Thursday, January 14, 2016

Return to Rust

By Bixyl Shuftan

It was about two years ago when my gaming friend Nydia Tungsten and I found out about "Rust." For those whom haven't read our previous articles on the game, it is a survival game developed by Facepunch Studios in early 2014 that at the time was loosely compared to "Minecraft," and "Day Z." The game had no "score," rather the player woke up naked with nothing but a rock and a torch in the middle of a wilderness marked by a road with occasional abandoned buildings along the way. Standing in the player's immediate goal of survival were bears, wolves, zombies, and other players. The players could use the rock they started out with to gather wood, stone, metal, and sulphur to make tools, harvest meat and skins from animals to build up health, get food, weapons, and blueprints to make things from containers in buildings. On occasion, there would be an airdrop that potentially had valuable goods, such as metal building parts and automatic weapons. To help them stay alive and preserve their stuff, players built bases, either their own or a few getting together to make one. People had to log in at least every couple days or their buildings would slowly decay, or "rust," away.

The biggest obstacle of the game were hostile gamers. While many, perhaps most, were content to just go about their way, there were some whom seemed inclined to shoot anyone on sight and raid any place they could rather than work and harvest stuff on their own, whom Nydia named the "PvP kiddies."

Still in open alpha development, Nydia and I and our friends gave it a try. We had fun for a while, building up our combined base. There were a few changes over time. Early on, the zombies were dropped, replaced with mutant red bears and wolves. Some players complained, but the developers stated they didn't want their game to be just another "zombie MMO." Over time, we saw some creative builds by other players. But unfortunately, we were having to spend more and more time rebuilding from our bases being broken into and finding resources to replace what was stolen. Eventually, Nydia and her friends got tired of dealing with the "PvP kiddies" and left Rust behind for other games.

A few months later, I heard the game was updating. So I gave it another look. On the plus side, there was less of a danger of starving if you couldn't find food on the first day. There were also rivers and streams introduced. But the roads were gone, and there weren't much structures around (so I noticed), so finding one's way about was pretty hard. I couldn't find any crates or other containers, so I couldn't find any cloth to make even a pair of pants for my naked character. One also couldn't make building parts at the start. So it was time to abandon the game and go with the games my friends had taken up. Rust did make gaming news some months later when they introduced black skins to some of the players. But there was some controversy as the choice was taken away from the players, "just like in real life, you are who you are - you can't change your skin color or your face." While there was "a definite uptick in overly racist language," the big issue seemed to be that some people "have a strange need to play someone similar to themselves in games." While female skins were eventually made, so far they are limited to members of the development team.

It was in the tail end of December 2015 when Nydia's friend Brandi Streussel decided to take a peek at the game. So I decided to check things out. The first thing I noticed was it was taking much longer to load than last time. Once in, I began looking around for resources, and it wasn't long before I found there had been further changes to the game. The roads were back, and not only were the containers back, there were a greater variety of them, sometimes appearing as metal drums, trash cans, and half-torn boxes, but they could appear away from buildings. There were "hemp plants," which could be harvested for cloth. It was a welcome addition as there had been times in the old Rust it took a while before I found a container or critter to clobber.

Going about, there was more marking the terrain than just roads. There were power lines and towers dotting the landscape, which were a help in finding my way around. The smaller ones by the road had an occasional "Lost dog" ad, and the roads had signs by them, ones that were a bit weathered and sometimes spray painted. Like in the early Rust, there were groups of abandoned structures. They were not always buildings, one group being a pair of no longer active huge radio reception receivers. They are a little more detailed than before. Some with electric lights that provide illumination at night. There are also sewers residents can go down into and look around for supplies. Radioactive areas are less of a problem as I have yet to come across any, though as I have come across anti-radiation pills that presumably suggests there's one or more around somewhere. With rivers and rain now a feature, one  can now get wet, showing up as a percentage on the HUD. It doesn't usually affect you, aside from making it more likely to get cold.

Building your own structures has changed. You use some wood to make piece of paper, then use the paper to make a floorplan. Once you have the floorplan, just put it in your inventory bar at the bottom, activate it, and move it to the spot where you want to build. If it's red, move to another spot. if it's blue, just click and you have a foundation, which you can add to by moving it to adjacent sides and as long as the marker's still blue and you have the wood, you can build. To get walls, doorways, stairs, ceilings, and other sections, just press the Shift button while the marker is up, and you get a menu of which kind of section you want next. Doors, window bars, and shutters are not part of this system, but are created like other items and placed by putting them in your action bar, activating it, and placing it where you want the part to go.

