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Rust developer Facepunch Studios announced this weekend that they're making an arcade-shooter called Riftlight. This announcement was not well-received by many gamers.
The main reason gamers are so angry is that Rust still isn't finished. The game's been in alpha and on sale through Steam Early Access since December. The game's still far from an official launch. Last month, Facepunch announced that they were rebuilding Rust from scratch.
“There's a lot of systems that are integral to Rust, that are 3,000 lines long, that could be 100 lines long,” designer Garry Newman told PCGamesN in June. "So every time you go to change something you have to chase around finding how these five different systems that it doesn't really need work, then you change it and it breaks 4 different systems that you thought had nothing to do with it."
With so much work to be done on Rust, gamers who spent money are upset that Facepunch is working on Riftlight as well. Their reasoning is that the studio should put all of its time and energy into finishing the first game they announced. The funds earned from Rust's Early Access sales, they argue, ought to go back into the game.
It's valid to be concerned about any game on Steam Early Access. Valve's official policy is not to issue refunds for Early Access titles that aren't completed. The disastrous Earth: Year 2066 was the rare exception. The net result is that players are gambling. They're spending money to get the game early with the hope that developers will finish their game in time.
Newman, however, insisted on Facepunch's blog that they haven't abandoned Rust. He points out that the game is getting frequent updates, with the developers sharing progress reports on a regular basis. He also doesn't see any problem using revenue from Rust toward Riftlight.
"We are spending money Rust and Garry’s Mod make to do this. Arguing that we should be re-investing that money back into only those games is like telling apple they can’t spend the money they made from iPhone and Macs to fund the development of the iPad. Keep in mind that we spent money Garry’s Mod made to develop Rust – and that turned out pretty good, right? Or should Helk and Pat have been working on Garry’s Mod all that time?"
Newman understands why gamers have such intense feelings about Facepunch's decisions, though. He believes it's a side effect of open development.
"I am guessing that a lot of game developers bigger and smaller than us have multiple prototypes in the works, but they aren’t showing them to you. The only thing that makes our situation remarkable is that we’re willing to talk about our process and show our experiments."
While I think Rust won't be abandoned, gamers have every right to express their concerns. They did spend money, after all. When developers invite players into their development process and start collecting cash, they have to expect a greater-than-normal level of scrutiny.