Vanilla WoW Dreams: Blizzard Met Nostalrius

Blizzard have met and discussed running reviving older versions of World of Warcraft with folks who ran a popular pirate/private/unofficial ‘vanilla’ server, and… it went fine? Blizzard haven’t e.g. imprisoned them within a barrow for all eternity, at least. But, as expected, the meeting hasn’t lead to Blizzard vowing to bring back vanilla WoW or anything like that. Still, it is nice that Blizzard haven’t e.g. entombed their corpses in sunken ruins near a vast magical whirlpool. They can be very dramatic sometimes.

The Nostalrius server had been recreating the pre-expansion WoW experience, rolling out new raids and whatnot in the same way as Blizzard had added them, until Blizzard’s lawyers started sending serious letters. Facing a trial, the Nostalrius gang shut the server down in April. Blizzard later said that “failure to protect against intellectual property infringement would damage Blizzard’s rights.”

With tongues a-wagging and a fingers a-petitionsigning, Blizzard said they’d meet with Nostalrius folks and started thinking aloud about a return to old ways. They raised the idea of a “pristine realm” with all modern WoW’s experience boosters and helpers disabled, but that’s a rubbish idea missing the point. Then they talked about the pacing problems of modern WoW, of how people are now rushed through zones and levelling. It would be peachy if Blizzard did fix pacing, which has suffered over years of expansions and changes, but what about players who want actual vanilla WoW?

Last week, Nostalrius finally met Blizzard to talk about vanilla servers. Nostfolk have written a report of their visit to Blizzard HQ, where they gave a presentation and chatted with folks including Blizzard CEO Mike Morhaime and WoW’s executive producer, game director, and technical director. They seem pleased with how it went.

And… no, Blizzard have not said they’ll bring back vanilla WoW or sanction servers which do. Some Blizzfolk might seem interested in the idea personally, but as a studio there’s no decision. Blizzard explained to the Nostfolk that, while they do have source code for much of vanilla WoW, it’d take a lot of work to recreate parts and rebuild it.

The Nostfolk add that “In addition to the technical aspects of releasing a legacy server Blizzard also needs to provide a very polished game that will be available to their millions of players, something existing unofficial legacy servers cannot provide.”

That’s it. Blizzfolk said to stay in touch and Nostfolk sound hopeful but whether or not Blizzard as a studio even want to revive vanilla WoW is still unknown, let alone whether they think it’s worth the time and money to do so. Maybe this was a face-saving PR exercise, maybe it was a first step on an exciting journey. The news is that there’s no news. Hey, I’m just here to tell you that no one has e.g. been tricked into a blood ritual binding them to demon lords from another plane.

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  1. Neurotic says:

    We Shall See.

  2. quiggy says:

    Having never played WoW before, I would buy this. The game has a legacy greater than just about any game out there, and while I’m aware that I could buy the game right now and jump into over a decade’s worth of content, something about that doesn’t appeal to me. I want to try the game that people fell in love with and that changed MMOs forever, and sadly that’s not possible right now.

    • trjp says:

      This is exactly what’s wrong-headed about this whole idea – some mythical idea of something you can no-longer have being ‘amazing’ – based on rose-tinted specs and old people grumbling about how “everything is shit these days”

      WoW was a streamlined/polished MMO when MMOs were grindy/ugly affairs played only by hardcore players. You cannot re-create that because the rest of the world caught-up and even overtook it.

      You could roll out vanilla WoW tomorrow and people would be bored of it in no-time because as much as it hasn’t changed, EVERYTHING else has.

      WoW hasn’t become a poorer game, the landscape in which it sits has changed – totally – people’s expectations have changed too

      WoW has issues but NONE of them will be solved by looking backwards (almost no problems are ever solved by doing that)

      • Veles says:

        I think this is a very valid point. Player expectations and gaming culture have moved on massively. People expect to be able to jump in and out of games for 15 minutes and still achieve something rather than having to commit hours of an evening to it.

      • Haasva says:

        Still there were many players on Nostalrius and similars

        • trjp says:

          Lots of registered users on a FREE WoW server says nothing about nothing

          Surveys of users aren’t much more useful – what people say and do isn’t always aligned.

