The Reason Blizzard Can’t Make World Of Warcraft Legacy Servers (For Now)

The Reason Blizzard Can’t Make World Of Warcraft Legacy Servers (For Now)
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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.


  • Don’t get me wrong: Modern WoW is great. – no, it isn’t.
    I resubbed after the demise of Nost. The Don’t Hurt Me difficulty level is a joke. LFG is an abomination – I can literally get myself out of the starting zone with a new toon and spam LFG until max lev without stepping another foot in Azeroth in any zone.
    But the most damning complaint I have is the complete lack of community. There is literally zero need to foster relationships within this game any more unless you are in a progression guild.
    Please utilise the Nost team’s enthusiasm, dedication and love they have for your wonderful initial release Blizz and follow suit with one of your own. I would gladly pay a sub fee to return to the untarnished world you initially created, (and this isnt rose coloured nostalgia – Nost has only recently shutdown and the experience I had there was reminiscent of playing back in ’04).
    You have a unique opportunity to be remembered fondly and many, many fans would thank you for it.

    • The last character I leveled to max when I was still playing was a prot warrior. Aside from /g, I spoke to no one and never left Orgrimmar once.

      Queue for dungeon as tank
      Queue pop.
      Get a million levels per dungeon.

      • So you chose not to interact with anyone and then wondered why you didn’t interact with anyone? Why didn’t you start conversations with people yourself?

  • Should see how quick it is when you have the exp boost from recruit a friend. Seriously took me and a mate 2 days of a few hours after work to hit lvl cap.

    Edit: was meant to reply to @zeitxgeist

  • The last time I payed was taking up their free week with panderia, and I won’t be going back. Playing vanilla wow was a marathon, getting to max level felt like an actual achievement, and that first time you can actually get into a raid group for onyxia or MC was a mark of true progress. Not any more. No community, no heart, easy mode progress and gear farming.

    I miss my droodad from vanilla, no tree form, just a mountain of healing ability and being able to survive in tank mode for awhile. Oh and farming the whelps, some many pet whelplings, I loved me some whelplings

    • I don’t know what servers you guys are trying to play on, but there’s plenty of community on the US RP servers. And of course MC’s no longer a mark of “true progress”, it’s 10 years old now. There are new marks of “true progress” that you can test yourself with, and they come in more flavours than just ‘raid’ now.

      There’s plenty of difficult content, the only difference is you choose the difficulty you want. You don’t get to complain that raiding is easy when LFR or normal difficulty is all you’ve done. Likewise for CM dungeons, which are still pretty challenging to get down.

      • I feel like WoW has lost the sense of character customization that it used to have. The irony is that Blizzard made changes to talents and glyphs that they claimed would do away with cookie cutter builds copied from website guides, when effectively they’ve made every raiding mage identical anyway.

        I really like the idea of a talent tree where you could combine aspects of each spec to try to fit the role you needed. Back in the day my old guild needed a DPS who could throw some OMG heals in a pinch. Meant I could run partway up the balance and resto trees as a moonkin druid and do both. It felt like a proper hybrid, unlike now.

  • In vanilla WoW it actually felt like there was a war going on, that there were stakes. Things were tense. I’m not sure I could get that feeling back with a legacy server 10 years later, but I’d be interested in trying. Vanilla WoW is still probably my favourite gaming period of my life.

    • I started playing the new Kronos server where a lot of nostalrius refugees went and im haveing a blast. It was a new server so everyone is starting together and its really easy to get groups for quests and dungeons etc. Also because most people have played b4 everyone knows what their doing which wasn’t often the case back in the day. If legacy servers were opened, especially oceanic ones, i would be all over that.

  • I wish these articles would stop overlooking that they were free when talking about account numbers. There’s no way that number would remain that high if Vanilla servers were introduced.

    • The initial influx would be way higher than 1m. A year or two later would probably be in the hundreds of thousands imo.

      • I highly doubt it, since the Nost. servers were free. A lot of people play on those because of this.

  • The cross realms system ruined it all.

    When everyone was isolated on their own servers it fostered community. I recall developing cool rivalries against alliance players. I even had an arch nemesis shadow priest who I battled daily in bg’s, and we would have some heated discussions in the realm forums.

    Remember all the organised raids on the cross roads and org? these battles would last for hours and they seemed to form naturally.

    People became ‘regulars’ and everyone knew each other.

  • It’s kinda hard to have sympathy for you guys losing Nost when you take every opportunity to shit on the live game that millions of people, myself included, still enjoy. You don’t have to attack/insult the current game to justify your feelings about vanilla. It’s not hard to just say “my interests aren’t the same as the live game any more, that’s why I like vanilla”.

    • By Odin’s beard, this. I played/am playing from Vanilla to now, and I still enjoy WoW. I enjoyed the sheer pants wetting joy of a Taran Icebreaker dropping in Winterspring while grinding my Wintersaber mount, and I enjoyed spending 6 hours in Ashran last night just completely rofflestomping the enemy and getting my fresh Druid incredibly well PvP geared.

      I’ve got an Alliance guild of people I’ve never met, but we play WoW, and Overwatch, and Division, and Destiny, and countless other games together. I’ve got a Horde guild that’s full of RL friends, and we just recently had a guild bowling night. WoW always has and always will be what you make of it.

  • I was a dwavern Rogue engineer. I made sooo much money by building boxes or saronite bullets for people. Really hurt when they gave everybody infinite ammo!

  • So Blizz can’t do what now that amateurs can just brute?
    What details were glossed over there? cuz it smells like bs…

  • I will always remember vanilla wow. One of my favorite parts was the tension on pvp servers, and how even max level players could be overwhelmed by a handful of mid level players.
    The best gear was molten core or onyxia items. The world was large, you traveled by foot, and there was not lots of NPC guards to keep you safe. Even the capitol cities got attacked and destroyed by enemy factions, and was part of the game including outdoor Raid bosses.
    Stranglethorn vale was a deadly huge jungle it was too dangerous to use the paths in if you were of the level to be questing there.
    You had a lost world where people hunted T rexes for leather. Flight paths were few and far between, and if an enemy killed a flight master you were stuck in a town being ransacked.

    Oh it was amazing. You made friends, you banded together, you had to. Places required organization, you had to meet outside raid dungeons and just getting there involved fighting the enemy players sometimes (Blackrock).

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