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.
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?