Rust’s Controversial Random Gender Update Has Led To More Players

Rust’s Controversial Random Gender Update Has Led To More Players

A couple of weeks ago, survival hit Rust added playable women. This is, however, Rust we’re talking about, so players don’t get to choose whether they’re a dude or a lady. Controversy ensued. People threatened to stop playing. Some said Rust had dug its own grave. Turns out, the game’s player count has actually gone up. Facepunch Studios founder Garry Newman tweeted stats showing that, despite a vocal negative reaction from dudes who didn’t want to look like a lady (and a bit of vice versa), Rust has seen a significant uptick in sales and players since the update. Thousands more, in fact.

I asked Newman if Rust‘s recent bump was typical of major updates, and he said this one is unlike anything he’s seen. “Any previous increase was a steady and slow increase over a number of months, rather than a sudden jump,” he explained in an email. “So I’ve never seen anything like this before, apart from Steam sales.”

He added that he feels like the gnashing-of-teeth and screenshotting-of-dicks came from a vocal minority. “They were definitely the vocal minority,” he said. “It’s usually the case with any change we make in game. You hear a bunch of opinions on the internet from people who haven’t played the game for months, or haven’t even played it. If we really want to know what people think, we join a server anonymously and start asking opinions. The feedback from players that are actually playing the game is the most valuable.”

“We’re seeing a lot more positivity around the change than negativity,” Newman added. “That was perhaps always the case but I guess the urge is always to pay more attention to the negative. It’s still a bit of a novelty right now, but I’m guessing in another couple of months it will just exist without acknowledgement just as the skin colour stuff.”

Newman has publicly contended that, like last year’s randomisation of player skin colour, Rust‘s new approach to sex characteristics is a gameplay decision first and foremost. Your character is tied to your Steam ID, so you can’t just beat someone near-to-death with a club and then come back and be their BFF. “We wanted the appearance of the players to be consistent over time,” Newman wrote in an article for The Guardian. “A survivor shouldn’t be able to attack another then come back later with a different gender or race and befriend the same player. They should be recognisable consistently and long-term — so anyone likely to commit a crime would be more likely to wear a balaclava or a face mask.”

It does, however, represent a pretty big inversion of gaming’s typical status quo. Usually, women are forced to play as male characters. Rust‘s audience is, like many games on Steam, primarily male, and the idea that they a) don’t have power over a system and b) might have to play as woman is legitimately shocking to them.

I asked Newman how the latest wave of blowback stacks up when compared to that previous wrinkle to the skin colour switcheroo, which also got certain corners of the internet jawing. In the aforementioned article Newman wrote for The Guardian, he noted that complaints about character race were often regional, the majority of which apparently came from Russian players. With women characters, however, he told me that hasn’t been the case. Complaints came from all over.

“I think it comes down to being accustomed to it,” Newman told me. “Generally wherever you are, you either are a woman or you have interactions with women. I can totally imagine that there are places in the world where there aren’t any black people, and there’s a strong ingrained bias against them. I can’t imagine the same thing of gender.”

All that said, Newman confessed that he wasn’t expecting people to get this vitriolic about not being able to pick whether they’re a guy or a girl.

“To be honest the whole interest around it has been a bit of a surprise,” he said. “It seems to have gotten a lot more interest than when we did it for skin colour. I guess it’s more of a big deal for some people than others. I’ve always tended to opt for the female characters when there’s been a choice. I was Gina in Half-Life Deathmatch, Sheva in Resident Evil, Chun Li in Street Fighter. I don’t know why. It’s just more interesting to me.”


  • As a very big black man in Rust with a tiny pecker I’m so upset I didn’t fall into the stereotype category!

  • Did it actually lead to more sales, or are the two unconnected? Especially when the whole kerfuffle is a storm in a teacup, of which most people are probably unaware.

    • Interesting, I’d be interested in finding out if it’s been on sale lately at all?

        • 20 bucks is cheap as chips. Its a quality shooter with great mechanics and team gameplay so I can see why its appealing.

          • I wouldn’t call it a shooter at all. Sure, there are guns, but the game is really a survival game.

          • Id definitely call it a shooter with survival elements more than a survival game. Something like Ark is survival or DayZ. Rust has evolved closer to a competitive combat game now. Go to a server with a multiplier and it becomes all about the raiding and killing. Surviving goes out the window and combat becomes central.

