Getting started in survival game Scum

Scum, the new survival game from Gamepires and Croteam blew up on Steam, attracting over 700,000 players in its first week of Early Access (plus drawing some controversy for its now-removed Nazi tattoos). There's some pretty complicated stuff going on under Scum's hood, and I suspect we'll probably have a more complete guide in the future as we learn out how everything works and more features arrive as its development continues.

For now, you might just want to jump into the game without understanding every single aspect of the simulation. Here's a few tips for quickly getting started, and check out our guide to finding loot on Scum's map, too.

Try singleplayer first

Staring with singleplayer is a good idea for a couple reasons: you'll be able to explore and craft without other players getting in your way, and Scum's servers, at this stage of Early Access, aren't always reliable. Several times I've joined a server and gone through a couple minutes of character creation only to be told the connection failed.

Since you need to create a character each time you visit a new server for the first time, and since characters aren't transferable between servers, starting with a singleplayer game is the best way to quickly get playing.

This developer video explains character creation basics

This 13-minute video will give you the basics on creating your character (and some dick jokes), explaining the four attributes (strength, constitution, dexterity, and intelligence) and how they influence the various skills. It's an interesting system, where certain skills, like shooting, can be influenced by all four attributes in different ways. For instance, strength can have an effect on your weapon recoil, dexterity determines how quickly you can draw and reload, intelligence helps you spot targets from further away, and constitution can help you aim when you're low on stamina.

Don't sweat the specifics too much with your first character, and remember that as you play you can develop your skills further. As for run around, for example, you'll get better at running, and the more you cook the better you'll become at it.

Craft a wooden spear immediately

Once you're in the game, you should immediately craft a basic spear. Despite it being a simple pointy stick, it's a great weapon. First, though, you'll need to craft a knife. Look at the ground and you'll get a prompt to search for rocks by pressing F. You only need to find two small rocks (they'll appear on the ground next to you, briefly growing blue). Tap the tab key to open the menu, which has four tabs: inventory, crafting, metabolism, and events.

In the inventory tab, look for the vicinity pane on the left side of your screen. That'll show any objects nearby but not in your inventory. You don't need to have an object in your pocket or hands to use it for crafting, it just needs to be close to you. With two rocks in the vicinity, you can make a knife.

With the menu open, press 2 for the crafting tab (or click on the tab itself). You'll see a crafting list on the right. Items with a red glow behind them are ones you have no components for. Items with a yellow glow you have one or more components for, but not enough to craft it. Items with no glow you can craft immediately, like the stone knife in the image above. Just click the yellow craft button and wait as the progress meter fills.

Before you run off, make sure you've actually got the knife in your inventory: when crafting items they'll appear on the ground next to you instead of automatically appearing in your inventory. You can see everything around you by using the vicinity tab. Double-click items to pick them up, or drag them right off the ground into an inventory slot.

Now you're ready to make a spear. Find a bush or small tree, and cut it down with F. Look for a long stick in the vicinity, which will let you craft a spear. I know, a sharp stick doesn't sound like much in a game full of guns, but trust me: spears are great. With good aim you can take down a zombie at range with one hit (even though it looks like you're throwing it dull-end first).

In fact, you can throw just about anything you pick up, so if you're cornered or in a jam, pick your least favorite inventory item and chuck it at a zombie. I was stuck in a house with a gun but no ammo, and managed to knock one down with a piece of scrap metal I had found. It didn't kill him, but it could have given me a chance to run for it.

I guess I'm getting ahead of myself. Back to basic crafting.

If you want to go one step further, cut down more bushes and small trees until you've got five short sticks (previous, it was long sticks, but a patch changed it) in the vicinity, then craft those sticks into bark rope. Empty your pockets and cut your clothes into rags with your stone knife, then use the rope and the rags to craft a courier backpack. It's not big, but it's got more room than your prison shirt and pants combined.

