Private WoW server Felmyst shut down in one day

World of Warcraft

There is, perhaps, a not-so-unknown secret in the World of Warcraft community that many people are unhappy with the way the game has evolved. Streamlined interactions, fast travel, the loss of talent trees, major changes to the landscape (such as the now-flooded Thousand Needles), rapid leveling, repetitious quests, questionable lore addons, and so on. It is also relatively well known that because of the longing some players have for the much more involved, grindier, slower-paced, talent-centric nature of the original WoW, private servers, meaning ones not run by WoW developer Blizzard, have popped up all over the place.

One of the best and most stable of these private servers was Felmyst, a four-year labor of love by a developer known as Gummy, who suffers from Musular Dystrophy and is for all intents and purposes, homebound. Well known in the private server community, both Gummy and Felmyst were doing well, with a stable build and a solid user base. However, a mere one day after the Felmyst servers finally went live, Gummy received a Cease and Desist order from Blizzard. You can read the gory details over at Ars Technica, and I should also mention that I was going to post Gummy’s formal announcement about the shutdown that he posted to his website, however the website went offline just one day after he posted that. For a four year project, it vanished into thin air very quickly.

UPDATE: Apparently his response is back up on felmyst.com, but for how much longer I can’t say. Here it is:

Gummy's response

Gummy’s response

If you’re the lazy type who doesn’t like to click on images, here is what he wrote:

Felmyst 

I began this project roughly four years ago and last year when Blizzard began taking action more seriously it weighed heavily on me as not only was I already heavily invested into the work but others around me were as well. Because of my health situation I wasn’t in a position to cut losses and start over on something different, at least not something that would take four years to make. Last year’s news of what Blizzard was doing came at the absolute worst time for me, frankly, with so many years already invested. To explain what may appear as an odd series of decisions it seems worthwhile to disclose my condition, muscular dystrophy, which only one other person in the online sphere knew of until now. 

Of course, that is why I’m not able to pick up and move to another country as an alternative means to host the server since I’m not really able to live on my own. That is also the reason I’ve been able to work mostly full time on this project as I’m unemployed, though I have sacrificed much of my well being dedicating everything I have to this. Why am I disclosing this? I’m not really sure, but I feel compelled to. 

So the question instead becomes: why host it yourself? The problem with that is our popularity snowballed way too fast once the release date was set. 

Before the release date was declared, most people expected the server to flounder with a small population, the irony of which quickly became a meme. Therefore, months ago I saw no reason to hand all of our work over to someone I didn’t know when the project had a reasonable chance to stay small enough to avoid the need. Though I have no problem contributing to honest developers, the market to wrongfully profit from this stuff is much too lucrative to hand it out on a whim. Had we time to smooth out the release, this certainly would have been something to explore. The warning signs to expect notice from Blizzard were there but receiving it that quickly was something I don’t think many expected. 

So why did I make this project? I love the game and community, especially the community. The old game was a great way to meet people and see new faces. It makes me happy, and programming makes me happy. Of course, I am sad that things didn’t turn out the way I’d hoped but I don’t think I’d change any of the decisions I made. I gambled that we could cap the servers at 3k and enjoy a close community. Sadly, I did not win that gamble, though on some level it was nice to see so many people eager to enjoy something I worked on. This project gave the last four years of my life a sense of purpose that I thoroughly enjoyed. 

So why not tell people of that plan ahead of time to stifle hype? The problem with private servers is that there is no middle ground. If people expect a server to “only” have 3000 (real) players then they just won’t play and you’ll instead end up with 300, which isn’t playable. 

A lot of people are of course asking for the source code. Although it may not be in my best interest to distribute the whole thing in its entirety at this point, I’ll see what I can manage that would be beneficial to other programmers who are still learning. 

Gummy 
gummy52facebook@gmail.com

All of this rubs me the wrong way. The fact that the C&D order was delivered just one day after the servers went live even though Blizzard must have known about it years ago, that the servers went down so fast, that the website went offline so fast (but is now back), it was just scrubbed into nothing immediately after such a long development cycle. Maybe Gummy simply was spooked by having a multi-billion dollar company com after him. Some in the community said he should move his servers to another country to circumvent Blizzard’s attempt at shutting him down, however Gummy claims he doesn’t have the resources for that. Others were and are still imploring him to release the source code, however he states there are legal implications and ramifications to doing that and has therefore made no such commitment.

Another interesting legal wrinkle is that it is apparently not illegal to run a private server, the issue is distributing the client along with it that causes the problem. I don’t know the technicalities, but there has even been the argument that if you kept the servers up without including a client, which the Felmyst download did, there wouldn’t have been a problem. Again, I don’t know the specifics of the case and Blizzard’s claim to IP so I can’t comment on that. I can say that Gummy claims to have done most of the coding to get the thing up and running.

