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Rust now assigns gender permanently based on SteamID

UPDATE: Garry Newman explains why.

UPDATE 4PM BST: Why - why does Rust randomly create a character for you that you must stick with? I asked Garry Newman, the man in charge, this afternoon.

"When we talked about character customisation we realised that a lot of games that were coming out went that far into the customisation that it was 80 per cent of the game," he told me. "In interviews they were showing the character customisation, not the game itself. Which is a bit f***ed. So we decided we didn't want to go down that route.

"We were also talking about how we hate how players are recognisable by their names floating over their heads. How in an ideal world players would be recognisable by what they look like. And this would be consistent and follow them around permanently.

"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.

"We're still fighting our way towards that," he added, "but that's why it is like it is."

He explained that Rust pulls a player's appearance attributes from the SteamID itself, treating it as a random seed. Your SteamID isn't directly viewable - it's not your Steam name - but you can work it out using some helper websites. Mine, for instance, is STEAM_0:1:22710889. Maybe the gender algorithm has something to do with numbers being odd or even?

"It's the SteamID itself," he explained. "It's used as a random seed, then these attributes are pulled from that seed. 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."

I also asked Newman whether there was any wiggle room in the future for periodical character re-assignment.

"No wiggle room," he answered. "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."

That's me - forever.

ORIGINAL STORY 12.30PM BST: Open world multiplayer survival game Rust now assigns gender according to your SteamID, just as it already assigned skin colour and penis size. And once they're assigned, they can't be changed - when you respawn you return to life as the assigned 'you'.

"We understand this is a sore subject for a lot of people," wrote Rust makers Garry Newman and Taylor Trotter on the game's 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 any more. 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."

The gender-assigning feature - which arrives alongside updated player models, both male and female, and a host of other bits and bobs - has been divisive, particularly on Reddit. It's worth pointing out that Rust is first-person, so you only see your 'you' on the inventory screen, and that gender has no statistical impact on gameplay.

On the one hand some players like the enforced visual diversity as opposed to all players picking the optimum character model - reportedly a small, dark character harder to see at night. Some also appreciate the continuity, rather than people changing appearance each time they respawn.

But on the other hand some people feel irritated at the permanency of assignment - one they had/have no control over to begin with.

"I wouldn't care so much if it was more random and not permanently tied to your account," wrote Reddit user SexyMrSkeltal (who may not be so sexy now he's been randomly assigned a look).

"If it was just a random player model every time you started a new game on a new server, that's one thing. But to have it permanently tied to your account for the foreseeable future is stupid. My character looks like ... the kind of sh*t you'd expect by pressing the 'randomise features' button in the Oblivion character creator. And now that's permanent."

A continuation of that argument is that people want some control over their appearance in a game they paid for. The counter-argument put forward was that you never had control over appearance - nothing was taken away in this update.

Rust is still an Early Access game, albeit one that's already very commercially successful, so features are subject to change - and they would be even if it wasn't in Early Access. Will developer Facepunch re-assign appearance at some point down the road, or periodically allow it? I'm not so sure.