Here's a tip: don't run around at night with a lit torch or you'll get shot. I know this because I once ran around at night with a lit torch and got shot. That's why, more recently, when I was alone and lost in the middle of the night, I only lit my torch for a second to take a quick look. Here's another tip: don't light your torch even for a second to take look around or you'll get shot. I did. For a second . And I got shot.
In the early-access crafting survival game Rust, I'd recently become stuck in a comfy rut. I'd made some friends and together we'd created a safe valley neighborhood there seemed no real reason to stray from. With plenty of resources to gather and trade and a network of helpful neighbors, I was finding this notoriously violent and unpredictable game a bit, well, humdrum. Eventually, I became curious about what else the world of Rust had to offer. What lay outside my peaceful valley? What was down the road? What was over those hills? And what was over whatever was over those hills? Also, I just accidentally got lost one day and really had no choice but to step out of my comfort zone and start exploring.
So, there I was, completely lost, at night. I lit my torch to get a look around—just for a second—and someone immediately opened fire from close by. Bleeding, I ran away and someone chased me, continuing to fire. I was about to run out of blood, and perhaps he was about to run out of bullets, because we both stopped at about the same time. I crouched, bandaging myself, trying to hide in the grass. I could hear his footsteps circling nearby. I started eating all my food, just so if he killed me there wouldn't be much to loot. Yes, while crouched bleeding in the bushes, I ate five cooked chicken breasts simply out of spite . Finally, in stable condition again, I took off running. He either lost interest or lost sight of me, and I didn't hear him again.
As I ran through the night, player-made buildings loomed at me from the darkness. Some small and simple, some grand and complex. As soon as one passed from view another would appear, the creations of dozens of players I'd never even seen in all my hours spent on the server. Most of the homes were dark and silent. Very occasionally, I would overhear a snippet of conversation as two or more players worked through the night on some crafting project, locked safely in their communal home. Sometimes, while pausing outside a building with windows, a pink face would silently peep down at me through the gloom, then retreat from view.
I reached the ocean at dawn, and yet another large building overlooking it. Who was building all of these structures? How did they find the time? This server had been wiped clean and reset less than a week ago and despite spending some eighteen hours playing I'd barely managed to prop up my ugly, three-story hovel and help my friends with a couple small side projects. Some of these buildings I was seeing were preposterously huge and intricate. Many were incomplete, and nearly all seemed completely unattended.
I continued on as the sun came up. I ran through the day, passing dozens of shelters, shacks, homes, strongholds, and forts. I kept running as the sun began to go down, and ran through the night again. Soon I began to see fewer buildings, and eventually, none at all. When the sun rose again, I couldn't see evidence of another player in any direction. I saw no more wild animals, no more irradiated beasts, no more logpiles to chop or even boulders to mine. Just hills, dirt, and trees.
I was in the wastelands.
For two full days and nights I sprinted. I sprinted until my hand began to cramp from holding down the keys. There was so much nothing, acres of nothing. Miles of it. One night I built a tiny dwelling and a campfire on the tallest hill I could find, just so there would be something to look at.
I spent the night cooking in my shack and crafting whatever I could just to give myself something to do. The next morning I started sprinting again. Two more full days and nights I ran, and still, nothing. No people, no buildings, no animals, and—except for trees—no resources. It's impressive how massive the world of Rust is, and it's bizarre how empty that world can be, especially when it feels so crowded in other spots. For days, the only proof I wasn't alone on the server was the steady scroll of inane blather and accusations of hacking in the global chat window.
Eventually, I found the other edge of the island and tried to psych myself up for a long, finger-cramping run back to civilization. Before I left, I decided to see what happens when you step into the ocean in Rust. Spoiler alert: you die instantly. While I was a little disappointed—I wanted to make it all the way back home again on foot—I was also relieved because I was damn sick of running my way through all of Rust's nothingness. I respawned at my sleeping bag in my house.
And there I was instantly confused. When I spawn in my house, I usually find myself staring at one of my four walls. Instead, I was staring at the rocks and trees of my home valley. Why had I spawned outside?
A moment later I realized I had spawned inside . It was just that my walls were gone. As was my ceiling. And door. And my stairs. Oh, and all of the stuff I'd spent long hours collecting and crafting. Someone had blown my house apart and taken everything in it. I'd been raided! Damn! I ran off to find adventure and excitement and it had happened to my house while I was away!
I ran over to my neighbor's massive home, to see if he'd seen anything. His house was missing some doors and walls, too. I ran to all of my friends' homes, and they were all blasted open, empty, silent. The whole neighborhood had been sacked. I spotted someone coming toward me across the valley and I ran to meet him. "Hey, do you know what happened?" I asked. He shot me dead instantly. I respawned in what was left of my house. "What happened was," the stranger said in text chat, "I killed you." Twice more that day I was shot and killed in the fields I used to feel safe in. The valley was no longer full of friendly people I knew, it was full of violent people I didn't.
My workbench and forge had survived the raid, so I spent the next day and night scurrying around the valley, collecting all the resources I could. I crafted a gun, some ammo, and some new walls. The only thing I didn't have enough metal for was a new door, so I huddled in my house until morning, guarding my meager stash. While other players freely text-chatted about Mass Effect, I spent the evening pointing my loaded pistol at the open doorway of what used to be my home.
I eventually got my hovel rebuilt, at least the ground floor, though who knows how long it will last. As for my group of friends, I haven't ever seen them again, not on that server. There are new structures being built in the valley all the time, but I'm shot dead whenever I go near them. I'm no longer a part of this neighborhood. It's under new management.