Tag Archives: Private Servers

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?

WoW Private Server Review Video

My experience with WoW private servers has been pretty much limited to the Emerald Dream server, about which I have posted a few times.

So I am always surprised when I run into things that indicate that not only are there more such servers out there, but there are enough that somebody would have found and played enough that, when listing out their favorites, it can be made into a top ten list.

Basically, this person has a YouTube channel that looks to be dedicated to looking into a reviewing WoW private servers.

I suppose a game as popular as WoW lends itself to this sort of proliferation.

Emerald Dream – Interlude Before Hogger

With my last update about my time on the Emerald Dream server, I had finished with the quests in Eastvale and had been sent off to the Westbrook Garrison.  There I would be expected to help solve their gnoll problems, including the most famous gnoll in the game, Hogger.

I was feeling a little bit of trepidation about just running out and assaulting Hogger right away, so I decided to run down a couple of side tasks in Goldshire just to help me warm up.  It is a heck of a place.

Sometimes it is a strange place…

The first was to pick up a trade skill.  By this point, while I had only died a couple of times, I was using up health potions at a rapid rate.  So I decided to pick up herbalism and alchemy and went looking for the trainer in Goldshire.

But where was the trainer?

I ran in and out of all of the buildings I could find in Goldshire.

After looking around for a while, I eventually had to ask a guard for directions.  A good thing they put that feature in.  The guard pointed me to a path up a hill in the distance.  I headed that way and, after fighting off a few wolves and a couple of stray Defias, I found the herbalism trainer.

Up the path on the hill…

That was a location I had clearly forgotten about.  I think it is easier to get to the crazy cat lady’s house in Elwynn.  I might have to log in to WoW on my daughter’s account to see if the trainer has been moved down to Goldshire proper since then.

Anyway, I got my training.  One of the pluses of a quiet server is that there is plenty of herbs to harvest.

Herbs in range

Though I have to admit that having earthroot growing right outside the trainer’s house is a bit of a tease.  You need to skill up some before you can harvest it.  I also noticed that I failed on some early harvest attempts.  I had forgotten about that.

You might also have noticed, if you looked carefully at the top picture in the post, that Vikund has a shield on his back.  In my run through Eastvale, he managed to get a decent drop.  A weapon upgrade with a significant boost to DPS.  It even had stats!  However, it was a one handed mace, and if you have one hand free, you might as well use it for something.  So I bought a cheap shield from the armor smith in Goldshire.

Herbalism and harvesting under way, I then stopped in at the paladin trainer in Goldshire, as he had a quest for me.  A class quest.  More things from the past.  The quest sent me up to the Cathedral in Stormwind, made me speak to anybody with half an interest in paladin’s there, and ended up turning me around and sending me out to Stonecairn Lake.

The lake which is over by the Eastvale Logging Camp.  The one where the murlocs live.  The one I thought I was already done with.  Running back and forth builds character, right?

So I headed out that way, harvesting as I went.  At least I could couple the two tasks.  I got out there and, rather than consulting the quest text, about which I only recalled something about wizards and a big stone thing.  I found the wizards pretty easily.

Frost shield blues

I managed to tear my way through them okay until I go to the stones in the center, which showed a “click on me” cog wheel when I moused over the center one.

Stones at rest

Of course, once I made it to the stone and clicked on it, a window came up that said, “Hello, Vikund.”  That is the sign that you are not clicking on the right thing.  This stone was not for me.  So I dragged up the quest log to actually read about what I was supposed to do.  While I have detailed memories of a lot of the quests in Elwynn Forest, I have only really made one paladin, so I have only done this once… and that was probably in 2006, the era which this server is set to simulate.

Anyway, what I was supposed to be doing was finding the mostly dead body of Henze Faulk and revive him with a magic dingus, because mostly dead is slightly alive.  And the dingus did its thing, and Henze arose to give me a quest update.

You’ve been mostly dead all day

Henze’s big revelation from mostly beyond the grave was that I needed to murder a few rogue wizards to see if any of them happened to be carrying important papers of some sort.  Because that is what the Defias does, they hand out secret plans and papers to low level operatives.  It is part of their henchperson empowerment program.

I hit the jackpot on the first wizard, pick up the papers, and was directed to head back to Stormwind.  Mission, as I keep saying, accomplished.

But I had run all this way, I figured I might take a moment to explore.  There is that area just north of the lake and I could not for the life of me recall what was up there.  So I went to investigate.  And I found gnolls.

Do gnolls fight gnomes?

Which was kind of strange, because I was all the way over here as a way to avoid gnolls for a little bit.  But there they were, a big camp of them.  I slew a couple in order to get closer and see what they were up to.  They even dropped the armbands required by the Westbrook Garrison quest.  And in the midst of their camp was a named gnoll.

