World of Warcraft is a game that's been evolving since 2004, with some changes making the game virtually unrecognizable to anyone who was playing back then. "Vanilla" World of Warcraft servers, which aren't authorized by Blizzard and have been hit with legal threats in the past, allow players to experience the early days of World of Warcraft. The most popular server, Nostralius, shut down earlier this year. It re-launched over the weekend as Elysium.
"The Elysium Project was born from the desire to capture World of Warcraft in its original state so that we can share our passion with the world once more,"declares Elysium's creators.
Whether Blizzard will let Elysium stay around is unclear. The studio has acknowledged the desire for different ways to experience their long-running MMO, but to date, the only way to play something like "vanilla" World of Warcraft is when fans intentionally break the game's terms of service and do it themselves.
The question remains: will Blizzard turn a blind eye?
It's a stark contrast to the approach of another MMO with a fan base spanning more than a decade. As I profiled in a story last week, RuneScape gets around this by archiving different versions of the game—one from 2001, one from 2007—and keeping them playable in 2016. Everyone is happy.
"Our game is 15 years old, and people's 'ideal' version of that game differs from person to person," said design director Mark Ogilvie. "We are very much driven by the desires of our community—they decide the fundamental direction of the content we add, and also the way we spend most of our development time. They told us that's what they wanted, so we did it."
RuneScape, like World of Warcraft, continues to get updated, but rather than ignoring the desire for the way things were, they found a way to make money off it.
We'll have to wait and see how Blizzard responds to Elysium, but if you want to see what World of Warcraft used to be like, now is probably the time to jump, before the lawyers show up.