I know we're not supposed to advocate private servers, so I am not going to mention any names or give any links, but I wanted to get some opinions on them. This discussion need not also be constrained to WoW specifically, for example there are private servers for classic EQ, a game that is even further removed from its original form than WoW is.
I am considering joining a Vanilla WoW private server, I havn't made a final decision (I am not sure if I want to "taint" my memories of that era) but in pondering whether to join or not I also got thinking about the morality behind it.
If one were to run a "current" WoW private server (i.e. one that ran the latest patch), would pretty clearly be piracy, Blizzard offer such a service at $15 a month and choosing not to pay for it is piracy.
But what about a Vanilla server, running vanilla raids, dungeons, zones and classes? Blizzard do not offer this service, Vanilla WoW no longer exists. The classes are different, the zones are different, most of the dungeons are different and some of the raids are no longer lvl 60.
I still have my Vanilla WoW discs, I have already paid for the client side software, the monthly fee was paying for the server side stuff, but as I mentioned above, Blizzard no longer offer this service, they instead offer an updated service in which almost every individual aspect of the software I originally bought has been replaced or modified. Blizzard have already said they have no intention of offering Vanilla servers in the future.
Vanilla WoW is abandonware.
One could make a similar case for expansions like TBC and Wrath, but substantially more of those games remains available on the live servers so the case is less strong (even if, in my opinion, the most important aspect - class mechanics - are not) but of classic wow only a handful of dungeons and raids are still available.
I am fairly sure from a legal standpoint Vanilla servers are breaking copyright law, but I am coming from a moral standpoint. If a company refuses to sell a service, is it wrong to attempt to create a duplicate and allow others to access it for free?
P.S. I am not playing on a private server, and as mentioned above I am not sure if I want to, but I thought this was an interesting topic of discussion.
Edit: Just a quick summary of my moral standpoint on issues raised in this thread:
- Downloading a commercial game without paying = Wrong.
- Downloading WoW client software without paying = Wrong. (Unless its the free trial software direct from Blizz).
- Playing the current (or near current) version version of WoW on a private server = Wrong.
- Playing Vanilla WoW using a legally purchased copy of the Vanilla WoW Client on a private server = OK.
I'm not sure about TBC or Wrath because most of those respective expansions are still available in the live game, my justification for Vanilla is that almost all of it is no longer available.