Blizzard kills classic WoW private server, “Nostalrius Begins”

It’s got so many people, but it’s got no soul

Gerry Rafferty sang this about the nature of London – but these days, it’s clear that various video game companies fit that criticism just as well.

In a bittersweet post on their front page, World of Warcraft private realm-providers Nostalrius Begins have revealed that Blizzard Entertainment have begun legal proceedings to shut them down.

I have supped from the cup of nostalgia and played on Nostalrius’s server. Unlike other private realms, Nostalrius Begins spurned the idea of faster levelling, increased gold gain, and purchased bonuses in favour of delivering the only thing that mattered to a lot of people. The original World of Warcraft experience. Gone were the heirlooms, hastened levelling curve, and the ridiculously easy early dungeons that now pollute the WoW experience – and back was the pure MMORPG experience that so many of us knew and loved.

Classic Orgrimmar
Many an hour was spent here, waiting for raids

And now it’s gone – killed by the very company that originally created it.

I’m being melodramatic – Blizzard has the right to close down anything that infringes on their copyright. Technically, Nostalrius Begins does this, and it’s Blizzard’s duty to see that World of Warcraft’s rights are upheld.

The thing is, “Old Azeroth” no longer exists. Every piece of content that was present when World of Warcraft originally launched in 2004 was completely remade in the 2010 Cataclysm expansion that famously “broke” the old world and allowed Blizzard to re-envision Azeroth as a more modern MMO experience. And despite my past insistence that Cataclysm cured me of my Warcraft addiction, there’s little merit to the idea that this was a bad thing. It needed an update. But this means that everything Nostalrius Begins recreates is no longer available. It’s not provided by Blizzard. It’s not abandonware, but only by a technicality.

So why haven’t Blizzard created classic servers of their own? Because they firmly believe that people don’t really want it. Patronisingly, Blizzard sees us as children, expecting us to drop the mode after a few weeks. It’s not hard to believe that they see classic WoW as outdated, archaic – a product of its time, now regarded with disdain by its creators.

What it must be to have such faith in your product. A product that near single-handedly brought Blizzard to the prominence it enjoys today.

But, Blizzard believes that we don’t really want this. Nostalrius boasted nearly a million registered accounts, with usual active server populations of eight thousand people. At peak times, that number would almost double to fifteen thousand; three times the usual capacity of official Blizzard servers. That’s the number of people who “don’t want this”.

At one time, those numbers would have been a drop in the ocean. And it still is, but that ocean is shrinking fast; World of Warcraft subscription numbers are dwindling. From a peak of 12 million in late 2010, subscribed accounts are now suspected to be around 5.5 million. Still an incredible number for a subscription-based MMO, but clearly not what it used to be. How long can Blizzard afford to ignore money on the table?

Why do people want this? It’s in the name: “Nostalrius”. Nostalgia is a powerful emotion. It was powerful enough that, thanks to Nostalrius, I was able to go back and play vanilla WoW. And I loved every moment of it. The original World of Warcraft is a part of my childhood; a treasured memory. And yet Blizzard tells me that I “don’t want this”.

Well I do. And so did almost a million other people, just like me.

Get with the times, Blizzard. Build it, and we will come. And we will throw money at you for it. But until you do, you won’t be able to stop the private servers from giving us what you haven’t.

Today is also the day where Nostalrius will start being community-driven in the truest sense of the word, as we will be releasing the source code, and anonymized players data (encrypting personal account data), so the community as a whole will decide the form of the future of Nostalrius. We will still be there in the background if you want us to, but will no longer take the lead.

To sign the petition asking Blizzard to create a “Legacy” server, go here.

The Week That Was: Hearthstone

For a free game, Blizzard seem to really put out a lot for Hearthstone. It really doesn’t seem as if it’s been that long since the release of the last Hearthstone expansion, and yet here we are – The Grand Tournament is here.

It was a weird week. Blizzard gave us early access to a bunch of the upcoming cards in the Tavern Brawl, pitting Medivh vs. Alleria in a competition to boost the sales of the alternate hero skins. Thankfully, no-one took the bait, and instead we all got an introduction to the new mechanics of the expansion: Joust and Inspire.
Check the video for my extended thoughts on both of these – long story short; Inspire activates off your Hero Power, whilst Joust compares two random cards from both decks, with the effect going off if your card has a higher mana cost.
That’s actually quite a difficult one to explain briefly. Hm. Just watch the damn video already. 
Watched it? Good. Where were we?
Oh. Yeah. So Inspire seems to be the stronger mechanic in this Tavern Brawl. It’s an effect not dissimilar to the way Nefarian dominated Ragnaros in the first Tavern Brawl, and frankly, I can see why. Joust is just such a lackluster mechanic. It’s unreliable and oh so very unbalanced. Some creatures work well with it – King’s Elekk is a fine card even without the Joust effect, and the extra draw can be seen as a handy perk, rather than being an effect that makes the card worthwhile. Master Jouster works on the other end of the scale – with the Joust effect, it gains Divine Shield and Taunt, which on a 5/6 body makes it a better Sunwalker. If you lose the Joust, you get a 5/6 for 6 Mana, which is rather less useful than a Boulderfist Ogre 6/7. Unfortunately, far too many of the Joust cards need their effect to be useful in any way. 90% of the time you play the Master Jouster, it’ll be because you want a Taunt. And sometimes you won’t get it. And that’ll probably lose you the game.
But enough of that – glorious pack opening video ahoy!
Frankly, I felt this video was expected of me. As a YouTuber who spends a decent amount of time playing Hearthstone, a card opening video is something of a must. Next on the checklist – a Minecraft video!

