How Much Warhammer Online Nostalgia is There?

So the news of the moment is that the Warhammer Online: Age of Reckoning emulation project (WAR-emu)  has a publicly available server.

Called Return of Reckoning, it is up and running and in alpha.

Return of Reckoning

Return of Reckoning

The project has an eye to eventually giving people the whole Warhammer Online experience, as the original game was shut down about 18 months back.

Of course, Return of Reckoning faces the usual emulation project issues.  They are trying to bring back a game where the code is owned by one unfriendly company, Electronic Arts, and the IP is owned by another company, Games Workshop, which has a litigious reputation.  These two are unlikely to be happy about such things, much less give a Daybreak-like blessing for the project.

So the project needs to tread carefully, lest they give either an easy reason to shut them down.  Looking at the site, there is a minimum of things that might be construed as trademark violations.  Everything is in the style of Warhammer Online, but there are no big Warhammer logos or anything.

Then, of course, there is the game client, the storehouse of art assets and interface that every such project requires.  They cannot make that from scratch, so they have to use the real one from the game, modified to connect to their server.  But handing out the client is a non-starter, as that is clearly covered by license and copyright issues.   So, like most such projects, they have to be a bit coy about the client, pointing you to some torrent or other dubious download site with instructions on how to download, assemble, and configure the client on your own.

That is often the stopping point for many people.  The idea of playing is great, the reality of getting there, not so much.

All of that is before we get into how the emulation actually functions.  When I see one of the admins saying, “seems people don’t understand what Alpha means” on the front page of the site, I both feel his pain and want to groan.  Nobody knows what “alpha” means, because it gets thrown around so much that it effectively has no agreed upon meaning.  It is a term straight from the Humpty Dumpty lexicon, meaning exactly what the speaker means at that moment, no more or no less.

None of which means I am necessarily against such projects.  I did dabble with the WoW vanilla emulation server Emerald Dream for a while myself, and enjoyed the nostalgia rush for a bit before the dubious nature of things… and the reality of being a solo paladin in vanilla WoW… dampened my ardor for things.  But there are obstacles to overcome.

And then, finally, there is the question I posed in the title of this post; how much nostalgia is there for such a project.  WoW emulation has a potential audience of many millions.  EverQuest and Project 1999 covers a base of a few million players who were in Norrath at one point.  Even Star Wars Galaxies has a hardcore following of a couple hundred thousand.  But Warhammer Online… it sold a lot of boxes initially, but its moment of popularity was particularly brief.

In July and August of 2008 a lot of blogs could speak of little else.

In September at launch, the blogesphere seemed to be ALL trying to log in and play together.  Well, everybody besides Tipa.

But by November things were starting to become pretty quiet on the Warhammer Online front.  The teeming masses of players had drained down significantly.  The open RvR zones were generally owned by whichever side could muster a half dozen players.  And the public quests were nigh-on undoable as nobody was likely around to help out.  Does something that fizzles that fast have much traction when it comes to nostalgia?

And by January they were sending out offers to former players trying to get them to come back to the game.  The bloom was clearly off the rose in just a couple months.

Not that an emulation project like this needs thousands of players.  You do not start down this path with an eye towards a large population unless you want to be severely disappointed.  A couple hundred regulars would be enough to make a project like this feel active.  And the site itself purports to have passed the 10,000 registered user mark.

So how much nostalgia do you think there is for Warhammer Online?

Nostalgia is a powerful thing.  We are about to see a frenzy of EverQuest nostalgia this week when the Ragefire progression server goes live at some point tomorrow.

I was tempted to go back to Warhammer Online and take a look when they were planning to shut the servers down.  The Mythic team even said they would let people play for free, though I couldn’t get my account reactivated, no doubt thanks to overlapping email addresses and the bane that was account consolidation when EA inflicted Origin on the world.

But I am not sure I am enthusiastic enough to play on a private server.  Warhammer Online memories my be all I really need.  How about you?

12 thoughts on “How Much Warhammer Online Nostalgia is There?

  1. C. T. Murphy

    I wouldn’t mind revisiting my Dwarf Engineer again. Aside from the Blaster or Corrupter in CoH/V, Engineer was one of my hands-down favorite MMO classes ever.


