research notes: rust

by ibull

for those not in the know:

Rust is an Early Access survival game on Steam, created by Facepunch Studios. We also make Garry’s Mod, which has sold over 5 million copies. Rust was inspired by games like DayZ, Minecraft and Stalker. It is a multiplayer game where you and other players are attempting to survive through the awful conditions, where humanity has been reduced to cavemen. Rust’s world is harsh. The environment is not kind. Bears and wolves will chase and kill you. Falling from a height will kill you. Being exposed to radiation for an extended period will kill you. Starving will kill you. Being cold will kill you. Other players can find you, kill you, and take your stuff. Fortunately for you, you can kill others and take their stuff. Or maybe you can make friends and help each other survive, using the game’s building tools to create a safe haven? We just make the tools, and allow the community to express themselves. They’ve made incredible things so far. (source)

day one

first ~15 minutes

*randomly chooses server with 0 players on it, advertised as no-mod/vanilla, noob-friendly*
spawn in total darkness, try to take inventory of items loaded in my hotbar: rock, bandages/health pack, torches
press 3 to start burning torches, walk to nearby cliff face, try to interface by clicking it, nothing happens
open settings menu, consult controls guide, close guide with no better understanding of what to do or how to do something
stumble around in the dark, jump on rocks, stumble across an area and begin to hear clicks of a geiger counter, search for source of sound, discover nothing, afk until daybreak.

Fuck this game.

sometime later

Yay, daytime.

walk around, discover shacks and other crude buildings, loot — few drops are immediately helpful (e.g., food, laser sight, ores).
find a deer, attempt to hit it, fail.
find a boar, attempt to hit it, success.
chase boar, fail to hit after repeated tries.
feeling of boredom begins to set in.
*quits game*

many hours later, after roommates come home

S asks me how playing Rust has been. i tell him i’m still in the “impenetrably difficult” phase because everything from [what to do] to [how to do things] is neither obvious nor with clear reward as of yet. S and B console me; this is clearly a phase for many/all players. S tells me about the dev blog; being a friday, it was recently updated. reviewing an older post on the blog gives me my first real look at the character models in the game:


i ask S if there’s a 3rd person perspective i can use in the game — maybe i just didn’t know the right keystroke — but no, there isn’t.

embodied dissonance. 

S points out that players have been asking for differently gendered characters for “a long time,” but he reasons that the neglect in this area is probably due to the fact that the game is in alpha. he also reasons that adding women to the model lineup would probably be a pandora’s box for the community; apparently, a significant demographic of players are 18 years old or younger (according to this ad hoc survey in February, kids made up almost 30% of players surveyed). he also shares that it’s fairly common for players to mime sex acts on or in proximity to other characters. to get some sense of how people are discussing gender at present in dominant player communities, i did a quick search of “gender” on the Rust subReddit; i came across this anecdote:

I generally avoid using in-game voice as much as possible, which is easier for me to do because I usually play Rust with a dude. He does the communicating, I mostly silently stand around while he interacts. I have used in-game voice on a couple of occasions. In one instance, the guy was totally cool and didn’t comment on my gender one way or another. (He asked if I was friendly and if I’d been looting the boxes at hangar.) On the other occasion, two assholes chased me all over the map when I was armed with a rock. They had initially approached me, armed and looking threatening. I said something like, “Hey, I’m friendly, it’s just me and my rock.” Then they killed me after a few seconds of “oooooh, a girl!!” I respawned nearby and they started the chase. They eventually cornered me in a building, put up barriers to prevent me from leaving, and then harassed me in voice chat until i suicided. Their comments were mostly aimed at the fact that I was a “bitch” in Rust, and deserved what I got. (source)

i ask S if he thinks the game would be different with more diversity in the character modeling; he doesn’t think so. he doesn’t think that the mechanical operation of the game would be different. i think he considers gender as a decorative element.

while S and B make dinner in the kitchen, i boot up the game again and they coach me through the basic play pipeline. i learn the basics of survival. they instruct me on the best ways to collect wood, stone. they teach me the basics of killing animals; my first victim is a rabbit. killing a boar takes several blows with my stone hatchet, and the experience is a little unsettling. afterward i’m able to craft a bow with the animal skin i’m able to harvest from the rabbit and boar, and arrows from stone and wood. this allows me to hunt more efficiently. killing a buck only requires 2 arrows, and i’m able to maintain a comfortable distance. i slay with ease; playing Minecraft has helped me hone my bow skills so i don’t have much trouble shooting without a POV reticule/”iron sight.”

learning to craft a bow is the end of basic training for today. after this, players typically work on collecting resources for crafting guns and shelters. B tells me that PvP play is typically how players spend a lot of time because the environment is not yet sophisticated enough to really entertain players. i tend to agree; i’ve been playing for approximately 45 minutes by my lonesome and i’m not patient enough to wait for others to join. i quit the game.


“The actions of men are the best interpreters of their thoughts.”
John Locke, philosopher (1632-1704)