Fedfennel!  I could not recall such a gnoll from the past, but there he was with the silver dragon around his portrait, the universal sign of somebody carrying goods worth taking in WoW.

I started to work my way closer to his camp, proximity pulling one gnoll at a time.  Or trying to do that.  It did not quite work out as planned.

Gnoll ganked!

I got a little too close to the wrong gnoll and the whole camp fell on me.  I died quickly.  And my death was made worse by the fact that the nearest graveyard was not all that near.

Tele-mort across mountains

Well, that was an inconvenient place to come back.  And I was feeling like I had built up enough character from running all over Ellwyn.  So I decided to take the hit and the five minute 75% debuff to everything and just revive and the graveyard.  I figured I could stay out of trouble for the run back to the cathedral in Stormwind.

Which was correct, for once.  I manages to avoid wolf and Defias entanglements add got there to turn in the quest, speaking to several people before I got my final reward, which was my very own ress spell.

This guy was just first on the list…

That done, I took some of my harvested herbs and turned them into minor health potions and a few armor potions.  I also trained up to heavy linen bandages.  I was going to go find Hogger as well prepared as I could be.

After I hit my limit of that and stowed my excess in the bank, it was time to set out in search of the big gnoll and save the Westbrook Garrison.

I found Hogger about where I remembered he would be.  He was still an elite mob though, so I decided I should probably get some backup.  After all, look at the bones!

I first lay eyes on Hogger

I got on the Elwynn channel and asked if anybody was up for Hogger, and actually got a couple of replies.  One level 7 said they would be there once they got to the quest.  Considering they were waiting for Princess to respawn, I figured that might be a while.

Then a level 11 rogue asked for a group invite and ran over to find me.  She had a plan, I would heal, she would kill.

Getting stuck into Hogger

It wasn’t really a contest.  I healed twice, which was one more time than I really needed to, then got in to hit Hogger myself.  He was down quickly and that was that.

We both collected his paw, the quest item.

Remember when that was a WoW innovation, a quest item drop for everybody in the group who needed it?  In EverQuest at that time we would have had to kill him, wait for a respawn, and kill him again to get a drop for each of us.  I remember that comparison being called out in a review of WoW way back in the day.

We ran around for a bit more and killed some more gnolls for the painted armband drops.  Then, in the grand WoW tradition, Punch dropped group and ran off without a word, no doubt having completed the armband quest.

I completed it myself and ran back to the Westbrook Garrison to turn in one quest, then back to Goldshire to turn in the other.  And that was it.  As far as I can recall, that pretty much wraps up the quests in Elwynn Forest, unless I want to go back and try to take down Fedfennel.

The next stop on the list is Westfall.

Looking towards Westfall

And in Westfall there is the Deadmines… though not before I have to kill a lot more Defias.

Emerald Dream – Murlocs Never Evolve, Defias Never Forget

Again into the pretend past on the Emerald Dream server.

I started out after my diversion to Kharanos and my post-level 10 plateau looking for a new weapon.

Need to save up for that!

To do this, I ground kobolds around Fargo Deep Mine until I had the requisite about of silver.  I could finally afford my new hammer.  It was time to say good-bye to the Kobold mining shovel.

Thus armed, I was able to make it through the exploration of the Jasperlode Mine and was finally sent on my way down the road to Guard Thomas and the Eastvale Logging Camp.

Hey, he has a quest for me!

Guard Thomas, of course, sends you out on two quests.  The first is to kill Prowlers and Bears.  A pretty standard MMO quest.

Certainly not the last wolf I’ll be asked to kill

The other is one of those great quests that sticks with you long after you have completed it… and not always for the best reasons.

You have to find out what happened to two missing Stormwind guards.  Guard Thomas sends you up the river to look, which is about as good a set of directions as you are going to get in a quest.  I took a side trip to the Eastvale Logging Camp to pick up the wood collection quest, which happens to overlap nicely with the wolf/bear quest.  I also got the next in the long line of “collect items of Defias apparel” quests.  That one doesn’t overlap, but I was there and had room in the quest log.

The first guard, who turns out to be just a pile of meat sitting in the grass, is just about where you expect if you followed the river as directed.  It wasn’t radiating little sparkles, that effect having come in further down the line for “hey, quest thingy here” indications.  But I was still able to find the pile of meat, which showed the little cog wheel when I moused over it.

Finding the first guard then gives you the clues to find the second.  It describes webbed foot prints and a village just visible in the distance.

A murloc village.

Murlocs… why did it have to be murlocs?

I think that this quest… and the murloc village… was one of the few areas not to be “made safer,” for lack of a better phrase, with the advent of Cataclysm.  The remains of the other guard are still a pile of meat in the middle of the village, and the murlocs are all still crowded so close together that multi-mob pulls are just a fact of life.

