Nostalrius Sharing WoW Legacy Bootleg Server Code

That’s BlizzCon 2016 come and gone, with announcements including a new Overwatch character, another Hearthstone expansion, Diablo throwbacks, and other odds and ends… with no mention of reviving old versions of World of Warcraft [official site].

Blizzard made clear that they would have nothing to announce, that they were still discussing it internally, but some folks have grown impatient. The folks behind Nostalrius, an unofficial vintage WoW server which Blizzard shut down earlier this year, are sharing their source code and documentation with other unofficial servers to help improve them and keep the ‘legacy’ community going.

Why are folks so into vintage WoW? Because WoW was quite a different game before expansions, before remaking the world, before changing a lot of how it worked, and some people prefer that. There’s surely also a small number of people who play because these unofficial servers are free, but largely it’s people who prefer WoW the way it was or are nostalgic. Activision Blizzard are, unsurprisingly, not entirely thrilled about people reverse-engineering and bootlegging WoW.

Actiblizz called in their lawyers to shut down Nostalrius, as they have other servers before, but this particular server’s demise caught a lot of attention. Blizzard even invited some of the Nostalrius gang to meet with them and discuss legacy servers. Blizzard’s official stance is still that they’re thinking about it but, with no confirmation of legacy servers let alone a schedule for their launch, the Nostalgang are done waiting. They explained in a forum post yesterday:

“So, it’s time for us to release our source code and additional tools to the community in the hope that it will maintain the Legacy community as much as possible until Blizzard announces an official Legacy plan – should they decide to do that.”

Nostalrius plan to share their source code and documentation with Elysium, another legacy project which they say “we believe to be the most in line with our core values”. They expect to release the code and docs publicly for everyone later too.

There’s nothing to stop the Actiblizzolawyers from going after Elysium and other servers, of course.

I do hope Blizzard will revive vintage WoW in some form. Blizzard themselves have acknowledged pacing problems with modern WoW, among other issues. I miss how big and mysterious it all felt. Legacy servers wouldn’t suck that knowledge out my head but at least WoW wouldn’t try to whip me through the world at breakneck pace.


  1. CocoPickle says:

    Hell, Blizzard is dead ! First they killed lan parties, now our hopes.

  2. Peddie says:

    Having played vanilla WoW on a trial way back in the day I have no idea why people are pining for it. I recently gave the game another try and the experience has been infinitely more enjoyable than it was however long ago it was that I attempted the trial. Especially the early game quest design was simply appalling in vanilla WoW with some very blatant padding for time as you get sent from town to a nearby field and back three times to each time kill X of three slightly different kobold variants.

    I guess nostalgia is a very strange thing indeed~

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      phuzz says:

      I’ve never really got into MMOs, but from friends who have I gather it’s more about the friendships they’ve made, than the actual game. So going back to 2004 WoW is like going to have look round your old school/university/workplace, trying to spark a bit of nostalgia.
      “Hey, do remember when we killed that boss round here?”
      “And in the game!”

      • Horg says:

        Depending on who you ask, having the old game play back could be the primary reason. It would be for me anyway, you will never get the old gang back together from 10 years ago, but you can always start a new one.

        Classic WoW was far more than filler quests, as has been stated above, although I will admit that there was (and still is) a lot of padding. The game play was less streamlined, rough around the edges, less ‘figured out” / optimised, more challenging at all levels, but it was presented in a world just accessible enough (compared to other MMOs of the time) to make working through it and figuring everything out a real joy. The pre-raid dungeon design is something I like to highlight whenever this discussion comes up. Nothing Blizzard have made since classic has come close to the multi-layered city of BRD, or the ogre suit run through Dire Maul. They were more willing to world build back then, less concerned with scaring away players who wanted instant ques and 15 minute turn overs for instanced content. When people discuss classic WoW game play, it’s really not fair to judge the whole package by the worst examples of filler. There was a huge amount going on in the world that looks nothing like the current iteration, and I don’t think I ever reached a point of being bored with it. That didn’t start until WotLK (excepting Ulduar, which is a masterpiece), so i’ve got no problem requesting the old world and maybe TBC back just the way they were.

      • satan says:

        Damn it, I seem to have lost my long reply I typed up…

        Anyway for me I enjoyed the original incarnation of Alterac Valley more than just about anything then or since, and I still to this day try and wring some enjoyment out of the sad state AV is in on retail servers (filled with bots and streamlined to the point of removing almost all pvp).

