Nuclear Throne was recently announced for Xbox Game Pass and is set to appear on September 9. The post-apocalyptic roguelike was originally released in 2015 and was a huge success thanks to its tight controls, variety of weapons, and punishing difficulty. However, Nuclear Throne also has an interesting history that often gets overlooked.
Nuclear Throne developer Vlambeer originally put prototypes of the game on Steam's Early Access program back in 2013 when the feature was still new. Vlambeer also chose to livestream the development of the game on Twitch where fans would be able to follow the process, build a community, and playtest. Although its appearance on Xbox Game Pass isn't surprising, it's interesting to see how far the game has come over the years.
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Nuclear Throne's Development History
Nuclear Throne was originally part of Steam's Early Access program during its earliest stages in 2013. Although Vlambeer wasn't quite as well-known as they are today, their previous work on Super Crate Box, Luftrausers, and the Serious Sam franchise was well-regarded by indie fans. The Nuclear Throne prototype was a result of a 72-hour game jam, and since Vlambeer streamed the development of the prototype, it was decided that the development of the full game would feature a similar format. Since the game was already in the public's eye, continuing the development through streaming seemed natural.
As a result, Vlambeer used Twitch for regular four-hour livestreams, showcasing the development of Nuclear Throne during its time in Steam Early Access. This allowed the game to build an organic community with fans being able to playtest and give feedback. It also helped show transparency. Vlambeer noted that development was a lot more productive with fans watching the actual process, and although it was exhausting, it helped Nuclear Throne become the game it is today.
Nuclear Throne has obviously been influential on the roguelike genre as a whole, but the unique development process showcased how developers could interact with their communities and helped change the perception of Steam Early Access titles. With the popularity of indie titles in the 2010s, more developers began using Early Access as a way for fans to playtest, voice their opinions, and build a general sense of community around the games.
What Makes Nuclear Throne Special
Of course, the success of Nuclear Throne was also a result of offering a unique roguelike experience that differed from many of the titles at the time. As a top-down shooter, the game combined elements of bullet hell together with the looping difficulty of roguelikes in randomly generated levels. Each character has a special ability, and the diverse weapons scale with the difficulty of the enemies. Nuclear Throne also features an exceptionally tight control and movement system which helps give a faster pace than its roguelike contemporaries like Binding of Isaac.
Over the years, Nuclear Throne would influence a number of indie roguelike titles, most notably Enter The Gungeon. Featuring similar gunplay and mechanics, the two games would draw many comparisons from fans and critics alike. While Enter The Gungeon didn't stream its development or release any prototypes through early access, the concept of building a community around the game was heavily emphasized throughout its updates over the years.
Nuclear Throne wasn't the first game to livestream its development process or use Early Access in a different way, but it helped show that building a community is vital to an indie game's success. As Nuclear Throne releases on Xbox Game Pass in the coming week, new players will undoubtedly enjoy the game for its addicting gameplay loop and diverse range of weapons. At the same time, though, it's important to note how Nuclear Throne's interesting development history played a key role in its success.
Nuclear Throne will be available on Xbox Game Pass on September 9.