The Problem with Rust

By Sacharrine on Mar 2, 2017

If you don't mind the bears and rampaging players, this is a very beautiful game.Image credits to playrust.com
If you don't mind the bears and rampaging players, this is a very beautiful game.Image credits to playrust.com

Well, obviously I meant the game and not real rust. It is perhaps important to note that Rust is still in its Alpha stage, so the game is in no way or form, complete as a product. So, any judgements on my part will definitely be subject to change should there be any new developments later on. With that out of the way, let me tell you what my first few days of playing Rust was like. I’d also like to stress that I didn’t do much research on Rust until after my playthrough, just to keep things interesting and as spoiler-free as possible.

 

The First Playthroughs

When Rust first came out, I suspect people were both enthusiastic and a wee bit sceptical. The game is similar in many ways to zombie survival shooter, DayZ but that was for a short while. The zombies eventually gave way to radioactive environs and wild animals. The game caught some air time with its unusual, if controversial, player randomization; you could be made a female or male with different skin tones from your own current flesh with no way to change them. Rather interestingly, the game is definitely for mature audiences, what with the player characters starting out nude.

However, what got me into Rust was two other things. The first being SovietWomble and his ZF Clan having a good time on it. The other being the sheer curiosity; what was it like to play this unusual game? So, when Rust went on sale a week before the Steam Winter sale last year, I knew I had to get my answer.

Obviously, this being an American made game, there were precious few servers in Asia. Some of them are in Singapore, which isn’t all that bad for latency. So happily, I logged in onto a Singaporean server and the first immediate thing that strikes me is that rather unusually (or perhaps expectedly for some) was that there were no official servers. All the servers were hosted independently, just like when TF2 or Counterstrike were first starting out in South East Asia. Upon logging in, I’m greeted by a rather nice vista that is a lakeside and a character with nothing more than a stone and a torch. Which means, you are literally stark naked.

Did i mention naked, literally naked? Image credits to playrust.com
Did i mention naked, literally naked? Image credits to playrust.com

The stone is the primary gathering tool, at least until you can craft and build better tools. It’s the first good multipurpose tool. Hammer it against a tree to gather wood. Smack it into an animal or someone to hunt… or murder. You can also throw the rock at someone as a ranged weapon (just don’t expect to get it back so easily). Upon killing something, you can use the rock to gather meat (human meat works fine too apparently). Finally, you can also use it to…. Mine out other rocks from rock nodes. My first playthrough, I consider a failure for the primary reason I was unable to build a house or shelter of some sort. I was however, able to build a lot of other things like chests, loot bags, a water skin (or bota bag as its called in-game) and some basic weapons. The bad news being, no place to properly store them without having them get stolen.

Not giving up, I tried again the next day. This time, I opened up a browser to look for guides on how to build structures as I played. Safe to say, the guides weren’t much use either, because they assume you know what tools you need. It wasn’t until I experimented with something called a ‘building plan’ that I could build structures. So, that was a happy accident. The first Robinson Crusoe fort-house I made was actually a squatter pile of shit I built took a lot of time and a lot of effort, but I was happy. The unfortunate part was that despite the server having a generally low player population density at the time, my paranoia took over. This is Rust, an open world game, on a public server and if you’ve seen any of SovietWomble’s Rust Bullshittery videos, you know that when you log out, whatever loot you’ve managed to gather so far, can and will be stolen while you’re away. My happiness gave way to tedium and boredom as I haphazardly tried to get the necessary metal bits to build a code lock…. I hadn’t figured out yet that you could have just simply made a lock and key. Not that it mattered really.

Having spent a total of some eight hours building the squatter pile, I eventually felt it was as secure as it could get and logged out. I didn’t log back in until some three days later. I also had a gut feeling that the place had been gutted. I was right.

So, on the third day of playing the game, I returned to a troll crowing at how easy it was to “break” into my squatter pile and steal everything. Truth be told, I had expected that to have happened. See, in Rust, you’ve some 3-4 levels of building quality. The first level is the shit level; the building structure looks like a very poorly made tree house with thin plywood covered in some kind of dried grass. The other levels are wood, stone and finally metal armor plating. Basically, any level above the super basic plywood and grass level will not rot as time goes by. By the end of day 2 of gaming, I had noticed some bits of the squatter pile was already “rotting” but thought that it would keep. It didn’t. So, by the time the troll got in, there was likely nothing much left apart from the large wooded walls. Most likely the walls around the door had rotted away as well, leaving the loot crates in the area to be easy pickings for any monkey with even a quarter of a brain.

Not a very good start then on day 3. Started from square one but now I had the knowledge needed to rebuild faster and more efficiently. Truth be told, if all had gone well, day 3 would’ve seen me build a more secure house and torch the squatter pile anyway. So, I settled for just making a more secure house. By now, I’m super paranoid, so you can imagine my wariness when a group of 3 veteran players approached and already entered my new house while I was out gathering materials. I think these 3 guys had seen the chat and felt rather sympathetic to me. They donated some refined materials, which was very nice and of course, gave the advice to put a lock on the door. I thanked them profusely and watched them stride off into the woods….where they presumably began hunting something or someone because all I could hear for the next few minutes were gunshots. That said, I continued to go around gathering materials and eventually got bored and logged out… for good.