    • The graph he linked is for active players, not sales. It may have had no effect or a drop in sales, we don’t know, but for the week at least, more people have been playing. Then again, that’s hardly unexpected – people log in because they want to see what gender they ended up with.

      • First Twitter image in the article is a graph of sales in the weeks leading up to and after the change was announced. Clicking through to Newman’s Twitter feed, where the announcement was made, shows an image detailing sales for the fortnight post-release.

        The numbers certainly indicate a surge in sales.

        • My bad, I only saw the second tweet with the activity graph. Still, that’s even more troubling that with an increased number of sales the game still hasn’t approached its two-month high.

  • The influx of sales is still pretty small, and Garry is lying that there’s been an increase of players, if you look back a bit further you notice that rust has been losing players for a while and still haven’t gone past last months numbers.
    The novelty will wear off, again, and modders will find away to fix it. (it’s insidious he tied it to the ID , makes it extremely hard to change.)

    • How is he lying about increased players? The statement is that players have increased over a set period of time. The data presented reflects that statement.

      • he’s only showing the past 2 weeks and conveniently on the weekend spike go back a few months you notice it’s been decreasing.
        Anyway, the community is mostly toxic which is what ultimately killed it for me, and bad decisions like non-toggle-able broadcasting of the admin commands to the server chat. (turns out people don’t like the admins doing their jobs.)

    • You wanna know why it’s extremely hard to change your characters race and gender. It’s because you’re not meant to. Rust isn’t a game you mod. Sure, there are plugins, but it’s all hosted server side.

      Also, I have a theory as to why there may be less players currently. Rust is a game that you play with your friends. It’s hard to organize play sessions when everybody has work or school. It’s a game that sees most of its activity during holidays.

      • Well the game has very little versatility thanks to the choices the developer has made. Which are going to limit how long this game will last since there is going to be very little the community can add to keep it going.

        • I will agree that vanilla servers are pretty boring. But, if you find a nice “modded” server, it’s really fun with a few friends. I say modded in quotation marks because like I said earlier, they’re not exactly mods, they’re plugins. I think “modded” servers will really hold people in the game when it finally gets its full release. Right now, servers get wiped every 2 weeks or so.

          • Well there’s still little reason to even play “modded” server in rust too. In the end once you’ve done everything in rust, there’s no reason to come back. there’s no NPCs, there’s no events, there’s too much combat orientation and no real incentives cooperate with other players/groups, and no real mod support.

            Most of my friends stopped playing because it’s the same grind every wipe, the recent updates was just the last straw to them.

            and says nothing about the future, if Rust ever hits release, what rating is it going to get? R18 or simply refused.

  • Rust always makes me wonder about the old saying.

    “If you get in to a fight, take off your clothes. Nobody wants to fight a naked person”

  • Remember kids, correlation =/= causation. I’d suspect that if anything the increased numbers are from increased exposure resulting from the s**tstorm. I know I would’ve long forgotten about Rust if it wasn’t constantly being complained about.

  • It’s such a nontroversy. You don’t get to choose your character in a lot of games, so what if Rust is one of those games?

    I almost want to get Rust just to see what I’m randomly given.

    • In most games, every player plays the same character, mostly because the game is designed around that character and the ability to play as something else doesn’t exist. In this game, the ability to play as something else does exist, and other players are able to play your preferred biological arrangement, even if you can’t because you didn’t win the dice roll.

      I think Rust is a pretty mediocre game, personally. Gary Newman can make whatever design decisions he wants, but I don’t doubt for a moment he both anticipated and revelled in the publicity the change has bought his game.

      That said, I’m very much in favour of giving players as much choice as possible when it comes to character creation and I think this and the skin colour changes are bad. Rust is a survival game, it relies on players sticking around for a long time to maintain a community. Players being comfortable with an identifying with their character is a huge part of longevity and it really shouldn’t be ignored. As far as player count goes, Rust is down 20% active players since its peak in February this year, and that’s including the bump from this change. That’s a lot of players to shed in only two months.

  • I would prefer to play as a male as I am male as I imagine females would prefer to play as female but I don’t care enough to care about it if I had no choice. Playing Black Desert online and I’m playing the ranger a strictly female class and I couldn’t give two shi*ts that I’m a chick, I just ‘prefer’ playing male, that’s all.

    • Thing with Rust is that, 95% of the time, you cannot see your character. There’s no reason to complain about being a male or a female in Rust. It doesn’t change the gameplay, it doesn’t change anything other than appearance. An appearance that, like I said, you only see about 5% of the time.

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