It is one of those situations where you think that if you just approach it from another direction, there might be an easier path.

There isn’t.  Instead, only death awaits the solo adventurer.

Look at the bones!

The ground around the village was covered with a fairly consistent semi-circle of bones.

I don’t know if that was death spread over many different players or just one guy who was ~really~ persistent.

Still, as I always do, I looked around, trying to find that mythical safe path into the murloc village while hoping for a bit of luck.  Fortunately, luck stepped in, because myth has always evaded me.  A level 9 warrior and a level 16 hunter came running into the murloc village, so I was able to tread in their wake.

Help from random strangers

Of course, the murloc village is still not that easy.  I got in and helped, but the warrior still died once and I had to heal the level 16 hunter to keep him alive as we finished up the murlocs within aggro range.  The respawn was just slow enough for all of us to click on the second pile of meat and evacuate the village without getting into another full on rumble with the murlocs.

Then it was a bit more wood, a few more prowlers, and time to turn in a few quests.

Of course, the way things worked, turning in my two quests to Guard Thomas got him to send me out to collect… murloc fins!  Like I hadn’t just killed about 25 murlocs in the last ten minutes.  I think you have to turn in the wolf/bear quest first before you go after the guards for maximum efficiency, a detail that slipped my mind.

But, I still had Defias gear to collect and there were, as I recalled, murlocs in the river to the south.  So time for some new locations.  Fortunately, the zone decided that there had been enough rain for a while.  I think it had been raining in Elwyn Forest for a week straight.

Down stream murloc

Murlocs were easy enough to find along the river as I wandered around looking for a decent sized concentration of Defias.  They have a couple of small camps down by the river.

Defias are where you find them

I managed to stumble into a camp with a named Defias, Dead-tooth Jack.  He was level 11, which put him a couple levels above the rest of the Defias in the area.

Me and Dead-tooth down by the school yard

I do not remember anything in particular about Jack, though on looking him up I gather he is part of a warrior quest line.  He sure didn’t drop anything nice for me.  Well, he dropped a shadow gem.  Fat lot of good those are.

Anyway, I slayed and disrobed enough Defias and clubbed and de-finned enough murlocs to satisfy the blood thirsty ambitions of the local Stormwind aligned residents.  However, on the way back, I stumbled across one more prize: Princess!

Some Pig!

I had forgotten about Princess.  I still had the quest, but it is a quest that starts at one farm, goes to another, then vaguely refers to some third farm that is pretty far across the zone.  It is another one of those things that if you were coming from pre-tutorial EverQuest, you would accept this as an pretty easy quest chain.  But if you were coming from a 2012 MMO, it would seem bizarro world complex for a starter zone.

Anyway, Princess was level 9, while I had just hit level 12, while her two minions were each level 7.  None of them was elite.  Despite not having hit my trainer, who was way back in Goldshire, I decided I could take them.  I ended up needing a health potion to do it, but I managed to put all of them down and collect the brass collar that Ma Stonefield was asking for about 8 levels ago.

Then it was the quest turn-in loop.  Guard Thomas, Sara Timberlane, Ma Stonefield, and then back to Goldshire.  Among the rewards was the red shirt (I hope that is not blood) made from the bandanas of the Defias.  No wonder they remain so hostile to Stormwind, as the citizens go around wearing such trophies.

Next, I need brown pants!

Arriving back in Goldshire I was immediately sent back to the Eastvale Logging camp because… it is 2006 and we think making you run across the zone and back builds character!  I had to consider this, because Eastvale is… a little odd at the moment.

We don’t hold with floors ’round these parts!

By this point though, having knocked of Princess, I was feeling I needed to be a completionist in Elwyn Forest, so I did the run out.  I did use my hearth stone to return to Goldshire though, because… screw character!

Then, at last, I was sent off to the Westbrook Garrison, where I was to collect the quest everybody has been waiting for.

Best Wanted Sign Ever!

He is out there, somewhere, waiting for me.

He is out there… wait, I just said that

Another elite quest to face.

Emerald Dream – Shovel in the Snows

Further tales from the Emerald Dream server.

After getting creamed by massed kobolds going after Goldtooth in the Fargodeep mine, thanks largely to a huge aggro radius, and thus clearly not ready for exploring the next location, the Jasperlode mine, I figured it might be time for some parallel quest experience.

So I packed up my Kobold Mining Shovel, hoofed it up Stormwind (only 32 more levels until I can buy a mount!) and took the Deeprun Tram over to Ironforge.

In front of Ironforge

My plan was to head down to Kharanos and the Thunderbrew Distillery for a set of quests that are in about the same level range as those in Goldshire.  I was hoping to boost myself up a couple of levels in the hope that I could then survive kobolds coming at me in groups of three.  So it was into the snow.

Snow… why did it have to be snow?

