Garry Newman interview: on Rust and player freedom "we give them the tools, they make the world"

Rust has been causing a bit of a stir on Steam Early Access this week. The open world, player-driven survival game is made by Facepunch Studios, which includes the designer behind Garry's mod, Garry Newman. Players are free to hunt, gather and craft their own structures, choosing their own alliances and enemies in a bleak post apocalyptic environment. How is everyone getting along? What are the best player builds Facepunch have seen so far? We asked Garry, and you'll find his answers below.

PC Gamer: What's the grand concept behind Rust? Why did you want to make it?

Garry: We love DayZ and we wanted to make a game like it. So we did. We quickly realized that we couldn't create an explorable world as well done as DayZ so we came up with the idea of having the player create the world. This was the seed that spawned Rust. We really loved the idea of players starting with nothing, and having no goals but to exist in the world.

Every decision we make is pushing emergent gameplay. So the players themselves decide how the games are made. We give them the tools, they make the world. For example.. a problem we had was that users wanted to be able to open each others doors. The solution suggested was to have a list of users that you can add to a door - to let your friends use them. That's great but it doesn't happen in real life. It's too secure. It's not exploitable. So what if the door has a combination that you share with friends. Or a key, that you make copies of and give to friends. This solves the problem but it leaves a lot of room for emergent gameplay. You could build a house and hide the key somewhere in the world for another player at a later time. You could be forced to hand over your key at gunpoint, and be locked out of your own house etc.

PC Gamer: It's an incredibly ruthless game, and players often kill on sight. Do you have any plans to counter this, or do you see it as part of the experience?

Garry: So one thing that was suggested was making 'bandits'. Making people turn evil, get a negative score if they attack other players. We hate that. People should be nice to each other because they get a nice feeling from being nice. There shouldn't be a system hanging around forcing people to be good. It removes a lot of gameplay fun.

One of the things we did that made a huge difference here unexpectedly was add voice chat. A lot of the time players attack each other out of fear. They don't want to be the person to die. Being able to talk to the other guy and feel them out that way makes a huge difference. There's a lot of this 'tweaking' we can do, kind of social engineering to make people more comfortable with each other.

PC Gamer: There are a lot of permadeath/survival games around at the moment. What do you think sets Rust apart from the competition?

Garry: To be totally honest we haven't played any of the others. With Rust we're making the game we want to play. We're being ruthless with the development, being careful to test each theory instead of just dismissing it as a bad idea.

We're handling the building, cooking, crafting stuff pretty well I think. To the point where I think it's convinced some of the bigger boys to add it to their games too. The fact that we can influence those that inspired us is proof enough that we're doing something right.

PC Gamer: Have players done anything in the game that has impressed you?

Garry: Hah - every time another player comes up to me in game and doesn't bash me to death with a rock I'm impressed.

There's a lot of building that's impressed us. There's a lot of rival gangs stuff... that actually causes a lot of problems for us, because they get too powerful and consume all the resources on the map. We need to look at ways to balancing that.

PC Gamer: There's lots of stories of players imprisoning other players and having fun with them.

Garry: During early development we accidentally left a small white static cube out miles away from anywhere. There was a French server we joined and they'd built a huge shrine around it in a big circle, like a crop circle.

Helk tells a story about one time he was talking to a new bunch of players and showing them the ropes, said good luck then he went to bed, expecting them to die within the next 10 minutes and then hate the game and never come back. When he went on next they'd played through the entire night, had got all sorts of weapons and built a huge fortress.

PC Gamer: What kind of player behaviour have you noticed emerging? Any kinds of play styles that have surprised you?

Garry: It's a weird thing. When any player can kill you easily - and they don't, it's like the biggest compliment ever. They become good friends. You go to bed, and lie there and think to yourself "that was a nice guy, I hope I run into him again." It's a very weird feeling to be having in a game. I mean, people help each other out in TF2 all the time. A medic tops you up, but you don't feel a closeness to them. I guess it's because the world is so harsh you kind of feel closer to people that are kind. It must be an in-born reaction or something.

PC Gamer: How much impact does the community have on the ongoing development of the game?

Garry: It has a huge impact. It's a double edged sword.

Some people get a lot of stuff wrong, in their suggestions and ideas.. and they get angry at us for doing things differently. They say we're going to ruin the game and stuff. Which I don't know.. Don't they think they know what we're doing? Why would we want to make our game worse? They don't really understand what the game is about and don't really trust us to take it in the right direction.

But then there's a huge group that instantly get what we're trying to do. They get that we want to do things different. They understand why the game has to be harsh, why we can't add reputation points. And they make awesome suggestions that we'd never even thought of.

Sometimes we'll have a problem and we'll have 5 solutions, but we know in our guts that none of them are perfect, they compromise what we're doing and they're going to cause more and more comprises down the line. Then we'll read the forums and someone will have posted something that is just so perfect. We love that. Having half a million brains looking at a problem can usually produce the perfect solution.

PC Gamer: Thanks for your time, Garry.

Andy Kelly

If it’s set in space, Andy will probably write about it. He loves sci-fi, adventure games, taking screenshots, Twin Peaks, weird sims, Alien: Isolation, and anything with a good story.