My PAX East 2018 demo for Scum, the upcoming online survival game from Gamepires, Croteam, and Devolver Digital, did not go to plan. It started with me fleeing the lobby area where the rest of the players were murderously passing time while waiting for a competitive mode to begin, and it ended with an act of defiant defecation. I wasn't even trying to get sidetracked! All I wanted to do was explore more of the dizzyingly intricate survival mechanics the developers had told me about.
Survive and thrive
Read through our list of the best survival games you can play right now while you wait to start digesting Scum.
It was explained to me, you see, that Scum tracks the individual digestion rate for each piece of food your character eats. Different types of food break down into different kinds of nutrients; eating well keeps your character in fighting shape, while neglecting food leaves them thin and weakened. These aren't the kind of claims that one can simply leave unquestioned. I needed to do some tests, and my current surroundings were ill-suited for such research. Fortunately, I had plenty of time and space - I'd just missed the start of the last round, so all the other players were busy shooting at each other elsewhere. I started running toward a built-up area on the map where I hoped to find some food.
I stopped beside a rosebush along the way and made my character chomp down a rosehip (you're supposed to remove the irritating hairs on the inside first, but I'll assume that was all rolled into the "eat" command). Then I opened the Metabolism screen - yes, there's a Metabolism screen in Scum - and sure enough, I saw the rosehip at the very beginning of its digestion adventure. An apple I'd found earlier was further along the process, presumably lending its vital nutrients to my various statistical charts (my magnesium level was looking great, thanks for asking). But I was still wanting for some more solid fare. My journey out into the surprisingly serene world of Scum continued.
Making room for supper
After a few minutes of jogging I came upon the built-up area. It was a small settlement with a few houses and a horse-bereft stable. Not quite the bastion of civilization I was hoping for, but I started searching anyway. I was in luck! Rifling through some kitchen cabinets, I found my nutritional salvation: a box of spaghetti noodles and a nice big pot to cook them in! Only one problem: I didn't have anywhere to put the pot. Scum simulates individual storage spaces for all of your articles of clothing, because of course it does, and my character's orange prisoner pants didn't have nearly enough room for cookware.
No problem, I just needed to craft a makeshift backpack real quick. Ok, minor problem - the clock was ticking down toward the next round of the competitive mode. I hastened my search and found a spare pair of pants in a wayward crate. Now I needed something to cut them down into fabric strips. A sharpened rock would do the trick, so I ran outside, grabbed one rock, fumbled with the inventory for a bit, then picked up a second. Just use one rock to sharpen the other and… the screen went black. When the world returned before my eyes, I was at the staging ground for the team-based competition, both an impenetrable force field and several kilometers of distance between me and the cooking pot and dried pasta that were my true goal.
I fought half-heartedly to capture-and-hold the objective (a large tank of gasoline), knowing I had already suffered a profound personal defeat that no external victory here could overwrite. A few deaths and respawns later, I noticed a strange couplet of first-person messages in the console window: "I need to urinate!" "I need to defecate!" This was my chance, I realized, to express my discontent with the cruel fates who had so thoughtlessly removed me from my potential spaghetti dinner and deposited me in a fenced-off warzone. This was my chance to send a message.
I opened the inventory. I right-clicked on my character. I selected "defecate". And in the middle of the battlefield, directly on the path from my team's spawn point to the central objective, my character squatted down and began to poop. The poop pierced through his trousers with the force of our conviction (I was told that trou'-dropping was supported in earlier versions, but had been disabled due to a bug that left players running around with pants around their ankles), but was otherwise realistically animated and modeled. Rosehips and apples, I surmised, but no pasta. Damn the fates.
Scum is not the kind of game I typically play on my own time. My survival game experience is limited mostly to the type where 100 players all parachute onto an island and try to kill each other (and I still suck at Fortnite). Even for more seasoned survivalists, the demo's approach was probably inadvisable for the PAX East show floor; this specific Scum setup funneled players from a kill-crazed waiting area to a team-vs-team mode, and put the focus almost entirely on shooting, which is meant to be just one facet of Scum's grand intra-and-inter-human simulation.
In fairness, it's nearly impossible to show off the true appeal of a systems-driven game like Scum in a brief showfloor demo. I understand why the developers decided to go for an approachable, guns-blazing slice instead. But I'm also glad that - through a combination of glitches, patience, and systems working as they should - Scum let me craft my own tale of carb conveyance and revenge pooping. That's the kind of story I'll look forward to most when the game hits Steam early access sometime in the next few months.