        The closest I’ve been able to get to classic AV was RvRvR in Guild wars 2, but it didn’t have as many features as classic AV, and didn’t execute as well.

      • Hauskamies says:

        This isn’t it at all. I didn’t play WoW vanilla so I don’t have those nostalgia goggles. I tried WoW sometime before WoD. The leveling experience was awful. I skipped over most of the early content because I leveled so fast, got into a city and then sat there using a dungeon finder and run quickly through a couple of dungeons, got so many spells I was just confused about it all.

        When I played on nostalrius, I loved it. The world felt bigger because I had to explore it more, run to the instances and actually talk with other people to make up dungeon groups. The pacing was better and I had the time to learn new spells. It just felt more like an immersive world that focused on being in the world and not on breezing through the world for that sweet end game loot.

    • satan says:

      Classic Alterac Valley was a neverending pve/pvp 40v40+npcs (ranging from underleveled non elites right up to raid bosses) war that went for days at a time.

      Blizzard chipped away and chipped away at Alterac Valley over the years until it was unrecognisable from the original, but even when I sub to retail now, I’m still drawn to AV because even it’s current watered down, bot-filled state, I can still turn the entire battle around with a well placed bunker/tower cap/recap.

      I enjoy AV so much that I’m just thinking back now to how I spent most of Cata as a naked rogue just capping bunkers/towers in AV.

      I’d love to do a full writeup on the features of classic AV that gave it infinite replayability, but basically the human element of random strategy/gear/classes/skill combined with the fixed elements of summonable raid bosses, npcs (upgradeable with the smithing npc and turnins), bottlenecks, a changing battlefield (mines/bunkers/towers/elite guards/patrols/cavalry/air support)…

      I haven’t been able to come anywhere near replicating the breadth, depth and scale of what classic AV was capable of, guild wars 2 and it’s Realm vs realm vs realm stuff was the closest I’ve managed.

      Oh just realised I didn’t say it at the outset, but I support legacy/classic servers if it means I can play classic AV again, because I haven’t found another game capable of replicating the same elements and executing them well enough.

    • GemFire81 says:

      So you are trying to understand what people loved about Vanilla WoW based on a free trial that you played? Rofl ! I would love to know what goes on in some people’s heads.

  3. Atlon says:

    While I can definetely sympathize with people wanting that old-school experience and feeling distressed at Blizzard’s actions, I think that the move made by the Nostalrius folks isn’t the right way to go.
    You can petition all you want for official support from Blizzard for legacy servers, but trying to force its hand by going “fuck it, let’s go all in with this” is just going to result in a more hard-line stance from them, while also tarnishing your image and wasting the good will Blizz seemed to have had towards you.
    Let’s not forget that all these things are illegal, and although you can share the sentiment behind them, Blizzard are in their full rights to act tough.

    • Bent Wooden Spoon says:

      Let’s not forget that all these things are illegal, and although you can share the sentiment behind them, Blizzard are in their full rights to act tough.

      Are they? Genuine question, which bit is illegal? I haven’t looked at their code, but I’m willing to bet it contains absolutely none of Blizzard’s server code and therefore doesn’t infringe any copyright there.

      The only thing I can see that might actually be ‘illegal’ is the trademark infringement committed by using the name ‘Warcraft’ when advertising the servers – there is absolutely nothing illegal in writing code that can interface with a third-party software product.

      But I’m no lawyer.

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        Drib says:

        I can’t speak for other nations, but reverse engineering code is illegal in America, at least in a lot of cases. The DMCA for instance has all kinds of stuff in there about reverse engineering copy protection or DRM, and one could argue (perhaps somewhat shakily) that a remote server is DRM.

        Especially seeing as how this code is to make a game that normally costs money, free.

        • Bent Wooden Spoon says:

          That would make some sense. I certainly wouldn’t be calling anything ‘illegal’ though – more like ‘completely untested in court’. Don’t really doubt which way it’d swing though.

          Having read up on it on the EFF’s website the laws look like the usual protectionist bollocks – if they’d been in place when computers first started out it would probably have been legally dubious to write software for an OS without prior permission.

  4. RavenGlenn says:

    Alright, I’ve got a few issues here:

    First, Nostalrius isn’t bootleg. That would insinuate that they are doing something illegal here. They aren’t.

