How the unofficial World of Warcraft projects reacted to WOW Classic
And now the crusade is over, what will they do?
Early last year Blizzard stamped out an unofficial vanilla World of Warcraft server project called Nostalrius. But it didn't go quietly.
Hundreds of thousands of people signed a petition calling for a Blizzard rethink. The crux of their argument: why can't we offer a version of a game Blizzard does not?
Vanilla WoW, you see, refers to World of Warcraft in 2005/2006 - plain WoW, if you like, before any expansions were released. The only way to play was on unofficial servers like Nostalrius, and hundreds of thousands of people did.
As long as official vanilla World of Warcraft servers didn't exist, unofficial servers had an ethical reason for being, and a crusade. But now that has changed.
Last Friday, the reason for the unprecedented Nostalrius team meeting at Blizzard HQ a year ago finally became clear: Blizzard is doing World of Warcraft: Classic servers itself.
Nostalrius team leaders Daemon and Viper also appear to have had a hand in making it happen, not only in Nostalrius' popularity initially forcing the issue, and in the unprecedented meeting at Blizzard HQ - but in "a handful" of meetings with Blizzard since. That's what World of Warcraft executive producer J. Allen Brack told Chris Bratt at BlizzCon 2017.
It may explain why Daemon and Viper vanished from the unofficial legacy WoW scene, handing all Nostalrius data to the Elysium team and then trying to stop it being used - earning them a deal of notoriety in the process. J. Allen Brack even suggested the Nostalrius pair may yet play a part in World of Warcraft: Classic. "We would welcome their involvement for sure," he told us. "One of the challenges is they're both French and so there's a little bit of a visa concern, but we'd be open to it."
The question for the unofficial World of Warcraft legacy servers is 'what now?' What do Light's Hope and Elysium do now their crusade for official legacy servers is over?
Nostalrius had least to say on the matter. Viper and Daemon remain hidden and there's nothing on the Nostalrius forum other than people thanking them for what they've had a major hand in bringing about. The only Nostalrius reaction to the WoW Classic news was a congratulatory tweet.
This is AMAZING: WoW Vanilla is coming back! :’)— NostalriusBegins (@NostalBegins) November 4, 2017
Huge thanks to the community : YOU did it! https://t.co/lEdeJutvLb
"Today is a great day for any Warcraft fan!" echoed Elysium's statement. "This is a huge achievement. Since the day Elysium was created, our goal has been to show Blizzard that legacy servers are worth the investment. Now that dream has come true."
Elysium won't, however, stop operating. Its reasons are threefold. "It will take Blizzard a very long time to prepare and launch their legacy servers," it said. "In fact, it is widely speculated that it will take at least a year." (And it would make sense for WoW: Classic to hold off until 2019 to avoid the probable WoW: Battle for Azeroth expansion launch next autumn.) So why not, Elysium said, use the new Nighthaven server as a practice ground for World of Warcraft: Classic in the meantime?
When WoW Classic finally does arrive, Elysium will differentiate by offering content from the first World of Warcraft expansion, The Burning Crusade.
And the third reason? "We will continue to provide whatever services the community desires should Blizzard not meet expectations," Elysium said.
The Light's Hope team, on the other hand, pledges to cease operations if Blizzard's World of Warcraft: Classic turns out to be the real deal.
"In short, if Blizzard's offering is a genuine, progressive, classic experience that falls within the scope of what we as a team have been working to achieve, we intend to progress the timelines as necessary to allow our players to finish their experience on Light's Hope and to eventually shut the servers down at the time of the official launch," Light's Hope said.
"Before we close our realms, we will allow players to download a cryptographically signed copy of their character data, if they wish to continue their journey with another project. Up until that happens, we will continue to serve the community."
Exactly when World of Warcraft: Classic will arrive, and exactly what it will offer, Blizzard hasn't said. It was suggested the community would have a say in the discussion but that there was still a lot of work - more than you or I probably realise - to do.