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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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.

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.

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.

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.

Robert Mann

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

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.

Ben Stone

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


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?


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.


Ten Years / A Decade Minimum.

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.


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.

A Dad Supreme

At least a decade.