World of Warcraft on Private Servers


Most players are so called “retail” players. These are players who pay a monthly fee to play World of Warcraft on Blizzard’s servers. Other players prefer to play on “private servers”.

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I stopped to play WoW right before Cataclysm was released, after patch 4.0 was released. I didn’t like the change Blizzard made to the game, and it was so terribly buggy that it was impossible for me to play. The game was freezing every ten seconds (no, it is not an expression!).

I went to Age of Conan, that I played a year or so, next Rift for a few months, after that Star Wars the Old Republic for a few weeks, and then I found some interesting private WoW servers. A Burning Crusade server which worked pretty well and had a decent population and later, a Wrath of the Lich King server with very high population: Molten.

But what are those private servers?

A private server is a server on which you can have your own private realm.

Private servers use an emulator to work. There are many different emulators that may be used, but the Ascent-family emulators and MaNGOS are those, which have been most popular. Both systems come from WoWEmu.

Anyway, there are many, many different kinds of servers, and we don’t want to be too technical, here.

However, there are glitches and bugs, many more than on retail, of course.

Why do people play on these servers?

Well, the principal reason people have to play on private servers, is because it is free. In fact, there are three main ideas in a private server:

1. It is free to play on them (well…should be! We’ll see about that later).
2. You can alter the game.
3. You can develop the game in a way you like. So sometimes, the game can be really different and with other challenges than the retail game. On many private servers, for example, to take an enemy city like Orgrimmar or Stormwind, is by taking a flag in the city, a bit like Warsong Gulch. Molten made a special event in Wintergrasp with special PvP-quests for Christmas.

So it is funny for the developers or the programmers who want to try something new and want to experience game development, but much less fun for the end user, of course.

Legal or not?

Private servers are not totally legals, but not totally illegal either.

It is illegal, according to Blizzard Entertainment’s EULA to have a private server made public (so other can play on it). But it is not illegal to have it on your computer to have fun with. It is, in short, not illegal to have a private, private server.

Nevertheless, it is actually forbidden by the licence of World of Warcraft to open maps- and DBC-files.

Just by opening these files, you violate the End User Licence and this is illicit in USA and in some European countries (but not in some other countries).

It is, in fact, depending on the law of the country you are in whether it is forbidden or not.

I don’t remember, I ever saw Blizzard going to war against private servers. I guess they think, like I do, that players on private servers are people who never will pay to play anyway, so they don’t lose any money. And besides, it might interest them so much so they actually make the switch and end up becoming customers.

How good are they?

How is it to play on a private server, if you are a end-user without much technical knowledge? Well, there are pluses and minuses.

The pluses first:

– You don’t pay. It’s free.

– You get a chance to try the game out much more than with Blizzard’s “free to play” option, which, in fact, doesn’t give you many possibilities.

– You are free to move to a server which gives you other possibilities than the one you are on. Meaning that if you are tired of one server, you can contact another server and ask them to make a copy of your character or characters with gold, items, etc. and just move.

– You can have different gaming experiences than retail players, depending of how much programming the owners of the private server know about and are doing.

– Most servers will offer you top gear, rare mounts (I do have a couple of spectral tigers on the BC-server) and other things that are near impossible to get on retail.

Then the minuses:

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– Many servers, if you don’t donate or become “gold” member, you’ll have fewer advantages than the donating members. It is enough to take a look at the “donation-page” most servers have to see it.

– Some servers have downtime, long downtime – can you complain when you are on a free server? Yes, but you will have a harsh answer back. Molten, the biggest private server at the moment, has days of downtime in a row. And even though you were “donor” and actually paid, you don’t have much to say. The tone used by the support is very impolite, and they really treat you like you were some stupid kid. You will never be treated that way by a Blizzard’s game master. If you did, you can just make a screen-dump and complain.

– World of Warcraft is a real demanding game (technically speaking). The servers and the connection have to be state of the art to handle it. Many users complain and speak about real slow servers and that doesn’t give you much fun.

– Many quests are not working on most private servers. This is why many of them offer 5, 10, 20 x leveling speed and extra loot, so it doesn’t matter much if 3 out of 5 quests don’t work. Kind of: You start as a night-elf, get your first quest, you kill one pig and get to level 2, loot 5 gold and 7 pieces of armor, and get honored with Darnassus.

– Since the Database-files have been opened, anyone can access it and cheat. This is why hackers can make “dupes”. To make dupe is to duplicate items.

Let’s take titansteel bars for example (yes, I was playing on a Lich King server). A miner has about 24 hours of cool-down before a new titansteel bar can be made, a tailor has to wait 2.5 days before a new ebonweave can be made, etc. some things have long cool-down.

With just a couple of manipulations, a hacker can duplicate these elements and sell them.

This is called item duping.

Item duping is not possible on retail servers, but it is fairly easy to do on private servers. In this way, some hackers get a lot of gold and exchange this gold for real money or advantages. They will look for a donor who can get some items for them with real cash, by giving them 500,000 gold for example.

– Last, but not least, there is a security risk on private servers. script-kiddies may have fun by hacking in your machine or sending viruses around.

So private servers? Yes, it can be fun to play for a while, but forever? I know I didn’t. After Pandaria, I thought Blizzard did an okay job to correct many things and the game is again fun to play. If they screw up the next extension, I don’t think I will go back to some private servers, I will just do more out of Guildwars 2.

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