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Rust

Rust is rebooting: here's why

Rust reboot

Rust, Facepunch Studios' Darwinian survival game, is getting a do-over; a reboot that’s making sweeping changes across Rust’s savage world. The default branch on Steam is no longer being updated, and Garry Newman and the rest of Facepunch are working exclusively on the experimental branch. 

Garry calls the original Rust a prototype, and a messy one at that. The code is limiting, and with the amount of players - a number that surprised the developers - Garry felt that the team needed to pick up the pace and overhaul the game instead of polishing it as they went along. 

It sounds like a significant undertaking, rebuilding the game from scratch. I got in touch with Garry to find out about the extent of the changes and how the old code was holding the game back. 

“We're changing/updating pretty much everything as we re-implement it,” Garry tells me. Since work started on the experimental branch earlier this year, Garry’s been making regular devblogs detailing the changes, from completely new player models to new terrain and textures. Here’s what future caves might look like:

“There were a lot of stupid decisions made in the old codebase,” Garry says. “That's probably unfair. There were a lot of decisions made when we didn't know what game we were making.” The limitations of the codebase are down to it being based on a prototype web game the team were working on: Cash4kills. Garry describes the game as a Hitman-style title set in a GTA-style open-world. It was very different to Rust. 

“The one thing we don't like about the latest Hitman games is that the game seems to be about finding out what the level designer wants you to do, rather than just working out the best place to kill a guy,” he explains. “We wanted it to be all free-form, with bullet entry stats, bonuses for clean kills and for being unspotted, sharable replays, then cash rewards in a backend that you could use to buy new weapons etc. So you'd only get one chance at a kill and if you fucked it up you couldn't replay, you'd have to wait for the next contract via your real email.”

As intriguing as the prototype sounds, there was a lot of code that has nothing to do with Rust or its mechanics. This led to a lot of extra work for Facepunch. “There's a lot of systems that are integral to Rust, that are 3,000 lines long, that could be 100 lines long,” Garry laments. “So every time you go to change something you have to chase around finding how these five different systems that it doesn't really need work, then you change it and it breaks 4 different systems that you thought had nothing to do with it.”

The result was a lot of bugs and a bloated codebase. 

So much of Rust would inevitably have to be changed, things the team wanted to change, that they decided to start from scratch. That’s what was happening anyway, but it was taking longer because of the codebase. 

The UI is one element that was always going to change. The default version was a placeholder. The new version, which is due to be functional and working in the experimental branch around this week, was rebuilt in HTML. That’s made development significantly faster. 

“Because it's HTML it's really artist friendly, so shit gets done a lot faster,” Garry tells me. “It renders in another thread, so it has no performance impact on the game at all. It's a regular chromium web browser, so we can use a lot of existing technology like bootstrap, jquery and angularjs to make development faster. We're hoping that people will be able to skin it using regular CSS.” 

Other UI improvements are on the way. The plan is to make it simpler and unified, crafting is being redone and players will be able to see their avatar and what they are wearing. A zoom feature is also in the works, allowing users to change the scale of the UI to fit different setups - like TV. Controller support is also on the cards. 

I wondered how all these massive changes would affect the game’s performance. The textures, models and extra bells and whistles certainly make Rust look more striking, but could they also make the game harder to run and necessitate a change in the system requirements? Garry says that this shouldn’t be the case. 

“If anything, once you turn the bullshit like SSAO and motion blur off it should run better on lower end rigs than the old version. We're hearing from people that it performs better than the old version with grass off for them - and that's great to hear because you can't turn grass off in the new version.”

The experimental branch where all this is happening still has some ways to go before it becomes the default version, but everything that’s in there now has been made only in the last few months. When the core systems are in place, the cadence of new content should pick up, inspiring more people to switch over to the branch, eventually making it the main version of Rust.

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Mountain_Man's picture
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Another case study as to why Kickstarter and "early access" are bad ideas: It gives developers money to fart around with even if they don't have any idea what they're doing.

The developers of Elite Dangerous recently claimed that their reason for charging an absurd $150 for access to the beta was to ensure that their so-called "beta testers" were serious. My question is, who is making sure the developers aren't just pissing away the money? Who is making sure that they're serious about their jobs, and what are the consequences if they're not? None as far as I can tell. We need a better system in place to protect the consumers.

To that end, I'm in favor of a new system where early adopters are investors who can expect a return in proportion to the amount they contributed and/or can ask for a full refund at any time if the game doesn't meet certain unambiguous goals.

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Pie-Oh's picture
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Yes, and no.

I agree with the sentiment but don't think it relates to this one. They're doing the right thing by scratching their codebase and starting again and it doesn't relate to their skill level as you so put.

I've worked on projects ranging from a few thousand to a few hundred million; and realising you know a lot more now than you did when you started and it'd be better for the entire codebase to start again is a good one. And one a lot of people's ego's won't let them pick. Sometimes it's faster to start again, then fix bloated code. And trust me; even the best programmer's code gets bloated.

You're angry, at early access. And you should be. The current state is awful. And I was an early backer of Rust and have been a bit perturbed by the quality.

But chances are this'll make the development faster, and thus it'll probably have more features.

