Shortly before BlizzCon, the people behind recently shut down World of Warcraft legacy server Nostalrius put Blizzard on notice. "If Blizzard doesn't make an announcement to honour their own core values, be sure that we will," they wrote. BlizzCon's come and gone, and true to their word, the Nostalrius folks made a big announcement. They're bringing it back.
People miss older versions of World of Warcraft. At its peak, Nostalrius — which ran a reverse-engineered version of pre-expansion WoW, in all its bright-eyed, bushy tailed, not-bifurcated-by-an-apocalypse-dragon glory — boasted more than one million registered accounts. Ever since Blizzard forced fans to shut it down to protect their IP, tensions have been running high. Blizzard brokered a brief pseudo-peace by inviting Nostalrius' staff to a big meeting and expressing preliminary interest in creating their own legacy servers. Since then, however, very little has changed, and Nostalrius' staff claims Blizzard has been non-communicative, despite hopes from Nostalrius that they could collaborate and jumpstart efforts on a polished, Blizzard-quality legacy server. Now, they're operating under the assumption that it's going to be a very long time before Blizzard releases their own legacy servers — if they ever do.
Today, the people behind Nostalrius and another legacy server project called Elysium announced an effort to revive Nostalrius, all the way down to people's old characters. In the future, Nostalrius plans to release their source code and tools to the public in hopes that legacy servers will proliferate even more than they already have.
"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," wrote Nostalrius' project manager, who goes by the handle Viper. "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. 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."
Meanwhile, over on Reddit, an Elysium admin named Suzerain explained that the current Elysium database will be frozen, and characters will be transferred to Nostalrius when it's back up and running. "As for the dates of these servers coming to life, we cannot provide you an answer on that just yet," they wrote. "There is a lot of work that still needs to be done! But rest assured, the team will work tirelessly day and night until everything is ready."
Of course, there are questions. What's to stop Blizzard from shutting this project down as well? Or taking even further action if Nostalrius' people continue to act against their wishes.
One thing's for sure, though: At BlizzCon, Nostalrius' absence was felt. While walking past the Big Ol' Wall O' Drawings (my name, not theirs), I was stricken by the number of large tributes to Nostalrius. Here are just a couple:
Later, during an interview with WoW game director Ion Hazzikostas at BlizzCon, I asked about Nostalrius' then-impending announcement and the tensions that had arisen since the meeting between Blizzard and Nostalrius a few months prior. Hazzikostas more or less reiterated Blizzard's message of the past few months.
"I can't speak for Nostalrius, but I can say I really thoroughly enjoyed our meeting with them," Hazzikostas told me. "A ton of us on the team, myself included, are day-one World of Warcraft players and beta players. I work at Blizzard because of my love for the original World of Warcraft, so I definitely feel a great sense of nostalgia for those times. It was really cool meeting a team of enthusiasts who put together their own project trying to reverse-engineer and make sure those days are represented. They're a great group of people. It was really cool seeing their passion."
"But as we said on our forums a couple weeks ago, it's something we're still discussing," he added. "It's something that, if we were to do it at Blizzard, we'd need to do it at a Blizzard-level of quality. That's a large undertaking. It's like launching a new game, for all intents and purposes. If we could flip a switch and just make it happen, we would. But it's not that simple. So it's something we're still discussing internally, and we wanted to make sure people understood we're not closing the door on it, but also we don't have anything to announce just yet."
To be absolutely certain, I asked for clarification. "Just to be clear," I said, "you're only discussing things right now? You're not working on anything at all?"
"We have nothing yet," replied Hazzikostas. "We have nothing to announce. We're figuring out what the right path for Blizzard with regards to this project is."
I reached out to Blizzard for comment on the latest development in the Nostalrius saga, but as of publishing, they had yet to get back to me.