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The vanilla WoW private server Nostalrius went offline back in April, following the receipt of a cease-and-desist letter from Blizzard. Shortly thereafter, the leaders of the Nostalrius team met with Blizzard honchos including CEO Mike Morhaime and executive producer J. Allen Brack to discuss the whys and wherefores of the shutdown. Despite the seeming finality of the situation, it was clear that enthusiasm and hope for some kind of vanilla WoW experience remained, ideally one officially supported by Blizzard.
In fact, the Nostalrius team said last month that the recently-wrapped BlizzCon "is the golden occasion for them to announce their plan for legacy realms, and potentially fulfil the dreams of millions of fans over the world." But as we now know, that didn't happen: Blizzard revealed some fun ideas for World of Warcraft: Legion, but the fields of vanilla WoW remain fallow. So the Nostalrius team has decided to take matters into its own hands by releasing its source code and additional tools to the community, beginning with another private server that intends to revive Nostalrius in all but name.
"The source code will be first given to an existing Legacy project which we believe to be the most in line with our core values, named Elysium. This server shares the volunteer spirit and passion for the game we had. Furthermore, an important part of Nostalrius volunteers are already working there, some under different names. We wish them all the best, and hope that they will become a new home for the reunited Vanilla community," Nostalrius admin Viper wrote in a forum post. "We will continue collaborating closely with them. This collaboration could include additional 'things' to share with them if necessary to achieve this goal. In exchange, this server promised to not receive any profit from this activity. They will also have to create the documentation required to install, understand and use the work we did."
Elysium developers confirmed the change in a separate post on Reddit, where it announced that all current Elysium characters have been saved and frozen pending a transfer to the new system. "Elysium will now proudly revive and continue what began a year and half ago. We will be gratefully accepting the core and player database of Nostalrius. This means that Nostalrius, exactly as you know it, will be returning," Suzerain_Elysium wrote. "Additionally, as many of you know, we have a very large percentage of the Nostalrius staff that has been part of Elysium. Their positions in the staff reach all possible areas such as Administration, Development, Game Masters and Quality Assurance. As of now we have a total of 16 Nostalrius team members (excluding Nostalrius’ administration whom will remain off of the project) and the number is growing. Together we will bring true Legacy servers to the private server community until Blizzard does."
Blizzard has steadfastly refused to allow itself to be nailed down on the topic of vanilla WoW, however, and my inner legal strategist wonders whether throwing a C&D letter back in its face is really the best approach here. Because that is what's going on, right? The Elysium quote —"Nostalrius, exactly as you know it, will be returning"—says it all, and I don't think a simple name change is going to be quite enough to satisfy Blizzard's demand to knock it off. And even if it was somehow sufficient to satisfy the letter of the law, if Blizzard was prepared to pursue legal action against Nostalrius, why wouldn't it be willing to do the same against Elysium?
I've reached out to Blizzard and Nostalrius for more information and will update when I receive a reply.
The famed Nostalrius vanilla World of Warcraft private servers will return, resurrected by Elysium, on Saturday 17th December.
The return follows successful stress tests that peaked this past weekend with more than 10,000 concurrent players - far in excess of anything official WoW servers offer.
Remember Tarren Mill battles in vanilla WoW? The following screenshot was taken from the recent Nostalrius stress test.
Nostalrius' numbers were overwhelming, too. Tens of thousands of players played on the two server clusters at peak times, dwarfing concurrency on individual Blizzard servers. In a world where official World of Warcraft servers huddle together to pool players, here were two with a native population bursting at the seams. Common areas overflowed; WoW looked like a massively-multiplayer online game again.
Nostalrius' huge support resulted in a hundreds-of-thousands-strong petition which triggered something extraordinary: an unprecedented invitation for the Nostalrius team to visit Blizzard and HQ and talk to some of the most important people there - for hours.
Ye olde battles at Tarren Mill. Oh the memories!
Both Nostalrius PvP and PvE servers will return 17th December, opening 5pm UK time, 12pm EST. The Nostalrius database has been carried across so if you had characters on either server they should be there.
Elysium will launch a fresh-start server following the Nostalrius PvP and PvE release for those who want to begin again.
Nostalrius was shut down by Blizzard lawyers earlier this year because it was - and still is - against the rules. But what should have been a simple open and close case was not. Because Nostalrius offered something Blizzard did not - a legacy, pre-expansion version of World of Warcraft - it surfed a wave fuelled by a powerful ocean of want. And as a non-profit venture, Nostalrius' cause appeared just.
I don’t work at Blizzard, so I won’t pretend to know what the WoW developers or Blizzard’s C-suite think of the idea of legacy servers. We do, however, know that Blizzard has historically taken a very dim view of other people mucking with their code or releasing their own legacy server projects. From Blizzard’s point of view, the invitation extended to Nostalrius to travel to HQ and engage directly with the dev team was a significant olive branch to the legacy community — a community they were under no legal obligation to engage with at all. If Blizzard decides to play nasty, they absolutely can. There’s no law protecting any right to emulate World of Warcraft’s server backend, and there’s nothing stopping Blizzard from filing lawsuits seeking injunctions that would forbid the public release of source code, or killing the Elysium project altogether. In fact, that’s probably exactly what’ll happen. Individual devs may or may not support that decision, but devs don’t make these kinds of decisions.
Frankly, it would behoove Blizzard to pay attention to requests for legacy servers. While World of Warcraft: Legion offers some opportunities to revisit previous dungeons and content via a new game mode called Timewalking (you visit old dungeons, but your gear and character stats are scaled down to the equivalent level for that dungeon), these instances aren’t the same as what we played when they were cutting-edge content. The current WoW character classes are vastly different than they were five years ago, and the Timewalking dungeons tend to be easier than their original counterparts. I’m sympathic to the idea of legacy servers — but this probably isn’t the way to get them. If Blizzard decides to really step up enforcement, it could kill the other legacy projects with relatively little effort.