Top 5: Arguments Against Vanilla Servers Discussed

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Vanilla servers are still the big topic being discussed here and on other gaming websites and forums, so for this week’s Top 5 I decided to compile a list of popular arguments against such servers and discuss them. As always, the list is in no particular order.

If you’d like to add your two cents or explain why I’m wrong, feel free to drop a comment in the box below or contact us via email or on Twitter (@mmofallout).

5. It Will Pull Resources From The Main Game

A half-truth, based entirely on how the developer handles it. Jagex managed to avoid this problem with Old School RuneScape by starting out with a shell team dedicated to bringing the game online. Once the game proved successful, they hired on additional members without cutting resources from the main RuneScape game.

If Blizzard were to pull developers from the main World of Warcraft and therefore cause delays and hinder content on the live service, that would be entirely the fault of poor planning or low confidence rather than the result of an inherent flaw in private servers.

4. Players Will Eventually Get Bored And Leave

This argument I tend to agree with more than anything, and it is true that any MMO will eventually lose players if content stagnates and development ceases. A classic server that exists as a snapshot of its time will bring in players to relive their slice of nostalgia, players who will eventually get bored and leave. That’s the argument, classic server purists would disagree.

Which is why the best course of action would be to take Jagex’s approach with Old School RuneScape, by allowing the players to vote on whether or not new content should be added, the will of the people is irrefutably listened to. By putting up new content to the approval of a high majority, Blizzard can keep the game fresh while maintaining the vision that the community has demanded.

3. Players Don’t Really Want A Vanilla Server

I understand where this is coming from, but it is false and a bit condescending. Effectively it downplays the demands of a consumer on the allegation that they are clouded by rose-tinted glasses and that you, the objective bystander, know what they want more than they do. It also ignores the popularity of vanilla pirate servers.

But, like I said, conceptually you are not wrong in this line of thinking. Customers, in many cases, genuinely don’t know what they want or aren’t willing to admit it. Electronic Arts gave a talk back when Battlefield Heroes was in its prime that the people giving the loudest criticism of paid-for weapons not only bought weapons in greater numbers but spent exponentially more than the average. Similarly, as a famous example, New Coke failed in the market despite doing very well in focus testing.

Again, it isn’t completely wrong. There is a perpetuated myth among subscription purists that the $15/month model is not only objectively better for the industry, but is more popular among consumers, a theory that fails when put to the market.

2. Blizzard Has No Obligation To Provide Vanilla Servers

What can you say about this one? It is 100% correct, Blizzard has no obligation to create a vanilla server just because the community asks for it. If Blizzard has looked into the idea of launching classic servers and has decided that the negatives outweigh the positives, that is their decision. It won’t make private servers any more legitimate.

A lot of business decisions are made simply because the creator folded his/her arms and said “I don’t want to.” CVS was making a killing off of selling cigarettes, and decided that it didn’t want to. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle killed off Sherlock Holmes because, in spite of his commercial success, he wanted to bring the series to a conclusion.

The people claiming that Blizzard has an obligation to provide vanilla servers are fringe at best.

1. It Isn’t Profitable

This myth would hold more credibility if it wasn’t almost ritualistically proven wrong on so many angles. Forgetting the number of Vanilla servers that have been shut down over the years whose small teams were raking in a nominal fortune of ill-gotten gains, classic servers have steadily become more popular in the legitimate space. As with virtual console games, the response to demands for classic servers grew fundamentally out of its popularity in the grey/black market.

Old School RuneScape is currently in its fourth year of operation, with a massive population that rivals that of RuneScape 3 and occasionally supersedes it with concurrent users. Lineage II has a classic server in a couple of regions that is reportedly successful.

Incidentally, the people scrambling to complain that “if it was profitable, Blizzard would have done it already” are missing two key points. First, that they can’t name any instances of a company launching a private server only to have it fail while the main product succeeded. Second, that Blizzard doesn’t lean much on profit as its reason for not considering a vanilla server.

Rather, they talk about technical issues and artistic vision. Despite what armchair technicians will tell me, reviving a game from 2004, built by people who may no longer be working with the company, and on hardware that they don’t have anymore, is a massive feat. When Jagex wanted to create Old School, they faced a major problem that nobody in the company was familiar with the old systems.

So yes, Vanilla World of Warcraft might be financially unfeasible for Blizzard, or at least a massive risk, because unlike a group of private server operators tinkering with code, their employees need to be paid a salary.

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  • Yamael Angmar

    A couple more points that work against vanilla servers:

    1.- Vanilla WoW was not integrated with current Battle.Net
    Blizzard would have to rework all the network code in the game to integrate it, or leave vanilla as a separate entity from the rest of their network of games. The first option would be quite costly, and probably couldn’t be called vanilla any more, the second breaks their philosophy of connecting all their games and players no matter what they’re playing.

    2.- Expectations of support
    A player on a pirate vanilla server is grateful to the team that runs it for the chance to play there and puts up with any number of bugs or problems. That same player on an official server paying a subscription (even if it was just the current subscription to WoW and not any extra for vanilla) would expect everything to run perfectly smooth and raise hell as soon as any trouble showed up, even on bugs that were part of vanilla.

    • I am not convinced that your first point is as complex as you make out. First of all, they had to integrate WoW at some point already, so this isn’t a new voyage of discovery, it is doing something that has already been done before.

      Second, there is the question about what constitutes vanilla. There is a timeline that runs from November 23, 2004 until December 6, 2010 where the old world content exists in various forms. I think Blizz may make the case that the December 6, 2010 version of the old world is a legit representation of things, and by that point the code to be converted is relatively recent.

      This, of course, assumes that the current client cannot juggle multiple versions of server rules and content. Given that it can handle the four server flavors plus the test server, I am not sure that is an easy assumption. And, if Blizz is serious about new server flavors, it might be worth the effort of making the client able to fully handle that.

      Your second point is, in part, why people want Blizz to do this. They want an experience that is maintained, supported, and won’t get shut down when a couple devs get bored or when Blizz decides things have gotten too big and they need to send a cease and desist.

      For negatives, there is the point I alluded to above, in that even if Blizz says they’ll do such a server, there will be a holy war among those demanding it over what it really should be.

      And, on the Blizz side of things, one legit argument against is language support. They have added a number of languages since even December 2010. Will they need to go back and add them to this version of the content?