Tobold's Blog
Wednesday, April 13, 2016
 
When private sounds like pirate

Activision Blizzard didn't make itself many new friends when they sent their lawyers to shut down a private vanilla server this month. But from their point of view a "private" server is a "pirate" server. There is at least a probability that somebody playing on a private server decides not to pay Blizzard to play on an official server as well. So private servers are a potential loss of revenue for Blizzard. And as "running a World of Warcraft server", regardless of what edition impinges on Blizzard's intellectual property rights, shutting down the private server is totally within Blizzard's rights.

"But they don't shut down all private servers" or "but they let that server run for some time, they can't shut it down now" are not good arguments. That is just a problem of agility, a big company can't always react immediately to everything what is going on. And then a lawyer costs money, so they only send one if the target is big enough. If they could, Blizzard would shut down all private servers immediately.

The only hope here is that Blizzard noticed from the large number of players on the vanilla server that there is a demand for retro servers. Some other games have them, especially Everquest. Gamers are a nostalgic bunch who always think that games were better before and that developers work tirelessly to make them worse. Many has-been devs have learned to exploit that nostalgia to their benefit by running Kickstarter scams projects. As player numbers on the main servers are in constant decline, starting a vanilla server themselves would be a great idea for Blizzard.

Comments:
Yep....I hate to say it, but I'd probably go back to a vanilla server option if Blizzard offered it, for at least a few months. I think the nostalgia factor is already there for people who remember when the game was simpler fun, and that doesn't strike me as a a difficult way for Blizzard to bring in some extra revenue from lost players.
 
"Many has-been devs ..." Hey! That's me!

So, I fully agree with the concept of "Gamers are a nostalgic bunch who always think that games were better ..." and have shaken my head at the decision to close a game down rather than just spawn off a subsidiary to run it until the wheels totally fall off, and then keep running it anyway. You've already done the work... and sunk all the costs.

One of the problems, I think... is that a lot of people running games are pretty egoed up, and can't accept that the game really doesn't need them to keep running.

That said, though, there are games that just don't scale. We had a game that was popular and profitable back in the '90s, but "profitable" back then meant you had 35 people on at peak times, and the sheer cost of paying per hour to play the thing prevented the "economy" from really being "properly exploited", and I put that in quotes to mean exploited in dark and game damaging ways.

That said, though... would I play "Vanilla WoW"? I don't know. If I was going to wax nostalgia, i would probably go for Everquest... but I don't. What I DID do was buy Square's re-release of Final Fantasy VII on Steam, even though I played the HELL out of the playstation version.

In theory? Even that game from the '90s that won't acale as a MMORPG now could be released as a single player game on Steam. It would, no doubt, get some traction from just the nostalgia alone.
 
They would never make a Vanilla server. Or just one that has Vanilla scenery with current ruleset.

Vanilla isn't liked for nostalgia. Nostalgic people can go to Maraudon right now, it's still there. Vanilla is remembered fondly for its ruleset: epic was epic, being competent was needed and not everyone with a pulse were entitled for everything and more. Blizzard wants to erase even the memory of that age.
 
I'd go back to a vanilla me. I suspect those going back to vanilla servers are mostly looking for that.

Funny thing, back in the early BC days, when the original world was still pretty active, I could never persuade anyone to come to Maraudon. The only dungeon I never got to see.
 
@Gevlon five things I would like to see again, thus why I think there's potential in a vanilla server (for me anyway): 1. weapon skills would be back, 2. all the Cataclysm crap and "wry humor" that jumped the shark would be gone, 3. Level cap 60 returns, 4. getting a mount is hard again!, 5. As you say, being competent was a useful skill. So yeah.... I kinda think yes, this has to do with a style and not nostalgia.

Plus, Blizzard could let players who hit 60 opt to transfer at that time to a "full featured" server for continued profit if they so desire.
 
I would go back to a Vanilla server in a heartbeat. I know this sounds odd, but I used to LOVE the all-day Alterac Valley battles.
 
I think it would be kind of hilarious if Blizz ran their own Vanilla server.

