Rust / 7 Days to Die

Once upon a time there was a game called Minecraft.  It was a game where you could mine, and then craft things out of the things that you mined.  So the name was appropriate, you see.  And I thought to myself “This is all I have ever wanted from a game.  Why did it take so fucking long for someone to make it?”  And then about 8000 other games tried to copy it and all of them fucked it up somehow, so I honestly am not sure why such a simple formula seems so hard to pull off.  Let me collect resources and use those resources to modify the world I am in, and ideally give me a purpose for doing so, and I will start throwing money at you.

Today I am going to compare and contrast two games we’ve tried recently: Rust, and 7 Days to Die.  Both are Early Access with similar themes of “scavenge to survive”, and both borrow somewhat from the Minecraft formula with resource collection and base building and cowering from zombies that want to wreck your shit. (Sort of.  I’ll explain soon.)

We randomly chose Rust while looking for a game to play over LAN one night.  It’s a post-apocalyptic setting where people are running around naked (literally.) and scavenging for resources so they don’t freeze/starve to death (and pants to cover up their pixelated penises).  The apocalypse was apparently brought about by some sort of nuclear event, because there are irradiated areas on the map, and your radiation level is one of the things you need to keep under control.  You can raid buildings for sweet items, but you might need to make sure you have some anti-radiation pills handy to recover afterward.  Some types of food increase your levels of radiation as well.

You collect resources like wood and stone by running around and smashing them with the rock you start out with.  From there you create an axe and collect them faster!  And then you build a shelter with your resources so that things have to work a little bit harder to kill you.

The game originally featured radiation zombies as its major PvE element, but the developers decided to distance themselves from the “slaughter zombies” genre and replaced them with generic animal models while they decided what direction to go in.  It’s probably a wise decision that will set the game a bit further apart from the likes of Day-Z (and 7 Days to Die…) but at the time of writing they seemed a little lost as to what direction they should actually pursue.

The REAL conflict of Rust is PvP.  I would venture to say it is really the only focus of the game, which can be a disappointment to the Minecraft creative crowd.  You are not safe anywhere in Rust, not even when logged out. Your character curls up on the ground and is freely killable by anyone who stumbles across it (this option can be turned off in the server customization, but then people tend to just log out with all their stuff the minute they start to lose…).

When we first started to play, we decided we didn’t want to deal with the PvP elements and deliberately chose a server that was devoid of players.  We set up camp, scattered around collecting resources, and eventually built an impenetrable fortress surrounded by menacing spikes.

Our first fortress :3

Our first fortress :3

The graphics aren’t really anything special but they’re not too terrible either, right?  It’s all default Unity resources right now, I believe, but it can still make for an impressive fortress.

The problem is that the game is designed around the idea that you will constantly die and lose all your resources, so resources are fairly easy to collect.  With no competition, our little group gathered all of the resources to build it extremely quickly, had advanced guns and weaponry stockpiled, and several impenetrable layers of spikes that made our fortress incredibly difficult to attack.  And there wasn’t another soul on the server to even see it, let alone test it.  There was literally nothing else to do.  The building controls weren’t robust enough to allow for any crazy building projects like Minecraft, so the “end game” is literally “find the stuff to build explosives so you can fuck up other people’s bases”.  There’s no other point to playing – Rust is griefing other players.

There are a number of issues as well.  Their last few updates have been focused on anti-cheat measures which it sounds like were sorely needed.  Unfortunately one of the largest sources of “cheating” is through the admin console.  Explosives (the “end game”) can really only be created by being extremely lucky with loot drops, or by finding an air drop chest.  Air drops are relatively rare events that are designed to pull all the players to a single location to battle it out over the goodies.  Admins can spawn an air drop, so sometimes what will happen is you’ll only ever see them when the admins are online and ready to snatch them.  Or if they want to be even more blatant, they just spawn resources nodes for themselves and go wild.  You can solve this by playing on an official server of course, but it does mean your experience may vary considerably (and often not for the better) on modded servers, which sucks if you want to try out a mod to alter the game a bit.  And of course official servers kinda don’t have the same level of active admin support to instantly kick someone who’s spewing racist epithets into global chat… so that can be kind of nice too if you find a decent server with honest, active admins.

We started over again on a populated server to try our luck with real competition and we didn’t have nearly the success as when we were alone.  Our first attempt was on what seemed to be a modified server, because air drops were happening a lot.  A lot a lot.  We built our base out in the middle of nowhere and had made quite a bit of progress, and then an air drop landed literally at our back door.  At first we were like “sweet!  Explosives!” and squirrelled them away for future plans… but roughly 10-15 minutes later we realized the cost of it when a raiding group came looking for the chest and started smashing down our back door.  We had made a fatal error in being impatient and placing a wood door before we had our forge going to make metal doors.  Wood doors can be knocked down with a pickaxe – no explosives needed.  And at the time, you could not remove structures you had built, so we couldn’t simply replace it with an upgraded door.  We were stuck with a weakness we could not rectify, and a couple of axes and a bow against M4 assault rifles.  Thus ended our first excursion into PvP-dom… but we decided to find a server that didn’t have oddities like air drops every 10 minutes.

