If you’re anything like me, you probably have at least one story of just barely eking out victory in a challenging
game. Which means you know how thrilling that sense of down to the wire urgency can
be. Sadly, there’s fine line between danger and
frustration, and it can be tricky to control where your
game lands. Clustertruck is a platformer that straddles this line almost perfectly. I’m Anuj Patel, and in this video, let’s talk
about how Clustertruck creates thrill without frustration. In case you don’t know, this is a simple game about hopping along from truck to truck until you get to the end of the level. The trucks are just oddly-shaped, fast moving
platforms. Of course, simple doesn’t mean easy. The dynamic nature of the platforms means it’s harder to land jumps than if they were still. To make matters worse, touching anything besides a truck almost always results in failure. This looming threat of danger would typically reward a slow, methodical
style of play, but it’s impossible to play Clustertruck in
that way. Truck movement is very unpredictable. They can turn, crash, fall, and get sent flying by obstacles and explosions. Something moving along a path is not guaranteed to stay on that path, any safe position is liable to become unsafe, and as the levels progress, things just get more and more volatile. This makes it impossible stay in one spot
to think. Even when there is no apparent danger, waiting around on a truck, knowing that it could suddenly cost you the
game is very unsettling. In fact, you feel safer while moving than you do standing still. Plus, unlike level timers which only add tension when they run low, the instability of the trucks puts time pressure on the player throughout the entire level, and the only relief comes from victory or
defeat. Now, these obstacles don’t just feel dangerous because they kill you, but also because they look and sound the part. From giant hammers to blazing hot lasers to volleys of missiles, every challenge is a larger than life nightmare
contraption meant to end your run. And that combined with instadeath might seem like a recipe for rage, but Clustertruck has some great features to the minimize frustration without killing the thrill. The obstacles read well despite the chaos, and you usually have a chance to see them from afar for the first time, so you’re not totally caught off guard by
their motion. Since there’s no time to think, the game doesn’t ask you to. As long as you follow the flow of trucks, you’ll end up at the goal. And finally, each level is long enough to let the tension build, but short enough that failure doesn’t cause a huge loss of progress. The amazing part is this balancing act of danger and frustration also extends to the player’s interactions. The first person camera is a somewhat unusual choice for a platformer, but it make sense in this particular game because of its intense gameplay. You see, the camera exposes player directly to all the amazing hazards and thrills contained in the levels. And although it prevents the player from seeing trucks that are coming in from
behind, that fact discourages backward movement, which is in keeping with the rest of the game. In fact, another way Clustertruck pushes the
player ahead is by making it faster to walk forward than in any other direction. This combined with the sprint button and minimal air resistance makes it possible to take huge, bounding leaps through the level. And the greater your airtime, the greater
the satisfaction when you achieve a nice landing. But not every landing goes smoothly. In such a frantic game, it’s difficult for players to give precision
input, so Clustertruck’s controls and physics are very forgiving of input error. Hopping around quickly is doable because you can jump off a truck from any
angle. Plus, you get strong air control, making it a lot easier to perform an accurate
landing. On the flip side, takeoff of is also easy. You move slower while on a truck, so you’re less likely to accidentally fall
off. And if that fails, the game allows you to jump for some time after you’ve already walked off the side of
a platform. This feature is very typical of modern platformers, and for good reason. It decreases the perceived unfairness of the
game by making it easier to time the button press. This conveys the player’s intent rather than their exact input, which makes the controls that much more intuitive. Clustertruck’s implementation of this mechanic is also tuned really well for the game it’s
in. It gives you a relatively long grace time, which means that, unless you’re trying to, you probably won’t die by going over the edge, despite the pressure to keep on moving. However, it doesn’t stop you from falling
during that time, so it still feels dangerous even though it’s highly tolerant of mistakes. That said, all of this stuff is pretty low
level, and it might not help players who are really feeling the heat. For them, there’s a feature that lets players self-modulate difficulty
in a fun way. The points that you gain for playing through levels of Clustertruck can be spent to unlock movement and utility
abilities, which can then be used within a level to gain an advantage. Since these require input from the player
to use, the abilities make the game easier without making it any less hectic or interesting. They offer some hope and novel gameplay to players stuck on a level by giving them another tool they can use to deal with the danger. Of course, Clustertruck’s developers made
sure that the game was winnable without using any of the unlocks, but they are an option for less skilled players to continue to advance. And since the scoreboards are separate, there’s still a reason to play the game without
using any for those whose seek a greater challenge. In summary, Clustertruck starts by creating a very dangerous environment to raise the stakes. Everything kills you. Everything’s moving. You’re moving. Very quickly. All the obstacles are big and scary. And every sound could spell your doom. But subtly, in ways you wont notice right
way, the game is really on your side. Everything is readable because of the simple, but clear visual design. The obstacles give you enough time to avoid
them. The controls work around your mistakes. Levels are designed with high speed motion
in mind, and make it obvious where you need to go. And if after all that, you’re still stuck, you can use abilities to give yourself a leg
up. Lots of games are thrilling, but it’s rare that anything takes it to the same level as Clustertruck. Even if your game doesn’t go quite as far, there are lessons to be learned. Don’t be afraid to make a challenging game, but observe and anticipate the kinds of mistakes players make when put under pressure. Then design the levels, art assets, and game
mechanics with those in mind. Also ask yourself if there’s anything you
could change to make things appear more threatening than they really are. Start by doing those things, and you’ll have taken a step toward making
a game which feels dangerous and thrilling, without being impossibly difficult. Hey, thanks for watching! Same as last time, my sources are in the description. Also, I’ve created twitter and instagram accounts where I’m going to post whatever projects I’ve been experimenting with for fun, like this bezier curve controlled by points on the curve instead of tangents. Come say hello if you’re interested. Otherwise, the comments here are always open. Bye!

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