This is an article I have wanted to write for a long time. Today with all of the news about the shut down and response to the World of Warcraft server Nostalrius, I feel like it is time to finally talk plainly about the existence and importance of "legacy servers" in MMO gaming. Free shards exist in the MMO universe, there is no hiding that. However, with the Nostalrius team calling out Blizzard for a change after they are shut down, well, this is a lesson that a lot of game companies can learn from.
Many have confessed to playing on privately hosted servers that have older games on them in the past. Most are illegal in many forms, but all serve a very strong purpose. They meet a demand. The demand comes from players who want to go back to the games they loved in their original form. Don’t get me wrong, all of us love expansions, some expansions have even saved games from dying a quick death. I would also say that expansions in their own right are like launching full games themselves. However, it is human nature to want to go back to the a "happy time".
MMOs are a daunting task. Imagine starting World of Warcraft at level one all over again, no boosts! It is impossible to put the time into everything that the game has yielded over the years. Yet all of us who have played since launch in 2004 look back with fond memories of that time. Heck, even the Warcraft documentary looked back with joy at the early launch of WoW. So why not give that back to the players?
The idea of legacy servers does not stop at Warcraft. It goes on into almost every single MMO out there. More importantly, it recalls games which have been shut down and still hold some life in them if they were just still around. City of Heroes tops that list for me. This game deserves a server more than anything else out there in the MMO universe. In the year 2016, servers cost much less money to host than they did in say 2003. So why not host one? Bring the game back in its original form and leave it there for the world to play? It doesn't need updates, it doesn't need anything but a network to run on and someone to run maintenance. NCSoft could even charge a subscription fee, and I bet they'd turn a profit.
As much as expansions add to a game, the theme park design in MMOs and the need to constantly add more rides is one of the issues that got us to a lull in AAA development in the first place. The more you add on and build, the less likely people are to join a huge goliath of a game down the road. It is just too intimidating. So what has happened? Well, look at the past two years of MMOs, sandboxes and in-development sandboxes now guide the industry.
Warhammer Online, old school Ultima Online, Auto Assault, Star Wars Galaxies, the list goes on and on. I know countless players who would take a stab at jumping back into these games. I mean, you even have old school MMOs coming out as with games like Project: Gorgon, Pantheon, and Saga of Lucimia. AAA studios are ignoring the fact that video games have a much deeper life than just a big launch to collect money for shareholders. These projects change lives, and touch people in ways that lots of media can't, and it's sad to think that so many are already unplayable and kept that way because of IP laws.
So dear Blizzard, if you made a vanilla WoW server I would play on it. I would go back and start the Orc Hunter I always wanted to try but never had time for. I would also play my Orc Shaman and Orc Death Knight all the way through Legion when it comes out. I would not feel any sense of competition between the two different modes of play. I simply love your game and have played it for over a decade. It is time to listen to players, especially when the Change.org petition has almost thirty thousand signatures. As for the rest of the game industry...give us City of Heroes back. That'd be a nice start.