Monthly Archives: April 2016

Piracy and Legacy Servers

Let me start by saying – I am a game developer. I get paid to MAKE games. I have made games that sold millions of copies. I have made games that barely sold at all. I have been at a studio that got *house buying sized bonuses* and at studios where it was more like “The studio will be closing on Friday.”

When someone pirates a game – I have conflicting feelings about it. You are taking my work, my 70+ hour weeks, spent crunching and killing myself, stealing it, and enjoying it for free. At the same time, my brain is also able to comprehend that pirates are not buyers. 1 pirated copy of the game does not equal a lost sale. Pirates aren’t going to BUY the game regardless. If they can’t pirate it, they just won’t play it. It still fucking bothers me though. It’s still theft.

The WoW social media community is having a bit of a fuss over Legacy servers and the shut down of a large private server. So here’s my point of view. A game developer’s point of view.

FIRST: Private servers are piracy. They are theft. They are stealing Blizzard’s work.

FULL.STOP. The server got shut down BECAUSE IT’S THEFT. They didn’t make the game. They didn’t make the art. They didn’t design the levels. They took someone else’s work and recreated it, and acted like they had done a ton of work. THEY DIDN’T. If I retype the Lord of the Rings, that doesn’t give me the right to sell it, make movies of it, etc. Hell, if I just print it out on my printer, that doesn’t give me the right to SELL that print.

Second: 150k pirates stealing WoW – Vanilla or otherwise – are NOT equal to 150k subs for WoW.

You can’t make the argument that 150k people playing on a private server is 150k people who would be willing to play a legacy server run by blizzard. Sure, there was probably a small subset of people who are already subscribers and just went to play there because they miss Vanilla. BUT it’s likely more than HALF of those people were just pirates who wanted to play WoW but DON’T WANT TO PAY BLIZZARD FOR IT.

Third: Game development, especially with 16+ year old code-bases, is NOT easy/simple.

People like to argue – “Well a bunch of fans did it, why can’t Blizzard?” For one, Blizzard has to make it work within their code base. They would have to do it right – without major game breaking bugs or exploits. They would have to have it work with Battle.Net and all of the tech they use. It’s also not as easy as just “rolling back” to a specific revision. We know WoW has been in development for at least 16 years (probably more like 20). I have worked on 5 year old code bases that were already a tangled awful mess of “what the fuck were those programmers thinking?” I SHUDDER to even think of Blizzard’s. Do you realize how many devs they have currently working for them? How many they have had who have left? They mentioned at BlizzCon they use FOUR different versions of source control. FOUR. That’s a NIGHTMARE. Hell, with that much time, that many versions of source control, and the sheer volume of changes to the game, I would be astonished if they even thought about trying to build a legacy server, much less TRIED. And don’t kid yourself, it would be for less than 100k players at MOST. That would be the population the first 3-4 months. Then it would drop to 50k or less.

Programmers are the most expensive part of a dev team. That is the majority of what would be needed to get legacy servers running. It is simply not cost effective to get a legacy server running, because it the number of subs would be so low, they wouldn’t make their money back. Remember that whole Pirates Copies Don’t Equal Sales – if a FREE WoW server only attracts 150k players – then a paid one would attract less than half of that. (I actually would peg it more around a 10th of that.) Add to this the fact that the BEST programmers suited to this task would be the ones who have been at the company the longest – as they have the most first hand knowledge. That means that they would be pulling their best people off NEW content to work on OLD content for a fraction of the player base. You think garrisons cost you a raid tier? Legacy servers will cost you an EXPANSION – and would KILL the live game in the process.

Let’s look at the example Cataclysm gave us – they went back and reworked zones to bring them up to Wrath levels of quality. And how did that go? It didn’t. Blizzard even admitted that they ended up spending too much time and resources reworking old content THAT PEOPLE DIDN’T PLAY. They said they should have made more end game and high level content.

Finally: Vanilla wasn’t that great. Nostalgia is a weird thing.

Do you like Paladins? Not in Vanilla you didn’t. Remember being an out of combat rezzer? I do. I sat there and did NOTHING and wasn’t allowed to roll on gear unless no one who was killing the boss wanted it, and rezzed people who died. Remember trying to corral 40 people into a raid that took hours and hours and you could only raid if you were willing to play WoW 40+ hours a week? I do, because I couldn’t raid. I had school, then work. I had things I had to do. I wanted to raid.

Bags were only 14 slots. No dungeon groups, just hours in trade trying to form a group. Soul shards, ammo, materials for spells. Keys for UBRS. Shields with shadow power. Hunter pets had to be leveled and friended. Spell Ranks.  Only one way to level – grinding. Only one way to play – grinding.

So no, I don’t think Blizzard should waste time and money they could be spending on PAYING customers (like me!) and making us NEW content on revamping old content for thieves.