Our next attempt built a huge maze-like plantation with dozens of metal doors and our sweet sweet treasures (of shitty low level resources…) buried at the centre.  A few people tried building ramps to get onto the roof, but that was all sealed off too and no one made any serious attempts to bother us at home (although we got ganked a lot while out gathering).  Our closest neighbors were flexing their muscles a bit though and at one point were harassing us and preventing us from going outside, so one of us stripped off all valuables, opened an outer chamber, and waited inside.  One of them charged in to kill him (a noble sacrifice but ultimately meaningless since he had no gear to lose), and we slammed the metal door, trapping them inside.  After a lot of ranting over voice chat, they had no choice but to suicide and spawn back at their base, leaving their gear inside for us.  Trap sprung.

Which actually brings me to a neat feature of Rust – the voice chat is open and local.  You can literally yell to players nearby with your microphone, and it behaves with volume based on distance.  You could even use it to eavesdrop on other players (if they’re not just using TeamSpeak to coordinate, which they will be).  I thought it was cool, anyway.

Aside from that one exciting little episode, we quickly ran out of things to do again.  Air drops didn’t even seem to be happening on the second server, which meant we had nothing to aspire to, and no one could break our metal doors even if they wanted to.  The terrain is not deformable, and there are pretty limited building options.  To add to that, probably my least favourite feature is that buildings decay over a matter of hours.  Basically, if you don’t log in once every 12 hours or so, your hard work all goes poof.  So it feels extra pointless to try to do anything fun with it.

In short, Rust has a lot of potential but we’ll probably wait for a lot more content patches before trying it again.  You probably also want to play it with a group, because I imagine it kind of blows to try to set yourself up solo.

But in case I didn’t do a good job of describing it, you can view this informative video that captures the essence of Rust: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ymQnmO4XBMg

Which brings us to 7 Days to Die, which we played the next weekend instead.

7 Days to Die is a similar idea, except the focus is not pure PvP – it’s the zombie apocalypse and you need to build a base to survive.  The game is full Minecraft, down to the use of voxel blocks, fully deformable terrain, the same crafting menu with the shaped grids, but slightly better graphics.

Crafting a ladder.  It looks like a ladder, see.

Crafting a ladder. It looks like a ladder, see.

I did say slightly… all of the male characters remind me of “The 80’s Guy” from Futurama.

Dun dun DUN DUN dun dun dun DUN DUN

Dun dun DUN DUN dun dun dun DUN DUN

Building is a little finnicky and it took me a bit to figure out what the fuck I was doing, and I still don’t really have the hang of it.  You left click to rotate things and right click to place… except in order to change the orientation and even the “side” of the voxel that your little whatsit is placed on you have to left click a lot sometimes.  Like it rotates it four times horizontally, then moves it to a new plane and rotates it four times horizonally THERE, then moves it to a new plane and rotates it THERE… and then finally it goes back to the first plane and starts rotating it vertically like you wanted in the first place.  It’s unweildly and I hope they can do something with it.  It makes you yearn for the simple square blocks of Minecraft sometimes.  In comparison, placement in Rust is selecting the thing from your hotbar (which you also have to do in 7 Days – neither lets you place items straight from the inventory without “equipping” it first), which turns your mouse cursor into a big flashing model of the thing you are placing.  If it’s green, click and there it is (and it better be where you want because it’s not fucking moving unless you have C4).  If it’s red, wiggle that shit around.  They kind of snap together which is probably a Unity thing, but it also means you can only snap things together if they’re designed to be snapped.  7 Days lets you do whatever the fuck you want (presuming physics allows and it doesn’t collapse the instant you place it!), but the price is this horrible placement interface…

Crafting in Rust did not allow for any discovery at all.  To gain a new recipe you needed to find a completed item, then use a research kit on it, which would then add the recipe to your inventory.  Even if you had all the doodads and dongles to create a whatsit, you couldn’t create a whatsit unless you had already found a whatsit, which meant raiding chests (or other players) was the end-all be-all to increasing your loot stash options.  It was kind of lame, honestly.  7 Days uses the Minecraft formula where you collect resources and then combine them.  If you have enough shit in your inventory, your crafting list will prompt you with a white entry that essentially means “you have the stuff for this.”  Clicking on it opens up a bunch of empty slots that you can try to combine the items into, but they have to be in the correct formation and places.  Once you find that, the list turns green and you know that recipe.  You can also break down found items to see what they need, but you can only salvage one piece of them if you do.