Only joking.

So I only managed two legendaries, which was a bit of a let down. The average for fifty card packs is three, so to only get two… I guess I felt shortchanged. Which is a pure #FirstWorldProblem if I ever heard one. Still, Paletress can effectively summon any other legendary card, so maybe that counts for more. And Saraad is just a straight-up G. I don’t really think I could have gotten better legendaries.
Waifu!
A lot of pundits were predicting that TGT would slow the game down, and whilst the meta hasn’t settled enough to make a call yet, based on what I’ve seen recently that may be true. Slower plays with bigger swings in momentum have been what I’ve seen a lot of this past week in the little Hearthstone I’ve played. I only had a matter of hours to hit Rank 20 this month, so my Inspire Priest hasn’t had as much love as it maybe should have, but I’m enjoying playing it nonetheless. My Randuin Wrynn deck has also had a bit more flair added to it with Paletress and Saraad, so that too is a whole bunch of fun. 
Hearthstone‘s still looking plenty healthy. The barrier to entry is still as high as ever, and while the new feature of handing out chests at the end of every month has helped, it’s still pretty hard to get cards as a new player. But hey, free games are always worth a go, and opening card packs is always fun, digital or real.
Hearthstone: Heroes of Warcraft is available over at Battle.net and if you’ve not tried it, you probably should. There are tablet and phone versions now, for both Apple and Android. You’ll have to find those on your own though, ‘cos my lunch break is almost over. Happy playing!

How Blizzard Broke World of Warcraft

Cataclysm was a great World of Warcraft expansion. Under the pretense of the return of the mad Dragon Aspect, Deathwing, Blizzard gave themselves a chance to update an old game.

Cataclysm was released in late 2010, making WoW six years oldat that time. And that made it a very old game indeed. The MMO genre was moving on. Grind-heavy MMORPGs like EverQuest were out of fashion, replaced with games that were becoming ever more story-driven. Star Wars: The Old Republic was just around the corner, and it promised to make questing a fun experience, driven by your story, not y the whims on some guy who wanted some rabbit’s feet. It was about you now.

And WoW, with it’s reliance on old-style quests and gathering, was looking dated.

So Blizzard did want any sensible person would do. They threw a big-ass dragon at the world and started again.

Don’t get me wrong, I loved Cataclysm. It was one of my favourite expansions for WoW, and it marked the first time I was able to reach the level cap (don’t judge me). I joined the PC Gamer guild and I took part in various raids – my first ever raids! I loved my time there. And as was usual for my cycle of sub – get bored – resub – repeat, I left WoW with the full intention of coming back some day.

About six months after I left, I wanted to go back to Azeroth. But I didn’t want to return for the new content, I wanted to return for the old.

I had spent a lot of time in Old Azeroth. I once spent the Easter holiday break sat at the computer, in a conservatory, in direct sunlight, with a sheet over my head so I could see the screen. I spent that entire holiday, sweat dripping down my face, leveling a Tauren Warrior.

I could barely keep the women away from me.

But the Charred Vale as I knew it didn’t exist any more.

And that, as you may have guessed, was the root of the problem. I realised I didn’t usually resub for new content, I resubbed to revisit the places I remembered from my childhood. I had spent a lot of time in Azeroth, and they were fond memories of mine.

And it was all… gone. In remaking the world, Blizzard had destroyed everything I held dear. And it was gone for good. I could never go back and visit it in the same way.

The current Warcraft storylines look incredible. Utterly amazing. Blizzard have gone from strength to strength, taking the storyline through Pandaria and back into Azeroth’s original lore. They’ve made an engaged and thoroughly engrossing world.

But Azeroth holds nothing for me any more.

Blizzard had done what I had never managed to do. They had made it so I would never resubscribe to World of Warcraft ever again.

If you fancy playing World of Warcraft for whatever reason, you can find it over at the Battle.net website. Otherwise, download something like Hearthstone or Heroes of the Storm. They’s free!