Nostalrius: The Inevitable Post (Updated)

Or, what happens when people get confused about what they actually want…

So Nostalrius, the “fan” managed “vanilla” server was forced to be closed down by Blizzard.

Let’s get one thing straight right off the bat: Blizzard were absolutely in the right here. This was essentially an illegal mis-use of Blizzard’s IP, and if they hadn’t closed it down then they would have been damaging their own rights and ability to defend their IP in the future.

Now, there have been figures bandied about all month regarding Nostalrius:

  • 800,000 registered users
  • 150,000 active users
  • 12,000 concurrent users

These are the figures being quoted by those demanding that Blizzard set up official vanilla servers, and using the above figures as evidence of “demand”.

However there are several potentially fatal flaws in this line of reasoning.

First and foremost?

Nostalrius had no subscription fee.

Players signed up, created an account, and played for free, never once having to pay a subscription cost. Nostalrius’ management did ask for and accept “donations” towards the server’s running costs, but no payment was demanded either up front or on an ongoing basis. Which is probably why it, and other “fan”-run servers like it have gotten away with existing thus far.

In fact, when polled by PC Gamer about how many Nostalrius players would be willing to pay a regular subscription for its continued existence?

Barely any Nostalrius players were prepared to pay for it.

They wanted a specific version of the game set up to their liking, and never ever wanted to pay for it. And therein lies the reason why Nostalrius was so popular. It was merely a haven for the vanilla-crowd who no longer wanted to pay for a subscription based MMO.

I mean, who hates free stuff?

However the popularity of this server, it’s greatest strength, was ultimately its downfall. When you have tens of thousands of players playing something you’ve created, and you’re not being compensated for it in an official capacity? You have to defend your IP.

That’s the way the US Copyright laws are setup. If Blizzard hadn’t shut it down, then Nostalrius could’ve been used as a precedent against them being able to shut down other servers like this in future. Including ones that may have demanded a subscription fee. And obviously Blizzard wouldn’t want that either.

Content and updates.

People are complaining vociferously and have been for months about the lack of content in Warlords of Draenor, and rightly so. But if you have a server that’s locked and capped on a single expansion? What exactly are you hoping for in terms of content?

The best you’ll get are “events” run by the GMs of the server, where they spawn NPCs in locations and have players take them on.

Don’t expect new dungeons, raids, systems, pet or mount models etc etc, because they won’t be coming. All I’ve ever seen on any of the forums or websites for private servers like these are this type of event, because they obviously lack the tools, developers and artists to create fresh, actually new content. They merely re-mix, rehash and fiddle with what’s already in the vanilla box.

Just imagine if you could never have another album by your favourite (living) artist or group ever again. Imagine the best you would ever have ever again are endless remixes of their début album for the rest of eternity.

Not so appealing now, is it? Wouldn’t you rather have new albums? New potentially great tracks?

Conflating Experience with Content.

Nearly all of those who played on Nostalrius and those who have been demanding official Vanilla servers began playing in Vanilla.

Ask most people what their favourite expansion is, and 99% will give you the exact same answer: Whatever expansion was current when they began playing.

But why is that?

When you began playing WoW (or any other older MMO for that matter), everything was new. EVERYTHING. Including all the stuff that was old hat to longer-term players.

I began in Vanilla. I did. But Vanilla was so bad I quit after 6 months and swore off the game for over 3 years, and missed out TBC altogether, coming back at the start of Wrath. So is Wrath my favourite expansion?

Nope, that would be Mists. But Wrath is a very close 2nd.

It’s all about nostalgia. Rose-tinted spectacles, and thinking back to how you felt playing during that time period, when everything was new, the world was your oyster and there seemed like no end to the fun you could potentially have.

Very often people’s fondness for their favourite expansion will be tied directly to how they felt while they were playing at that time. Rarely will it be about the actual content of that time, and that’s where most people’s demands for vanilla servers hits a sticky patch.

I seriously doubt very many people will prefer the basic, simplistic raids of vanilla in Onyxia, Molten Core etc, to more modern raids like ICC, Siege of Orgrimmar, Blackrock Foundry or even Hellfire Citadel. The game has evolved, in terms of both complexity and the actual engine itself. And the playerbase has evolved right along with it.

Some of them have moved on to other games, like Black Desert, Eve Online, Wildstar etc, whilst those that remain have increased in skill level in order to cope with the demands of newer, more complex content.

Sure, Blizzard have been accused of dumbing down the game to a certain degree in order to bring in more casual players. Hell my last article included an element of that.

But wouldn’t going back to Vanilla, a version of the game that was at it’s base the most dumbed down the game has ever been, just be volunteering to play what these self-same elitists are debasing Blizzard for doing to the current game?

So, wrapping this up, there are many reasons why Blizzard are right to not only shut Nostalrius down, but also be reticent to open official vanilla servers.

They would have to support multiple versions of the game (if you think players would stop at demanding Vanilla only servers, think again), and it would also fracture and splinter the already dwindling player-base ever further.

If you think your server’s empty now…


After publishing earlier today, this tweet appeared:

Interesting times, given Blizzard’s response about pristine realms…

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