When Blizzard issued Nostalrius (the world’s most popular Vanilla WoW server)with a cease and desist order in April, the community outcry was unprecedented. Over 250,000 people signed a petition asking Blizzard to reconsider. Sceptical though I am of internet petitions, in this case it found success. Blizzard isn’t going to allow Nostalrius to continue, but it did invite the developers to its Irvine offices for a post-mortem and to clarify why running official legacy servers is easier said than done.
In attendance were CEO Mike Morhaime, executive producer J Allen Brack, game director Tom Chilton and many more of Warcraft’s big names. What was scheduled as a two-hour meeting lasted almost five.
“In a sense, they are also Vanilla World of Warcraft fans,” . “One of the game developers said that WoW belongs to gaming history and agreed that it should be playable again—at least for the sake of game preservation—and he would definitely enjoy playing again.
“After this meeting, we can affirm that these guys WANT to have legacy WoW servers, that is for sure.”
So what’s the sticking point? Though Blizzard has retained all the source code for Vanilla WoW, apparently it’s not as easy as turning the lights back on.
“In order to generate the server (and the client), a complex build system is being used. It is not just about generating the “WoW.exe” and “Server.exe” files. The build process takes data, models, maps, etc. created by Blizzard and also generates client and server specific files. The client only has the information it needs and the server only has the information that it needs.
“This means that before re-launching vanilla realms, all of the data needed for the build processes has to be gathered in one place with the code. Not all of this information was under a version control system. In the end, whichever of these parts were lost at any point, they will have to be recreated: this is likely to take a lot of resources through a long development process.”
Whereas private servers fill in the gaps by trial and error, that’s not an attractive option to a purveyor of premium games.
I’m certain legacy servers will appear just as soon as the economic argument can be made. We might have to wait until WoW’s expansions finally run out of juice, but after this meeting it’s hard to believe Blizzard would let a piece of history disappear for good.