 

Logged out for good

Knock, knock. Image credits to playrust.com
Knock, knock. Image credits to playrust.com

The thing that really made me give up completely on Rust wasn’t the game’s execution… it was the design. The thought occurred to me as I was figuring out how to set up and use the lock on the door. The game works really, really well. When you’re in the game, everything is fine. You can hunt, you can gather, you can start a massively wasteful and pointless war with other clans, you can build structures and then promptly destroy them with C4… a lot of things really, so long as they are related to hunting, shooting and raiding. What’s more is that currently, resources are forever respawning, so it is impossible for you to run out of building materials. The survival aspect in the form of both hunger and thirst make the game challenging and semi-realistic. So, what made me give up?

It was the human factor to the game. If you’ve ever played Minecraft on publically available servers, you would probably get something like Rust, only that Rust is a much more high definition version of Minecraft, with guns… and horrible, terrible bears. Bears that cannot be killed even after you’ve put several shotgun rounds into it… and charge at you without stopping. That aside, the thing is, in a free for all Minecraft server, you can pretty much do whatever you want, so you’ll naturally have opportunists and trolls. These guys are going to see your secure home, your wonderful masterpiece structure that took years to build and they’re going to think: “No one’s home, right?” Right, so they will pour lava in all the rooms, loot all the chests and use TNT to destroy your masterpiece that took 8 years or hours to build in maybe a span of a few minutes. Minecraft however, has admin mods which grant the admins the ability to police the server for such destructive behaviour. In Minecraft, some servers have also set up very specific rules and this allows people to generally, play in peace.

I’m bringing this up because Rust on the other hand, doesn’t have these features, not without the server admins downloading and installing them. Minecraft also has certain mods to allow specific parcels of land in game to be owned by certain players. This means that if another player were to try and damage anything in this parcel of land, nothing would happen. Which also means that your gathered loot, stays safe from raiders and trolls.

While Rust does have these ‘land ownership’ style mods and while it goes some way to alleviating the situation, most servers will likely not have them and there aren’t all that many servers with these mods either. They’re not as simple to use and are currently only available as third party mods, which means that the mod devs need to constantly update it as Rust updates as well. This is on top of the servers needing to update them as well. Speaking of admins, you technically can get admins or moderators to set up server rules, much like a Minecraft server but that doesn’t seem terribly feasible either. This implies that the server admins need to be online at all times and must be a really good judge because he or she will be called in to settle all kinds of disputes. The biggest issue is that because the game features raiding as a core gameplay element, it becomes difficult for server moderators or admins to determine if a particular raid is for griefing or just a simple materials raid.

Rust base defence artwork. Image credits to Tattenarte958
Rust base defence artwork. Image credits to Tattenarte958

If however, you’re determined to play the vanilla version of Rust, (ie. Without mods) for you to have any peace of mind, you would need to join a global clan that constantly has members logged into a particular Rust server 24 hours a day to help ward off enemies, and even then there’s a chance they might lose. Oh, never mind that you can plant traps, place barriers and whatever. It’s pretty much the same as robbing a bank or hacking a computer in real life; if they’re determined enough, they will get in. So for people like me, who prefer small, tight groups of friends, this is a no-no because despite it being in the nature of the game, it’s just plain ridiculous to have to constantly keep restarting from scratch each time you log in. I do understand that raiding other players is likely a key game element, but I don’t think this is exactly an endearing element. At least give players a way to vault up their items in some place secure, and I don’t mean the dinky little hide away bag. How about something like a nice big safe?

Sometimes, the deer doesn't always run half way across the map. Image credits to playrust.com
Sometimes, the deer doesn't always run half way across the map. Image credits to playrust.com

Rust, unlike Minecraft, Starbound or Terraria, also lacks other things to do in the game. The structures you build are pretty much limited to towers, forts and bunkers (notice how none of these are peaceful sounding?). I’m not too sure how it is for other servers, but frankly if anything, the nature of Rust’s design means that human versus human interaction is always going to be a given. What I’m getting at here is that aside from the constant need to kill another player; another wolf, bear or deer; there isn’t all that much to do. Why else would Garry Newman give the players C4, assault rifles, shotguns and all sorts of base raiding weapons? If you play the game long and hard enough you might get a situation like this: “Ok, if I’m now head honcho of the biggest clan in the server, we’ve all the weapons, food, ammo and materials we’ll ever need, what are we to do now?” That’s a pretty big question and while there’s no doubt it’ll be very difficult to get to that position, you really do need to consider what you’ll do once you get there. And if you decide to run Rust as a peaceful game on a peaceful server, there’s pretty much nothing to do other than exploring, hunting and… well maybe gorging yourself on virtual food. Facepunch Studio has reiterated that they want Rust to be the definitive survival shooter-looty-rapey-murder simulator that it currently is. So, there likely won’t be anything else to build or do apart from the looting and pillaging players are currently already engaged in.

Games can sometimes be meant for relaxation or cheap, quick thrills and definitely not something to stress over while at school or at work, like Rust. Rust is only a fun game when you’re logged in, and when you’re logged out and away, your character goes to sleep and is pretty much open to being raped and looted. If I wanted a quick shooting game without needing to worry about my virtual loot, I’d go to Dirty Bomb. While the crafting, survival and combat in Rust was worth every sen I spent, the heartache and general anxiety when you’re away, isn’t. But as mentioned earlier, Rust is still in its Alpha stage and Facepunch as repeatedly told people the game is nowhere near done. So, here’s hoping Garry Newman sees this and thinks: “Hmm…. Maybe it’s time we actually considered creating a way to allow people to keep their stuff while they’re AFK.”

Sacharrine
About the Author
Part-time gamer, writer and artist. Full time kitten petter. If found, please feed potato chips.
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