Unofficial World of Warcraft ‘Felmyst’ Server Revisits The Burning Crusade
There’s a new “unofficial” project to bring back classic WoW gaming — just not in quite the same form as the game’s original launch code. The new, unofficial (read: Blizzard un-approved) Felmyst server will target The Burning Crusade expansion as its setting rather than the original, vanilla, World of Warcraft.
As someone who played a great deal of WoW during both vanilla and TBC, I’d say that this is the stronger technical choice. The Burning Crusade rebalanced the game around a new level cap and arrived once a major set of class overhauls had expanded the roles that hybrid classes — Paladins, Druids, and Shaman — could viably play in end-game raids. In vanilla (depending, to some extent, on which patch you were talking about), all three of these classes were reasonably viable in 5-man dungeon content as healers, damage-dealers (DPSers), or tanks, but were assigned/required to heal in most raids. Poor itemization meant that Retribution (DPS) or Protection (Tanking) Paladins had little chance of competing against Warriors, which were either DPSers or tanks, but had no healing option. Druids and Shaman had similar problems to a greater or smaller degree.
The Burning Crusade allowed the Horde to have Paladins while the Alliance faction got access to the Shaman class. The Burning Crusade also improved gear itemization and flexibility, introduced new abilities, flying mounts, and a higher level cap, heroic 5-man dungeons, a lower 25-man cap on endgame raids, new 10-man raids, and a new small-group PvP system called Arenas. In short, The Burning Crusade improved on vanilla WoW in a vast number of ways, particularly if you played a hybrid class, and was quite popular for that reason.
Will Blizzard Allow It?
All of this is moot, however, if Blizzard doesn’t allow the server to stay up and running, and Blizzard doesn’t generally approve or allow private servers. Last year, the Nostalrius server was taken down by a cease and desist order, which led to a meeting with Blizzard by the Nostalrius creators, which led to the Nostalrius server code being merged with a different legacy server, Elysium, which eventually ended when the now-ex Nostalrius devs reversed themselves and asked the Elysium server to stop using their code. Seriously. All in less than a year.
Both the Nostalrius and Felmyst servers are/were an attempt to faithfully recreate WoW as it existed in their respective patch targets, with a few initial exceptions. Raid content in Felmyst will be progressive, with Karazhan being open at launch and other instances opening later. The project states:
Development for Felmyst has spanned years behind closed doors and is designed to emulate a Burning Crusade Private Server up to retail standards. Using publicly available data, we have tackled the fundamental issues that remind players that they aren’t playing on official servers. Our software is the product of closed source development around clean professional programming standards. The goal of Felmyst is to produce a complete and satisfying World of Warcraft experience.
But it’s not clear that this will actually pass muster with Blizzard HQ, and the entire concept of private servers has somewhat divided the community. Nostalrius won a great deal of good will initially and sparked interest in classic servers, but then ignited their own controversy when they announced plans to re-launch/merge their code base with another project.
Plenty of WoW players have expressed interest in revisiting old content. Blizzard periodically offers “Timewalking” dungeons that scale players back to previous level caps and itemization levels to take on content from various expansion packs as if they were characters from that expansion. But this only replicates one aspect of the original experience and frankly doesn’t replicate it all that well. While the dungeon layouts and bosses are largely the same, player skills and abilities have changed enormously, and game mechanics and capabilities don’t revert to previous expansions when content does. In addition, these dungeons are generally much easier than they ever were when they were new.
We’ve previously considered some of the changes between vanilla WoW and the current version; that slideshow is available below.
The problem with allowing private servers, even if you ignore the IP questions, is that MMOs are fundamentally about progression. Meaningful progression may require solo quests, 5-man dungeons, or even 40 man raids, but MMORPGs use character gear, skill, and item upgrades as the means to keep people logging in. A server frozen in any specific expansion is definitionally not a server where anyone can progress beyond a certain point, and I expect it’s this issue that’s been difficult for Blizzard to tangle with. Focusing on providing copies of the game as it used to be also fragments the player base, and takes the emphasis off where the game is going in favor of where it’s been.
I picked WoW up again after years away just prior to the Legion expansion launch. While I’d love to be able to revisit classic content, quests, and even abilities, I think the game as a whole is better balanced than it used to be. That said, there’s no question that it’s also easier than it used to be. Difficulty ramps up more smoothly, leveling is faster, monsters generally die more quickly, and modern dungeons and raids are balanced to be difficult in different ways than their older counterparts. In the old days, having the right mix of classes mattered much more than it does today, for example.
Felmyst is set to launch in a little more than two days. An ongoing open beta is available and anyone can register. There won’t be any character importing or starting off at level 60, however; you’ll be doing 1-70 the hard way. And it’s anyone’s guess if you’ll even make it to level 70 before Blizzard shuts it down.