Rust and Early Access in General

Rust,

it would appear, is a game designed solely to benefit a specialized class of people. Some might consider them to posses a healthy sense of individualism, go-get-attitude and enterprising spirit of competition. Those people would of course be complete idiots, with batshit in place of thinking and manberry jam in place of judgement. The reality is of course that Rust is best enjoyed by assholes. Petty, amoral, opportunistic assholes to be precise.

At this point it’s probably worth mentioning that Rust is still an alpha-build, and by next Thursday it might be a wholly different game, possibly in a different language with radically different game play and setting, and with all possible issues magically fixed by the Code Fairy. Could be. But won’t be.

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What is all this mucking about about?

Rust tries to edge its way between the huge, hulking monster that is Minecraft, and the prickly mutant glob that is DayZ. The world has ended and zombies and radiation are everywhere. You begin by picking a server and spawn in a random location, naked down to your dangly cave-man balls, with nothing but a rock, some bandages and a torch to keep you warm in the pitch darkness. So you do the minecraft thing, and start banging things with your rock. If you, like me, start by using logic in stead of wikis, you start banging on trees and notice little +1woods popping up on your screen, until a little message pops up saying the tree has no more wood. “But it’s right fucking there, it’s a big fucking tree! I’m looking right at it. It hasn’t gone anywhere.” “Doesn’t matter, there’s no more wood left. Stop pestering me and go look at a guide, you damn noobie.”

So you look up a wiki and start banging on wood piles, getting seven times more wood. And then you bang on rocks, until you have enough wood and stone to make a little cave-man hammer. Then you hit things with it in stead. Once you find a pig you can start chasing it, wildly swinging at its bum until it falls down and you can hit chicken fillets and cloth from it. “Why the fuck is the pig made of chicken fillets? Did I miss some important point in Biology?”, to which I imagine the game responding: “Note to Adrian the coder: put something in this window.” Once you make yourself a bow and some arrows you can start hunting things, and can collect more wood, stone, ore, cloth and animal fats, and make yourself a little hut, with a door of your own. Make a camp fire. Open it and put raw meat in. Make clothes. Make a crafting bench. Make a forge. Make metals and sulfur. Make a gun out of wood and bits of metal. Make a little sleeping bag for a respawn point. Maybe then you can go scavenging for stuff actually worth owning. Then repeat infinitely.

Of course by this point you are by all likelihood dead. And respawned with your pet rock and cave-man balls dangling in the cool night air, ready to do it all over again. Die you shall, and die you shall a whole fucking lot. Zombies are going to eat you. Bears are going to fuck you. Wolves are going to gnaw on your puny bones, because you didn’t have the sense to craft enough arrows. Mostly you are going to die, because everyone else on the server is a massive cock, watching your rock with massive envy, and will do everything possible to steal your things.

This is my Rock. There are many like, but this one is mine.

This is my Rock. There are many like, but this one is mine.

On the Subject of Being a Dick about Things

Other players are the only real danger, and more there are of them around, the shittier your experience is going to be. No bastard off-shoot of DayZ would be complete without a difficulty curve that could be only described as ‘a vertical wall’, and a game based around survival mechanics in a post-apocalypse wilderness would not be complete without an atmosphere of survival of the fittest and general dicking about. That’s fine, this is actually advertised in big letters in Steam. The atmosphere of the game seems to induce a certain mind setting in the player, and part of the thrill in the game is crouching in the bushes at the first little sound of a footstep, usually indicating a coming East-European accent demanding all your stuff, “or I kill.” And usually shooting you in any case.

The problem comes simply in that there is no actual reason to be a dick. The world resources respawn so regularly you could set a watch by it, and once you have a bow and a primitive hammer the environment holds very few dangers for you. Finding buildings is relatively easy, and the special items pop up in crates with the same regularity as the mystic log piles. There is no sense of sparsity in resources, and the only threat to your survival is the greedy dick who wants to steal your wood for his personal skyscraper. In fact, you become a dick for no reason beyond being a dick, and dicking others becomes its own reward. The only reward is a slight thrill of anonymously ruining someone’s evenings worth of scavenging.

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Almost all human interaction therefore is dismally negative, until you yourself become one of the elite club, who have the good guns and kevlar armor, by which time you probably harbor enough resentment towards your fellow players to become one of the raiding and murdering dicks.