One of the reasons I stopped playing WoW the first time around… back in ealy 2005… was the dwarf starter area.

Snow can be kind of boring.  Especially when a friend gets you to play the game because the world is “so beautiful.”

But now… now Kharanos and its surrounding areas are like old friends.  It used to be my pattern back in the old days to run both the Elwyn Forest and Karanos quests.  So it was actually nice to be back amongst the happy faces at the Thunderbrew Distillery.

Wait, you’re not Norm!

So I ran around looking for a few quests.

I am not sure I can really express how incredibly weird it is not to see quest givers on the mini map.  Little question marks and exclamation points on the mini map have been around for so long that it practically causes my brain to rebel against what my eyes are telling it when my character is standing and looking at an NPC with a quest but the mini map is blank.

Fortunately, even through the mists of time, I remembered where to find the quest givers, and for the most part remembered where the quests were.  The quest text was reasonably good about giving a cardinal direction in which to find you goal, but a lot of stuff was just generally west of the inn.

Of course, one of the first places I had to visit west of the inn was the wendigo caves.

Wendigo breath weapon!

As with the Defias in the vineyard and the kobolds in the mines, the wendigo are all clustered in groups outside of the cave, so getting just one is tricky, and at level getting two can lead to a quick demise.

The cave itself is a curiosity, being something of a relic of the shotgun like approach to the design of early WoW.

There is, as I recall, no real reason to go into the cave.  The quest for wendigo pelts can be completed by hunting the mobs outside the entrance.  But the cave itself is like a low level open world dungeon to explore.  Because of aggro radius, it is dangerous solo, but quite manageable in a small group.  As the philosophy behind WoW got more focused, such areas stopped being put in, to the point when we hit Cataclysm and open world group content pretty much ceased to exist.

I managed to miss the little camp setup by the cave where I had to pick up a case of shot for delivery.  So while I remembered where I had to deliver the case, when I showed up I realized I did not have the item, so I had to run back and get it.

The reward for the quest?  Ranged ammo!  Yes, from back in the day when ranged weapons had ammo, and there was vendor ammo and crafted ammo and some special reward variations of ammo, each of different quality and all of which impacted how much damage your weapon did.

I also had one of several “kill boars” quests, which I did along the way.  It was while doing this that I finally put my finger on another oddity about the server.  The death animations are very abrupt.

shovel, bang, dead

There is something not quite right.  The actual animation isn’t missing, but it seems to run much faster than it should.  Meanwhile, the combat wrap up isn’t quite right.  As you can see, the XP floating text is faded while damage text is still coming up and the boar itself is already flattened out.  It is a tiny and inconsequential detail as far as I can tell, but it is something that bugged me for a bit until I put it together.

Anyway, I wrapped up the first round of quests, which sent me off west again, this time to the Brewnall Village on the ice covered lake.

More snow covered vistas

There I was asked to help out the locals with the usual bear/boar/snow leopard problem.  Kill Kill Kill!

Iceclaw bear, meet my shovel!

I also took a moment to buy some armor upgrades.  Equipment drops had been pitifully few and very low in quality.   This is nothing like Diablo III or Torchlight II.  And so vendor whites represented serious upgrades to my armor.  I also started making use of bandages between fights rather frequently, holding my mana in reserve for combat.

Wrapping myself in linen bandages

Fortunately, I remembered to pick that skill up when I was in Stormwind.  And I am seriously considering herbalism and alchemy for trade skills, just to get some more health potions.  It is a dangerous world out there!

After slaying some of the local fauna, I became involved in a convoluted scheme involving beer, beer substitution, and beer bribery… which I gather is pretty much the norm when dealing with dwarves in Azeroth.

Once the first round of beer intrigue was turned in, I hit level 10.  That was mostly thanks to having quite a bit of blue bar to start with along with gratuitous slaying of boars for cooking ingredients along the way.

Of course, level 10 is a big level.  With level 10 I got my first talent point.  Oh, ancient talent tree, where should I spend my first point?  How about in retribution?

One point in, 50 to go

At that point I said farewell… for the time being… to the snowy sights in Kharanos.

In another time, I own all of these!

Then I recalled back to Goldshire and trained up my new skills.  They included lay hands, so I have my big emergency self heal now.  Unfortunately, I had been a bit too spendy with my cash.  The vendor had an weapon upgrade for me… it was time to set aside my shovel… but I was out of coin.  No new hammer for me yet!

2 more DPS means a lot to me!

I decided, now that I was level 10 that I would put on my big boy pants and go take out Goldtooth, deep within Fargodeep mine.  I figured that the kobolds in the area were levels 5-6, it ought to be no problem.  So I fought my way in, survived the groups of two and three mobs… my aggro radius still seems kind of big… and made it all the way in to Goldtooth.

I was at full health and full mana.  He was only level 8 and only had one level 6 helper with him.  It looked good.

