Project Background

Starting at the end of 2017, NHL's Hockey Ultimate Team has been trying to take incremental steps to improving the overall mode. One of the key aspect of the mode comes from the traditional card game aspect of the mode in which players would be able to acquire packs that they could get from the store or from playing different challenges. As such, the pack opening experience is very crucial in terms of giving the users a sense of excitement and suspense every time they were to  rip open a pack.
However, the current pack opening experience is very dated in comparison to all the other games in the market. Currently, The pack opening experience is very repetitive and not immersive for the users. Games such as Overwatch, CS GO, COD, FUT, Yugioh, etc all celebrates the experience and provide players a sense of excitement when revealing a rare item. This is our attempt to understand what worked for NHL and how might we create a better overall experience for the players.

The Research: Current Design Prior to designing, it was important for the team to understand what is currently wrong with our system and where might we be able to improve upon the experience. The journey map which I assembled help display the high points and low points of the overall experience. I mapped it based on user testing feedbacks which we've gathered and helped reinforced the 3 primary issue of this experience.

Users felt that the experience of purchasing and opening the packs felt very repetitive. There is no options for them to buy more than 1 pack at a time and then sending them to the inventory or opening them on the spot. If a user were to stream their pack opening online, they would have to spend a few minutes in the beginning to set up by buying packs 1 pack at a time first.

Secondly, the user felt that there was a lack of celebratory moments compared to other games out there. All the cards basically have the same emotional impact as there is no difference in pulling an all star player with 99 OVR vs a bench player with 72 OVR. The users will have all the cards placed before them which they can then send to their collection.

Thirdly, from testing, we've identified that users would love to be able to easily share their contents especially from opening packs and the current system doesn't allow for users to easily shared any cool cards or items that they have recently pulled.

The Design:
The first issue of minimizing tasks while purchasing a pack was fairly easy. We've decided to provide the users with the ability to select the amount of packs they wish to purchase prior to confirming their purchase. This also helps give users a good idea into how much they're spending on 10 packs up front compared to buying packs individually.

With this, during user testing,we were able to identified that users enjoyed the abilities to select the amount they wish to purchase prior to purchasing the packs. This allows them to create sharable content easier without having to previously buy the packs individually prior to opening them.  

Secondly, the user felt that there was a lack of celebratory moments compared to other games out there. All the cards basically have the same emotional impact as there is no difference in pulling an all star player with 99 OVR vs a bench player with 72 OVR. The users will have all the cards placed before them which they can then send to their collection.

In order for the pack opening experience to be immersive and celebratory we would also need to redefine what is considered immersive within the context of our medium as well as in the context of a pack opening (loot box) experience. We convey the concept of scarcity fairly well but where we fail at the current moment is what we call the drum roll. The moment which heightens a user's senses (Waiting for the last 7 to drop, or turning over that special card). Games such as Overwatch creates these moments where they allow the users to hold their breathe as the animation plays out and with lights indicating what the user have pulled from this box. 

User may go through layers of "HYPE" as they open different packs. Some which may contain basic items but we don't want to de-emphasize on the importance of the lower tier items. A user would experience 3 layers of "hype". The first experience is the packanimation itself (The Drum Roll). This sequence is to help the user feel immersed in the process of opening the pack. Second layer of experience stems from the glowing of colors to help indicate that there is indeed a rare card in which they could then in the 3rd stage, plan on how they want to consume this experience. 

It was also important for us to identify the current flow in order to see what are some of the primary issues. We know that it lacks the excitement and drum roll aspects of a pack opening experience but what we found was that the flow was fairly linear and that there was no heighten amount of anticipation which leads to a constant fluctuation of emotions.

In the new revised flow, the plan is to ensure that the users would have the abilities to identify the rare items and choose to reveal the rest of the cards first prior to revealing the special one. The experience should be on par with loot crate opening experiences in any other current games. 

The goal is to provide users the layer of hype which they would experience as they open a pack or multiple packs. Giving them the sense of control and ability to identify if they have a rare item or not. 

Design Caution: One of the biggest concerns or conflict of interest stems from that at the end of the day, pack opening is a form of gambling and although it’s our business goal to maximize profit, it is also our goal to ensure that our users are having a great experience and also not deep diving into something without realizing how much they’re spending. To help prevent this, we decided to allow users to monitor and track how much they’re spending per week on packs and letting them set a maximum amount in which they could only spend on to ensure that they don’t go past a certain threshold. We worked closely with the FIFA team to ensure that the experience is consistent across all the sports title. 

This particular set of features will be is currently closed for public viewing.

The Reveal: Working closely with the sound designer as well as the animators, I helped lay out the primary interaction that the user would have to engage in prior to revealing the special item. We tested for the ideal duration which we want the users to have to press and hold the button before the reveal animation starts to kick in. Keeping in mind that this piece of the feature is to help users share their achivement we also wanted to keep it short so that they could share in on social media with their audience as well. Here is the final design a long with the art and sound piece added. 

Reactions: From user testing we were quite happy with the results and from that point we pushed it out for community feedback in order to help identify ways which we could improve the  experience. The overall feedback was positive as the users enjoyed having the abilities to control how they reveal their content as well as the animation itself. The issue the community was still having is in regards to the pack ratio which our team is currently working on solving.


NHL Design and Production Team
Peter Luk - UX and Interaction Designer
Ron Slychuk & Jamie McCallen - Technical Artist
Jaro Jelovac  - Visual Direction & Project Lead
Mike D’Angelo & Michael Agon - Engineer