Robert Dominic Ventre II
Staff WriterThe world as we know it has ended. A great catastrophe has swept over the land, leaving little behind to salvage. Civilization has crumbled, and the flora and fauna have begun reclaiming the Earth. Amongst the aftermath, a handful of survivors emerge. They occupy gulches, cliffsides and the abandoned husks of bombed out buildings, making crude tools from wood and stone while scavenging for food. They face constant peril, from vicious wildlife to subzero temperatures. But the greatest threat of all … are their fellow survivors, all of whom are equally desperate, hungry and fearful. Some of them also have shotguns made out of drain pipes. Thus summarizes the world of Rust, an indie video game released in 2013 by Facepunch Studios, creators of the popular Source engine sandbox game, Garry's Mod. Though still in its Alpha stages of development, Rust has already garnered an extensive following, with many dedicated and populated servers running 24 hours a day. In its first two weeks as an Early Access title, Rust sold over 150,000 copies (reaching over one million copies sold by February). As early as January 2014, the burgeoning survival game had already made approximately 7.5 million dollars. Rust could be considered the purest example of what has come to be known as 'survival video games'. Players begin by waking up on a randomly-selected part of the map (a massive island with varied terrain), holding nothing besides a few bandages, a torch and a rock. The rock is, at first, the only gathering implement you have. With your rock, you hit trees to gather wood. You hit boulders to gather stone and ore. You hit animals to gather meat. You hit bears and wolves to stop them from gathering your liver. The rock is your only friend in this cruel and unforgiving world. That is, until you gather enough resources to begin crafting. Rust encourages players to establish a base camp – wood may be used to craft small shacks to shelter you overnight, whereas wood and stone combined can produce a stone hatchet, which makes the gathering process less infuriating (though at that point you may have grown attached to the rock. It has been your companion from the beginning, after all). Crafting becomes more complex and demanding once you graduate to working with metal and other materials. Players can also discover new crafting recipes via caches stashed throughout the map or by slaying the killer wildlife that, for whatever reason, occasionally drops anything from intricate schematics to functioning rifles. Despite Rust's overall complexity, there are no in-game instructions and no hints. Players begin the game completely nude, and depending on your server's choice of content and filters, you might spot some polygonal genitalia here and there while sprinting through the rolling landscape (currently the game's default and only option for player characters is an identical model of a nude male. There is no female model, which is probably for the best, knowing the Internet). Being entirely online, players face the constant threat of encountering one other while out in the wilds. These interactions make up the heart and soul of Rust and, just as with encountering strangers in real life, tend to vary dramatically. The game has mic functionality, allowing you to press the 'V' key at any time to speak aloud to other players in your immediate vicinity. You may trade by dragging items out of your inventory, which tosses them onto the ground to be picked up by other players. On certain servers, you are able to share access to the doors you build and place (which are locked to everyone but their creator), allowing friends to group together and pool resources. When faced with an unknown player in exposed territory, you can choose to flee or speak up, and try to establish a rapport. Or, should you be so inclined, you can beat/shoot/cleave them to death and take everything they own. Your call, really, but be warned: that same player that you just murdered in cold blood may now be alive and looking for you, bow and arrow drawn, for the next three to four hours. Player's lose 100% of their inventory upon death, which tumbles out of their corpse in the form of a small (and easily missed) package. Originally these parcels could be picked up and claimed by any other player in the area, but in a recent patch, Facepunch Studios introduced a new stipulation in the form of locked packs, which require player-crafted lockpicks to open. Despite losing some incentive with this change, so-called “raiders” maintain their practices by crafting things such as frag grenades and C4, which decimate players and player-crafted structures, respectively. Such is the dog-eat-dog world of Rust, where finding the ideal base camp means nothing if you forget to close your front door (or if you make it out of wood and encounter someone who has been hoarding gun powder). Facepunch Studios have been fairly attentive with their updates, addressing game-breaking issues with relative haste and even implementing their own anti-cheat software to help identify and ban hackers. They have stated that Rust is still in its earliest stages, saying on their website: “Rust is still in development. This isn’t 95% finished, like a regular beta. This is 10% finished. We’ve got the bare bone foundations of a game here. We’re still developing it.” While the game has some very apparent issues (bugs affecting gameplay can range from spontaneously dying while collecting resources to players being able to trap other players by erecting shelters on top of them – though both of these issues were addressed in a recent patch), the overall experience hardly suffers. Being so early in its development, Rust also has simple design and gameplay issues (some of which are hilarious, such as food dropped by slain pigs or bears being labeled as “raw chicken breast”) that can frustrate or baffle those unprepared for them; trying to build larger structures can be infuriating, while players new to the game or even new to a particular server may find themselves being terrorized by callous and heavily-geared veteran players, as well as the ever-present threat of hackers, who will basically be the Iron Man to your Green Arrow. Players easily-frustrated by “ganking” (i.e. high-level players pointlessly slaughtering low-level players) may find it difficult to find their footing at first. Nevertheless, Rust offers an experience that would be difficult to replicate elsewhere. You have no compass and no map – you navigate by the position of the sun and the landmarks that you probably paid no attention to while journeying past. If night falls and you're out in the open, you could freeze to death. If you do not maintain a healthy and hardy diet, you will eventually starve. Radiation is also present on parts of the island, detectable by the gentle clicking of a Geiger counter, and will kill you dead over time without granting even one super power. As such, Rust offers players the chance to live a life now all but unknown to the modern world (and even less known to those of us who own both a computer and a Steam account), making its novelty a considerable factor on top of its re-playability. Though the game map does not change between servers, its size and scale provide a myriad of locations for players to discover, even letting experienced players reclaim favorite spots on the map, if they are able to scout them out (and/or wrestle them from their current occupants). Watching the game progress and grow should be rewarding for players who appreciate its style of gameplay and the surprising polish of its visuals. But know this, intrepid survivor: should you choose to join the world of Rust, be prepared to learn some potentially sinister things about yourself. You'd be surprised what a starving, naked man will do to obtain a nice piece of pig chicken.
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