And then at 10% health, he turns and takes off down the mine, pulling in new kobolds to attack me along the way.  I chased him and managed to kill and loot, but then I was in serious trouble.  I used a potion.  I laid hands.  I used my pally bubble.  And I ran for the entrance.

I nearly got there.  I died right at the mouth of the cave.

But at least I was far enough out that I could run back as a ghost and safely revive, though I had to climb on top of the cave entrance to achieve that safety.

A low level solo quest for which I was clearly over the suggested level, and I died.  How times have changed.  I think now Goldtooth is just sitting by himself outside of the cave.

Meanwhile, I think I am going to have to grind kobolds for some cash.  The shovel is clearly not cutting it anymore.

Further Adventures in the Emerald Dream

Because I am sure you are all dying to know how it is going.  I haven’t mentioned the Emerald Dream server since Monday and it is… what… Wednesday already?

So how am I doing there?

I am level 8 now.

I’ve been to Stormwind on official business.

Still intact, thank you very much

I got my Oil of Olaf.

I also have my bag of marbles.

Those two items are forever linked in my brain.

And I am currently wielding a 3 DPS kobold mining shovel.

Meet my shovel

It is the best weapon I have picked up so far.  It also has to be the best looking, at least it you take comedic value into account.  And that is saying something relative to the comically over sized fairground mallet a paladin gets as his standard issue weapon.  I want to find a shovel for real WoW to use with transmorgification.

So, yeah, I am running around Elwyn Forest beating kobolds and murlocs with a shovel.

Go me!

However, this is also taking some time.  I have clearly forgotten exactly how steep the original exp tables were.  I suddenly recalled that I used to run both the human AND dwarf starter areas back in the old days because the quest levels used to advance much more quickly that you did, so you had to get a bit ahead of the trend if you didn’t want to just take some time out and grind mobs for a while.

And then there is the abject misery of running out of blue bar.  I had forgotten that one.  No message used to be as sad as, “you feel normal.”

I am beginning to seriously consider that this might not be something I want to go off and do by myself.  At least not all the way to level 60, which appears to be a long way away.

Darraxus is, at this point, free to feel smug and perhaps offer a minor “I told you so.”

At least that is my thought on making the climb to 60 solo.

As a group though, I think process would be both more interesting and more viable.  And we would be able to see some key bits of the past, like the Deadmines.

Grouping up for an MMO? I know, crazy talk!

The potential of the server has to be brought to the instance group council as a possible future option, especially since the word from Brother Potshot is that Guild Wars 2 might not be the stuff for us.

Back in the game, I have started running into a few bugs.  Nothing major.  The quest tracker misbehaves now and again.  And I have seen a couple of EverQuest-like pathing issues, with NPCs walking OVER tall objects like trees.  That gives an oddly mixed sense of nostalgia.

And, of course, nostalgia is the factor that keeps us going on such thing.  How can you say no to this sort of dialog?

Oh, I take candle alrighty!

One of the most memorable lines from the starting areas around Stormwind.

But I began to have doubts as to whether I was actually into areas that were legitimately nostalgic of their own accord.  While a lot of zones got complete make-overs that changed them completely… Redridge and Westfall come to mind… and the Deadmines, always that… I seemed to recall that Elwyn Forest wasn’t changed as dramatically.

There might still be kobolds shouting, “You no take candle!” in WoW.  Is nostalgia for something that still exists really nostalgia?

Deep questions for a clearly disturbed mind might be your first thought.

Anyway, with a few days left on my real WoW account before I reach the small window of time where I am allowed to cancel it without being charged again, I decided to go check on the state of Elwyn Forest in the age of pandas.

More things had changed that I remembered.  The original mine where you slay your first kobold?

Go on, say the line guys!

Well, that has been closed.

I hear it is now a Super Fund site as well

And the vineyard across the river, previously overrun with closely packed Defias?  Well, it is now a flaming wreck and overrun by well spaced Blackrock orcs.

But other things still remain.  Fargodeep mine is still there.  And the game even has a map for it.

Fargodeep Mine – Upper Section

A two level map!  Because… screw getting lost in that mine I guess.

I would have taken a larger screen shot, but when I expanded the map UI to be full screen, it redrew with the window 75% off of the upper left side of my monitor, removing, among other things, the ability to scale the window back down, from my ability to access.  So bugs are all over I suppose.

However, after spending 15 minutes running around Fargodeep and Jasperlode mines, I completely failed to get any kobolds to say, “You no take candle!”  I would round up a bunch of them, let them beat on me for a while, kill them off one by one, and they stubbornly refused to say the line like Robin Williams responding to a request to “Do that Mork thing.”

In fact, they seemed disinclined to say anything at all.  Was speech removed from kobolds in Cataclysm or Pandaria?  Or do kobolds simply not speak to high level characters?

