If you've ever dipped a toe into Rust, you'll know the PvP can get rough mere seconds after you've spawned naked on a beach - so if you fancy a gentler introduction (or perhaps just a break from marauding zergs), the new Softcore Gamemode could be the thing for you.
Introduced yesterday as part of the February update, the Softcore mode provides a slightly more forgiving Rust experience. When a player is killed, instead of losing everything they will instead be able to recoup half their inventory - either at the spot of death, or at a reclaim terminal (at the Bandit Camp or Outpost monuments). You'll have two hours to reach a terminal before those items despawn, but still - it's far better than losing it all to someone with an AK. On top of this, players will also have the opportunity to spawn in the Bandit Town or Outpost safezones at any time (if they are not flagged as hostile).
Rust is also pretty infamous for its zerg clans - groups with dozens of players that can easily overwhelm solos or small groups - and Softcore helps discourage this by capping team sizes at four.
Beyond the Softcore Gamemode, the safezone monuments are also getting an upgrade in the form of marketplaces: players will now be able to order items from vending machines and have them delivered by drone. There is a delivery fee of 20 scrap, and you'll need to wait for your items to arrive (which apparently takes up to five minutes depending on the distance). Oh - and make sure you collect your items before the terminal unlocks to everyone after 10 minutes.
"The overall goal of the marketplace is to make trading safer and encourage more trading in general," Facepunch explained. "This means the delivery drones cannot be destroyed or interfered with."
And, finally, the patch brings a bunch of changes to Hapis Island - which is in the process of getting a larger redo. This includes a new ringroad network, monument tweaks and a multitude of area revamps, which you can read about in the full blog post.
Rust, of course, just had an enormously popular month thanks to the efforts of streamers on Twitch: the blog post revealed a concurrent user peak of 244k players in January, and a concurrent Twitch viewership peak of 1.37m. But this huge surge in popularity has also brought problems. "It's not all roses and rainbows when you have such a sudden boost in popularity," Facepunch explained in the post. "You start seeing cracks forming in the foundations, most noticeable for us the server browser was never intended to handle such a large amount of servers." Facepunch is currently working on solutions for servers not displaying correctly, along with further anticheat measures.
The game has now sold 10.5m copies to date, and with the introduction of the Softcore Gamemode to entice more new players to the game, I suspect that figure will get much larger.