    Second, as I just said, this isn’t illegal. Emulating in the manner they are doing is completely and perfectly within the law. Because they reverse engineered the server(the same principle that knock-off brands work off of) and they do not distribute the client there is pretty much nothing Blizzard can do that they haven’t already done(i.e. send a cease and desist letter).

    Since the Nostalrius team is not attempting to turn a profit and are simply providing access to a server they coded on their own, there isn’t a court in the land that would convict them of any wrong doing. Most private servers simply ignore cease and desist letters. Nostalrius complied in an attempt to encourage Blizzard to make a legacy WoW server that everyone can go pay for.

    The server will come back online, Blizzard will send more cease and desist letters and everything will continue on as it should.

    • Asurmen says:

      If they’ve reverse engineered server code, then I don’t see how it is legal. There’s no legal circumstance they should have been able to obtain server code.

    • mattevansc3 says:

      Actually there’s a lot that’s illegal about this.

      For a start, all art assets, music, voice overs, scripts, etc are either owned by Blizzard/Activision or by their creators and used under licence. Using or reproducing those without a contract or authorisation is classed as theft/piracy.

      Secondly character names, city names, item names, etc are covered by trade mark law. Once again, without a contract or prior authorisation nobody is legally allowed to use them.

      The fact that they aren’t turning a profit is immaterial to any prosecution of the matter.

      • Epicedion says:

        Technically all of those art assets would be in the client, which means that if you purchased a copy of the client you have access to all that stuff. Blizzard could ask you nicely not to crack open the art files and make little paper dolls out of a 2006 Thrall model to dance around with, but so long as you aren’t selling them it’s just a suggestion. The servers wouldn’t actually contain those assets themselves.

      • sneetch says:

        I Are you sure? I’m reasonably certain that the license for the game specifically mentions only using it to connect to blizzards servers. People creating their own servers and not paying a subscription seems like the kind of thing they should crack down on.

        Personally, I do not miss vanilla there was a lot of tedium in that game, WotLK was the pinnacle for me.

        • drinniol says:

          Breaking EULA does not equal breaking the law, despite what the publishers would have you believe.

          • Asurmen says:

            At same time, it also doesn’t make it legal. They’re mostly untested contracts.

  5. skyst says:

    I’m all for private servers.

    I purchased vanilla WoW back when it was a new thing and purchased every expansion since up until Mists of Pandaria. I believe that I got the next expansion for free at some point, but I never really played it, having completely lost interest in the game the WoW had become.

    Vanilla servers allow me and my friends to return to the WoW we love. The WoW we used to hang out in. The WoW that we all paid for and no longer had access to.

    I have been on Kronos (vanilla private server) since April or so of this year. I’m in a raiding guild with 50 or so really cool guys. We’re working through AQ40 now, which I never got around to during retail vanilla. This is the best and longest lasting MMO time I have had since WoW launched. I would recommend Kronos to anyone from the WoW vet to the uninitiated.

  6. RedMattis says:

    Current World of Warcraft and pretty much all the MMORPGs that followed it have become so easy that I just can’t be bothered. The leveling experience is about as challenging as Cookie Clicker. Back in Vanilla WoW running into multiple mobs at your own level was often a death sentence. Now you can pretty much just “/cheer” and let your Hunter pet or Warlock minion handle them for you.

    I have yet to find a WoW-like MMO that wasn’t a complete cakewalk even when I intentionally nerfed myself by running around with sub-par equipment (which by the way ruins the wonder of being rewarded with cool items).

  7. Rince says:

    I think that I would prefer a WotLK server instead of a vanilla one.
    That was my favorite expansion. Probably is nostalgia speaking, but everything was just perfect.
    Mists was nice too.

  8. paddymaxson says:

    This is kind of a big problem with modern games with updates and always online and all that other bollocks. Not only are you restricted to them keeping the servers up,m but you also have to follow the patch version they’re on, and god damn you if you don’t.

    Personally I like WoW now much more than I did in Vanilla, but people who don’t have kind of been told to fuck right off.

    • Nihilexistentialist says:

      This isn’t a problem with modern games. WoW is barely even a modern game. It’s an MMO “problem” that’s inherit in the design of it in the first place. Don’t want this? Play a single player RPG.