What Scum needs to do to survive Early Access

Image by Watchman on Twitter

Image by Watchman on Twitter

Survival game Scum is already a hit. Just a few weeks after launching on Steam Early Access, it's already sold a million copies by appealing to players looking for a challenging survival game (as well as many who have lost hope in DayZ ever being finished) plus providing loads of interesting and intricate survival systems. Also, it's got pooping, which certainly doesn't hurt.

But Early Access can be a long, tough road, and even the most devoted and patient fans can lose interest over time if bugs aren't squashed, if the game isn't optimized, and if new features aren't added quickly and regularly. Here's a few things Scum's developers can focus on to keep players happy over the coming months.

Let players move their characters between servers

The video above, created by TheRunningManZ on YouTube does a great job of highlighting a few of the current issues with Scum. I suggest you watch the whole thing (and also subscribe because Running Man's videos are always excellent) as it's a deep and thoughtful dive into some of the (currently) frustrating aspects of Scum.

The video begins by pointing out the problems with not letting players transfer characters between servers. I get the intent behind the idea of tying each character to a specific server: you don't want a player to gear up and increase their skills on a low-pop (or no-pop) server, and then bounce over to a high-pop server and have an advantage over the other players struggling to survive there. It's also not a bad idea to encourage players to stay put on a server: over time, it can make the server a fun and busy place to play.

But there's a big drawback, as Running Man points out. If you find what looks like a good, populated server and begin building your character there, there's no guarantee that server will continue to be a great spot to play in the future. The next time you log in with your character, the place may be completely deserted. Or, if you like medium-pop servers, you may login another day to find the place completely full. There's just no way to tell if the place you build your character will continue to be a place you enjoy playing. Since Scum isn't just about gearing up but actually building a character's attributes and skills over time, having to abandon them and start completely from scratch can be incredibly discouraging.

Solve the character rendering issue

Running Man's video also shows some of the issues with the character rendering system. There's a lot to unpack about it, but basically there are instances when a character is in your line of sight and you can't see them. It could have to do with your perception skill or their camouflage skill, or it could be that they have been behind cover and have just stepped out. The point is, player characters in Scum are not rendered 100% of the time. You can see an example in the gif above, taken from Running Man's video.

Part of this system is an attempt to solve the issues with third-person peeking, by hiding characters from sight when they may be on your screen. You shouldn't be able to see them because you're behind cover and are using your camera to look around that cover, so the game stops rendering them. But it currently happens in first-person mode, too. The result is that sometimes a player will just suddenly appear a few moments after they should, or disappear before they get behind cover. It's usually less than a second, but it can still cause issues, especially during a gunfight.

It's Early Access, so I'm sure this system will continue to be worked on, but it's the sort of feature that ultimately needs to work perfectly 100% of the time or just be completely dropped. If players get killed by other players they can't see, but should be able to see, it's going to lead to a lot of anger and frustration.

Get bases in the game, stat

Bases and fortifications are on Scum's roadmap, but I hope they arrive sooner rather than later because I think their inclusion could go a long way toward keeping playercounts healthy during Early Access. Giving players long-term projects and more to do with their crafting and resources is important to keeping them interested. It can help build communities (and rivalries) and keep players coming back to the same servers over and over again.

That said, I hope the base-building in Scum is a bit more than just building big, boxy houses. Like I said when I played Miscreated in 2016, I'm much more interested in the fortification of existing buildings than creating bases completely from scratch. I think taking over an existing structure or even an entire town, rather than just slapping together a collection of square floors and walls, is much more fun (not to mention less of an eyesore than a crate castle). And giving players a home to return to gives them an investment for their time beyond just their character's stats. 

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.