          • Peblskek says:

            Exactly, and even more they’re not even that many, we’re talking roughly of about 10-30k players on the vanilla servers, 5-8k tops per server… compare that to the millions that resub for every expansion and even the ones that keep resubbing….. yeah…

      • SaintAn says:

        That’s a really ignorant clueless view, and I see this view way too often. You should actually look imnto what you’re talking about.

        There are a lot of Blizzlike Vanilla private servers and a lot of people regularly play on them (Wasn’t it 100,000 on Nos alone? Plus all the people on the other servers), so it’s not some rose tinted specs of something being amazing because of nostalgia. People still play and still love the design, world design, mechanics, depth, story, RP freedom, and WPVP of the original. Plenty of people like myself that didn’t play in Vanilla enjoy Vanilla WoW on private servers because it’s really just a great MMO and way way better than the pile of crap WoW is now.

        “You could roll out vanilla WoW tomorrow and people would be bored of it in no-time because as much as it hasn’t changed, EVERYTHING else has.”

        Yeah, just like the hundreds of thousands of players weren’t playing on Nos and other servers, and still aren’t playing on the other private servers right now. lol

        “WoW hasn’t become a poorer game, the landscape in which it sits has changed – totally – people’s expectations have changed too”

        Retail WoW is definitely a poorer game. And the landscape is dead. Just shallow poorly made F2P/B2P scams with no future now.

        “WoW has issues but NONE of them will be solved by looking backwards ”
        No one is trying to solve WoW’s issues. Everyone just wants to play a good MMO again instead of a game catering to the lowest common denominator.

        You have no clue about MMO’s and especially private servers so I don’t get why you thought you should comment about them.

        • falcon2001 says:

          I’ve played since vanilla WoW and agree far more with the original poster than you.

          Everyone who claims Nost showed how much interest there was conveniently forgets that it was free. F2P is a gigantic push for many people, and ignoring it is laughable.

          I agree that there’s a portion of the Nost players that would pay but how many? 1%? 2%? I wouldn’t put it in even double digits.

          Objectively speaking there’s going to be people that prefer vanilla wow but I don’t think it’s a sizable portion. A lot of people (me included) think that WoW is significantly better, mechanically, these days compared to Vanilla, and it’s pretty ignorant to say that this guy doesn’t have a clue.

          • Tritagonist says:

            Those numbers are based on what? The leading German PC Games (so named) magazine did a poll asking that very question. 42% of respondents said they would pay a subscription to play on a Classic WoW realm. 29% only when it was cheaper than a normal subscription, and only 19% said they would not be willing to pay.

            Blizzard has changed WoW into such a different game from what it was that it’s no wonder people who were happy to pay to play WoW in the past are still willing to do so today, provided they could play the WoW they liked so much – not whatever it has become now.

      • Tritagonist says:

        “WoW was a streamlined/polished MMO when MMOs were grindy/ugly affairs played only by hardcore players.”

        Exactly, and WoW appealed to a different kind of gamer, making the comparison somewhat less useful. It’s evident from all the numbers we have (and we don’t have them all, to be sure) that ‘the rest of the world has caught-up’ hasn’t translated into actual numbers. Very few other MMOs can survive with a subscription, and the millions of people who left WoW have mostly just stopped playing MMOs. They do not want TESO or SWTOR or any other game that has supposedly overtaken WoW.

        • trjp says:

          When WoW launched, your MMO choices were VERY limited and the game which existed were punishing and glitchy (Camelot, AO, EQ, UO etc.)

          Now there are a TONNE of MMOs out there catering to a huge range of interests with a massive range of settings – and a new one launches almost weekly! Matters not if they’re all bad (unlikely) – their existence changes how people see WoW/what they expect from WoW

          WoW is also crippled by most people having already played it and maybe even burned-out on it. Nothing makes someone grumpier than burning-out on a game ;0

      • Kala says:

        “WoW was a streamlined/polished MMO when MMOs were grindy/ugly affairs played only by hardcore players. You cannot re-create that because the rest of the world caught-up and even overtook it.”

        I agree with a lot of what you’re saying here in a general sense, but it’s kind of interesting, because my experience with MMOs up til WoW was very different.

        WoW was definitely the most polished MMO I’d ever played, but it was also probably the grindiest. The pre-WoW MMOs that made the most impression on me were the sandbox ones, like Ultima Online and EVE.