Frankly, I don’t know what Blizzard’s obsession is over not setting up a vanilla server themselves. They shut down Nostalrius, claiming the whole time they would work with the team to set up an officially-sanctioned legacy server, then just…nothing. Frankly, Blizzard lied to them, to us, and did so deliberately. On Nostalrius’ official site, you can read the latest announcement, from all the way back in May of 2016 – and note there has been nothing since – of how Nostalrius thought they would be part of something great and working with Blizzard to set up a legitimate vanilla server, not realizing they were being misled. To show how big the demand is for something like this, which incidentally would cost Blizzard very little to implement, this is a no joke screenshot from the last minutes of Nostalrius:

The last moments of Nostalrius

The last moments of Nostalrius

Seems like something people want.

So what can you do now if you wish to play the informally-labeled ‘vanilla WoW?’ You can do what I did, and switch over to Elysium. You have to get the client via torrent, but it’s stable, works beautifully, and for someone like me who still remembers being blown away when they first saw WoW, and longs for the difficult, slow, plodding, yet rewarding gameplay experience original WoW offered, it’s glorious going back to those early days; before Thousand Needles was flooded, before Durotar was as well, before the great sundering, before all of that. When Barrens Chat was as lively as ever, the Defias roamed free, you had to train skills, and find Mankrik’s wife, when some wore a Big Blue Dress and Alterac Valley could go on for days, when you had to suffer abysmal drop rates to earn your levels in order to pay 40 gold for a horse, it brought a tear of joy to my eye to relive those opening cinematics for the Undead and Tauren that hooked me right from the beginning. Its default graphics settings made the game look like I was back in its 2004 release date, but after cranking everything to max, the game looked beautiful.

Elysium WoW Screen

Elysium WoW Screen

Additionally, I set up characters on their Anathema server, which was recommended to me, however their Elysium server is much more populated. That’s good on the one hand as the opportunity for groups and simply interaction is higher, but it comes at the expense of gameplay as it can lag severely, although I suppose that is quite reminiscent of original WoW. On the Anathema server, things are better, but it is still well populated, runs smooth, and I personally feel has a better balance, plus I still get to experience groups, Barrens chat, and and interaction. Here is a pic from Orgrimmar on Anathema, and as you can see it’s bustling with activity.

Orgrimmar on Anathema

Orgrimmar on Anathema

There’s even whisper spam from gold farmers!

Just like vanilla

Just like vanilla

The only real problem I had was naming my character. Every single name I typed in gave a ‘That name is unavailable” error, even some of the ones it recommended to me did the same! There were some other minor, non-gameplay related things: At one point I repeatedly took fire damage although I wasn’t near a fire, an NPC referred to me by the wrong name, and an NPC clipping through the world; he came back though. There is also only one server, so server time never lines up with actual time. Other than that, no troubles so far.

Well, except for this:

UPDATE: Recently there have been some major server crashes. Actually, I don’t know what the specific issue is, but today all action stopped, and never started again. I wasn’t kicked back to the character select or login screen, it didn’t freeze up, it just stopped responding. My character could run around, but that’s all. All other players in the vicinity vanished. It also was unable to login to the character select screen afterwards, and had to x-out (I play in window mode) to try again. This happened multiple times today, my third day in. It has been smooth until now, and a patch was just rolled out earlier, which may have something to do with it.

UPDATE II: The issue was fixed, however I lost about 40 minutes of progress.

As great as it all is, be warned: it is not for the faint of heart. It is the grindiest grind in grindville, however because it is (I think) Burning Crusade, you level up a little faster than pure vanilla. But it is also very unforgiving ear;y on for some classes. For a while, as a Tauren hunter, around level 8 I was dying more than I was questing. I spent a lot of time in black and white (meaning dead), and I would get stomped by same-level mobs. For every one I killed, I would be the loser multiple times. Enemies are densely packed, it’s very easy to draw multiple aggros, and you often have to proceed very carefully. Once I got a pet, however, the whole dynamic changed and it became much more balanced. In the brief time I spent with some other classes, rogues, druids and warlocks made it much easier to progress early on. Warriors and priests, not so much. I didn’t try the mage or shaman classes.

It’s been very fun returning to almost-original WoW. When it was first being hyped all the way back in 2004, I didn’t pay it much attention, reading about it in game magazines with only passing interest. When the beta rolled around I thought “What the hell, I’ll give it a whirl” and was floored by what I saw. Immediately hooked, I knew I was witnessing something, experiencing something monumental; both literally and figuratively game-changing.

In fact, I got so much out of original WoW, had so many good experiences (I’ll never forget a higher-level Alliance chasing me all the way from Thousand Needles to Un’Goro crater, where I jumped over the edge and slowfell to the ground below, escaping my pursuer, only to be immediately devoured by a dinosaur. Good times.), I actually bought the Bloodscalp server on which I used to play when Blizzard auctioned it. It’s a prized possession.

Bloodscalp WoW Server

Bloodscalp WoW Server

I never played Alliance because they’re the dirty, stinking Alliance.

So if you have never experienced original WoW, if you are a latecomer, if you want to know what all the fuss is about, if you wax nostalgic for the more pure version of the game, then I encourage you to try out a vanilla server and see what you think.

I’ll update as I continue on. In the meantime, here are the original intros for the Human, Tauren, and Undead races, all recorded at max settings off Elysium’s Anathema server. I also included a very brief bit of running around to give an idea how it looks.

Going Up