There were a number of inventory issues I didn’t like in 7 Days though.  You cannot view your known recipes list, so you can’t easily look up what you need to pull from your storage chest to create an item.  Once you place an item into the crafting window it also doesn’t count toward showing you the recipe anymore, which can leave you blind.  Also if you’re creating an item, it goes into a “finished item” box, and this does not count as part of your inventory, which means interim items become really confusing because you know you have the right part but it’s not showing up yet why?!?!  Hopefully they can smooth these things out in the future.

The zombies have an interesting mechanic in that they are light sensitive.  During the day they are shambling, slow-ass zombies that you can skirt around and practically ignore.  As soon as it gets dark, and in fact even just indoor with no light source, they suddenly turn into olympic sprinters who want to eat your brains.  They’re sensitive to noise, too, so you may feel safe with your big noisy gun, but one shot and suddenly everything in the area knows you’re here.  As such, there’s even a “Stealth” engine built into the game.  While crouched you make less noise, and it lets you know if a zombie is catching on to you or not with warnings about being sensed (it thinks it hears something) and hunted (it’s coming to wreck your shit).  As soon as it gets dark, the zombie horde gathers together and tries to take down your shelter – and they will take it down.  Zombies pound ceaselessly on your fully-breakable voxel-block walls until they shatter and the physics engine drops the whole mess on your head.  It’s really pretty sweet.  There’s also weight-load limits, so design your structure appropriately.  You may feel safe locked into your little balcony, but if too many climbing zombies get up there with you the weight might make the whole thing collapse…

There’s still PvP, but you can even turn it completely off, which we did when we created our private server and refused to let any strangers into it.  These are OUR zombies.  Probably the largest conflict is that the resources in the world are limited – you can loot trash piles and old furniture and stuff that’s lying around, but once it’s looted once on the server it’s looted forever.  I hear this creates some interesting dynamics on established and aged servers, but we’re just having fun dicking around in our own private playground still.  Also interesting is that even if you turn off friendly fire, there’s plenty of opportunity for digging the ground out from someone’s shelter and just collapsing that shit on them.  There are plenty of ways to be a dick in 7 Days, even if PvP is off.

We established our base on a pre-built house and dug a spike trap moat around it which proved pretty effective

Spiiiikkkes

Spiiiikkkes

The mining is pretty awesome, assuming you like Minecraft.  We dug a mine under our house and exploited a couple of iron veins to get our tool production going.

Check out the sweet entrance to our mine.  This was a floor once.

Check out the sweet entrance to our mine. This was a floor once.

But it's kind of dark if you don't place torches...

But it’s kind of dark if you don’t place torches…

There are no natural caves (yet… since “caves” is listed under “coming soon”) so the mine is what you make of it.  I’m excited for them to expand this part of the game though.  Breaking into a natural cavern in Minecraft was always fun.  Or setting up shop in one…
My major complaint with the mining is that it takes for-fucking-ever.  There’s only one level of tool that you can craft (as far as I can tell) so your speed is based on your stamina, but you burn through it quickly.  It makes it difficult to try for any grand projects unless you take a veritable lake worth of water down into the mine with you.  We tried to solve it by temporarily reducing block health so that we could mine faster, but this had the unfortunate side effect of reducing the health of ALL blocks, including the ones holding our shelters together.  Fortunately you can build a garden which makes getting food and water slightly less dangerous but it’s still going to take a long-ass time to mine a cool subway system around the map.  Alas.  I guess it’s realistic though (fuck realism, I want to make a subway >:( ).

Unlike Rust, there are a lot of things to find and make.  Everything in the game can be used for something, even if it’s just to melt it down into resources.  You can pull hubcaps off of cars and turn them into scrap iron.  You can even pull water out of toilets (but you should probably boil it before drinking it).  You can also destroy pretty much everything in the game, although you might want to reconsider smashing that car – despite being a rusted out hulk, they can still explode and leave a you-sized crater in the ground (this game brought to you by Michael Bay).

But the zombies seem to ramp up in difficulty as time goes on.  The waves are getting bigger and more aggressive, and they’re starting to smash the shit out of our spikes each night.  Shit is going to get real soon.  It’s a war of attrition, and zombies have nothing better to do than wait for you to fail.

And we’ve barely even explored a quarter of the map…

I’m excited to see what this game does.  There’s already enough content to keep you occupied for awhile, and more seems to be on the way.

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About tagracat
I am not a professional, I don't get paid to review shit, I am just opinionated and I seem to have some sort of disorder that results in spewing my opinions onto the internet. I enjoy writing long-winded posts about things and sometimes I like to pretend people want to read them, so a blog seemed an appropriate place to stuff it. But mostly I just like writing about things.

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