  2. bhagpuss

    I already looked at the website and balked at exactly the stage you pinpointed. That’s not to say that I won’t grit my teeth and get down to the annoying business of downloading, unzipping and installing multiple files at some point though. Warhammer had my favorite instanced battlegrounds of any MMO and I liked the PvE. If nothing else I’d like to get in and take some screenshots since I seem to have lost all mine.

    That Tipa piece is interesting. The heavy irony of the opening paragraph seems quite ironic in itself now. All those things that supposedly started in WAR really did become de rigeur for the genre, didn’t they?

    As for its popularity, I don’t think it became destitute of players as quickly as people think. I was one (apparently the only) MMO player who barely noticed WAR was a thing when it was in beta. I can’t remember why I paid so little attention to it but it must have been a year or two after launch that I finally got round to playing it and it was still pretty busy on the server where Mrs Bhagpuss and I played. Busy enough to have BGs pop in a just a few minutes and for there to be big fights most nights in the open PvP areas.

    It certainly had a LOT more players than Vanguard and that’s getting an emulator…


  3. Isey

    The Beta experience was incredible, because PVP works best when its similarly levelled players in tight areas. The Beta forced people into level ranges and the sides were pretty evenly split. The world was a real mess though, once everyone spread out and the power disparity became so unfun. I won’t go back to an emulator, but I would go back to a controlled beta-type experience.

    If they were able to emulate the beta experience live then I suspect the game would still be running, but that would have been huge design changes and fundamentals.



  4. carson63000

    Given that WAR was a story of fantastic ideas and terrible execution, I can’t think of anything less attractive than playing on an emulated server. What’s that supposed to offer me – all of the problems that ruined WAR and a whole bunch more problems besides?


  5. Jeromai

    I had a good time in Warhammer, up to some point in the mid-40s, when I just couldn’t take the repeated questing experience any further. It kind of overstayed its welcome, and I didn’t feel like enduring it to enable more of the same RvR that I’d been doing for the past level tiers.

    I can’t see that experience changing even on an emulator.


  6. SynCaine

    The emulator being currently limited to tier 1 actually fixes most of WARs problems, but at the same time provides only a tiny bit of content.

    If it was a $5 purchase off Steam? I’d buy it, as it would be fun to roll different classes and do the early RvR and BGs. As something that requires more effort than that and isn’t in great technical shape? Nope.


  7. Matt

    Abandonware being still covered by copyright is one of those things that seems to demand copyright reform.

    Warhammer nostalgia would probably be like Dreamcast nostalgia. Since few people have firsthand memories to get in the way, it has taken on a kind of “lost cause” mythos. Whether warhammer has that going for it is beyond me to say.


  8. Wilhelm Arcturus Post author

    @Matt – Well, the concept of Abandonware is problematic on its own, especially when it comes to MMOs. Games Workshop is still a company, still licensing its IP to other companies for software projects. They don’t lose copyright to their core IP simply because WAR closed. That would be insane. That they were party to closing down WAR doesn’t necessarily give anybody the right to start up their own server and create what is essentially a competing product with their own IP.

    There seems to me to be a line between “here is how to take software you already have to still use it at home, on your own” and putting up a public server and telling people how to download the client so they can play.


  9. Anonymous


    the sweet spot from warhammer is the pvp maybe there are not so many people who like it when you compare it with wow or swge. But today there where 995 players online at the high piek. If you look at the t3 pvp zones they are so full that it is already hard to romain with little grps because behind every tree can be the next grp who outnumber you and your friends.

    When there are enough players to make the game vaild and alive it is enough. You don`t need the success from wow or anything else if you don`t want to make money.
    All you need is enough people who enjoy the game not more and less.

    If you liked the pvp from warhammer give it a shoot if not ror will not make you happy.



  10. Nik Popov

    For me the nostalgia is still there. The art style was very appealing, especially back when green skins had their own starting zone. Honestly, i did not think it was a badly executed game from the technology stand point. It suffered from some major long term mistakes such as class balancing issues (two opposing sides instead of three caused people to run to whichever side was the most OP, which in turn would cause player number related problems). Another issue was the expansions. Expansions forced players to spread out too much, which made PvP sparse unless you are under lvl10 or over lvl40. I was genuinely upset about the game closing for good. Nothing else that came out since then have scratched that black orc warhammer itch.


  11. Lisa

    I miss WAR so much. I had some amazing times on there. The nostalgia is definitely still there. but my main issue is fear of getting into it again. putting in countless hours, for the copyright to sweep in and break our hearts a second time


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