RUST, LTD.: A corrosive force of innovation

On February 10, 2013

  • UB Alumni media artist collective RUST, LTD.'s video game The Museum of the Microstar wins first place in Unity Technologies DirectX11 Competition. Courtesy of RUST, LTD.


Game design power-quartet RUST, LTD. may appear to be just four guys with great beards. However, the group is starting to gain national recognition for its award-winning ideas.

Unity Technologies is a company that drives video games like Dead Trigger (iOS and Android) and Endless Space (Windows) through their leading game engines. The company creates the pixilated magic behind digital environments produced by game developers across the world. In celebration of its latest update in Nov. 2012, Unity Technologies hosted a competition that asked game designers to utilize Microsoft's newly released DirectX11 - a plug-in used to enhance graphics.

The grand prize in this DirectX11 contest was awarded to RUST, LTD. (pronounced rust limited), a Buffalo media art collective made up of UB alumni, for their interactive video game, The Museum of the Microstar.This submission combines high technological graphics simulations with a story that points out the consequences of humanity's haphazardous technological advancement in a post-apocalyptic world.

The Museum of the Microstar is an interactive demo with two game modes: a technical walk-through that shows off some of the fancy digital renderingused in its production and a playable short narrative that's meant to satirize tech demos. The museum is curated by the only corporation left in the Universe - a corporation that celebrates human advancements toward discovering the Microstar, while celebrating the destruction of Earth simultaneously.

RUST, LTD. was surprised to receive the award, due to the satirical social commentary behind the game.

"[This demo] says we should think carefully about what it means to unthinkingly celebrate new technology as its role," said Adam Liszkiewicz, M.F.A. graduate from the Department of Media Studies and member of RUST, LTD. "[I believe] that it's important to think about the consequences and context of technology as it's being created and as it's being used. I think we have to give [Unity Technologies] a lot of credit for awarding us the grand prize for something like that."

Liszkiewicz also taught classes at UB. The complete RUST, LTD. roster includes UB Fine Arts alumnus Anton Hand, Media Studies alumnus Luke Noonan and Medias Studies alumnus Lucas Miller. The group met at UB in late 2009, while taking classes in the Department of Media Studies. Because the modus operandi of RUST, LTD. is non-hierarchical, Liszkiewicz states the four members rely on each other heavily in all aspects of production.

This virtual media super-group has produced a number of other games, including 3D puzzle platformer The Hold, which won Best in Show at Game Fest 2012, a neo-dada poetic approach to Minesweeper known as M!ndsweeper and many others.

The team noted associate professor and founding member of the Intermedia Performance Studio at UB Josephine Anstey left a long-lasting impression as a great educator and resource. She is a teacher who makes students feel comfortable taking risks as artists and excels in creating an excellent learning environment, according to Liszkiewicz.

"One thing I noticed that differentiated [Anstey] from other professors was that she encourages students to work on things that are interesting to the student - that really pushes them - instead of things that are interesting to her," Miller said.

RUST, LTD. found interest specifically in social activism in its work through projects that have the potential to better the community. Its project, Minecraft Memorials,has taken social activism into the digital world, quite literally, by erecting memorials of real-life mining incidents into the multiplayer game, Minecraft. This install has a strong ironic tone that the crew said relates to cities like Buffalo that utilize coal power.

"The fact that you're burning real coal while you're burning fake coal, and it's a game that sort of glorifies coal production, when in reality it's a pretty horrible profession," Noonan said. "It's really dangerous, it's going to give you some sort of cancer ... [Coal production] is a pretty horrible job, actually, and it took playing Minecraft for that to all come into focus there."

As far as the future of RUST, LTD. goes, its increased reputation is helping the founders attain contracts in a highly competitive, rapidly growing field. Hand states the group's work in the next six months will largely be in the mobile sphere, creating technology such as iPhone and Android apps, as the need for digital media production for mobile devices increases.

"From a commercial perspective, there's money there because people want to hire you to do that," Noonan said. "When you approach the mobile space there's a variety of unique interfaces there, so you have this really sensor-rich device."

The RUST, LTD. team is scattered across the country and solely collaborates online to create its innovative games.



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