So maybe that line is truly in the realm of nostalgia now.

Anyway, I am still hanging around with NPCs from a bygone age.

Hey, remember that time…

Anyway, time will tell when it comes to the Emerald Dream server.

The Nostalgic Call of the Emerald Dream

Nostalgia is such a powerful factor that I am surprised more companies do not cash in on it.  And it isn’t just a small scale, eBay sort of thing, though heaven knows that nostalgia keeps eBay humming.  VW introduced a rounded version of the Golf, slapped the Beetle name on it and, hey pretso, money.  BMW revived the Mini as its own car line and shows no signs of faltering.

And likewise, in video games, the industry is now old enough (and things have now changed enough) for people to be nostalgic for older games.  Thus we get iOS apps done in 8-bit art styles, while the big successes on Kickstarter are pushes to remake classics like Wasteland.  And then there is Wizardry Online.

And in MMOs, some companies have picked up the power of nostalgia.

Five years ago, when EverQuest had turned eight years old, SOE introduced the idea of a “progression server” that would start with classic content and then unlock expansions as the content was mastered.  While for some the whole thing went by too quickly… make something look like a race and people will go their fastest to be “first”… it was successful enough that SOE rolled out the same idea again with the Fippy Darkpaw server, adding in minimum time and voting components to slow things down a bit.  SOE currently owns the MMO nostalgia crown.

And, as we stand here in 2012, another popular MMO is just about 8 years old and has been changed drastically by expansions, leaving a gulf between those of us who enjoyed the old but are not enthusiastic about the new.

I speak, of course, about World of Warcraft.

The mere mention of WoW in our regular group brings up a series of “I miss that game” comments.  But it just isn’t the same game any more.  Blizzard continues to move forward and, unlike EverQuest at the eight year mark, still enjoys the pinnacle of subscription MMO success.

Why would Blizzard chase nostalgia when they are still practically printing money?  Mists of Pandaria may be in fourth place for launch day sales for a WoW expansion (BC 2.4 mil, WotLK 2.8 mil, Cata 3.3 mil, but MoP 2.7 mil only in the first week), but those numbers are still huge relative to any competitor, and it pushed subscriptions back above the 10 million mark.

At this point nostalgia would be a distraction from the main money making machine at Blizzard.

But a nostalgia demographic exists all the same, and at this point I count myself as a member.

And so it was when I saw a private/pirate server called Emerald Dream mentioned on Twitter this past weekend, I went “hmmm….”

Emerald Dream promises “classic” 1-60 content in the 2006 time frame.  They even have a video up on YouTube.  There are other servers out there with sped up leveling and instant level 60 access if all you want is the raiding experience.  But this is the server for those who want to experience “the good old days.”

And while Blizzard has been tough on pirate servers in the past, these guys aren’t actually in it for the money.  It is all free to download and play.  I don’t know if that makes them not worth pursuing or if they just haven’t hit Blizzard’s radar yet, but they are not hiding their presence.  It isn’t a “Joe sent me” sort of speakeasy environment.  See the web sites and video linked above.

So I decided to give it a try.

They certainly got the first step of my original WoW experience.  I remember buying the box in early 2005, bringing it home ready to play, only to find myself facing a six hour patching session via Blizzard’s then extremely slow “let the customers host our shit” torrent process.  This was the sort of thing that made me get a paid File Planet account back in the day. (Blizzard has at least fixed that issue in the mean time.)

This time around I was expecting to download the client, so I set aside an overnight time frame.  You first register with Emerald Dream to create your account.  Then they send you off to another site, where you have to register to download the client.  The download is only via torrent, so I had to go grab a copy of BitTorrent, which means I am probably on the RIAA/MPAA watchlist now.

I let that run over night and had the client in the morning.  It was in a .rar archive, of course.  I thought at one point after the compression wars of the late 80s and early 90s we all agreed just to use .zip.  Even the Mac handles .zip as part of the OS.  But every generation needs to learn about standards I suppose.  Anyway, I had to reinstall the free .rar extractor I keep on hand to extract that.

Then there was a connection patch from the Emerald Dream site, which was a set of files to drop in the client folder so it point at the right server.  And at that point I launched the client and was ready to connect.

WoW Client from Days Gone By

Look at that.

If you open up that screen shot, you will see the client date is September 16, 2006.  That date six years ago sits nicely between the launch date for this blog and our putting together our regular instance group in Azeroth.  This is about the exact right point for nostalgia for me.

So I logged in, made a human paladin, and entered old Azeroth.

Amongst my friends…

And what was it like?  Here are my observations.

Well, the leveling was much slower.  I spent easily twice as much time with my pally as I did with my panda the other day, and only got to level 7.

