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Jusant co-creative director Kevin Poupard explains how the team sought to make the title's core climbing mechanic as approachable as possible.

Chris Kerr

August 29, 2023

3 Min Read
Key artwork for Jusant featuring the game's protagonist decked out in climbing gear

Jusant is beguiling. Don't Nod's upcoming climber turns cliffs and chasms into vertigo-inducing Rubik's cubes and asks players to unlock their secrets to achieve a singular goal: ascend.

During a recent hands-on session at Gamescom 2023, I was immediately struck by how intuitive traversal feels in-game. The protagonist's hands are controlled by the left and right triggers, with each one mirroring the player's left and right hand. Pushing the triggers will cause the player to grip onto a handhold, and releasing will result in them letting go. That means if you release both at once, gravity will quickly take over.

As players carefully lock and release, they'll need to use the analog stick to search out new holds or fling themselves up and around chasms by leaning on mechanics and items like a double jump, deployable pitons that can be used to bridge gaps, and a rope that facilitates abseiling and breathtaking leaps of faith.

It's a system that quickly becomes second nature, and after a few minutes with the demo I was tactfully maneuvering over and around looming rock formations with purpose and precision. That, according to Jusant co-creative director, Kevin Poupard, is exactly what the team set out to achieve. Getting there, however, required some trial-and-error.

The art of the climb

"It took a lot of time. We tried many different climbing mechanics. At one point, we tried letting players control the legs as well using the left and right bumpers, but that was too complicated," says Poupard. "We wanted to keep it simple to help broaden our audience, which is why we just give players control of the arms."

Jusant is a game that's very much about the journey. That was part of the rationale behind allowing players to access all of the game's climbing tools from the outset. Doing so, however, meant Don't Nod had to figure out how they could ramp up the challenge without suddenly revoking access to those abilities.

Jusant_Screenshot_1.png

The inclusion of a stamina meter that must be carefully managed on long ascents (think a more forgiving version of the one found in The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom) was one solution, as it requires players to be proactive when considering how to approach each climb. Another is the addition of environmental elements can change the state of play at a moment's notice.

"We sought to add variation by creating different environments that provide unique challenges. For instance, the second biome in this preview includes a bright sun that will have a huge impact on your stamina," continues Poupard. "That means players need to be smart when deciding where to climb. Do they seek a route that's bathed in sunlight or choose another that's hidden in shadow?"

Poupard also bought into the idea that each wall must become a puzzle in itself. To achieve that goal, the design team were asked to consider what might surprise players to ensure there are always new and unique ways to overcome each obstacle. That might mean making a smaller wall—an unassuming slab of rock that would be easy to underestimate—more complicated than expected, highlighting the pitfalls of complacency. 

Jusant_Screenshot_2.png

As Poupard mentioned earlier, approachability remained a key consideration throughout production, and that led to some impactful design choices. For example, a small portion of the stamina wheel can be replenished mid-climb if players choose to rest. It's a decision that offers a safety net to players who might otherwise become frustrated, while also punishing those who don't carefully monitor their energy levels by slowing their progress.

To better manage the difficulty curve in Jusant, Poupart also told the design team to focus on ramping up the challenge during their earliest blockouts because "it's always easier to lower the difficulty [later on] than it is to increase it." He explained the game was "way harder" a year ago than it is today, but adds "this is how we found the right balance."

Jusant will launch on October 31, 2023, and will be available through Xbox Game Pass.

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About the Author(s)

Chris Kerr

News Editor, GameDeveloper.com

Game Developer news editor Chris Kerr is an award-winning journalist and reporter with over a decade of experience in the game industry. His byline has appeared in notable print and digital publications including Edge, Stuff, Wireframe, International Business Times, and PocketGamer.biz. Throughout his career, Chris has covered major industry events including GDC, PAX Australia, Gamescom, Paris Games Week, and Develop Brighton. He has featured on the judging panel at The Develop Star Awards on multiple occasions and appeared on BBC Radio 5 Live to discuss breaking news.

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