Non-Customization

I don’t know if you’ve been following the new ground the developers of Rust have been breaking, but it’s both interesting and hilarious. The short version is that instead of customizing your character, all of your character’s physical attributes are randomly assigned and permanently tied to your Steam ID. This includes race, penis size, and now gender.

As you might imagine, some corners of the internet are melting down.

There are multiple layers of this design which are fascinating to me. The first is the sheer amount of free PR this generates. I mean, when was the last time you actually heard news about Rust that wasn’t about the size, color, and/or existence of the male sexual organ? Last thing I remember reading was from what feels like years ago, when Rust removed zombies… and people were crafting C4 to break into peoples’ shacks? It’s still a crafting survival game, right? I wouldn’t know.

Philosophically, the intended inability to choose your avatar’s features is also interesting. The money quote from the devs is this one:

To clear up some confusion, when we it does go live you won’t get a choice of whether you’re female or male. We’re not “taking the choice away” from you. You never had a choice. A man’s voice coming out of a woman’s body is no more weird than an 8 year-old boy’s voice coming out of a man’s body.

Some of the criticism is coming from people who don’t want to feel restricted in their character creation, or people who want their avatar to look like them (for RP purposes or otherwise). But in a sense… is this any different from, say, Witcher 3 or any other game with fixed player assets? As the dev mentioned, you never actually had a choice at character creation, so nothing is being taken away. Is it about historical gametype precedent? Or about the fact that the devs could have added customization options but have clearly decided not to?

In any case, I like the cut of this dev team’s jib. They are doing bold things that could go horribly wrong, which is the heart of soul of R&D. Plus, listen to this bit:

“We wanted to lock people to an identity so they could be possibly recognized for their misdeeds, just from their avatar,” he explained. “The idea being that eventually we’d take away player names, and emergent stuff could happen like mistaking someone for a friend, impersonations, etc.”

That sort of “reputation” is asinine in a multi-server scenario IMO, but good for them for going for it. And removing character names altogether? That’s a pretty brilliant social experiment.

I’m not invested in the outcome of Rust, but damned if I don’t feel a tiny bit compelled to see what kind of character gets rolled for me. Not going to lie: if I end up getting stuck as generic white dude #476, I’ll be pretty disappointed.

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Posted on July 22, 2015, in Commentary and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 5 Comments.

  1. It is exciting. I wish MMOs had half the guts these devs do.

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  2. Sounds like a cool experiment. It’s an interesting move to tie it to the Steam account, to help cut down on the alt issue.

    (Also, it’s “jib”, not “gib”.)

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  3. Hehe

    And its an awesome experiment/designchoice/statement. It might be frustrating as hell though, if you dont get something that you can relate to… But i presume the same can be said of any fixed character crpg… Allthough at least those have stories that depend on it.

    Whether it is gonna cost them or (more likely, due to pr) earn them money is a good question. But it’s interesting nonetheless

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  4. i talked about this when it was just race and it’s an interesting social experiment that has the potential to change ideals and create empathy. I think it would be a marvelous idea to try in mmo’s as well – maybe just on a specific server though.
    http://www.healingthemasses.net/breaking-bias-in-online-worlds/

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