I was surprised at how unstructured the questing was.  While some quests would send you along to the next person, a lot of the quests just seemed to be random NPCs standing around.  Blizz would never ship this game today.

This version also predates quests givers showing up on the mini map.  No question marks or exclamation points are visible there.  You have to see the quest giver or know where they are.  The one concession is that you do get a yellow dot on the mini map for NPCs that you have a turn-in for.

Quest helper?  Hah, get out of town!  Or, you know, read the quest text. (At least this client had the instant quest text option. But slow scroll is on by default! You have to turn it off!)  I was helped along by the fact that I remembered almost all the quests in the area.  But if you had never done some of these quests, you might be wandering around for a while.  Likewise even finding some of the quests seemed to be targeted at explorers.

Aggro radius seems to be huge!  I remember them toning that back a bit at one point, and in the starter zones it is very small now.  Out in the Defias vineyard by the monastery, the first place in the game you are introduced to aggro mobs, the Defias are packed so close together that you often draw two or three.  At Fargodeep mine, the ground was littered with bones from people getting double and triple teamed by kobolds.

Grouping for solo quests was still punished back then, though not as much as it is now.  I accepted a group request for the vineyard area just to help stave off rampaging groups of Defias.  The guy I grouped with set looting to free for all, rushed to loot all the bandana drops for one quest, and then ran off as soon as he was finished.

In the vineyard

So, a completely authentic experience.  I had a tear in my eye as I saw that magnificently selfish bastard run off  without a word or even bothering to drop the group.  Totally 2006!

Likewise, general chat is about Barrens quality, minus Chuck Norris jokes.  Though that says something in and of itself.  There were enough people around in general chat for it to become annoying.  So I wasn’t playing alone.

And speaking of looting, are you pissed that your favorite MMO doesn’t support AOE looting?  Try no auto-looting at all.  You have to click on the corpse, then click on each item in the window that comes up.  This was the first point where I started wondering where old, out of date addons might be archived.

What else did I experience?  Skills that you have to use to improve.  Being so poor I could barely afford skills.  Minimal bag space.  Five minute duration pally buffs.  Spells and skills that you have to manually update on the action bar when you get an upgraded version.

And what can I look forward to?

Running everywhere since you get no mount until level 40.  (And epic mounts? That took us two years to get to last time.) No helm until level 26.  No platemail until level 40.  No general use range skill to pull mobs.  That run across the Wetlands if I roll a night elf.  And… well… all of Stranglethorn Vale.

Totally working as designed…

Yeah, all that and more, all at a slow pace.

Seems pretty cool to me!

And the name is just about right, since in the lore, the Emerald Dream is Azeroth in an earlier, pristine state.

Not totally vanilla WoW.  And I hear there are some bugs, though I haven’t seen anything serious.  Somebody said that pathing was really bad, but it seemed okay to me.  And wasn’t it kind of bad back in the day anyway?  Or am I just thinking about escort quest mob pathing?

Our group would probably stay subscribed if we had this as an option from Blizzard.

I am not sure we’ll be running off to play this.  But it is nice that there is such an option.

If you feel that nostalgia the way I do, you might want to take a look at the Emerald Dream server.

Private Servers for PvP… That Totally Makes Sense… To Somebody

Guild Wars 2, one of my potential 2011 games, now *seems* slated for some time in 2012.

No big deal.

These things happen.  The same goes for TERA as I understand it.

So with that release still somewhere over the horizon for me, I haven’t been paying too much attention to news and updates about the game.

space bar... space bar!

Still love this logo…

I did, however, see a ripple last week on Twitter about something somebody somewhere said about Guild Wars 2 offering private servers of some sort.

This, of course, caused a small stir, filled with both hate and warm fuzzies.  My own though was perhaps this would be something of an “our world” option for you and your buddies.  Guild Wars is mostly instanced, so maybe this might make sense in the context of Guild Wars 2.

Eventually, ArenaNet offered up  a clarification on the subject:

In the interview he mentioned that we are considering allowing players to “create” their own PvP servers, it is not for certain. And we never mentioned anything about “private PvE server” – that is something we will definitely not do.

This made my brain do a rapid left turn.  And not just because “create” is in quotes.  What does “that” mean?

Isn’t PvP the most social (or anti-social, if you look at it from the other end) aspect of a game?  Isn’t that the part that lives and dies on your getting as many players as possible involved?  Wouldn’t that be the worst aspect of the game to split off into individual servers?

Okay, yes, I do not know thing one about Guild Wars 2 PvP… or even Guild Wars PvP for that matter… so maybe it totally makes sense.  Maybe that is the completely logical position, a step in the right direction.

But when I read tidbits like this…

Guild Wars 2 will feature “World PvP”, large scale combat taking place in a persistent world, with players able to drop in and out “on the fly”. Players will be able to join this worldwide PvP battle in a variety of roles, with rewards commensurate with their success.

it makes me go “hmmm?”

