Unsurprisingly, City of Heroes Homecoming saw a massive playerbase spike this past weekend


On Friday, we asked our readers whether they planned to play City of Heroes Homecoming, newly crowned with a formal license by NCsoft. We probably needn’t have bothered because of course you did, along with a sizable number of MMO gamers eager to relive the superhero life from 20 years ago.

Homecoming displays its current uptime and player stats on the forums along with graphs on Discord; one hero named Macskull has been compiling the numbers with a clever script so you can see longer-term historical data. First, here are Homecoming’s data, accessed this morning just before 9 a.m. EST, demonstrating per-server peaks.

Peak concurrency across all servers appears to have been around 3245 3260 [confirmed now by HC] players, with Sunday showing the most players for the longest length of time. Not too shabby for an MMORPG brought back from the dead and celebrating its 20th birthday in a few short months.

Macskull’s work is even more useful as it compiles historical data back to the middle of 2022. That giant spike on the far right of the graph is this past weekend.

You might notice that the Excelsior server often counts the lion’s share of players, which clearly had the Homecoming admins nervous, as they quickly added double-experience to the three smaller servers in an effort to coax new and returning players there instead of to Excelsior. I moved characters to Torchbearer to take advantage of that myself. Excelsior hasn’t capsized yet, but apparently, it was getting close; on Friday, it even went into “overload protection” with login queues.

“Excelsior frequently (possibly always, can’t say for sure) had more players online than all the other shards combined,” Homecoming lead dev Jimmy told players yesterday morning. “This was just about manageable before the license announcement, but we still had occasional hiccups as mentioned in this thread. Obviously we’ve had quite a bump in activity due to the announcement, and Excelsior was really struggling on Thursday and Friday evening. […] While overall our infrastructure can easily handle this number of players (and many, many more), each individual shard can only support so many players before things start to hit a bottleneck. Something to keep in mind is that Excelsior is quite busy compared to most shards from the retail version of the game as free server transfers have resulted in so many players coalescing there. On live, players were generally stuck to the shards they started on – and there were 16 shards in total at that point. Now we have 5.”

In fact, apparently Excelsior alone is even bigger than the biggest server from live, Freedom, which was shut down in 2012 along with the rest of City of Heroes.

“[I]t has nothing to do with ‘under-performing’ servers or anything like that,” HC’s Number Six added. “Like Jimmy said, it’s 100% a measure to keep Excelsior stable, and to keep Everlasting from going down the same path. We’ll continue to work on technical solutions as well, but ultimately are fighting against some design choices by the original team that cause scalability issues and non-linear resource consumption once you get above around 1,000 concurrent players on a single shard. Excelsior is consistently bigger and busier than Freedom was on the retail servers, if that tells you anything — but players had more shards to spread out on then.”

I did ask Jimmy for a theory about Excelsior’s popularity, but there doesn’t seem to be an easy explanation. Readers might recall that the top three servers were fairly well aligned early on, but Excelsior has been consistently one-upping the others for quite a while now. Our own suspicion is that it’s down to the types of nostalgia-driven players who first planted roots on Torchbearer vs. those came later and played on whatever wasn’t overcrowded, and now the latter group is picking up more and more steam as gamers make use of free transfers to go where the people are.

We also reached out to Homecoming this morning for a few more official stats – like how many new players total jumped in this weekend! We’ll update when we have them. [Update: Tucked down below now.] In the meantime, if you’re playing, take advantage of the XP bonuses; you get five transfers every three days, and as long as you secure your supergroups and names on your origin server, you can always come back.

Source: Forums, Discord, Macskull. Cheers, Yrys!
Homecoming kindly gave us some of the granular stat-crunching we were looking for, running Friday/Saturday/Sunday:

Peak concurrency this weekend: 3,260

New accounts: 6,807 (and roughly 7,407 in total since the announcement on Thursday)

New characters: 18,826
6,722 on Excelsior
3,571 on Torchbearer
3,175 on Everlasting
2,798 on Reunion
2,560 on Indomitable

Characters active: 92,872
42,337 on Excelsior
21,776 on Everlasting
14,190 on Torchbearer
7,900 on Indomitable
6,669 on Reunion

And 24,658 accounts logged into the game since the announcement. “Peak CCU is comparable to mid-to-late 2020,” the team says. “New accounts is comparable to late 2019. Don’t have historical stats on new characters.”

We can add a bit more context from our reporting in 2019: Homecoming saw 10K concurrent across its servers over the Memorial Day holiday weekend in 2019, just a few weeks after SCORE was outed. By September 2019, y’all had rolled almost a million new characters.

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