With the opening of RIFT Prime
on March 7th, players are showing an increased interest in this nearly seven-year-old MMO. One thing that everyone might not realize, especially if they are only now contemplating a return to the game, is that Trion has much more in the works than just the new server ruleset.
In fact, dataminers have pulled out a wealth of information for the upcoming Patch 4.4 from the public test server that gives us a much more fleshed-out idea of what’s coming.
Patch 4.4 contains the new Tenebrean Prison warfront for PvP players, two additional armor sets, a pair of instant adventures (one in Moonshade Highlands and one in Droughtlands), and some of the goodies for the seventh anniversary (ever wanted a little pet unicorn?). Blood storm dragon, desert snail, and balloon mounts also look to be in the works.
These days, EverQuest seems to exist to be a test bed for different progression server concepts. Its community certainly doesn’t tire of starting all over again, which Daybreak is banking on for the launch of the Coirnav progression server on March 16th.
As part of the game’s 19th anniversary, the rollout of Coirnav will give players a slightly different way to experience the game: without multiboxing. This “true box” server only allows one EverQuest account per computer as a way to encourage players to group up with friends instead of relying on armies of alts.
Other rules for this server ruleset including instanced raid bosses, a 12-week cadence of content unlocks, and slightly slower XP rates than most other progression servers. As with all of EverQuest’s progression shards, you’ll have to have a subscription to be able to access Coirnav.
Early on in all the WoW Classic hoopla, I’d been thinking of World of Warcraft legacy servers as the sort of gimmick servers that a lot of older games put up. Ultima Online, EverQuest, RuneScape – their hardcore servers, progression servers, old-school servers are sort of sideshows, literally, to the “real” game in the center ring.
But the day the Classic WoW subreddit went up and I watched the playerbase neatly conduct its semi-orderly self-partition, my thinking changed, such that I don’t really think it’s just a gimmick anymore. WoW Classic is going to be a whole new game. I’m not even sure Blizzard realizes it yet, given how weird and slapdash the BlizzCon announcement was, but if WoW Classic releases in the next couple of years, it’ll easily be one of the largest and most successful “new” AAA MMORPGs to come out in quite a while. It’ll be up there with AIR and New World. That’s a sobering thought – but maybe not all that surprising.
Are you thinking of WoW Classic as a totally new MMO? How will you be approaching it?
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?
In the process of picking yourself up off of the floor following Friday’s announcement of World of Warcraft Classic at BlizzCon 2017? As your mind grapples with Blizzard’s surprise revelation of a legacy server project that will take players back to the vanilla era of World of Warcraft, you probably share the same questions and concerns that Eurogamer voiced in an interview at the convention.
Executive Producer J. Allen Brack was reluctant to give the publication any specifics on a timetable, saying that the project was just announced, only basic infrastructure is in place, and that the team is forming. He did confirm that Classic won’t be taking away any people or resources from the main MMO, as Blizzard is treating this as a separate game with its own dedicated team.
“Our goal is to recreate that classic 1-60 gameplay,” Brack said. “Some things changed as time went on, with different patches. How does that get manifested? That’s one of the outstanding questions. But yeah, the goal is to recreate that exact experience, for better or for worse.”
You might recall that back in March, the RIFT
producer’s letter stated that the team was mulling over the idea of instituting limited-run “challenge servers”
that would operate with crazy rules and offer players ways to earn unique rewards for their main characters.
Well, now the team is allegedly surveying players on what they think about these proposed servers. According to a survey email that was sent out to some players, the team said, “In a recent RIFT producer’s letter, we announced our intent to release challenge servers in the future for RIFT. These fresh-start servers would feature the first 50 levels of the classic RIFT game. As a former player, we would appreciate your feedback.”
In other RIFT news, the MMO is throwing a “Shiny Shenanigans Weekend” that will conclude on May 29th. There are new sets to be found, artifact piñatas in every zone, special new rewards, and even a specific that can piñata only be spawned by one of the devs.
If you’re looking for the authentic classic MMO experience, shouldn’t a rough launch be part of it? That’s kind of the sour joke you hear being said concerning the start of EverQuest’s Agnarr progression server. Agnarr opened its doors yesterday to a crowd eager for a time-arrested experience, and yet was immediately besieged by crashes, broken character creation, zone lockouts, queues, and an allegedly rampant duping situation.
The dev team continued to post updates on the forums concerning some of the issues: “The enormous number of players attempting to create characters on Agnarr is straining our systems. We are currently managing the heavy load with a reduced maximum population cap, which we are increasing manually as players get through character creation and into the world.”