        (and yes, you could grind in both games, but neither were a focal point/a direction the games pushed you in. I’d argue it was actively discouraged, as playing that way in either game was boring as sin ;p).

        But yeah, I do agree we can’t really go backwards (other than for nostalgia, which wears off and is frequently disappointing). The context that existed for these games when we played them for the first time (or if we didn’t) no longer exists.

      • Press X to Gary Busey says:

        It’s the “Let’s make MMO’s great again”. Something I learned by playing the SWGemu. The sweeping changes to the early original game around 2004-2005 shattered my corner of the community and for years I kept dreaming of a return to the “good old days”.
        Everything was *definitely* going to be fixed by playing a 1:1 recreation of the old game and it was going to be exactly like back then.

        Turns out it actually had little to do with the game and it was all rose tinted nostalgia for the circumstantial experiences surrounding the game – the friends, the promises of what could’ve been and the stage of my life at that point (right at the end of the teens and before moving out and starting the job grind). It had very little to do with the actual game. The world had moved on and I’d better drop those notions and move on too.

        I’m absolutely sure it would be exactly the same for my friends who I barely heard from when they disappeared into WoW raids for two years around the same time.

        • trjp says:

          You’re Trump on MMOs then?

          Like Trump, are you going to evade

          a – saying what not great at this point
          b – what you’ll do to make it great again?


          • Press X to Gary Busey says:

            Hah! :)
            I meant that even if the game was great and fun back then in the mid-2000’s it’s not possible to replicate the exact experience today by just turning a game version online.

            The game was a social phenomenon back then in a way it can never become again and players’ memories may be heavily influenced by the way other things were in their lives 10 years ago.

            Perhaps like clinging to nostalgic memories of High school (like Al Bundy’s touchdown) or the long childhood summer days in the family’s holiday cabin. If you go back there as an adult you can get a lot of fond reminders and nostalgia but it’s not the same in the here-and-now if you take a ride on the swingset as the jewels and gold plating it got in your memories.

    • Veles says:

      I played WoW when it came out and again a few years ago when Cataclysm was out. I think you’re bang on the money. While the old stuff is still there, and technically you could still go and do all the old stuff of vanilla WoW (which I did), it’s completely dead. I levelled from 1 to most of the way through Burning Crusade and barely met a soul when I wasn’t in a major city. All of the magic of playing through those areas were gone because the magic came from enjoying these experiences with lots of other people around you. Everything is focused on the latest expansion content.

      Part of the problem is with the community as well. A large majority of players are focused on achieving max level as quickly as possible rather than enjoying the experience of the journey of getting to that level.

      • Kala says:

        “Part of the problem is with the community as well. A large majority of players are focused on achieving max level as quickly as possible rather than enjoying the experience of the journey of getting to that level.”

        I dunno. Is that a problem with the community…?

        Given the quest chains and dangling carrot of reward, the emphasis on various grinds (loot grinds, reputation grinds) – then you can hardly blame people for tailoring their play to suit.

        *cough* just deleted anecdotes that no one wants to read, but in summation: the playstyle I noted from people experiencing WoW for the first time in beta, was very different than how I saw people playing later, once the game was more established.

        I know there’s roleplay groups on rp servers who are more “journey is the reward” oriented, but I think they’re probably swimming upstream, because the game isn’t. It’s definitely more ‘the reward is the reward’ oriented in my view ;p

        • LacSlyer says:

          When practically every MMO focuses on max level content, then yes it’s a problem with the community. Even MMOs that strive to provide content while leveling to prevent people from burning out have the issue of players wanting to get to level cap and start the gear progression. It’s not because MMOs are built this way, it’s because that’s how people choose to play the game regardless of alternatives.

          • Kala says:

            Respectfully disagree. WoW was definitely built that way. (I suspect “practically every MMO” you’re thinking of might be post-WoW and therefore inspired by it’s huge mainstream success. With the exception of EQ, which was more in the style that WoW popularized).

    • Nick says:

      Any game ‘cept Everquest. To which it also owes a shitload.

  3. milligna says:

    so in other words, just a nice PR band aid for Blizzard that cost them nothing.

    • w0bbl3r says:

      Exactly. Perfect PR buzz from their team for damage control because they had looked like petty kids not wanting other kids playing with their toys even if they don’t play with them anymore.

