Can private servers be a good thing?

by on September 28, 2011

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 ““ ._

If you enjoyed this article, check out our other posts from these categories: General MMO Interest

{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

Klepsacovic September 28, 2011 at 2:10 am

If all the official servers are gone, then I think private servers are reasonable. They aren’t leeching customers or revenue. (Or are they if the company has made another MMO?) A private server used for creating machinema also seems fine, whether there are official servers up or not. In that case I see them as being a tool, rather than an alternative to the official servers. But private servers for currently existing and running games, bad! I suspect my opinion on that is going to change over time, perhaps moving with my thoughts on copywrite, competition, and art.


Tesh September 29, 2011 at 5:26 pm

I’ve suggested that private (maybe guild) servers for live games could be a Good Thing. At least, if we’re going to accept that server maintenance is a big part of the subscription justification. Just offload that to the guild and let them handle the server stability. Of course they will be licensing the software, and that can be monetized if the devs so choose.

This also has the potential to introduce different rulesets or even “eras” of a game. You want a Classic WoW server like Fippy Darkclaw because the Old Days were the Best Days? Here you go, sign on the dotted line and your server is forever locked in Vanilla mode. You want a hardcore server? Sure, here you go, mobs have larger aggro radius, call for help and *everything* is hostile and lethal, even the deer and squirrels. Oh, and they hit harder, too. Why looky here, did you ask for permadeath? Oh, certainly, we can do that, too. Just $100 more per month (or $200 for a Guild Wars sort of model, maybe) and we’ll toggle those values for you and you can get your server.

Yeah, that might be a bad thing, too, because someone will complain about the different rulesets, but if you can manage the server like you manage your guild, you don’t have to let those sissy carebears in in the first place, right?

As for maintaining legacy access to dead games, I’d almost call that a public service. Games have a nasty habit of forgetting the past.


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