The Daily Grind: How old should an MMO be to consider classic servers?

Last week, Justin and I were chit-chatting about legacy servers in MMORPGs when he said that Trion should really get moving on classic servers for RIFT. My first reaction was what, really, that game is way too young to need vanilla servers! But then I remembered playing on Ultima Online emulators within a year or two of launch. RIFT, which came out in 2011, isn’t exactly old, but it’s not brand-new either. It’s old enough to have weathered a lot of changes, some of which were probably wide-ranging and contentious enough to have created plenty of players who’d rather see them undone and the game returned to a more primordial state.

What’s the cut-off – or is there one? How old should an MMO be to consider classic servers? And if age isn’t the determining factor, what exactly is?

Every morning, the Massively Overpowered writers team up with mascot Mo to ask MMORPG players pointed questions about the massively multiplayer online roleplaying genre. Grab a mug of your preferred beverage and take a stab at answering the question posed in today’s Daily Grind!
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33 Comments on "The Daily Grind: How old should an MMO be to consider classic servers?"

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Alex Malone

Whilst developers continue to build MMOs based around vertical progression, I believe they should consider vanilla servers the instant they start talking about an expansion that changes the level cap.

In a vertical world, and expansion that increases level is going to dramatically alter the way you play the game. Either all your favourite content is going to become obsolete, or the core gameplay will change due to bigger values / changes to mechanics.

Beyond that, even if they don’t want to do vanilla servers, I still believe a company should create a “long term support release” just before every expansion – branch off the codebase and make sure that at any time in the future you can redeploy that version of the code. So, even if they don’t do a vanilla server themselves, they could still outsource it or charge a license fee if they wanted to.

Reader
Zen Dadaist

I’d take it less on calendar age and more on how much the core game has changed. Pitch a classic server at the point in its cycle which had the largest playerbase.

Reader
Malcolm Swoboda

Ideally, each ‘version’. Otherwise, after a few versions. For WoW they should have at Cata. For RIFT they should have at or around Nightmare Tide. For SWTOR they should have at KOTFE.

Reader
Zen Dadaist

Heh, for Rift I’d have actually said vanilla right before Storm Legion’s release. Ember Isle was great, Conquest wasn’t yet atrocious, Crafting gear still had a purpose at the very highest level.

Reader
Robert Mann

DEMAND, not age. If enough people want it to support it, then developers and publishers should consider it. That simple to me.

Reader
Raimo Kangasniemi

MMOs with a large following ideally should, I believe, leave behind at each expansion a new ‘classic server’ for those players who like that stage of the game and don’t want to move forward.

So, when a MMO is old enough to have a major expansion, it is old enough to put up classic servers.

Reader
Ben Stone

Was about to post the same thing. Especially if the expansion is significantly changing the core game (ie: cataclysm)

rondstat
Reader
rondstat

Just curious – what are the games with Classic servers?

Everquest and Runescape are all I know, and those are both pretty ancient for MMOs. Any newer ones?

Reader
Michael18

Age does not matter, it depends on how much the game has changed.

In case of WoW there are two main reasons why Classic would make sense:
1) Cata replaced the 1-60 leveling experience entirely, with a very different quest flow and overall feel.
2) With every expansion, Blizzard is determined to render the previous content largely irrelevant.

Reader
starbuck1771

Ten Years / A Decade Minimum.

Reader
Matt Redding

Rift truly has had a lot of changes. The game at launch was one flavor and then there were some major updates right away as classes at launch were still OP in some ways. But they really kept tweaking and fiddling for a while and at least 1 soul was seriously reworked from scratch not long after launch and another massively nerfed. Then there was a total rework of every soul when the first expansion was coming in and the level cap going up. And while some of the later things they added to the game like truncating the tutorial and adding a party finder for random leveling activities, they really kept poking at things that could have been left alone. It was like the devs would rate chairs and someone would go “Ok, let’s toss away the concept that a Warden is a stacking heal over time healer and instead make them raid aoe heals”. Change for the sake of change. It got annoying. It really contributed to me just falling out of like with the game.

Reader
Apollymi

Although I’ve played Rift since launch, I really never consider it a serious game. It’s one I drop into whenever I’m bored with everything else. I like the mindless slaughter whenever there are invasions when I’m in one of those moods.

Reader
A Dad Supreme

At least a decade.

Reader
Apollymi

It depends on the game. When the devs feel its time for a major overhaul of game mechanics, then its time for a classic server. For SWTOR, in my opinion, that would have been two years ago at the time of Knights of the Fallen Empire. For WoW, before Cata.

And as others have stated below, demand.

Reader
Jeremy Barnes

I think for popular games, the 1st expansion. You startup progression servers.

Minimalistway
Reader
Minimalistway

Change is what makes people go to the past, if things never change then no need for classic servers, adding more content but keeping the world and systems as they are is not enough to make classic servers, removing some content and changing systems or add new ones? that’s where an MMO should provide Classic servers.

