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Are You Friendly?

Photo by Matt Refghi

So it was the day of my final exam in Law & Society, and there were only a few mins left before I’d have to leave. And yet, casually, I launched Rust on my computer, logged into a server, and stepped away from my machine while the world loaded. As I was cleaning my apartment to pass the time, I noticed in the distance that the game had finished loading. In Rust, when you connect to a server for the first time, you’re placed in a random location, and you have a first person view of your character laying on his side, just having woken up. When you join the world in this manner, you’re known as a “naked” by the community. This, as you might expect, is because you’re completely nude when you first appear in the world, with only a rock and a torch in your inventory.

Despite noticing that the game was ready to be played at a mere keystroke, I continued working on my apartment. At a certain point, through my speakers, I heard the unmistakable sound of someone building a wooden structure in my vicinity. Intrigued, I wrapped up what I was doing, sat at my computer, and left-clicked to make my character wake from his slumber. I looked around for the source, and in the distance, I could see a partially-clothed male looking in my general direction. I could also faintly hear his voice, but not enough to fully understand what he was saying. As I approached, swimming across a stream to reach him, I heard him ask, more clearly, “are you friendly?” 

This question was somewhat uncommon, in my experience. In Rust, typically, whenever you make contact with another player, you’re usually attacked immediately. There’s just something about the world of Rust that makes people murder each other on sight, without hesitation. Based on my specific experience, I’d say this occurs about in about 90% of player encounters. Yet, I’m totally not the type of dude that indulges in violence by default. In fact, I’m usually the one that states I’m friendly immediately upon seeing another player, rather than attacking. I’ve always had this angle of non-violence, opting instead to heal, or to simply abstain from combat where healing wasn’t an option. 

Total people murdered: 0. Summary: Thank you for playing, JESUS.

Pacifism: the entire purpose of my Postal 2 playthrough

So the fact that this player would actually ask if I’m friendly, that, was refreshing. I of course stated that I was friendly, and as I got closer to him, I could hear his voice better, I could tell he was likely an 11-year old, somewhere around that age. In game, of course, he was a full-grown adult, but his voice gave me some insight into the person playing the game. I generally prefer to play with people that are 18 and above, as it usually means a higher probability of the player having some basic level of maturity. In this instance, however, I didn’t mind… especially considering his friendly status.

So I told this player, whom we’ll call Kevin, that I’d have to go soon (to my exam), but that I’d help him gather resources until I had to leave. He thanked me, and invited me into his base, which was currently in the process of being built. In Rust, you can build structures using a few different types of materials. Kevin’s base was currently built out of twig, the cheapest, easiest to break material that was only meant as a placeholder until you had more materials to upgrade. It was clear from my experience that this house would not survive any kind of encounter with hostile players. I told Kevin I’d go out and start gathering, and as I left, he threw me a spear, in case I needed to defend myself. 

Photo by Facepunch

As I ventured out to gather resources, I reflected on the encounter. Kevin was one of the few Rust players that didn’t kill on sight, and given his youth in the real world, I felt that this friendly attitude needed to be protected. Having played a multitude of games in my life, I could safely say that Rust was by far one of the most toxic when it came to player attitude and general hostility. Kevin and his twig house would be an easy target for abuse – I felt driven to get materials to help him upgrade his walls.

And so I focused on gathering wood, given its abundance, knowing it would allow Kevin to quickly upgrade his walls to wood planks, rather than twigs. I also grabbed stone and other random items wherever I could, anything to help him in his Rust experience. Kevin eventually caught up and joined me in the gathering process. After a while, I had accumulated a decent amount of resources, so I gave him the stacks of wood I had gathered, along with other items, and suggested he work on his base, while also saying I’d head out again to gather more while he did that. He thanked me, and threw me a pair of wood armor pants, to give some form of protection against attacks and the elements. Up until that point, I was a naked man with a spear tied to his back – now, I at least had some form of clothing. I thanked him and returned on my quest for resources.

For a while, all was well. I continued gathering resources for him, getting a good mix of wood and other miscellaneous items, until I spotted something in the distance. There was a stream to my left, heading into the distance ahead of me, and at a certain point it lead to a large rock formation, where the water seemed to disappear underneath. Above this rock formation, I could see another Rust player, looking my way. I froze, trying to determine if he was aggressive. My doubts were clarified by a multitude of bullets being fired my way. In response, I immediately turned and ran, in a zig-zag formation. In the distance, I could see an area with the remains of civilized life, concrete walls, as well as other obstacles I could potentially use to protect myself from an attacker. As I ran to this area, I realized that I had not crafted a sleeping bag yet – meaning if I died, I would respawn somewhere random in the world, and would have difficulty finding Kevin again. To solve this, I frantically started crafting a sleeping bag as I ran.

Photo by Facepunch

When I finally reached the concrete wall, I slipped behind it and waited for a moment, silent, to see if my attacker was still giving chase. After a few seconds, I noticed him running right past the wall, not noticing where I had hidden. He was wearing armor made of broken road signs, a form of improvised protection, and in his hand, he held an AK-47, the rifle that had attacked me moments earlier. Though I was glad I wasn’t noticed, I realized he was running in the direction of Kevin’s home, which concerned me; however, I knew the first step was to get myself to safety, so I could place a sleeping bag down. So I waited a moment, and then bolted in the opposite direction, where my attacker had come from.

To my surprise, I ran directly into another player wearing improvised street sign armor, holding a handgun. In a panic, I stabbed him in the face with my spear. It then occurred to me that this person might not be hostile like the other, so I attempted to recover from my instant attack reflex by extending a peaceful message via voice chat. I said “actually, I’m a friendly – ” and then was shot in the face immediately, making me fall onto my back, still alive, but injured. In Rust, when you fall like this, people can take stuff out of your inventory, and they can either help you back up afterwards, leave you to bleed out, or just eliminate you. I waited a couple seconds as they looted my body, and said “can you please help me up after you loot all my stuff?” I was still hoping I could place a sleeping bag down, somehow, or that I could still return to Kevin – if he was still alive, he would surely need my help. I feared for his twig house, his trusting, friendly disposition, and what would happen when it came face with the harsh brutality of Rust. Alas, the player looted my body did not help me up… he left me to bleed out. I died without a sleeping bag on the ground, and the game let me know that I had been alive for about 20 minutes. When I respawned, I was someplace else entirely… so I logged out of Rust, and left to do my final exam. I could have technically gotten in contact with Kevin via Steam’s recent players list, but given my exam and how unique the story was, I felt it was best to leave it as is, respecting the realism and harshness of the Rust world.