i played the open beta in 1999. many times i had the arena to my self. very few played the game back then. i can remember hangtime giving me lessons. it was hard playing the game back then with a dial up from new zealand
You must have played at off hours, because I played the beta from the 2nd day it opened, and that wasn't my impression at all. Citabria/Fester was the first guy I met that day and he started teaching me. There were hundreds in the arena from what I remember in the evening hours in North America. So many came over from Warbirds - I'd just done a review of WB2.xx on combatsim.com, and somebody there told me about Dale leaving and starting his own game company. Couple days later the AH 1 beta arena opened, and we(combatsim.com) ended up interviewing Dale a week later after our entire office did nothing but play the AH beta for 5 biz days straight...HTC ended up advertising with us, and we wrote a large and positive article about AH1 as well.
Dale was surprised at the response to our adds, he didn't understand how large our member base and traffic was then (40 mil hits/month, 1 million unique hosts/month, 250,000 registered forum users, etc). I remember Dale calling us and asking "uh...how big actually are you guys", after getting a massive response of new beta players after HTCs add went up on our site as the primary banner add.
It was good times though, I'm sure we all agree to that in the early days.