Zsolt Nyulászi looks satisfied. Which is understandable, really. His game, Nexus - The Jupiter Incident, has been in development hell for a long time, and now it's ever so nearly out. November 5th is the current projection. After going through three different iterations - including a rather unhappy union with the Imperium Galactica franchise - HD Interactive (with distribution partner Vivendi-Universal Games) is currently gearing up to release it - and although Nyul would probably rather be on holiday like the rest of the development team, he's clearly glad to be done. Sitting down with him in the European Space Centre last week, we talked about the long road to the present, mods, demos, control schemes, the game's appeal and the team's aspirations for the project.
Eurogamer: What happened to the project known as Galaxy Andromeda?
Zoslt Nyulászi: That's a long story. First of all this game was Beyond, developed by a small group of people, then it was sold to CDV, then CDV thought it was a good idea to buy the licence for Imperium Galactica III and put it behind this game, which I didn't think was a good idea. I never liked it too much because it was already a game, we already had some elements, it was already a universe with a story, and it had no connection to the Imperium Galactica series. We had to fit in a lot of exploring elements like colonising and a lot of things. This 3D engine is not for that, this graphical system is not for that, this graphical system is for controlling one to ten units, not an unlimited number of units; it's impossible, it was impossible.
It is very, very hard to do something to put these things together, and when we finally finished putting these things together they decided to cancel the project because they had some financial problems. They lost the licence, then they changed the name to that stupid name... Erm... ["Galaxy Andromeda," we offer.] I think this is the most stupid name of human history! [Smiles] But okay, that happened. I wouldn't say that they never asked us about this game because they asked us, we told them 'No way', and they changed it. And then the project was cancelled, and we found a connection to HD [Interactive, publisher] and we finally started the game in the original, tactical form, not exploring.
Eurogamer: It must be a relief, after all that, to know the game is coming out soon?
Zoslt Nyulászi: Yes, definitely. It's a good feeling because this is a game very close to our hearts. For all of the development team, especially for the core of the development team, this game is much more than a game. It's some kind of self-development, a very personal project. It's some kind of an art to them. They want it to be the best. We put in a lot more than was required to make it something that we can be proud of.
Eurogamer: Why did you decide to make a space-strategy game?
Zoslt Nyulászi: First of all I think that all developers would like to be in science fiction or fantasy games, but the publishers don't like to have too much fantasy or science fiction games without licences. It's all about brands. Every developer would love to do it. It's not about why we wanted to do it, it's that we had a chance to do it; that's the most important part. They are all science fiction fans, that's the reason.
Eurogamer: Was there any science fiction in particular that influenced the game design?
Zoslt Nyulászi: I am sure that all of us - not just me, but the whole team - were influenced by various things. You cannot see too much of my own influences [various Eastern European authors] in this game, directly, but I think for this game the Star Trek Next Generation series, Babylon 5, and if there was a game that influenced me it was Shogan: Total War because of the tactical details.
Eurogamer: What sort of things are you doing graphically that others perhaps aren't?
Zoslt Nyulászi: First of all the DirectX 9 technology, which I think is not used in space games yet, and the ship design I think stands out. I know some games which are on a high level of visual quality, like in EVE, the ship design is good, but in most games - like Freelancer - the ship design is very basic. I wouldn't say things like EVE influenced us though because we started so long before them.
Eurogamer: How long in total has the game been in development?
Zoslt Nyulászi: In total it is four years if you count from the very starting point, from Beyond. In terms of how long we've been with HD, it's probably around nine months.
Eurogamer: You've got two control schemes - a simplified one and one that deals with things in more depth. What would you recommend players choose coming to the game as complete beginners?
Zoslt Nyulászi: I think first that everyone coming to the game should decide what sort of player he is. If I'm just interested in the story, I want to play through the game and I don't want to have too much tactical challenge, and I don't want to learn everything and I don't want to do micromanagement (which the Germans, for example, love to do) then I should play the game on beginner level and I can play through the whole game without using the extra controls. However, if I wish, I can change. I personally think that the best way to play the game is to start on beginner level, playing through to the first or second episode - you will learn a lot - and you will start to use the extra controls, and then maybe you can restart and try and win using the more advanced controls, because the missions always have primary objectives that you need to complete to advance but also secondary objectives that are not required but can be completed for extra reward, like prototype devices and your crew gaining more experience than otherwise.
Eurogamer: You've released a single-player demo on magazine coverdisks. Are you planning a similar demo for online, perhaps featuring multiplayer options?
Zoslt Nyulászi: As far as I know, we are not planning that, but it can be changed at any time. It's a publisher decision rather than a developer decision.
Eurogamer: How easy will it be to create modifications for Nexus?
Zoslt Nyulászi: You can make huge modifications; it's definitely mod-friendly. It's not absolutely user-friendly like Age of Empires where you can create your own scenarios really easily. Here you could create your own units, and with some programming experience or game designing experience you could create a Star Wars mod or a Star Trek mod, which absolutely look like they are supposed to.
Eurogamer: When are you planning to release the various parts of the mod kit - the tools, documentation, solar system and level editors, etc - to Nexus fans?
Zoslt Nyulászi: As far as I know they will be on the disc when the game ships, and we will write about new mods on the website when they come out.
Eurogamer: What was the most difficult thing you had to overcome in developing Nexus?
Zoslt Nyulászi: We had no problems with the publisher, which is surprising. It was absolutely a perfect relationship that's good, that we like. In game design terms the most difficult thing was to make the space interesting; to make it interesting while keeping the feeling of reality. Because obviously we couldn't change everything to have something like, I don't know, a sea of flames up there, down there, round there. So to keep it realistic but make it interesting was very difficult.
Eurogamer: Was there anything you wanted to do that you didn't have time to include?
Zoslt Nyulászi: A lot! First of all, the NPCs are always talking to you about other things, but we hadn't time to create missions that won't be played by all of the players, which means that now the mission tree is linear. The first thing I think I would change would be to make some non-linearity in the mission structure, but it would take a lot of extra time. We had a lot of ideas for more tactical things. But the other big thing would be to enable the player to fly the fighter from the cockpit; that's something I would love to see in this game.
Eurogamer: Is that something you might consider for a sequel or an expansion?
Zoslt Nyulászi: Yes.
Eurogamer: Is that what you plan to do once Nexus ships?
Zoslt Nyulászi: We have plans, but of course it depends on the publisher.
Eurogamer: Is there anything in development at the moment?
Zoslt Nyulászi: No. We just finished it so everyone's on holiday. Except me.
Nexus - The Jupiter Incident is due out on November 5th. Read more in yesterday's preview here.