Last week, we discussed the upcoming private server Felmyst, its dedication to preserving the Burning Crusade as it existed as of Patch 2.1, and of the core developers’ belief that the game should be pristine. That means it should handle quests, dungeons, raids, experience gain, and other facets of the overall WoW experience as they existed in early 2007, and that the specific goals of other mods, such as minimizing grinds or improving loot tables, would not be implemented on Felmyst.
Even last week, we were concerned that Blizzard might not go for this new implementation, any more than it’s gone for any of the high-profile private servers — and this seems to have been exactly what happened. Felmyst went live, briefly, at some point on the 21st but was definitely shut down via CD letter by the 22nd.
The Felmyst site owner, Gummy52, has taken down all previous comments and discussion and replaced them with a single image of a CD letter and an explanation as to his own actions.
Gummy writes that his underlying medical condition, muscular dystrophy, makes it impossible for him to relocate to a country where Blizzard’s threats of legal action might be taken less seriously. He also says:
Before the release date was declared, most people expected the server to flounder with a small population… The warning signs to expect notice from Blizzard were there but receiving it that quickly was something I don’t think many expected… The problem with private servers is that there is no middle ground. If people expect a server to “only” have 3,000 (real) players then they just won’t play and you’ll instead end up with 300, which isn’t playable.
Basically, Felmyst blew up as a news item and attracted the attention of Blizzard long before Gummy wanted it to. Whether he could’ve ever transitioned the project to a third-party backer entirely outside the reach of the United States is open to debate. Part of his statement suggests one reason he didn’t pursue this route is that he didn’t want to risk helping someone set up their own paid server using his code. He also states that he will consider releasing some or all of the source code if it would be beneficial to programmers “who are still learning.”
What We Talk About When We Talk About Private Servers
The problem with any discussion of private servers is there are multiple groups with competing interests here. First, you have fans of the classic game or its various expansions that want to go back and replay that content for the first time, or players that didn’t get a chance to see it the first time around.
Second, you’ve got the interests of Blizzard, which doesn’t want to contribute to a situation that could see some of its longtime player-base jumping back to previous expansions, and doesn’t want to feed the perception that WoW should be free. Blizzard also doesn’t want to deal with inevitable security issues that will crop up. A group of people having a poor experience on a private server could easily impact perceptions of the base game among people who don’t understand the difference.
Third, you’ve got the question of how these servers would function as far as moving players towards new content. Sure, you might enjoy playing and re-leveling a character or two. But vanilla WoW and TBC weren’t great times to be a mid-sized guild. With no 10-man player variants of 25-man dungeons implemented until Wrath of the Lich King, mid-sized guilds like my own struggled to fill 25-man dungeons. You can deal with this by partnering with other guilds, by leaving to try a full-time raiding guild, or by patching together a 25-man run out of alts (alternative, i.e., not main) characters from other guilds, plus whatever your own guild can provide. All of these solutions work, to a degree. Most of them aren’t that much fun. And TBC lacked the fully integrated LFG (Looking for Group) tools that were later implemented in Wrath of the Lich King.
Blizzard’s willingness to swing the banhammer on this topic and shutdown an up-and-coming private server in less than a day shows the company takes these issues seriously. If there are going to be any servers that focus on earlier parts of the game, they’re either going to be Blizzard-run or not exist at all. As for Felmyst, the writing was on the wall for all such server projects when Nostalrius was taken down. Blizzard has all of the legal precedent and the funds to pay for its own defense of its IP. You can believe the company is making a mistake by alienating those who would like to see private servers become a reality, but that’s not going to change how courts rule in situations like this.
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