If only due to the overwhelming volume of complaints, suggestions, and outright begging they'd get for quality-of-life updates to be folded in. Y'know. Transmog, LFG/DF, potions stacking over five, flightpaths not needing to be visited one at a time in a chain, every other ability not requiring reagents, 30-min hearthstones instead of 60min, Undead not having the most OP racial again, mounts not taking up inventory slots, bags bigger than 16 slots... etc, etc.

/blizz-does-Rorschach-voice: "The accumulated filth of all their cluttered inventories and poor design will foam about their waists and all the noobs and 'pro' whiners will look up and shout, "Implement some quality-of-life changes but leave the general mechanics and lore and feel intact!" ...and we'll look down and whisper, "No."
 
My raid tonight was cancelled due to the actions of these child pirates who sent DDoS attacks at Blizzard. I have no sympathy for these people, and I suspect they just killed off the rest of the private servers. Blizzard is going to shut down smaller ones before they can get big enough to get bitter enough to act like spoiled brats.
 
As much as I keep reading people who "would go back to Vanilla server", I'd like to know how many are actually playing one of the private servers with Vanilla....

BTW I don't think that Blizzard will bring a vanilla server bask, because while a lot of people may decide to jump in for the nostalgia, after one year it would be a wasteland.....
 
No vanilla server any time soon. Blizzard want movie goers to join the the more user friendly current version of WoW and don't want to accidentally trap them in a the dead-end of an old shame legacy server.
 
"shutting down the private server is totally within Blizzard's rights."

I want to point out, this is not just within their rights, they HAVE TO. According to copyright law, if you know about a violation of your copyright and do nothing, your entire copyright is considered abandoned. So Blizzard can plausibly ignore smaller servers under the pretense that they "didn't know about it," but when something like this gets so big they can no longer feign ignorance, they either shut it down or lose their entire copyright.

Of course, this still brings up the question as to why they refuse to run their own Vanilla server, considering there is undeniably such a huge demand. I consider this very unlikely simply because Blizzard (like a lot of very successful companies) refuses to admit they ever make any major mistakes. Even with Warlords of Draenor, you can see they only admit to very minor mistakes with implementation, as if they could have done the same things only slightly different and they would still be over 10 million subscribers right now. They certainly haven't backtracked on any major design decisions.
 
Vanilla servers are free. This is why they're popular. If they had a monthly cost I am sure the "huge vanilla demand" would be chopped down. It would be a nonsense to keep running old stuff, Blizzard must focus on progressing and make the game better.

On a side note, it still amazes me how people keep arguing that "private servers" are totally fine despite being obviously against Blizzard's rules. This is exactly like "downloading movies and music is perfectly fine".
 
I'd play on a Vanilla server, because I preferred the pre-Cata Old World to most of the other regions, with the possible exceptions of Hellfire Peninsula and Storm Peaks. That said, I don't play on a private server, because the lengths you have to go to install the application on your PC makes the security alarm bells go off in my head.

Would I pay a subscription to play Vanilla? Yes, if that meant that you'd have a dedicated server that wouldn't have glitches.
 
"As much as I keep reading people who "would go back to Vanilla server", I'd like to know how many are actually playing one of the private servers with Vanilla...."

Nostalrius had 150k active accounts before Blizzard shut them down.

"Vanilla servers are free. This is why they're popular. If they had a monthly cost I am sure the "huge vanilla demand" would be chopped down. It would be a nonsense to keep running old stuff, Blizzard must focus on progressing and make the game better. "

Vanilla servers are popular because they are vanilla. You could pay me to play the current version of WoW and I'd still decline.

If you are saying that people that play on vanilla servers are potential customers lost for Blizzard on the retail version, then you are dead wrong. The similarities between the two versions are more akin to those of SWG and SWtOR.
 
"If you are saying that people that play on vanilla servers are potential customers lost for Blizzard on the retail version, then you are dead wrong."

If this rationale is true and people on private servers aren't lost sales, all the more reason for Blizzard to shut them down as they could fairly easily point the finger and say "it's pure piracy"
 
> Vanilla servers are popular because they are vanilla.


AND -most importantly- because they are free. This is why "private" servers get so much love: because you can play a nice MMO for free. As soon as you introduce a monthly fee rest assured the playerbase will drop to the ground.