Don't stress too much over your energy level (at first)

As you're running around, you'll notice the four meters on the lower left of your main screen: health, stamina, energy, and hydration. It's a much deeper dive to fully get into all the factors that contribute to those meters, but three are easy to understand: run and your stamina will drop, rest and it'll rise. Get hurt and your health lowers, heal and it recovers. Thirsty? Have a drink.

Energy can be a little confusing for a couple reasons. When it reaches zero, nothing in particular seems to happen. You can still sprint, fight, and move around unhindered, and it doesn't seem to influence your other meters whatsoever. Also, you may eat a bunch of food and stand still resting for a bit, and notice that your energy is still at zero.

For your energy to begin recover, you'll need to be taking in more calories than you're burning, which often isn't the case even when you're eating a lot, especially if the food isn't cooked. You can check your calorie status on your menu's metabolism tab (above). Also, stuffing food in your mouth usually won't see an instant benefit anyway: you need to begin digesting all those vitamins and minerals, and that can take some time. Some foods, like candy bars, can see a quicker rise in energy, but there's still usually a bit of a wait to see the results. For your early hours of Scum, try not to worry about too much your energy.

Over time, though, a lack of energy will begin to have an impact on your character, lowering your maximum stamina, hurting your health, causing you to lose muscle mass and strength, and other adverse effects.

Don't 'eat all' of something without keeping a close eye on your stomach

chow down

Not everyone is running around looking for loot in Scum. One player is on a very special mission: to gain as much weight as possible by doing nothing but eating.

Not all food is created equal, and that's not just true of vitamins and minerals. When I found a cabbage on a farm while I was starving, I figured I could just chow down on the entire thing. A moment later I was hunched over, barfing. An entire cabbage is a lot to wolf down in one go.

Some food items, like the cabbage, contain several portions, which means that choosing 'eat all' instead of just 'eat' is a problem (eating consumes one portion only). If you overeat and your stomach becomes filled to more than 100% capacity, you'll eventually barf. This is doubly bad: not only are you losing out on digesting all those helpful calories you just ate, but you'll immediately be hungry again. You can stuff yourself a bit past 100% full, but not by too much.

If you do eat all and see your stomach is about to overfill (check the metabolism tab), you can cancel the action by pressing Esc (this will cancel other actions like chopping, crafting, etc.) If you have your menu overlay open, you can also click on the progress meter to cancel the action.

How to jog, sprint, poop, pee, and puke

Holding shift won't make you sprint: you control your speed with the mousewheel. There are three settings: walk, jog, and run, and you can cycle through them buy rolling the mousewheel up or down.

Bodily functions will happen on their own sometimes, but you'll probably prefer to activate them yourself to clear some room in your body for more food and water (or if you've eaten something you're having second thoughts about, I suppose). Holding the tab key will bring up a radial menu with both bathroom and medical treatment options.

Things getting blurry doesn't mean you're sick

If you're using third-person view to look around a corner, you may notice things slowly but surely getting blurry. It's an attempt at leveling the playing field a bit so players hiding and using the third-person camera to look around corners or over walls isn't entirely unfair. If you actually peek around the corner with your head and not just use your camera, everything will sharpen up.

Zooming is as much about sound as it is about sight

If you think you heard something in the distance—zombie, wild animal, other player, or mech—ambient sounds like wind, rain, and bird calls can make it hard to figure out exactly what you heard. But if you zoom your view by holding the right mouse button, it'll focus not just your eyes but your ears. 

Zooming this way dampens ambient sounds so you can focus on what you're trying to detect. The little video above demonstrates what I'm talking about, as I mute the sounds of nature and focus on big stompy footsteps of a mech that is behind some cover. (You might need to turn your volume up a bit to really hear what I'm talking about.)

Christopher Livingston
Senior Editor

Chris started playing PC games in the 1980s, started writing about them in the early 2000s, and (finally) started getting paid to write about them in the late 2000s. Following a few years as a regular freelancer, PC Gamer hired him in 2014, probably so he'd stop emailing them asking for more work. Chris has a love-hate relationship with survival games and an unhealthy fascination with the inner lives of NPCs. He's also a fan of offbeat simulation games, mods, and ignoring storylines in RPGs so he can make up his own.