Rust has been an extremely popular PC game for an extremely long time. Despite being in Early Access since 2013 and having a full release in 2018 (though it's still being updated regularly), Facepunch Studios' multiplayer survival sandbox has been hovering around the top ten list on Steam for years.
But as we've seen in Among Us, Phasmophobia, and others, streamers can give games a big, sudden push—even those that are already popular, like Rust.
A horde of well-known streamers swarmed into Rust around the holidays: Shroud, XQc, Pokimane, Disguised Toast, Sodapoppin, Myth, and tons of other popular Twitch streamers began playing Rust together on the same server, set up by Offline TV, at the end of December. This sudden burst of celebrity interest took Rust to a new peak of viewership—over a million viewers simultaneously watched streamers playing Rust on January 3.
Naturally, this also led to a new peak of concurrent players on Steam (134,255 today, which tops Rust's record of 125,415 from April 0f 2020). That's not quite the peak we saw with Among Us, but Rust is both more expensive and far more complicated than Innersloth's adorable little space sabotage simulator.
And, as you might expect, all those personalities playing a famously brutal survival game together led to a bit of drama, too.
THE OTV RUST SERVER IS TOO FUN THATS ALL I THINK ABOUT. MY COMPETITIVENESS OVERWHELMED ME AND I WAS RUDE TO NON-PVPERS. TOMORROW WERE GONNA DO BETTER AND TEAM ROCKET WILL TAKE OVERDecember 31, 2020
I haven't untangled all the drama (and I don't plan to because trying to get a complete picture from a bunch of contextless Twitch clips and Twitter posts is difficult) but it sounds like there were some allegations of stream-sniping, and reports of some streamers going a little heavy on the PvP against others who were hoping for more of a collective roleplaying and building experience. Sounds like the typical experience of playing on a public Rust server, in other words.
Server1 in rust is slowly becoming normal rust... Do I even bother signing on right now? Gimme the deets what'd I miss.January 3, 2021
On the plus side, it looks like a second Offline TV server is in the works, which will feature fewer streamers and more of a focus on RP, while still providing room for PvP from time to time. You can check it out for yourself—currently, Rust is still number on on Twitch.