Can private servers be a good thing?

We round off today’s selection of thought-provoking posts with an interesting slant on a topic most people consider closed: private servers.

In WoW, private servers, where people run a World of Warcraft server (or pseudo-server) without Blizzard’s permission and without giving them money, are generally felt to be a Bad Thing. There are some exceptions, like their use in some Machinima, but broadly, I don’t know many people who are on the side of the server operators.

However, elsewhere in the MMOsphere, the question’s a lot more murky. For example, in the land of Tabula Rasa, the MMO which folded a little while ago, a bunch of players are working to develop a free server so that they can continue playing the game they love. And Levelcapped asks the question: is that not something everyone can get behind?

“I’m totally on board with the idea of player run servers for games that have closed down, but not everyone is on board with that. There will be some dev/pubs who are OK with the idea: the game is closed, the community is loyal, and there won’t be enough players who’ll want to fight with finicky servers and odd client configurations to make shaking them down worth the billable hours their corporate lawyers will charge them to post a C&D letter. Other companies will be more aggressive, and on some levels, it makes sense. We’re talking about a company letting someone else beyond their oversight handle an IP that they may want to exploit down the road. Being gamers and not developers or publishers means that they can’t possibly treat the IP with respect, right?

Well, I don’t think so. We’re not talking about a group of junior high kids who want to run their own WoW server so they can code the night elf females naked. The people who start these servers love the game. They probably put in hours upon hours of time in the game when it was running (and hundreds of dollars, let’s not forget that). They probably have a favorite feature set from the game’s lifecycle that they feel should never have been iterated beyond, or maybe they want to add in functionality that the original operators never got the green light to implement. These people want to respect a game that was closed down because it wasn’t “financially supportive of the operator’s bottom line”. “

This is a really interesting article, presenting both sides of a pretty tricky and multi-faceted argument.

Personally, I have complicated feelings about private servers. On the one hand, most of the WoW private servers I’ve had any contact with have been pretty grubby things, usually run for the purposes of powergaming and avoiding paying WoW’s – frankly quite reasonable – fees.

But on the other hand, if there’s a genuine creative purpose behind an emulated server – whether it’s to prevent a game vanishing into the mists of time or to do something genuinely novel that the game developers will never support – I can’t help but feel there’s a strong Fair Use argument. After all, the Infinite Rasa fans aren’t going to lose anyone any money by emulating a closed game, and their work adds a little bit of fun and brightness into the world.

Shouldn’t we support it?

What do you think? Are private server operators evil IP thieves, noble artists, or something in between?

_Quote taken directly from Level Capped’s post.

Find Level Capped’s homepage at ““ ._