Wednesday, August 21, 2019

Rust After Five Years

By Bixyl Shuftan

It's been over five years since my friend Nydia and I found the survival MMO "Rust." And over the years, the game has evolved and changed much as we've had our share of adventures and misadventures. Long gone are the game's first days when all the structures were on a circular road and you had to watch out for zombies and mutant animals. While much has changed, the objective remains much the same, starting with nothing but a rock and a torch in a place where so much wants to kill you from the animals to the weather to other players, you build tools, weapons, clothes to survive and a base to protect your stuff and yourself when not playing, and as the game goes on you improve what you have. In PvP areas, you also have to defend yourself from raiders. Timid players tend to miss out on opportunities. Aggressive but sensible players tend to do well. And reckless players tend to have a hard time keeping the loot they gathered before making it to a place of safety.

When we last looked at the game in Dec 2016, they had just introduced it's "component system" and introduced junkpiles which you find along the roads and at places such as the metal towers. It was about a year later in January 2018 that the development team announced they were leaving "early access," which basically stated they had determined the general course of the game and while they would continue to make updates there would be no more greatly radical changes such as the short-lived XP system. Still, a lot has changed.

Starting up is much like before. Upon appearing on the map, always on the beach as if having washed up on shore, the first thing to go is gauge your surroundings, and if there's nothing threatening nearby, look around nearby for some materials such as hemp to make some basic clothes, stone rocks for stone, and trees for wood. You'll need to make a stone hatchet, stone pickaxe, wood or stone spear, bow and arrow, floorplan, and hammer. Check the map with the "G" button to see where nearby roads, mountains, rivers, and permanent buildings are. As before, you'll need to make a base. But different locations have different advantages and disadvantages, especially in PvP servers. Ideally, you'll want a place not far away from places where you can get scrap, components, food and water, and mineable rocks. But in a PvP server, you'll generally want a somewhat out of the way location that won't be found too quickly, generally. Some players like the challenge of frustrating raiders (more on that later). And unless the server is modded, all builds are taken down at least once a month in what's become known as the "wipe."

Going back to the component system, going through the boxes and barrels, besides finding complete items, you'll also find scrap and components, such as empty propane tanks, gears, metal pipes, metal blades, springs, and more. Some items need just one of these components, such as salvaged hammers which need one metal pipe. A few need two or three kinds of components. Components can also be broken down at the recyclers at a number of locations, such as the mining outposts and supermarkets, into raw materials and scrap.

From the start you'll be able to make a number of items, such as sheet metal doors, code locks, small furnaces, primitive one-shot pistols, leather boots, and a few other things if you have the materials. When going through crates and barrels, you'll occasionally find blueprints for items such as water storage barrels, planters, and furniture. But for many items, the only way you'll be able to build them is to find the item and research it. This means finding the item to begin with, putting in in a research table, which you can either build or use the one at a few locations such as the Satelite Dish monument, and use the amount of scrap needed, which you find in small amounts going about smashing junkpiles and looting boxes. Some items need a small amount, such as leather gloves which require 20. Most will require more, such as the metal hatchets and pickaxes and the pistol bullets which need 75 scrap to learn how to build. Some items need a lot, such as armored doors, demolition charges and assault riles which take 500 scrap to research. Once an item is researched, it's used up whether it's in good condition or poor (I haven't tried researching a broken item). One can also use an amount of scrap to experiment to create a blueprint, though the results are random.

While many items you can just make anywhere if you have the materials and items handy, some need you to be next to a workbench. A level one workbench cost some wood, metal, and a little scrap, and are needed to make things such as metal hatchets and pickaxes, gunpowder, and pistol bullets. For some items such as basic rifle bullets and automatic pistols, you'll need a level two workbench which needs 500 metal, 20 high quality metal, and 500 scrap. Plus you need to be at a level one workbench. The most powerful items need a level three workbench, which needs 1000 metal, 100 high quality metal, and 1250 scrap, plus being near a level two workbench.

There's another reason to research items besides building them. With a few exceptions, unless you know how to build an item, you can't repair one in a repair bench, even if you have all the materials.

Probably the biggest change to the game since our last review is the addition of NPCs, the scientists. Identifiable in their blue radiation suits, they're found patrolling near certain junkpiles, or a few certain places like the Military Tunnels, and will shoot any player who gets too close. This means even in Player vs Environment servers the most dangerous thing out there are no longer "ninja bears" and wolves. And armed with automatic weapons, they can make short work of a poorly-prepared player. Probably the best way to take them out is a bolt-action rifle with a scope, though quick players with meds and some armor can engage them closer up. But not every NPC is hostile, at least not always. There's a Bandit Camp and a Scientist Compound that will let you in, *BUT*, you need to keep your hands free of weapons or tools that can be used as one. So much as showing a hatchet for more than a few seconds near either location will get you shot at. The Bandit camp has a gambling area in which you can wager some scrap in a chance to get more (though possibly lose what you have). The scientist camp has a vending matching in which you can trade various amount of scrap for various items.

