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Monday, July 15, 2024

Rust’s streamer server shows the pitfalls of 50 roleplayers each having their own audience

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Rust recently exploded in viewership on Twitch due to dozens of popular streamers flocking onto a single server to play together. The streams have been very popular, but not without drama. It turns out that a crowd of big personalities all performing for their own audiences at the same time can quickly turn into a disaster, at least from a roleplaying perspective.

Above is a clip of streamer Sodapoppin, who recently logged into the Rust server and headed to an arena to perform musical introductions for a number of 1v1 combat sessions that were scheduled. Also due to take place (at halftime) was a political debate and election to determine who should act as the server’s mayor. These events didn’t exactly get off to a flying start.

Dozens of streamers flooded into the arena, many of them broadcasting their voices all at once, leading to a chaotic mass of talking, shouting, and confusion. One player eventually fired a gun into the air and screamed for silence so the activities could get organized and actually begin. And Sodapoppin quickly grew frustrated with the unwillingness of other streamers to tone down their performances for a few minutes so the ball could get rolling on the festivities.

“I just see a lot of people coming in here doing their own single character roleplay in the middle of a coliseum with literally 50 other content creators,” he said to his audience (he was considerately not speaking in-game). “Like bro, pause it for a second. Just sit there.”

“How hard is it to not talk?” he also asked at one point. “It’s easier than talking.” Eventually he was reduced to putting his hand over his eyes (more than once) as the event continued to stall and the chaos went on unabated.

Watching this Rust roleplaying traffic jam brings to mind watching GTA Online roleplaying, something I did a lot of in 2019 when Lirik rejoined the comically inept GTA gang The Leanbois. I watched as several of their bank robbery attempts went terribly wrong due to their incompetence and the quick responses of the capable police roleplayers on the server. But one day the gang put a new plan into action. After they robbed a bank, they took their getaway car and drove to a spot where they had a second car stashed, jumped into it, and sped off with the cops in hot pursuit.

The trick was that another member of The Leanbois, Tony (played by streamer AnthonyZ), was hiding in the trunk of the original getaway car with all the stolen loot. The cops chased the second car, meaning all Tony had to do was climb out of the trunk, get back to his apartment, and stash the haul, free of all that heat from the fuzz.

But it wasn’t that easy. Not wanting to drive the getaway car for fear of being spotted by the police, Tony had to get a ride from someone else on the server. His first call was to another streamer who at the time was in the midst of committing a completely separate crime and couldn’t help. Tony then phoned a streamer who roleplayed a cab driver, who couldn’t help either as he was currently driving another player around. Tony eventually jumped into a cab driven by the streamer Vader, who was roleplaying a confused old codger named Eugene. Eugene wouldn’t follow Tony’s directions, and refused to even pull over and let Tony out, so Tony eventually had to dive out of the speeding cab and look for yet another option to get home safely.

I’m brining this all up because there’s an old, often repeated improv rule called “Yes, and…” which means agreeing with someone else’s premise (Yes) and then expanding on it (and…) in the interest of keeping the scene flowing and developing. But in streaming, you don’t always say yes to the other roleplayers because you’ve got your own audience to think about. Everyone is putting on a show with their own premise, and for their own audience, which makes collaboration difficult and sometimes impossible. Other streamers weren’t willing to interrupt their own scenes just to help Tony with his.

Tony’s difficulties getting other characters to cooperate was an enjoyable disaster to watch (he eventually did make it home with the loot). But sometimes everyone doing their own thing can also be frustrating and chaotic (especially when there are dozens of them all in the same place), not just for viewers but for the people participating.

Rust’s streamer server, arranged by OfflineTV, has attracted streamers and YouTubers like Shroud, xQc, Myth, Pokimane, Dunkey, and tons of others. And for the record, despite the chaos and calamity shown above, the debate and election did finally take place, with “Kelvin Ballsworth” (ludwig) becoming elected Mayor. Which was quickly followed by chaos and gunfire.

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