“No! And you don't want that either, you think you do, but you don't. Remember when you had to spam cities saying ‘need a tank need a tank need a tank’ in the Burning Crusade days? Now you just push a button that says ‘go to the dungeon.’ Remember that one bug that really pissed you off two years ago? Still there in the past.”

That’s a quote from J. Allen Brack, the executive producer for World of Warcraft. He’s answering a fan who asked if the WoW team might ever consider hosting servers that would run previous versions of World of Warcraft. It’s something the game’s fans and customers have wanted for years, and I think Brack’s response sums up the company’s view on the matter pretty well. The customer is too stupid to know what they want.

In just a very few hours now, Nostalrius is going to shut down. Blizzard’s army of lawyers have drafted a suit against the Nostalrius team, and there’s no point fighting it. Even if Blizzard wasn’t able to win by sheer force of money, the actual law in the matter is pretty clear. Blizzard owns World of Warcraft. Nostalrius doesn’t.

So what is Nostalrius, this thing Blizzard has decided to kill?

Nostalrius is a private World of Warcraft server where players are able to play for free. So in some respect you might think it does represent a threat to Blizzard’s interest. But Nostalrius isn’t running the newest shiniest version of WoW. They’re running, in fact, one of the very oldest versions. Version 1.11. The last update of the game that came out prior to the first expansion, even older than The Burning Crusade that Brack mentions. Nostalrius serves a game so old that, according to every statement that has ever come from Blizzard, nobody could conceivably want to play it.

To hear Blizz tell it, people might enjoy running around for a little bit. But sooner or later the shittines of the old game is going to start wearing on them. They’re going to realize how good they have it in new WoW. How much their memories of old WoW were affected by rose colored goggles. Yeah, turns out that’s not really the case. Because in the nearly ten years that I’ve been playing World of Warcraft, I have never once in that entire time encountered a server as wonderful as Nostalrius.

Nostalrius is jam-packed with people. On average you’d see about 5k-6k people online. On a weekend that number could balloon to 7k-8k. Even the least popular areas of the game were always swarming with other players. People you could group with, compete with, do battle with. Real people.

Not only are people present, but they are passionate. Without exception the people I met on Nostalrius loved the game. They had opinions on it, discussed it. They played for the pure love of the thing, with none of the dull “I’ve got nothing better to do” attitude that seems so common among the daily questers and achievement hunters of modern WoW.

By comparison the Blizzard Hosted servers are ghost towns. Even if the servers weren’t capped, and even if the subscriber count wasn’t plummeting, the simple fact is that modern WoW is designed in such a way as to minimize interactions with other people. Instead of going to cities to mingle with other players, people go to their own personal garrison where they can be phased away from any possible interactions. The Brack quote I began with is perfectly exemplary of this philosophy. Yes, shouting “need a tank, need a tank” could be frustrating. But ya know what? I met people that way. I built networks of friends. That’s kinda the whole point of playing an MMO. But now you just push a button that says “go to dungeon.” You’ll get tossed into a group with four random people. None of you will talk as you run through the entirely rote experience. And when it ends you’ll all teleport away, never to speak to one another again.

Nostalrius managed to be better than Blizzard at serving World of Warcraft, by giving us a version of WoW that Blizzard has adamantly refused to even consider providing.

I logged onto Nostalrius today. With only a few hours left to go there’s less than 700 people online. It feels perverse to be there. To see something that was recently so full of joy and life reduced in such a way. It may seem silly, but I’m honestly holding back tears as I write this. When I look back over my time with World of Warcraft, so many of my best memories now will be of Nostalrius.

I remember that first night when I sent a message to my buddy who originally got me into WoW back in 2007. I linked a screenshot of my level 6 character standing beside the child king Anduin Wrynn--long since removed from the game--and asked him to guess what I was doing. I remember I had to angle the screenshot carefully to avoid catching some of the constantly-glitched guards in that room.

I remember running my gnome mage all the way to Teldrassil so I could show my younger sister the ropes of the game. It was exciting to see how passionately she took to it. It was easy to forget the game was 10 years old, experiencing it through her fresh eyes. I can honestly say I think I’m closer with my sister now because of the hours we were able to spend together in this game.

I remember the constantly-bugged version of Stitches that would stack up on top of itself a dozen times. It kept spawning, but never started on its walk towards Darkshire. There was always a queue of players waiting for Abercrombie to spawn so they could try to turn in a quest before the stack if Stitches aggrod on him.

I remember grouping up with a trio of folks to kill some elite ogres in Loch Modan. We enjoyed each other’s company so much that we ended up forming a little guild together. We spent hours chit-chatting about nonsense in the guild channel while we quested. It started to feel like a real community then, just like in the old days.

I remember trying to take Fishing seriously for the very first time in my WoW career, and discovering that I actually kinda liked it. I’ve never gotten a character’s fishing above 50 before, but on Nostalrius I worked my ass off until I reached 300 in my fishing skill. That Fishing-Around-the-World quest was awesome.

In closing I guess the only thing I can say is: fuck Blizzard. Good luck ever getting another cent out of me princess babydick.
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