In April, Blizzard finally dropped the hammer on one of the biggest fan-run World of Wacraft legacy (that is, running older versions of WoW) servers, Nostalrius. After sustained outcry, however, Blizzard agreed to have a meeting with the folks who ran Nostalrius. Here’s what came of it.
According to Nostalrius’ project manager, who goes by the name Viper, the meeting wasn’t just lip service. Apparently top brass like CEO Mike Morhaime and WoW game director Tom Chilton were in attendance, in addition to many other members of the WoW dev team. The meeting went for five hours and covered a number of topics. Among other things, Blizzard explained why they haven’t just whipped up their own legacy servers and put this whole controversy to bed. Viper explained:
First, they DO have the source code for Vanilla WoW. Code version control systems are not something new, as it has been a standard in the industry for a long time. With these systems, they can retrieve the code at any given previous backup date.
However, 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.
Viper added that, Blizzard being Blizzard, they’d want official legacy servers to be polished. The brute force methods fan servers have utilised aren’t an option.
At this point, Blizzard isn’t saying whether or not they plan to go forward with their own legacy servers, but Viper claims they expressed interest in staying in touch with the Nostalrius team and potentially working with them in the future. That could be a good sign, or it could be hot air, a formality with no real weight behind it.
If nothing else, it’s cool that Blizzard went forward with this meeting at all. They didn’t have to. Personally, I’d love to return to old-school Azeroth one day. It was my home more than my actual home when I was in high school. Based on the success of servers like Nostalrius — which peaked with nearly one million registered accounts — I think a lot of people feel the same way.
Don’t get me wrong: Modern WoW is great. It’s much more slickly designed and streamlined than vanilla. But vanilla was a different animal; its untrimmed fur and fangs made it memorable. I’ll never forget my first 40-person Molten Core run, or the hours I spent warring against The Alliance in The Barrens. I will try to forget some of the things I read in Barrens chat, but that stuff never truly goes away, not even in dreams. And sure, some of that was the product of a specific time and place, of people I’ll probably never see again (SADFACE). But it’d still be cool to revisit that world, even if only as a museum of times gone by. Games change so quickly these days. It’s a damn shame more effort isn’t put into preserving their history.
I guess what I’m saying is, only time will tell what happens next, but I sure hope Blizzard decides to turn back the clock.