Back before BlizzCon, the admins of the now-sunsetted illegal World of Warcraft emulator Nostalrius issued a vague threat. “If Blizzard doesn’t make an announcement to honour their own core values, be sure that we will,” they wrote. Blizzard, however, made clear that no announcement about legacy servers was forthcoming, and those of you who watched BlizzCon alongside us know that Blizzard kept its promise.
As did Nostalrius. This afternoon, the emurunners announced that they are releasing all of their source code to the community and will allow rival emu group Elysium to resurrect Nostalrius, a move that will likely surprise private shard players who expected a new server announcement from Nostalrius itself.
The group claims that following its meeting with Blizzard earlier this year, it continued communicating with the studio, offering “mature proposals” for solving the very real legacy server issues, even offering to completely transfer all of its code and efforts to Blizzard.
There’s yet another petition related to legacy World of Warcraft servers live this week, this one begun by Mark Kern himself.
Kern (more on his backstory here) is a controversial former WoW developer who became involved in the vanilla/legacy WoW struggle last April, when a legal threat from Blizzard shut down a popular illegal WoW emulator called Nostalrius. The sunset sparked MMORPG community discussion about classic experiences and spawned a Nostalrius-backed petition with (to date) around 274,000 signatures. Kern joined the drama when he announced he’d be printing out the petition and hand-delivering it to Blizzard at a meeting with his former bosses during which he advocated for vanilla servers, which he then did.
The new petition, which has collected under 2000 signatures as of press time, implores BlizzCon attendees to pepper Blizzard with questions and reminders about legacy servers.
Blizzard’s J. Allen Brack has a post on the official forums tonight that ought to temper expectations players might have about World of Warcraft vanilla servers and a possible BlizzCon announcement.
“We’ve seen some talk among the community that you might be expecting to hear some news on legacy servers at BlizzCon,” he writes, “and we just wanted to take a moment to let you know that while we’re still discussing the possibility, we won’t have any updates to share on that until after the show.”
Earlier this month, pro-Legacy server representatives of the former Nostalrius emulator posted that BlizzCon marked “the golden occasion for [Blizzard] to announce [its] plan for legacy realms, and potentially fulfill the dreams of millions of fans over the world,.” The group insisted that Blizzard has “everything in [its] hands to fulfill the large community request for Legacy servers,” and then Nostalrius issued what appeared to be a threat: “[I]f Blizzard doesn’t make an announcement to honour their own core values, be sure that we will.”
Mark Kern, who this weekend went to Blizzard’s campus armed with the printed vanilla World of Warcraft server petition, has returned from his meeting there and has posted a video describing how it all went. Kern says he believes that Blizzard “took this meeting very seriously” based on how CEO Mike Morhaime and his staff handled both the social and the technical discussions, but Morhaime did caution him that he would make no promises. According to Kern, Morhaime “wants you guys to know that he is listening to you and the WoW dev team also is following this very closely.”
“What Mike wanted to convey was that the technology — while it’s not insurmountable — is definitely more complicated than we’ve made it seem,” Kern acknowledges. “It’s not as easy as throwing up a server like Nostalrius did. Blizzard has a huge infrastructure and a lot of systems that tie into it. Plus they’re very concerned about hitting that quality bar. They want to make sure that anything offer is going to be of exceptionally high quality to match everything else that they’ve done, especially for a flagship product like World of Warcraft.”
As we’ve been reporting, the team from the shuttered Nostalrius World of Warcraft emulator has been appointed as “ambassadors” of a sort to represent the vanilla-loving community with Blizzard’s devs. There’s an upcoming meeting in the works, and the Nostalrius folks are polling the community about its involvement and interest in legacy servers.
“We believe it is now time to get a summary of your thoughts for legacy realms in general that will be presented to Blizzard at our meeting with our post-mortem,” the Nostalrius team posted. “We want this survey to be shared with the largest possible audience: former Nostalrius players, legacy players in general, but also anyone who played World of Warcraft at some point or signed the petition.”
Blizzard has hinted at some interest in creating “pristine servers” for World of Warcraft, although this ruleset does not sound like the pure vanilla experience that Nostalrius provided. If you want your voice to be heard, take the legacy server survey and feel like you’ve accomplished something great for your Monday.
For those who can’t get enough information about what led to the creation and maintenance of the Nostalrius World of Warcraft server, the site Buffed.de sat down and spoke with the people behind the server about exactly that. It’s another look at the motivations behind the team, which apparently was about 30 members strong by the time the project was shut down a few weeks ago in response to cease-and-desist letters.
The Nostalrius team claims that since the server was not for-profit (asking for money only for hosting costs) and did not use any of Blizzard’s server code, it was immune to any shutdown. Now that the shutdown has happened, the hope is that it does start the ball rolling for official legacy servers. Check out the whole interview if you’d like to know more; you’ll have to scroll down a bit and click to translate the interview to English.