It's no simple feat to host a server for any MMOG. The equipment alone
can cost thousands of dollars, not to mention the bandwidth. Top all of
that off with the manpower involved in actually coding the
client-to-server interactions and the maintenance of both the hardware
and software, and you've got a monumental task on your hands. And yet,
despite these and other obstacles, these major financial undertakings
are pursued and accomplished by enthusiasts from all walks of life. And
while some are lauded for their efforts, others are slapped with
multi-million dollar lawsuits and accused of copyright and ToS
What pushes private developers to take these risks and create these
private worlds based on existing titles in the MMOG market? The
motivation seems to vary from nostalgia to greed and everything in
The most infamous of these enterprises is no doubt the World of
Warcraft private server created by a group known as Scapegaming. This
group offered a private version of Azeroth and its expansion realms,
free from the subscription fees of Blizzard. In place of these fees,
the administrator(s) of Scapegaming offered special abilities, unlocks,
content and buffs to players using PayPal transactions. Want the
ability to never run out of mana, or wield the famous Ashbringer? Fork
over your real life dough and you can have whatever you like. Using
this pay model, it is estimated that Scapegaming made more than
$100,000 on a monthly basis. Not a bad living, all things
running a private server, as it turns out, is not a growth industry.
Scapegaming received sudden infamy recently due to a lawsuit that
awarded Blizzard more than $88 MILLION in damages. This fee includes a
minimum $200 infraction for each case of circumvention from each of its
reported 427,393 users, in addition to lost subscriptions and more. The
court ruled that the Terms of Service Agreement (aka ToS) explicitly
prohibits this type of activity, and constitutes a binding contract
between Blizzard and its customers.
Though similar private services have been offered in the past on
private servers for other MMOGs, this was the first time that a dollar
figure even close to this magnitude was discussed, and certainly the
first time that such a claim has been legally levied against the
proprietors of the private server in question. It is entirely possible
that Blizzard sought to set a precedent for such activities, by asking
for such an eye-catching verdict, when past proceedings have consisted
of little more than Cease and Desist orders.
You can read more about this landmark ruling by following href="http://www.tentonhammer.com/node/87962" target="_top">this
perfectly frank, this verdict makes me uneasy. There are certain things
in the MMOG industry that are simply gone forever, never to be
experienced by another gamer. If you weren't around at the right time,
that content could be beyond your grasp forever. WoW's impending
Cataclysm expansion will result in a complete revamp of the classic
world of Azeroth, resulting in an entirely new gaming experience. Many
old zones will no longer exist or will change so drastically that the
original experiences that shaped my MMOG infancy almost a decade ago
are going to be lost forever.
But what if I want to play in the Classic Azeroth? What if I didn't
even like the changes that came with Wrath of the Lich King, or Burning
Crusade? Sadly, it appears as though I have no choice, and this lawsuit
makes it clear that Blizzard will violently squash any efforts to make
those classic worlds available on private servers.
But, as I mentioned earlier in this article, not every private server
is vilified. The private EverQuest server known as Project 1999 has
been under the watchful eyes of publisher and license-holders at Sony
Online Entertainment since before its inception in 2008, but has
garnered no more negative reaction than apathy as of this time. A few
SOE employees have even noted their approval of the project, since it
offers a form of gameplay no longer available for subscribers to the
modern evolution of EverQuest.
1999 is perhaps a unique undertaking in private server hosting. The
world that lives and breathes on their server is EverQuest as it was in
1999. Right down to the low-polygon-count graphics and questionable
design decisions that include corpse loss and cross-world travel that
could take days of real-life playing time. But an audience exists for
these days of yore, when men were men and women had ridiculouslypointy
breasts. The Project 1999 server boasts more than 27,000 characters
across 14,000 or so accounts, so clearly there are gamers that are
interested in this classic gaming experience, despite its warts.
It should be noted that each one of the owners of those 14,000 accounts
are violating the EULA for their EverQuest client by logging onto the
private server at Project 1999. So, why take the risk, especially after
the aforementioned lawsuit has clearly made it a big bad no-no to
connect to any server not run by a games official developers?
It's possible that Project 1999's unique financial model has kept them
from coming under direct fire from SOE. They do not distribute the EQ
client themselves and instead require all players to obtain their own
retail copy of the game, usually by retail purchase directly from SOE.
Additionally, they do not charge to connect to their servers and do not
offer any premium services like those Scapegaming offered, instead
existing solely on donations from their enthusiastic fanbase.
In fact, a quote from SOE's President John Smedley nails the point home
on how they feel about the efforts of the Project 1999 crew:
"Practically, our stance is that Im amazed that people know how to do
that. Typically emulators have a very limited functionality but it
really is an amazing technical feat... until those people start
charging and ripping us off, then it becomes something else."
If you're interested in reading more about Project 1999, Ten Ton Hammer
published an in-depth editorial in April 2010 that includes interviews
with several of the big players involved. Read it by following href="http://www.tentonhammer.com/features/everquest/nostalgia"
servers don't always exist solely as an alternative to an existing
published title, however. In an amazing example of grassroots
enthusiasm, the folks at Net-7 have managed to cobble together a
working server and client for a defunct MMOG.
The Earth & Beyond Emulator offers fans of this canceled title
the opportunity to once more play in the universe they fell in love
with during the game's brief 2-year lifespan. The project has been
under construction since the game was dismantled in 2004, and is still
in a state of constant re-development. Being a labor of love,
unsupported by the original creators of the game, it is bound to have
its own share of bugs, glitches and server issues. Despite these
however, the emulator stands as a testament to the will and dedication
of both the fans of this title, and the original developers that put
together a world capable of endearing itself so deeply with its players.
To become a part of the efforts to revitalize this game, check out
Net-7's website for complete details by following href="http://www.enb-emulator.com/" target="_top">this
Got a tip about a unique private server that deserves some press and is
willing to risk the exposure? Or a comment on the concept of reverse
engineering these games for private use? Please share your thoughts in
our comment section and join the discussion!
To read the latest guides, news, and features you can visit our EverQuest Game Page.