Besides the infamous chopper, there's also a Bradley Armored Personnel Carrier. But not everyone sees it as it supposedly stays close to the Rocket Launch area and possibly the new Excavator Pit. Like the chopper, it will attack anyone in sight, and besides it's rockets and machine gun has a cannon. But it has blind spots, and a sneaky (or lucky) player can take it out with two demo charges.

Also after our last review, a new aspect to the game was introduced: maintenance. No longer will bases decay only because you're not logging on every day. They will slowly start to degrade shortly after being set up. They way to stop this is to put a certain amount of wood, stone, metal, and hi-quality metal if there are any armored parts, in the tool cabinet. The amount used up every so often depends on how big the base is and how much wood, stone and metal were used in making the floors, walls, and doors. This means that a build-minded player can't just simply keep making the base bigger and taller, or keep adding "honeycombing" to discourage raiders, but has to keep in mind much raw materials he or she can keep getting. There are of course modded servers with no decay or low decay enabled. But for most, you're going to have to keep maintaining what you build. Otherwise the place will soon decay to the point people will be able to sneak in and get your stuff, and eventually it collapses, or "rusts," away. On the plus side, if you need to be gone for several days, you can just load your tool cabinet with the needed materials to keep it going.

There are some ways of getting around besides on foot. There are motorboats that can be found about on shore. They can be pushed into the water, and require low-grade fuel to operate. Once the fuel runs out, the boat stops. They can also be used to store a few items. Boats are not indestructible, and after taking some damage will be destroyed. There are also small one-man choppers that can be found in places. They also require low grade fuel to operate. I personally found them tricky to fly, and from what I've heard can only take a few hits before they explode and the player plummets to his death. But a skilled player can use them to get to places that would otherwise be difficult. It should be noted that unless used, small helicopters will gradually decline in hitpoints until they hit zero and explode. I've had one go off just behind me when going about. While I haven't heard of anyone being hurt by a small chopper exploding this way, what can happen in a PvP area with a number of armed and nervous players nearby is obvious.

Another option for air travel are the hot air balloons lying around. They take 15 fuel to fill, and more to keep going. They also have a limited storage capacity. Once the fuel is gone, they float down. But be careful where you land as coming down on a place full of razor wire or NPC scientists will end you. For those planning on using the latter two to raid bases, there are now Surface to Air Missile batteries that can fire at player-controlled aircraft. In unmoded public servers, it won't fire on the NPC chopper, though.

The more recent way to get around is on horseback. While horses have been in the game for years, only recently could they be ridden. As of the writing of this article, all horses are approachable and have saddles. Press "E" to mount up, and spacebar to dismount. You can speed them up for a gallop, but this drains their stamina bar. If they're low on health, you can feed them pumpkins and corn for them to regain it.  For the fun of it, you can press "control" for the steed to neigh and rear up. Like boats, horses despawn after a few hours of nonuse, but you can build a hitch to keep one around. Do not put a horse indoors as it will soon die. Don't expect things to stay things this way for too long as the developers are working on a way to capture wild horses, and presumably you'll need to craft the saddles.

Temperature can be a complication as overheating means you'll dehydrate faster, being cold means you'll burn up more food, and really cold can start to lower your health. Being wet will make you even colder, and it cold areas wet clothes don't dry so quickly unless you make a campfire. Temperatures also drop at night, so if you're going through a cold area when it's sunset, you may need to stop soon and make camp. Oh, and if your swim out into deep water, temperatures will drop so you'll start to take cold damage if you're in there too long.

Speaking of water, there's now scuba gear available, facemasks, flippers, wetsuits, and the air tank. You'll need at least the air tank to go down deep without starting to drown while the masks help you see underwater, the flippers help you swim faster, and the suit helps you keep from getting too cold in the water. With the suit, you can dive down to wrecks and loosen up crates there to float to the surface and get the loot from them. There's also floating debris which you can go out either on a boat or swim out with the wetsuit, and get the loot from any boxes or barrels there.

Some of the changes are for Player versus Player aspects. In the past, the only way a raider could sneak on top was to be able to make a raid tower close enough a base, which couldn't always be done. Now there are ladders than a player without build permissions within a tool cabinet's zone can place and climb up to the top of a base and break in from the top down. No longer can builders just build high and assume their stuff stored above will be relatively safe.

