Facepunch Studios has taken a unique approach to gender diversity in its open-world survival title Rust – by randomly assigning players’ sex.
The new method, which arrived alongside updated female character models, uses the SteamID value for each user to assign a value of either male or female. It’s similar to the way that penis size and skin colour were already decided in the game.
This also means that players are stuck with whatever their SteamID initially creates, and are unable to change when they respawn.
The move has predictably proved divisive on social media, with Reddit users both praising the random nature for its fairness and criticising the permanence of the characters’ appearance.
“I do not think gender politics is even the issue here,” insisted user Suppoyasha. “It is that it may take control of the game from paying customers. I mean, this may not have created such a fuss if the game originally had this feature to begin with and not imposed upon its players after launch.”
“I kind of prefer it as it is, it becomes a lot easier to recognise people and your friends over time, making your player model a lot more personal to you,” retorted Xok234. “Otherwise people would probably just kill themselves again and again to get their desired look or to look the same as clan members.”
“We understand this is a sore subject for a lot of people,” creators Garry Newman and Taylor Reynolds wrote on the Rust developer blog.
“We understand that you may now be a gender that you don’t identify with in real-life. We understand this causes you distress and makes you not want to play the game anymore. Technically nothing has changed, since half the population was already living with those feelings. The only difference is that whether you feel like this is now decided by your SteamID instead of your real life gender.”
It’s worth noting that Rust is a first-person game, meaning that the majority of players will rarely be forced to see their character model.
Expanding on the tech behind the SteamID assignment, Newman told Eurogamer there was “no wiggle room” for changing.
"It's used as a random seed, then these attributes are pulled from that seed,” he explained. “This way it's different for every SteamID – but it's also consistent. It also has the effect of being totally balanced, so half of players will be female, half will be male etc.
"You are who you are. Before we added different races and genders you played as a bald white guy - you never had a choice. So we're not taking a choice away from the player, we're just adding more variety to the player models. I don't believe that playing as a different gender/race detracts from anyone's enjoyment of the game."