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Gamers rally as World of Warcraft fan server faces its imminent demise

The fan recreation of “vanilla” WoW will cease operations on April 10.


Dennis Scimeca

Internet Culture

Posted on Apr 7, 2016   Updated on May 26, 2021, 11:35 pm CDT

More than 150,000 players are about to lose the community they created as an homage to one of the most beloved video games of all time.

A fan community named Nostalrius announced that it is shutting down its project that recreates “vanilla” World of Warcraftthe original game as released in November 2004—in the face of pending legal action from Blizzard Entertainment against the french company that hosts the Nostalrius servers.

In a post on the Nostalrius website, the developers of the fan server stated the following.

“Yesterday, we received a letter of formal notice from US and french lawyers, acting on behalf of Blizzard Entertainment, preparing to stand trial against our hosting company OVH and ourselves in less than a week now. This means the de facto end of Nostalrius under its current form.”

In response, the Nostalrius developers started a petition, addressed to Blizzard president Michael Morhaime, asking that Blizzard reconsider its policies on legacy servers created by volunteers to run old World of Warcraft content that is no longer provided by Blizzard. 

The Nostalrius project was open to players for more than a year. A collection of videos on the project’s YouTube channel chronicle how Nostalrius operated and some of the adventures shared by its players.

“We believe that the way the game is played was completely different back then; We feel like it was more about community and meeting people,” a representative for the Nostalrius developers told The Daily Dot via email. “From that observation, and because we were also nostalgic players from that time, we decided to use our programming & organization skills to preserve this WoW version.”

“The original World of Warcraft was a cultural phenomenon,” the Nostalrius representative wrote. “From Leeroy Jenkins to South Park, the original expression of WoW made huge waves on pop culture and we believe that this game deserves attention and dedication. As up to this point Blizzard has not acknowledged that they have any desire to do this, Nostalrius decided to take up the banner of preserving World of Warcraft in its original form.”

MMOs routinely release expansions that add content to the game universe and often change the various systems that define how the game works. Fan preservation efforts like Nostalrius, and the Star Wars Galaxies emulator project attempt to recreate versions of MMOs prior to the institution of major changes. These projects use reverse-engineering to determine recreate old game code that no longer exists in an official capacity.

Advocacy groups like the Electronic Frontier Foundation have pursued exemptions from the Digital Millennium Copyright Act in order to protect the preservation of legacy video games, specifically to allow archivists to detach online games from official servers that no longer exist so private individuals can set up their own servers without fear of legal ramification. 

Yet the EFF did not seek protections for MMOs, and thus the requested exemptions would not protect a project like Nostalrius.

“We did not want to harm Blizzard on any way during this project,” wrote the Nostalrius representative. “We rathered considered it as a complementary community, partially shared with official wow community. We really don’t have any idea why Blizzard decided now that it was time to shut down our project.”

Blizzard Entertainment did not respond to request for comment.

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*First Published: Apr 7, 2016, 7:40 pm CDT