Meanwhile, the PvE aspect of the game… and my impressions are from Guild Wars, with which I am mildly familiar, owning three of the four game boxes… seems like it might be a candidate for private servers.

Or maybe not.

If it is anything like Guild Wars, the game will be heavily instanced and players will already have private instances, so who would ever need a private server.

Anyway, the depth of my ignorance on the subject is as yet unplumbed.  I am sure somebody out there can explain why ArenaNet would even bring up the topic of private servers.

Unless they are going to offer a “run your own” server kit, thus taking load off of their data center, I cannot see any real benefit in the idea.   #notwinning

Considering Star Wars Galaxies Emulation? Better Grab a Disk!

As part of the discussion of the player reaction to the shutting down of Star Wars Galaxies, Bhagpuss brought up the fact that there were a couple of SWG emulation projects going on, and that this might allow people to continue to experience SWG after the December 15th shut down of the game.  They are, if you are interested:

They were once the same project, but branched over some sort of “tastes great/less filling”  argument.  Both continue along the line of emulating Pre-NGE SWG, which was what got them started in the first place.  That there will soon be no Post-NGE SWG has not changed that.

Emulation seems to live in a gray area in the world of MMOs.  Following certain guidelines, they are not really “pirate” servers engaging in outright theft of a game.  On the other hand, they do encroach on the work of others, so to say they are merely “private” servers does not cover things as well.  Occasionally somebody throws around the term “fair use,” but apparently only to show they don’t know what the hell the term means in any sort of legal sense and are generally engaged in something closer to “wishful thinking.”

This picture might actually constitute fair use

Still, where there is a will, there is a way… or at least a few people willing to give it a shot.

An MMO emulation project usually consists of somebody reverse engineering their own version of the server side software of an MMO.  When the server side emulation of the game is ready, the players then use the client from the original game to connect.  This is done by altering the client so that it connects to the emulation rather than the original game login server.

Such server emulators are available for Ultima Online, Dark Age of Camelot, and as we have discussed here before, EverQuest.

There are, of course, legal issues involved here.  And while nobody can ever really predict who will sue whom for what here in the US, the urban legend level consensus seems to be that if can avoid the following, you and your emulation project will be safe:

  1. Don’t Charge – If you set up an emulation of an online game and you charge people money to use the game then you are clearly attempting to profit from somebody elses work, as in the case of Scapegaming, which brought in 3 million dollars in revenue from their private WoW server.
  2. Don’t Use Source Code – Game companies do not make a habit of handing out their source code, but leaks do happen from time to time.  Taking advantage of such a leak can tee you up for a lawsuit.
  3. Don’t Violate DMCA – Ah, the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, everybody’s favorite piece of legislation.  Circumventing security or encryption can get you in trouble here.  This was the other part of the Scapegaming case, the part that drove the award against them to $88 million.
  4. Don’t Distribute the Client – This is the part of the game that the end users needs to connect to your emulator, but it is also where all the copyrighted and trademarked material resides.

Following the above four rules will probably grant you about the same legal shielding that arguing that you don’t have to pay US income taxes because the statute behind it is flawed or the whole thing is an illicit conspiracy; which is to say, none at all.  Blizzard and Nexon, for example, quite actively go after any emulations of their game, though at least in the case of Blizzard I couldn’t tell you how you would do that without tripping over alleged rule #3.

But for some, life seems okay.  The EverQuest emulation community for example seems to have quite a few options, with everything from “real” 1999 style servers to happy solo-friendly romps through Norrath to new original content on top of the game, and Sony lawyers haven’t shut them down.

And, as an end user, as a player, these issues do not really come into play directly, except in the broader sense of there being a private emulation of your game of choice being available to you.  The companies in question are unlikely to spend time going after individual users when their goals can be accomplished by shutting down a server.

Except for one detail; the game client.

The game client is the one thing you need as an end user to be able to participate on these servers.

From what I have seen, a lot of the trouble of being able to play on these servers is getting the right version of the client.  EverQuest emulation, for example, seems to have a couple of very specific starting points, all of them older distributions of the game.

And for the Star Wars Galaxies emulators I listed way back at the start of this post, they will require a fresh, unpatched install from the original game disks.  No expansions, no compilations, no trial versions, no starter kit, no complete edition, no total experience, just the original distribution.

That original disk is a pretty rare bird already.  And you can bet if anybody tries to distribute copies of it LucasArts will jump on them right away.

So if you think SWG emulation is in your future, I hope you have that disk.

And if you don’t play on playing but have that disk sitting on a shelf somewhere, it might have some value on eBay at some point in the future.

Are you planning to play?  Or planning to sell?

Is anybody else planning to emulate the game?

And will LucasArts jump on these guys as soon as SWG is closed?