Every now and then I like to poke around some projects that I used to be into. Usually browse around github looking at the commits and reading through notes and some code. Using Google to see if anything new is out there, see what others are doing and what the private server scene looks like.
I’ve noticed many posts about private World of Warcraft servers that really gets to me, as they are completely incorrect, full of lies and deceit and utterly false. To the point where I could probably tell you how intelligent the individual is who posted the comment based on that comment alone.
The first thing I want to tell people is that private servers are not utterly full of bugs to the point that it’s not worth playing on and that nothing works as expected. I love the amount of people saying this, and then have nothing to backup their claims. Yes there was a point in time when the core server projects were still young and many things did not work, but really look at the date of these posts: 2008. Many improvements have been made, by some very good programmers, both on the core server portions and the database portions.
People will tell you it’s not worth playing on a private server because the official is just better. But when the fuck did these people tell you what game you should play? If people want to play World of Warcraft with no expansions as it was when released let them. If people want to play at patch level Burning Crusade, or Wrath of the Lich King, let them. Blizzard has made many changes to the game, looking back at the past releases the game as changed so much, it would be hard to say it is the same game after all. You cannot get these experiences on the retail game anymore, so we have to fall to private servers for as close to the original experience as we can.
Next we have the group of people who loves to spew out that private servers are full of viruses, trojans, and key-loggers so they can login to your official live blizzard account. Uh no. You run the exact same client that Blizzard released during that time, and patch level that the private server is running. You can install it off the damn CDs you purchased originally for fuck sake. Patch it to the level the private server requires (via blizzards own patch mechanism) and then stop it before it goes any further. The communication between the client and server has nothing to do with your official account. If you create your account on the private server using the same email, username, and password as official then you have more problems then a game and probably share passwords between multiple online sites and services. Shame on you.
Then we have the people who spew on about legality of private servers. This is a gray area and I agree but lets see where this problem actually is. The private servers source code that you compile has nothing to do with official Blizzard code. There is no copyright content in the source code. When setting up a private server you have to extract the copyright portions of data from the client files, this is not done via the project but by whomever wants to run the server. The people using the game client are just pointing the product that they purchased (you purchased the discs right, or did you bit-torrent it and never actually played on the patch level your wanting to now) to another server address. The problem is this extracted content, you absolutely need it to run a private server but you do not need it to compile the server itself, and in Blizzards ToS for changing game files. If you consider changing a one line text file to be against the ToS, legally I’m sure it’s the worst thing mankind has ever done.
Blizzard has sent cease and desist letters to some large private servers, and has even sued a few of the large ones. I see this as a good thing because these servers were gaining massive profits. It was only because of the copyright did they get sued legally. The profits is what caused Blizzard to sue them. Blizzard won’t waste it’s time on most private servers because they are either out of the country, don’t really show up on the radar (no profits), and don’t run the current versions of the game.
Most people that I have seen on private servers are one of the following:
A. Play because they are cheap/poor.
B. Play because they want to play at that specific patch level.
The people who fall in to A because they are cheap/poor are usually identified as not being able to form a coherent sentence and/or love to troll others to get a reaction or are just fucking stupid. Most will beg and follow you around yelling or talking to annoy the shit out of you like such “y u no giv golds” and “i ned helz now you heal buf no atk”. Honestly, what the fuck are you talking about, and why should I give two shits?
The others that fall into B, are usually pretty fun to play with. They understand the game at least somewhat, and are willing to learn and form a decent group where you can have some teamwork.
Here are the problems I have with most private servers.
1. Some are profiting. This is wrong because it is Blizzards content, and also because your profiting on the code that others have produced in their free time and did not get paid for, as they are doing it for a community project to see that project grow.
2. Donations are fine as long as they are accepted to keep the server running and growing. That’s all. Once your into profit status, you need to stop accepting donations until your back to needing the money to keep the server operating. I have seen some servers give money back to the donators because it was not needed.
3. Instant everything. It seems that everyone lately wants things given to them instantly or they are not interested. What ever happened to the challenge and fun of the game? The excuse “I’ve done it before” really seems like a “Well I did do it, but Blizzard changed everything and I don’t want to try it again without all the changes that were made.”
4. Vote Sites. Everywhere you look the private servers are trying to get you to vote for them. They spam it in the global server messages, on their site, forums and all. After you vote a few times it just gets annoying.
5. Vote Points / Donation Points. Even the shops they setup on the websites give anyone any item they can just by voting. Vote a few times (or many) collect points and get free gear/items in the game. I don’t see why people love this so much. I don’t see playing a game for fun is considered ‘working for items’. If your not having fun go do something else and come back when you are in the mood to call playing the game fun. Get the items and such via playing.
6. Custom modifications. Some of the private servers made custom modifications to their own servers to make then unique and such. While this is not always a bad thing, most just go overboard. Almost the same topic, when you fix bugs on your private server you should really try and work with the team you originally got your core or database setup from and have the fixes fixed upstream. Let others who pull updates get the fixes provided by all these servers as a team. You only make things better for everyone.
I have ran a public facing private server using direct source code with no modifications and kept it up to date every chance I could. The problem with setting up a server for PvE and going through a progression series of raids and dungeons is getting a good population, and not giving in to instant anything, no freebies, no voting, no item shops. Complete retro experience.
I know there are many things Blizzard could do, to run their servers as they were for Burning Crusade and Wrath, offer those client versions and run official servers to support the client, charge the same amount per month as retail and let the people who want a specific patch level to play that version on an official server. You can’t tell me the source code and databases are all gone, somebody there has them stored. You don’t need to migrate players, start a fresh server out and lock it so no migrations or transfers in or out. You get what you get and you understand that. I see it as a huge cash cow for Blizzard and it would also make the majority of private servers go belly up. I would gladly play on an official server and pay for it, to have some of the experiences without the changes in future patches.
Not everyone agrees with this but it’s just how I feel.
Update: I have been looking for a nice PvE community and have not found a good one. So I started working with some friends and have been running Divinities Bane. Still new at the time of this writing but it’s constantly updated and we will not be dealing with whining players and will be focusing on an English speaking audience although it is open to all.