NHL '94: How the great EA sports franchises were born

LincLinc OwnerDetroit Icrontian


EA had done it again. As if this wasn’t enough, John Ziegler – the NHL’s commissioner – was sitting only one table away, hearing each and every compliment. The producer from EA was floating on cloud nine – until a nearby exclamation rained on his parade.

‘I just got Gretzky in a fight!’

Brook felt the force of the sucker punch. It took a second for the rest of the room to register the statement. As it sunk in, VIPs gathered around the monitor to watch Wayne Gretzky, the face of the NHL, get into a fistfight with an opposing player. And as the pixelated version of hockey’s greatest player spilled blood onto the ice, everyone’s eyes darted to John Ziegler, anxious to gauge the commissioner’s reaction.

In the moment, Ziegler played it close to his chest, but afterwards he was furious.



  • aspieRommelaspieRommel Icrontic politico Indianapolis, IN Icrontian

    If I may add to this, another great franchise (which has since shut down. Thanks ]UPS[ Lynx!) was EA's NASCAR franchise, which included a lot of innovative features for racing games. First, starting with "NASCAR 06: Total Team Control" and ending with "NASCAR 09" (on PS2), there was the car swap feature, which allowed you to take control of one of your teammates cars. Second, starting with 06 and ending with 09, was the ability to buy real teams, meaning if I had the money (in-game), I could buy Roush Racing, Richard Childress Racing, or Hendrick Motorsports. The third, and most requested feature for later games after EA, was the "Fight to the Top" mode (career mode). You started in the Whelen Modified Tour and worked your way up through the Craftsman Truck Series and the Busch Series to get to the NASCAR Nextel (Sprint in PS2) Series. Whenever I race with people online, a lot of people refer to NASCAR 09 as the best NASCAR game to date. So EA set the bar pretty high.

  • Great share Linc. Fascinating article. Gives some insight into the process back then.

  • UPSLynxUPSLynx :KAPPA: Redwood City, CA Icrontian

    Fun fact - Rich Hilleman still works at EA to this day. He is "employee #39". The oldest, longest-running career at this company.

    I work with Rich on a number of projects, he's an amazing person. He basically operates the EA skunkworks. Total mad scientist type. He looks like a past his prime rock star - long grey hair, denim jacket, tattered t-shirt underneath. He does what he wants because he's earned it. He created Madden. He's brilliant.

    He's responsible for the first racing sim I ever fell in love with - Indianapolis 500: The Simulation. Played it for YEARS with @UPSHitman on our old 386. Meeting Rich for the first time was like meeting a hero for me. A slightly mad, forgotten more than I'll ever know type hero, but you know how it goes.

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