The developers however prefer to see the game continuously evolve and progress, and as such we have no plans to open classic realms or limited expansion content realms.
February 2011 repost of an earlier Blizzard response
People have been asking for a Vanilla server for a long time now. That quote is from the old forums, which are no longer available. When Tom Chilton stands up and loudly declares a vanilla server can’t be done and, even if it could be, that nobody would really want it, I believe his real motivation is encapsulated above. That has always been the sense of things that I have taken from the company and its statements. They want to move forward, that today is always better than yesterday, and that tomorrow will be better still.
That quote at the top was posted less than three months after the Cataclysm expansion removed the original 1-60 game content of Azeroth. But it was brought forward from the old forums, so it certainly pre-dates Cataclysm. The whole vanilla server idea isn’t new. It didn’t just come up this month. Customers asking for it isn’t new. Blizzard saying “no” isn’t new. Even this reminder that Blizzard knew people wanted the old world back when it was still current and available, yet decided to do nothing with it until enough time passed to allow Tom Chilton to say it is too hard isn’t even that new.
What is new, what has sparked this constant smoldering hum of people asking for some sort of classic server… probably since The Burning Crusade launched… into an actual conflagration was Blizzard going after a private/pirate vanilla server that was an outlet for 150K players looking for that old school experience.
Serving the Nostalrius server with a cease and desist notice got people stirred up and brought the question of classic servers, long simmering, to a full boil. We got a few choice blog posts in our corner of the internet when this kicked off:
- Priest with a Cause
- Keen and Graev
- The Light Falls Gracefully
- MMO Fallout
- Massively Overpowered
- PC Gamer
- In An Age
- Gamer by Design
Blizzard immediately tried to dismiss the whole thing in the way they always have. However, the tide was already rushing in and, in a world where 5 million subscriptions, down from 10 million a little over a year ago, is the new normal somebody, and the game missed bringing in a billion dollars in revenue for the first time in a long stretch, somebody at Blizzard apparently decided that they might want to listen to that increasingly loud segment of the World of Warcraft fan base.
And so there was a blue post in the forums this morning, which I will quote in full at the end of the post.
It starts out with a statement that Blizzard’s silence on the subject shouldn’t be taken as a lack of attention on their part. After years of silence, punctuated by terse and glib dismissals of the idea, that seems a bit disingenuous. I mean, I have your pre-Cataclysm quotes handy if you want them. So I will take it as read that there has suddenly been enough noise of late that they are actually taking the idea seriously for the first time.
That is followed up by a statement that Blizzard has to protect its IP and doesn’t know how to grant Nostalrius any sort of license to operate that would also protect the World of Warcraft brand. I might suggest they check out what SOE did with Project 1999, but Blizzard hasn’t been interested in copying EverQuest since 2005 or so. So Nostalrius will likely remain dead.
Then there is the return to why Blizzard won’t do a classic server; because it is hard. If it were easy, of course they would do it, but it isn’t, so they won’t. Pre-Cataclysm Azeroth is forever gone from Blizzard servers.
The post then offers up the idea of some sort of special, fresh start server that sounds remarkably like something I outlined in a comment over at SynCaine’s blog and what Rohan wrote about at Blessing of Kings. (And refined in a follow up post.) My own statement from about two weeks back:
Blizz has never been a company to take a step in a direction that hasn’t been well trod or to take big steps when little steps would do. So them jumping to a Vanilla server, even if they could get past the mental block and do it without too much cost, seems unlikely.
I think they would first venture into an alternate rules server test, something like a “hard mode” server. Crank up MOB damage and hit points, tone down exp gain, normal mode dungeons tuned up to not be face rolls, no transfers or insta-level characters, no heirlooms, flying restricted to only in Outland after 60 and Northrend after 68, and some bits and pieces like that. Throw in some special achievements… or maybe just a gold border on current achievements that you get when you do them in hard mode, and I bet that would be a draw.
That is, after all, pretty much all SOE is doing with their nostalgia servers.
I think there is some merit in that option. A fresh server experience with some differences and greater difficulty with everybody starting off at level 1 would be a draw for some. Bhagpuss has said in the past that he wouldn’t want to play what would be simply a more difficult version of the same content available on live servers. And that is a legitimate point of view, certainly. But some people would. I bet a lot of people would.
Yes, I know, that isn’t vanilla. While I actually like some of the 1-60 Cataclysm content myself, having run through every zone now for my attempt at the Loremaster achievement, it still isn’t the same. It isn’t old Westfall, old Deadmines, old Stranglethorn Vale with its myriad of pages to collect, or old Sunken Temple with its long series of challenges.
But it might be a start, a step in the right direction, an admission by Blizzard that their same old routine of the last eleven years of an expansion every two years with a one year content drought can’t just go on indefinitely. Maybe they are finally feeling the need to do something different, to offer up a server that isn’t PvE, PvP, PvE-RP, or PvP-RP.
World of Warcraft is still the cash cow at Blizzard. It still has a big team. It still could make a billion dollars a year in revenue if it could attract back some of the lapsed player base with something a little different. Maybe this is the first step to vanilla.
I doubt it. I think that so long as Tom Chilton is calling the shots, Blizzard will continue down its standard path. (He is becoming the Blizzard version of Smed when it comes to quotes, especially after calling Garrisons the WoW version of housing.) But it could happen.
Is today’s post a sign of a shift at Blizzard, or an attempt to calm people down and hope the whole issue goes away once the Warcraft movie premiers and the WoW Legion expansion launches?
Others writing on the topic, updated as they pop up:
Today’s blue post quoted in full after the cut:
We wanted to let you know that we’ve been closely following the Nostalrius discussion and we appreciate your constructive thoughts and suggestions.
Our silence on this subject definitely doesn’t reflect our level of engagement and passion around this topic. We hear you. Many of us across Blizzard and the WoW Dev team have been passionate players ever since classic WoW. In fact, I personally work at Blizzard because of my love for classic WoW.
We have been discussing classic servers for years – it’s a topic every BlizzCon – and especially over the past few weeks. From active internal team discussions to after-hours meetings with leadership, this subject has been highly debated. Some of our current thoughts:
Why not just let Nostalrius continue the way it was? The honest answer is, failure to protect against intellectual property infringement would damage Blizzard’s rights. This applies to anything that uses WoW’s IP, including unofficial servers. And while we’ve looked into the possibility – there is not a clear legal path to protect Blizzard’s IP and grant an operating license to a pirate server.
We explored options for developing classic servers and none could be executed without great difficulty. If we could push a button and all of this would be created, we would. However, there are tremendous operational challenges to integrating classic servers, not to mention the ongoing support of multiple live versions for every aspect of WoW.
So what can we do to capture that nostalgia of when WoW first launched? Over the years we have talked about a “pristine realm”. In essence that would turn off all leveling acceleration including character transfers, heirloom gear, character boosts, Recruit-A-Friend bonuses, WoW Token, and access to cross realm zones, as well as group finder. We aren’t sure whether this version of a clean slate is something that would appeal to the community and it’s still an open topic of discussion.
One other note – we’ve recently been in contact with some of the folks who operated Nostalrius. They obviously care deeply about the game, and we look forward to more conversations with them in the coming weeks.
You, the Blizzard community, are the most dedicated, passionate players out there. We thank you for your constructive thoughts and suggestions. We are listening.
J. Allen Brack