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Mountain_Man's picture
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When I said that the developers "don't have any idea what they're doing", I wasn't commenting on their skill but on their focus. They straight up admitted that they didn't have a clear idea of the game they wanted to make, and now after expending a considerable amount of time and money, they suddenly say, "Oh, now we want to make this thing instead!" and I'm sure they're expecting another fresh, risk-free infusion of cash from gullible and well-meaning consumers so they can continue pursing their dream of being game developers. If they tried to pull that kind of crap with a publisher, they'd probably get sued.

Furthermore, what's to stop them in another year from suddenly declaring, "We still don't like what we've made, so we're starting over again." There's obviously going to be a point of diminishing returns where the consumers will no longer trust them enough to fund further development, but until then, they can continue living the easy life of playing game developer while paying their bills with cash from "early access" purchases.

I'm not angry at early access or Kickstarter, I just think it's a deeply flawed mechanism for funding games and promotes undisciplined development. The shareware model worked great back in the day because the developers were hungry and put it all on the line, making a complete game and hoping people liked the demo enough to spring for the full version, because only then did they get paid. Kickstarter and early access developers, on the other hand, are paid upfront and seem to be generally well-fed and lazy, often releasing games that are clearly incomplete or lack focus. I really don't think it's good for the gaming market, and something needs to change.

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saluk's picture
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I think you are missing the fact that without kickstarter/early access, rust and other games like it wouldn't exist. The need to please the audience and actually finish the game for people who have bought it can be an incentive for some devs to finish ambitious weird projects like this, and make the hard choices to make a good game. When investing money up front for 2 or 3 years to make an ambitious game, it makes it much harder for developers to take risks. It's true that they offload some of that risk to their customers by choosing this model, but it lets the game be developed over time, scaling development according to the size of the audience. All business models have flaws. The market so far has proven that early access/kickstarter is a valid model. It obviously can't be the only model, but it is a great (and maybe the only) option for some games. If it is too heavily abused, it may collapse - just as Atari collapsed when it abused it's market. But I say don't fear the model, wait for it to fail on it's own if that is what will happen. Some of my favorite games right now are from early access, and I'm glad to be able to play them long before I would have been able to under a traditional system.

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Mountain_Man's picture
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"...without kickstarter/early access, rust and other games like it wouldn't exist."

I disagree. How do you think games like this existed before Kickstarter and "early access" were even a thing? Independent developers have been around for decades, and the lack of Kickstarter didn't prevent games like Cave Story or Spelunky from becoming phenomenons and earning their developers enough money to retire on, and those games were originally released as freeware! Legend of Grimrock is another notable success by a four-man team that financed the game themselves, and they're holding true to their principles by refusing to release the sequel as "early access". Spiderweb Software has produced at least a dozen hardcore RPGs over the years, all without the benefit of "early access". And there are countless other examples.

Yes, Kickstarter has led to some successes, but I think they're largely the exception rather than the rule. You're right, all business models have their flaws, but Kickstarter/early access have too few safeguards and are far too easily exploited by unscrupulous developers without consequence to convince me that they're legitimate or viable, and I think the sooner they fall out of favor, the better.

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Killa_Maaki's picture
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You completely missed the fact that their original idea was worked on LONG before they did early access.

Post-early-access Rust has been largely the same - it hasn't switched genres or anything.

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Mountain_Man's picture
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OK... and what does that have to do with the fact that they're rebooting now after playing game developer with a year's worth of "early access" cash?

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darkreaper_44's picture
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I just wanted to throw this out there, but who say's the people that pitch other ideas BESIDES video games ideas; such as phone stuff, clothing, board games and the like; Who says THEY wont do the same thing? why would this only affect the game industry?

And what about all the teenagers or kids who are now tech savvy due to the era, who cannot afford such funding as that? because the names you state below, im sure were better off then the net now. Things cost an ass ton, people can be dicks, not to mention put down everything you do.

Remember yesterday is not today, the times change, and with that the price of anything has raised substatially....

Cause what I get from you is:

"If you dont have money to do it yourself fuck off cause we dont trust you". May be put bluntly but thats what I see when I read this. I just talked to a teacher at my school. Her son is 13 and wants to get into game making and the like. Should I tell him he will never make it? cause he dont have any money, he earns money mowing lawns. Whats that gonna get him? Lunch maybe....if that....

People need support, and you just have to trust your own judgment. Just because YOU have trust issues and dont like to back people on ideas because you think they will screw you, by all means dont back them. Doesnt mean you need to pretty much say fuck kickstarters, their bullshit and arent needed, cause in todays world, everything has a high cost.

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Mountain_Man's picture
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How did Daisuke Amaya make it without a million dollar Kickstarter campaign? I'll tell you how: he spent 5-years making Cave Story in his free time. For that matter, how did John Carmack get his start in the industry? He and his friends made games in their free time and sold them as shareware.

These are examples of people who proved their worth and then got paid. The problem with Kickstarter and Early Access is that people want to get paid before they've proven their worth, and given the lopsided ratios of failures and successes, I'd say the system is broken. Unfortunately, the failures are laughing all the way to the bank.

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