When first set up though, building parts are rather flimsy and won't take much punishment from other players before they collapse. To strengthen them, build a wooden hammer. And when it's active in your action bar, the building part it's near will be highlighted green and can be upgraded. There are five levels for building structures: wood, stone, metal, and armored. At the beginning, stone is the strongest you can make the walls of a sizable structure, but it should keep out raiders whom have yet to get explosives. Judging from the abandoned buildings I saw while exploring, players need to keep logging in, or their structures will decay, or "Rust" back into the wilderness.

There's a greater variety of tools, clothes, and other items one can make. As before, you'll need blueprints to learn to make some, such as machetes, helmets, and metal hatchets. Also as before, to make use of the metal and sulfur you get from harvestable boulders, in addition to the high quality metal that's been added to the game, you'll need a furnace. Getting the low grade fuel to make one, you'll either need animal fat from clobbered critters, or refine crude oil found at certain containers at certain buildings and refined in furnaces. So now one can get fuel without "killing Bambi." As before, items wear out over time from use. To fix them, one needs a workbench and certain materials, such as wood and metal fragments in the case of repairing wooden hatchets. Once one gets the blueprints, one can build larger furnaces to smelt more metal at once. Once you get the blueprints, one can also build mining quarries to harvest ores and rock directly from a piece of land instead of looking around for harvestable boulders. But the ratio of what can be harvested varies from place to place. So it's best to use a survey charge first and examine the chunks of rock that result.

As in the old Rust, there are things out there that want to eat you, the bears and wolves. Gone are the red critters, so no special goodies beyond meat and leather if you clobber one. Instead, it's one less thing that's out to get you. One difference in the game is in the old Rust, you could outrun a bear, and keep away from a wolf if you kept running. This time, they run faster than you do. if you run into one going through a bush and are armed with only a bow and arrow, it's goodbye as they catch up to you and chow down on your screaming body. There's also a NPC helicopter that flies from place to place. If it sees you, it will fire it's machine guns, and possibly rockets, at you. So far with the chopper, I have yet to find a weapon that offers an alternative to running and hiding. Like the old Rust, there is still the plane occasionally flying overhead and doing a drop. And there are still the pigs you can hunt down on foot with just an axe. After all this time, it's still satisfying to chase and take down a piggy (at least for me). Besides the deer, there are now horses trotting about. If one can harvest things different things from them from deer, I don't know as I didn't have the heart to take one down, preferring to wait longer for a stag or pig.

It should also be noted as a "Survival MMO," some servers are listed as PvP active or "Player versus Player." So far, my experience with the game has been with one server marked PvE or "Player versus Environment." Unlike Ark, in which players can't directly hurt anyone in a server where PvP combat is disallowed, a server's PvE status is supposed to be enforced by administrators. In the old Rust, we had trouble when some players ignored that and kept going after us. In this one, we've had a little trouble with people breaking in and stealing things. It hasn't quite reached the level we had in the old Rust yet. But it does leave me, and others, to wonder a little if there's truly such a thing as a true public PvE server in Rust.

It should be noted the game is still in development and still changing, officially described as in "early access." When Brandi and I first started, besides the harvestable boulders, there were smaller rocks and chunks of iron and sulfur on the ground one could simply pick up. But after the update in early January, they were gone. At Christmastime, there was a treat for the players in the form of presents that would occasional appear, "Ho ho ho!"

In developer Gary Newman's 2015 review, he's described himself as learning some lessons over time. Among them, "Don’t be afraid of the reaction of people on the Internet. The first reaction is always outrage, and is usually from people who haven’t played the game for months." He also has a few plans for further developments, such as Experience, Blueprint, and Skills systems, things to add variety to experiences, such as the occasional apple or birds nest with eggs when chopping trees, and being able to throw meat to distract bears and wolves.

So two years later, Rust is still around and has life in it.

As I was finishing up this article, Nydia told me she was getting a private server for her friends. So there may be some more "Return to Rust" tales in the future.

Sources:, kotaku,

Bixyl Shuftan