The nude murderisland of Rust [official site] has welcomed women to its bloody shores, adding a female player model in last week's update. Yes, they too are beautiful slapheads. It's not a choice, mind. As Rust did before with penis length and race, each player's in-game sex is decided randomly - and permanently. Some players are not too thrilled with this, but developers Facepunch say they won't make it optional. Part of their plan to make individual players recognisable, see.
Female model has been coming since last year, so Facepunch have thought about this a fair bit. They said in last week's dev update:
"We understand this is a sore subject for a lot of people. 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."
Today, Eurogamer got Facepunch head honch Garry Newman in a headlock and ground their knuckles into his scalp until he answered their questions. He explained, between swatting at their arm, that they wanted to have players be recognisable in a way that "would be consistent and follow them around permanently" but didn't want to obsess over character customisation or add something clunky like hovering names.
People being recognisable seems important and nice in a persistent online world, especially a post-apocalyptic island where someone might murder you for your t-shirt.
"We landed on randomising player's appearance and locking them to it, then working on a bunch of different heads and customisation attributes that would make players more and more unique," Newman told EG. "We're still fighting our way towards that," he added, "but that's why it is like it is."
The system's set up to give a 50/50 split of men and women across players, and players have no say in it. Attributes are decided for a player based on a player's Steam ID, an immutable number tied to their account - it's a handy seed.
"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."
It sounds like a future Channel 5 reality TV show to me. Chris Eubank, H From Steps (that is his legal name), Vanessa Feltz, Fearne Cotton, Frankie Dettori, Jade Thirlwall, Tila Tequila, and George Galloway have their DNA scrambled and their bodies randomly reshaped. How will they find life in their new bodies? And who will be first to smash another contestant's head in with a rock?
[Disclosure: Facepunch blogsmith Craig Pearson used to be a frequent guest in the RPS treehouse writing room, until he decided SOMEONE had a better stationery cupboard.]