There will still be vanilla subscribers, sure. But the numbers would be abysmal. Blizzard guys aren't idiots: they are perfectly aware there are some nostalgic players that would love it. But the vast majority wouldn't if it had a cost.

 
I disagree that the private servers would shrivel up and die playerbase wise if they weren't free.

Let's face it, Games like WoW with a monthly sub rate are cheap. Cheaper than almost anything you have for entertainment options. They just have to find the price point for player retention. 15 bucks a month too much for a part time game? How about 15 bucks every 3 months?

Of course, that said... people ARE fairly irrational with money.
 
Samus, I think is is trademarks that you always have to vigorously defend, or lose them. Not defending copyright is probably not helpful if it comes to apportioning damages in a court case, but I don't think it's quite so necessary. Conversely, patents don't really have to be defended consistently at all, which of course has the downside of patent trolls setting traps.

Like most things in law, there are arguments in both directions.
 
1) joining a classic Server is trivial. Download Torrent, install, Register account, click Link on Email, Login, play

2) WoW classic was a good game. And it still is. In fact it might even have a better community than ever before!

3) I am still subscribed and pay my monthly fee. So Blizzard better not complain.
 
@ Nills

By that logic I could also say...

1) downloading an MP3 album is trivial. Download Torrent, save audio files, play them

2) free MP3's are a great way to discover and listen to music. In fact it might even be a better way to do that!

3) I am still paying for some cd's/dvd's from time to time. So majors better not complain.

The question is extremely simple: is running "private" servers legal or not? Let's skip the blah blah blah, morals, opinions and visions. LEt's just stick to legal stuff. Can it be done, yes or no?

If the answer is no and that's something clearly stated somewhere... This is a dead discussion. We can debate about Vanilla vs. Draenor but that's all.
 
@Gerry

My understanding comes from a discussion a while between major authors about the pros and cons of allowing fanfic for their material. It would be hard to argue fanfic was costing authors any sales of their actual books, but the big negative was what I mentioned. If JK Rowling doesn't shut down Harry Potter fanfic, even though they aren't making money, then anyone can start making and selling Harry Potter novels.

I'm not a lawyer, so I don't know the technical difference between copyright, patent, and trademark when it comes to digital IP. But I do know if Blizzard doesn't shut down one server, there is a serious danger they will have difficulty defending their material later. Or at the very least, someone else will think they have the legal standing to try, and the whole thing will be a huge hassle and cost to Blizzard at best.

Certainly, however debatable it is, I bet their own legal counsel is telling them "you MUST shut this down."
 
@Rugus,

I honestly don't care whether it is legal. I find it morally acceptable and the legal consequences for me are none.

God know why Blizzard doesn't want to licence the old versions. But I do know that their existence is pure profit for Blizzard. People who play a classic server are more likely to return to the current version than people who forgot about WoW.

 
@ Nils

> I honestly don't care whether it is legal.
> I find it morally acceptable.

Sorry mate, in that case your opinions count less than zero. You're just a parasite.
 
Well Rugus, there are things that are not legal but can still be partly morally OK.

So here is the thing: Blizzard doesn't offer a legal alternative. Kinda like wanting to watch the original Star Wars movies in the form of their theatrical release almost 40 years ago. No way whatsoever to buy them legally, but you can download Harmy's despecialized editions. Certainly not legal, but also certainly not morally wrong.

I think it's the same with wanting to play on vanilla servers.
 
@ bryksom

I see your point but when you defend your opinions by saying that "you don't care about laws as long as you find it's ok AND does not harm you"... That's just a selfish-parasite attitude.
 
Rugus, I didn't write down my complete guideline for moral acceptability of potentially illegal actions in life.

My singular point is this: I pay for WoW every month. I just don't play the version they want me to. And if Blizzard decides to offer an official version of the game that I like, I am more than willing to pay twice the current subscription or more.
 
"If this rationale is true and people on private servers aren't lost sales, all the more reason for Blizzard to shut them down as they could fairly easily point the finger and say "it's pure piracy". "

That makes no sense. If they aren't cutting into your profits, by going this was you only gain bad PR and a bill from a lawyer. SOE (Daybreak) and Jagex made the same conclusion and decided to capitalize on emulators/private servers, because they realised that they were essentially leaving money on the table. And their playerbase applauded them for that.
 
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