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Learn about some of the tough decisions behind making Nex Machina

We quizzed one of the developers behind Nex Machina about surviving in the modern indie market and working with industry legend Eugene Jarvis.

In a twin-stick arcade shooter like Nex Machina, every decision that could even slightly affect a player’s mental state has to be weighed with incredible consideration. Whether it’s the leaderboards, cutscenes, or even the music, there’s a lot of tough decisions that have to be made, especially when like developer Housemarque, you’re going it alone without a publisher. 

So if you’re working on an arcade-style game like Nex Machina, you probably could use some reference on what making those tough decisions was like. Today, on the Gamasutra Twitch channel, we got to talk with Housemarque product manager Mikael Haveri, who told us he’s often the devil’s advocate at the company, and explained some of the tricky decisions he’s been involved in over the years while making games like Nex Machina and Resogun. 

You can watch the full chat up above, but in case you’re trying to top the leaderboards on Nex Machina right now, here are a few key highlights you can take away from our conversation. 

Cutscenes that mimicked the game’s trailer were cut due to how they interfered with player flow

Cutscenes, so often used in games like Nex Machina to give the player a quick break, were actually something tossed out of the game despite Haveri’s suggestion to the core development team. While Haveri admitted part of his goal was to improve the game’s branding to help sell it to less-hardcore players, he told us he ultimately deferred to Nex Machina’s director, who discovered they would deeply hurt the state of flow for players trying to improve their skill with the game. 

Using Discord can be a way more successful way to reach players, since you can’t treat it like a bulletin board

Haveri gave us a little background on how Housemarque is using player chat app Discord to build its core community instead of the traditional forum method, and explained for a game like Nex Machina, the ability to communicate quickly with players is better than “the bulletin board method.” 

Why the game has no tutorial

As Haveri put it, a game like Nex Machina has no tutorial because the developers "didn't either want to put it in, or didn't have the time." In Housemarque's case, the developers deliberately didn't add a tutorial because they wanted the game "to be progressive from minute one," so players would always be learning with every step they took in their first fifteen minutes of gameplay. 

And it's called "Death Machine," so it comes with the territory, apparently. 

If this insight was useful to you, be sure to follow the Gamasutra Twitch channel for more developer insights, editor roundtables, and gameplay commentary.

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