Fortunately, defensive minded-players now have a defense against players: more and better traps. In the past the only traps available were wooded spikes, bear traps, and land mines that could be evaded by raiders and could end up activating on their builder. Now there are shotgun traps, flamethrower turrets, and auto turrets. The shotgun trap requires 125 scrap to learn the blueprint and 500 wood, 250 metal, two gears (less in some servers), and two ropes to make near a level one workbench. It uses the makeshift handmade shells that before were used for the simple waterpipe shotgun and eoka pistol. While it fires only directly forward, it can be placed on walls and over doorways. Flamethrower turrets use low grade fuel to spew fire within a short range, which means you can't place them in a wooden part of a base. They need 75 scrap to research and 10 hi quality metal, two pipes, two gears, and five empty propane tanks. They do make a noise when active, so a raider can hear them nearby.

Of the three shooting traps, the auto-turret is the hardest to make and research of the three, requiring 500 scrap to learn to make and needing a level three workbench to assemble the 40 hi quality metal, 1 tv camera and 1 targeting computer. But these are the deadliest and most versitile of the traps, with a long range and a 180 degree field of fire that players can use as outside defenses. They also have a "peacekeeper" mode that keeps them from firing on players without weapons showing, showing a green beam instead of a red one when this is so. While deadly, it does have some weaknesses. Close up, they also make a distinctive noise, potentially alerting raiders .With it's high rate of fire, it can run out of ammo quickly, and if a raider manages to get behind and up to it, they can just turn it off. With 1000 hit points, raiders may need rockets or explosive ammo to take them out.

Also to help slow down raiders is a new kind of door, the garage door. It takes twice as much metal to make than a sheet metal door plus two gears. But at 600 HP it has more than twice the hitpoints.

To help you get some raw materials faster, a couple tools have been added to the game. The chainsaw, when it works, will rapidly turn trees and fallen logs into wood for you.  And for anyone even remotely familiar with a few slasher movies, it's use in PvP combat is obvious. I imagine it could also be used to scare enemies away, especially if you're wearing a facemask. I say "when it works" as I have yet to get one of the darn things to work for me. What I have gotten to work is the jackhammer. This handy tool will rapidly chip away a mineable rock into ore or stone, and automatically finding the weak spots as if you were hitting the shinny spot. In places where there's a lot of rocks such as caves, a player can get a lot of material in a short time, which can come in handy in building up a base faster, or getting the material to maintain one. Players can't research jackhammers yet, but they can be repaired.

One of the more recent changes to the game is electricity, or rather electrical components such as switches, batteries, timers, pressure plates, etc. Players can keep their system powered with windmills or solar panels. While they can just be used to allow doors to automatically open, and in the future there may be sorting systems for storage. In PvP servers, a more obvious use of this is making elaborate traps. One example is a pressure plate that when stepped on opens a nearby door with a shotgun or flame trap behind it. I've seen videos made by players luring raiders to a trap base, watch as the raider realizes he's been tricked, then delivering the finishing blow. Sometimes the results are hilarious as it's pretty satisfying to see a "salty" or "toxic" player get his due. For more information on electricity in Rust, you can read this page: .

With PvP servers pitting tactics of raiding versus strategies of defense, I've seen some designs of bases made to be good at resisting raiders, or at least make the cost of doing so much more effort than what's in the storage crates. Deception has also become a strategy. I've heard of players building over a hollow spot in the ground, storing stuff underneath, and making the top part look like an abandoned and decaying base. Another strategy is making a large and visible base that isn't difficult to find while making a tiny base in a more remote area hidden by trees or rocks to stash the more valuable items in. Not much is more frustrating to a raider than having spent dozens of rockets and/or demo charges and hundreds to thousands or rounds of ammo, possibly dying once or twice, only to find a loot room that's practically empty (and possibly with a note that says "Sucker!"). Raiders sometimes call these "troll bases," though more defensive players have a different idea who the trolls are.

For those wanting to know more about the game, there are plenty of youtubes about various aspects of gaming from how to build a better base to solo raiding a clan building to which server to choose (some PvP ones have somewhat less aggressive ones than others) to various details such as the monuments. You can also check out the blog at for both the latest updates as well as a glance at how the game has changed over time. You can also check out the Rust Wiki at . While Rust isn't for everyone, over time it's emerged as one of the more popular and distinctive survival MMOs.

Some pictures by Spooked Dreamscape

Bixyl Shuftan