At one point I had built a little house of my very own, with a big metal door (which can only be opened by the player who created it,) and metal bars on the windows to keep my measly possessions safe. I was quite excited and thought the game would finally open up, and went out to see what the gaming world had been holding back until then. So I went and scavenged some industrial halls and barracks and came back to my house. But as I opened the door and ran in, I suddenly heard frantic footsteps start into a run, as if someone had been lying in wait outside my door and waiting for an opportunity to run inside. So I slammed the door shut and begun to turn around, when I was killed by a shotgun blast. Someone had killed me and was now raiding my house, as I spawned upstairs and was immediately killed again.

Ironically, the raider was now locked in my house with no way out, and the text window popped open, with him asking me to come back and open the door for him. He would even return some of my things for the courtesy. But I decided fuck it, I would rather have him disconnect and lose everything he was carrying, resentfully telling them to stuff it up their arse and rage quitting, never going back. My only consolation that I had little beyond a revolver crafted from wood and bits of metal shavings, while they would lose a lot of higher level gear, as general karmic punishment for being a twat.

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There I began to see I was becoming one of them. A twat myself, a resentful arse on a server full of assholes. I then began to think what I was really trying to achieve in the game. Once you have the basic necessities for survival, there is a sense of Bear Grylls-y survivalist fun that is lost and you can go hoarding stuff infinitely, but what is the point? You only end up paranoidly guarding it against other twats. What about building? You can make a little pet project for yourself sure, and I saw some genuinely impressive towers that actually reached above the game world sun. However the building options are severy limited and mostly ugly as arse. Mostly I looked at these amateur wooden towers of Babel, and thought, “Wow, I cannot even imagine how many evenings some sad twat has wasted making that.” The game seems to lack an ultimate goal, and mostly what there remains is bullying lower level players.

Thankfully, there are less crowded servers, as well as PvE servers. As long as the buggers would stay online.

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What Are We Here to Do?

I tried to imagine what the element is that is supposed to drive the game. For Mass Effect games it’s story, for Bethesda games, like FallOut 3 and Elder Scrolls-series, it’s exploration, for Grand Theft Auto it’s anarchy. For Rust, this seems to be misanthropy. Perhaps its the element of urban life and constant pressure of people, forced to uphold a face of normalcy and uphold social codes – something that makes you want to wander the world in solitude and reject all elements of human interaction. Certainly a point where “trolling” others has become a social practice worth admiration for its own sake, is a sure sign that all Western Civilization has reached its zenith, and is on its way down and accelerating. In which case the best course of action is probably throwing all the switches in power plants, cutting all power and water to everyone, opening all valves in chemical plants and nuclear plants and covering all the land and water in toxins and radiation, and leave people to feed on each other like rats.

So all in all, I begin to think Rust maybe just isn’t for me. I had fun with it as well, and it kept me well and truly glued to the keyboard for several evenings, but it doesn’t seem to have the same life-consuming, tinkering qualities as Minecraft, isn’t as exciting to explore as Fallout or even as tense as DayZ. It may have potential, but the developers are going to have more issues to work on than the poor bastard who is holding the only fire-extinguisher in Hell.

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Oh yeah, the title also said Early Access

Rust is currently an early access title available on Steam, which I bough after trying out Seven Days to Die, and struggling for a while between the two. In the end, Rust looked more finished and streamlined, as well as cheaper by a third of the price. After playing both for a time, I don’t think I’m sold on the concept of Early Access. Seems to me it’s becoming more of a thing, allowing a developer to start making money before the game is in any way finished, or even has most of the final features. Possibly paying even more for the finished product, if it is ever finished. Imagine having the possibility to go and see a Marvel film before they finish up the post-production, and just watch a bunch of twats punching each other in front of a green-screen. This kind of shit just wouldn’t be possible with any other medium.

Ideally, this would allow innovative but struggling indie developers get their ideas out in the public, and make it possible to for them to gather up the remaining funds to deliver the product that meets their vision and satisfies the fans, cutting out the cancerous, festering appendix of middle-men, like EA, between the developer and the audience. Everyone wins, right?

Of course, practically this probably means that the developers hammer out a rushed, crude and barely functional alpha-build, so it can enter the market and start making money. After that they might hire more coders and put more intense work into the project. But it can also mean that they can leave a skeleton crew to make token upgrades to the build in the faint hope it might one day reach the glistening slopes of the Beta Mountain, and move their real attention to the next project, so it can be pimped up to a mostly functional state, and be given the boot and go out earning on the Early Access market as well. 

My advice is to only buy stuff that is actually finished from now on. On a positive note, maybe Mass Effect 3 can now be retroactively declared an early access title.

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