Reader
Bryan Turner

Depends on the type of game, GW2 for example has no gear ladder, no levels after 80, and zones that make you sync to the appropriate level when you enter them for if you want to play classic GW2 then just go to Queensdale, or Ashford.

Reader
Utakata

I think it’s something to do with demand and not age…as there’s not a lot of requests for WildStar or Champions Online legacy servers I gather. o.O

styopa
Reader
styopa

And change, really?
For example, I don’t think RIFT has materially changed since release – I mean, sure stuff’s added on top in the ever-ascending ladder of level-caps, and new zones added but RIFT 2017 is *far* closer to RIFT-original than WOW-2017 is to WoW Vanilla.
But ultimately, as you point out, it’s about DEMAND.
If enough people say “take my money” then *any* game should consider it.

FWIW, and very IMO, I think GW2 would be a better game if they gave it more of a GW1 treatment in many respects. Archeage really screwed the pooch delivering the ‘mix and match classes to make your toon’ paradigm, there’s still room in the current market!

Reader
MesaSage

The day after the first expansion. Then the ability to clone or move your char to the expansion servers at your leisure.

Reader
Tanek

Not at class balance changes? What if the expansion just adds to the base game and does not change it?

Reader
MesaSage

What is this sorcery you speak of?

Reader
Tanek

I’m just saying that “expansion” is no more a definitive dividing line than “age”. there has to be some factor about it that merits a legacy server.

Reader
MesaSage

I was more or less saying that you could, as a company, solve any issue of legacy servers on the day of the first expansion. They may not make changes to the first expansion, but they WILL. If the legacy servers are already “running” there’s no need to do what Blizzard (and others) have to do to back engineer their own game at some distant point in the future. Fork it from day one and it’s never an issue.

Reader
Knox Harrington

I think it really depends on how much a game has changed since its release. Time has little to do with it if not much has changed in that time. Look at how much Star Wars Galaxies changed in just two years from release with the infamous New Game Enhancements. The game was barely two years old before they dramatically altered the way it played. So a game’s age is really arbitrary, just like with anything else really.

Reader
rafael12104

Well, I think of it as rule sets.

So, MMOs evolve and so at some point you may actually be playing a game with a rule set that is different than the one you started with. So, where is in the old game there was no group finder and you had to seek out others to group with, the new game with group finder doesn’t have that requirement.

When does classic become classic? When the current rule sets differs in function from the old. There will always be those that long for the sense of nostalgia for the old rules. New isn’t always better, but also the old ways take you back to when the game was a new wonder.

Age is not a determining factor. The evolution of the game is the determining variable.

Reader
Tanek

I’m not sure whether age of the game should be a deciding factor. In the case of WoW for me, the definite line would have been Cataclysm. The story of the game when playing from 1 to max level may have been a mess before Cata, but after it was unrecognizable.

Previous changes to mechanics, class story and quests, etc may have been annoying, but not necessarily a flood-the-desert kind of thing.

pepperzine
Reader
pepperzine

I’d love to play a TERA “classic” server for before their f2p conversion, even though it only launched 6 years ago

Reader
Schmidt.Capela

Two things here:

– In the sense of preparing for it, devs should always consider the possibility of classic servers from day 1. Doing a bit of work to properly backup and document previous versions can greatly reduce the needed time and costs if they ever implement classic servers. Even better if they separate game logic and infrastructure in independent modules with a well-defined API between them, as it would make it much easier (and, thus, cheaper) to, down the road, update the classic server and client to run with the current infrastructure.

– There is no time frame for when rolling out classic servers should be considered. Rather, it’s about how removed from the original experience the current game is, and in particular whether old content has been removed or not; if the current game feels like a completely different experience, I would say it’s a good idea to consider classic servers. WoW is a strong case for classic servers because it changes so much of the game every expansion, while some other MMOs keep their systems mostly static while only adding content and thus have much less need to roll out classic servers.

Reader
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BalsBigBrother

Given what I have seen with the whole legacy server coverage it seems that most folks would like one the second an mmo pushes out an update that they don’t like or agree with ;-)

Tizmah
Reader
Tizmah

Probably has less to do with age and more about how many updates changed the game from what it used to be. Like..if there was a certain “new game experience”…then yes classic servers please…

Reader
Lavayar .

This!
Nothing to do with age.
It’s all about gamechanghing decisions that was not accepted by community.

Reader
Simon F

Exactly, if the game has undergone drastic changes, FFXIV for example, then it’d be a valid point to make. As for a game like Guild Wars 2, it’s essentially the same as before any expansions were released, so I don’t think those would be necessary.
World of Warcraft has gotten several major changes, and I’d even argue that the current WoW is essentially a different game than what we first got on the release. The two merely have the same shells.

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