Watching Era Grow

One interesting aspect of playing a "static" MMO like Classic era is just how much the player community matters. I don't mean that in a day-to-day gameplay sense (though it matters there too I guess), but I was thinking more about it in terms of how you measure time for example.

In an MMO that's in active development, you're always looking forward to the next patch, and when you talk about the past you'll often compartmentalise it based on expansions and patches gone by, thinking about what the gameplay was like back during each of those periods above everything else.

With era being permanently in "phase 7", there are no such milestones to track the game's progress, so the events that define it are purely based on player and community behaviour. I've documented some of them myself, such as the unexpected resurgence of Hydraxian Waterlords as a "hardcore" realm, or multiple content creators giving era unexpected exposure and causing a sudden population surge.

Soon after I started playing on era, I ended up installing the census addon to help with the community census project. I'm not going to lie however, with how quiet things were on Pyrewood Horde side initially, I also derived a certain amount of comfort from tracking population numbers. My first 30-day scan showed about 1.3 thousand Horde players active on the cluster, which is not much when I think back to, for example, how Classic BC Hydraxian Waterlords was considered "dead" with over a thousand active raiding characters (as opposed to total population).

On the other hand though, over a thousand characters is plenty to complete any content that exists in the game, and in those particularly quiet moments when things felt a bit lonely, it was comforting to think that all those other players were out there - just in other zones, or maybe not even online right at this moment, but they were around.

Since the big population surge, it's also been nice to see those same numbers grow. Pyrewood Horde hasn't seen as much of a gold rush as the PvP cluster, but my current rolling 30-day census is approaching 2.1 thousand characters... which is a lot more than it tracked a few months ago.

In the guild it's been noticeable that we've started to actually see raids fill up - we used to permanently under-man everything, but in recent weeks we've actually had instances of having to ask people to sit out on Molten Core or Naxx runs, which just feels wild.

I'd really like to see era continue to grow like that. As I've mentioned before, while I'm fully aware that it's a niche product, I don't think it's anywhere near reaching its maximum potential yet. Right now it doesn't look likely to slow down (Asmongold uploaded another reaction video about Classic era just a week ago), Season of Mastery has ended so it's no longer pulling Vanilla enjoyers away from era, and a growing minority of players are becoming disillusioned with Wrath of the Lich King and finding their way back to the "good old days".

I don't know where it will all lead, but I enjoy being along for the ride and having such a contrasting experience to what I saw during Classic Burning Crusade with its issues with dwindling server populations. When you start as small as era has, the only way is up.

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