I've been working on the levelling and XP system on and off. I've made some quite good progress. It's still about a month away from being ready to be tested, as we want to really get it together, working and polished before throwing it out to the public.
The systems of gaining XP are mostly done. We just need to sprinkle gain points around the code. The way this works is that every item has a limited amount of XP with diminishing returns. So, for example, the first time you chop wood with a rock you're going to be getting a lot of XP, but that's going to fade down and get harder and harder to get XP that way. But by then you'll have earned enough XP to be able to gain it from chopping wood with a hatchet. Obviously gathering resources is only one way we're going to give XP. Pretty much every survival action will gain XP, every time you do something new. The only thing we won't be rewarding (or punishing) is killing other players, because that's rewarded enough already.
The next step is revamping the blueprint system. At the moment blueprints are found or researched. This has its pros and cons: it’s fun to go looting and not knowing what you’re going to find; it’s fun to collect them and give them to friends. But it’s also terribly unpredictable, inconsistent and grindy. It’s really not a friendly way to do it.
The plan right now is to make blueprints become available when you level up. You will spend your earned XP to unlock them. The blueprints will be organised in a tech tree, so, for example, you won’t be able to unlock a stone spear blueprint without first unlocking a wooden blueprint.
I've spent a day or two working on an editor for this. Quality of life tools like this is one of the places we're really weak on in our development right now. It means that instead of going through items one by one setting the levels and then trying to remember which level they're at in relation to the others, we can see all the important data and edit it together.
This is going to make a huge difference to Rust, and we know people are worried about it. Our feeling is that once you get used to it, it's going to make the game more enjoyable and easier to understand for everyone.