. The issue — and this is perhaps more pronounced this year with the delayed start to the real season — is the rosters themselves need a lot of work. EA has been criticized for being slow to give official roster updates in the past, and while we did get one earlier than usual this year to get some rookies into the game, the rosters are still far from ideal for fans of the sport.
It goes beyond just the base rosters as well. Yes, it stinks that we have to keep all the top-rated rookies in the minors rather than have them on NHL teams right now due to NHLPA rules, but that’s a short-term issue. The longer-term issues here, and things that could just overall improve the gameplay and authenticity, are a blessing and a curse. The EA NHL games actually have quite a bit of depth when it comes to editing players and creating them, but it’s hard to appreciate that on a wider scale.
Player Editing Is Not Being Utilized Enough
One example of this is the skating and shooting style edits for individual players (and celebrations):
One Timer Style
Upper Body Twist
Hustle Arm Swing
Hustle Arm Snap
One Handed Arm Swing
All of those elements can be edited and tweaked for every single NHL player. However, the EA developers didn’t really do much here for the actual NHL players, so it’s more for the created players you make for Be A Pro and so on. However, if we had roster share, people could go ham and actually change the skating styles and shooting styles of hundreds of players. Many of the stars of the NHL have distinct and different shots and skating styles and that could go a long way to adding authenticity to the game.
The NHL also has a ton of leagues and the draft is a big element of the NHL, much like it is in every sport. EA also doesn’t get every top prospect into the game, so that leaves us with the “minors” being not where they need to be. Every year, people on OS create a thread to make prospects, but draft classes and minor league teams are the obvious misses here by not having an actual roster share. It stinks in every game where this is not a thing because it just flat out hurts the franchise mode folks. (Beyond roster share, we also need to be able to edit attributes after starting a franchise, but that’s not directly tied to roster share.)
This is another one where roster share would help a lot, but there’s still a minor element that would need to come from EA still. First off, COVID means we didn’t get a ton of new face scans — and fair enough there — but the appearance editor in the game is very good. We have a lot of generic players in the game right now, but you can bet there are plenty of people out there who would happily edit tons of these players (both low-level guys and stars who did not get face scans) to make them more updated. However, what’s the point if we can’t actually share this info?
Now, the other part EA just needs to do separate from allowing us to share player edits is fix player portraits. We should not have black boxes for player portraits for anyone in the NHL. We have real photos of these guys, make sure they’re always in there. At the very least, put in a virtual image of the player rather than an empty black box. I don’t expect player portraits to be part of the roster share, but this just needs a logical workaround because it’s a small but noticeable thing that should not be okay anymore in modern sports games.
Look, we all get why the base roster for the NHL is so jammed up with overalls being stuck in the 70s to 90s for the most part. There are tons of minor leagues and other leagues in the game, so the 100 overall scale means EA tries to separate players at the top level from those below. But we know from experience this is not the best way to make the NHL game feel great. It’s also humorous to point out that without other leagues in the game, the NHL 94 Rewind game actually has a bigger overall spread that uses more of the 100 point scale than the base game because there are no other leagues in it. (The oldest EA NHL games used most of the 100 point scale.)
So what happens is that a bunch of people do take the time to try and edit ratings and make the stars stick out more from the fourth liners out there. This is time consuming, but it’s useful. It doesn’t fix everything, and part of the issue is “overall rating” is tied into certain stats that get boosted artificially to get players to higher overalls. In other words, some sort of more diverse player rating/player type system could help make an 88 overall defender feel more different from an 88 overall sniper if the ratings system was more flexible.
Regardless, being able to edit roster ratings and then share that roster is just yet another example of how an NHL 21 roster share would make the game better.
Sliders And Line Settings
Game sliders are an obvious one here, but line settings also matter. Being able to edit how each team plays and how every line plays — and fix the four lines and defensive pairings — is a nice little addition that is being missed out on right now.
These line settings really do matter as well. Individual line strategies will very much change how each line feels, and while you’re obviously in control of how your team plays, it would be great to be able to tweak these things for every NHL team. Again, the developers have put quite a bit of depth into these areas of the game, but they sometimes go overlooked and folks don’t realize how much they really can enhance the game by making teams and players all stand out in new ways that you did not realize were possible.
I am always confused when developers don’t include a “share” feature in their games. I don’t see any downside for including it. The people who love the game will make it better, and you’ll get a happier audience because there’s another avenue to make the game better. Sometimes there can be a legal component to it where there’s a fear of lawsuits because certain things are being shared, but Madden, PES, The Show and NBA 2K have all seemingly been able to be comfortable with that. In other words, I understand the fear when a smaller indie game developer does not want to put a share feature in its sports game, but companies like EA and Take-Two have plenty of money and lawyers to deal with any potential issues that could crop up.
All in all, I hope that with the start of a new generation everyone will get on board with the “share” feature. If every sports game could get to the point like MLB The Show where you can carryover rosters and franchise saves, we would be in a great place. Because don’t forget, the great thing about MLB The Show is you don’t have to start a roster or your franchise from scratch every year. When a new game comes out each year, that should no longer mean we have to start everything over again. It’s time to modernize this aspect of sports gaming across the board.