      They met with these guys, making it seem they were all caring and wanting to find some way of meeting in the middle somehow, when really they had absolutely no plans to do anything other than repair their image, which had been tarnished by this whole thing.

      “Yeah, see, we LOVE what you guys did with that server, we see that people love playing on your server, but…… we are a great company see, and it’s awesome of us to even let you into our offices, so to expect us to go as far as to do something that a bunch of people want is just ridiculous. Because it would cost us money. But look, we let you in our offices and gave you coffee for free, that makes us an awesome company, make sure everyone knows that. And remember, to get into the office you signed this confidentiality agreement and in the small print it was sure to bind you to only being able to praise blizzard and not criticise us. Now get out. We are awesome for doing this remember. OUT”.

      I imagine that’s a more honest version of what they said in the “meeting”.

      • The Petulant Platypus says:

        Blizzard have every right to control WoW, it’s their product and their service. Blizzard are being highly gracious by meeting them, discussing concerns and by NOT pursuing them in a civil case. They have every right to say “No!” to misuse of their IP

        There is somewhat of an irony in that given how much Warcraft in itself is from Warhammer but that’s GWS’ fault (and eternal regret) for allowing Blizzard to keep everything they produced and use it. More to the point, they had a legal agreement to do so.

        Vanilla WoW in itself was a wonderful experience for community and for the leveling experience. As was said the game really started at 60 (then max level) and consisted of a crap load of tedious grinding, simple PvP with an awful honour system and lots of standing around.

        I think people want the community aspect back more then anything. When your reputation meant something and would restrict you from groups/content if you had a bad rep. Now days, turds proliferate and are just a group finder away from accessing content.

        • Tritagonist says:

          It’s a fair point to make. The ‘we want classic WoW’ group isn’t uniform. Some people are really interested in getting back to pre-TBC days with talents, character progression, raids, etc. but from speaking to my fellow former-WoW players I get the distinct impression that a lot of people are mostly longing for the return of a meaningful server community. Not this anonymous menu-based grouping system Blizzard has put into the game back in Wrath of the Lich King.

      • LacSlyer says:

        The whole idea that they should do something just because people want it is stupid. Lots of people want stupid shit in WoW, and they shouldn’t be upset when their desires aren’t appeased by Blizzard because the majority of the time those people are only in it for their interests alone.

        Private servers would be popular for about a week and then people would see how bad the vanilla version of the game is for 2016 and stop playing them. That’s a complete waste of time for Blizzard to put into when there’s literally nothing they get out of it for doing so, other than a few people being happy.

    • SaintAn says:

      FFS Blizz, just let Nos rent out the Vanilla and other xpacs IP to make private servers. You wouldn’t have to do anything, you’d make money, and Nos already has a product out there that can be launched right away and switched out for the official source code. Not like people actually want to play retail WoW anymore or even trust you enough to buy xpacs after WoD only had 3 mediocre content patches.

  4. teppic says:

    There was no way Blizzard would announce legacy servers just before the Legion launch. It’d be idiotic to do that. However, their public stance has changed massively on this, which is something that cannot be ignored. Both Kern and the Nost team had long meetings and came back with a very positive outlook, which also cannot be ignored.

    I think that if the servers are going to happen it’ll be announced at Blizzcon. That’s after Legion, and Blizzard has nothing else it’s likely to announce then. If they say nothing about it, the question will obviously come up, and anything other than yes will be taken as a no.

    • Tritagonist says:

      Exactly right, there is no way they will announce this in the run up to Legion’s release, or even in the months after. If they’ll do it at all I wouldn’t count on it being announced before Q1 2017 or something like that.

  5. tkioz says:

    As much as I like the idea of a old school WoW server I understand why Blizzard had to shut these guys down. If a company doesn’t defend its IP in one case it makes all future cases harder, it’s just the stupid way IP law works.

  6. trjp says:

    This probably is a good time to get Blizzard’s attention – they’ve been scaling-up the WoW team for a year-or-more now to get Legion done – soon they’ll have to decide whether to send people back to their Diablo/other jobs/end their contracts and that’s always a good time to do ‘something new’.

    Problem is – you don’t want to launch an ‘old’ version of your games just after a ‘new’ one, do you?

  7. bananana says: