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Reader Comments (38)

Posted: Apr 9th 2010 8:13AM (Unverified) said

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I love this idea and would be interested to hear what other people think. I myself have considered such a model for my ridiculously complicated backburner open world project.

Posted: Apr 9th 2010 8:13AM Kyoji said

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I used to be very much into the private Ragnarok server scene several years ago, and as far as I know it's still going strong. Theres is an extremely large amount of creativity from people in that arena who create custom items, quests, npcs, so on and so forth. If/when Gravity ever ends up shutting down Ragnarok It'd be awesome to see them release the source code to the client so that even further customization could be done, but thats a pie-in-the-sky dream.

At least in Ragnarok's case, I found private servers to be much more fun than the official servers. The population was more balanced and on most servers exp rates weren't ridiculous like they are on official servers. But Ragnarok is an older, more simplified experience than newer games and doesn't necessarily suffer if it doesn't have a large population. I've tried private WoW servers just for kicks (ok, to use teleport hacks and see parts of the game world you'd get banned for on official servers) with populations of ~100 people and the game suffers greatly because of it.

That being said, projects like the one to create an Earth & Beyond server emulator are resurrecting once beloved games shut down long ago, so it's not all bad.

Posted: Apr 9th 2010 8:20AM SkyStreak said

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Being part of a roleplay oriented supergroup in City f Heroes, some of the things that we often find frustrating is that there are just SO many heroes around it makes it seem like what we are doing doesn't have as much meaning, and that our characters are not able to make any 'lasting' changes tot he game world.

Having our own personal server would take care of that.

Unfortunately, I highly doubt it would ever be cost effective to get something like this rolling in any legal way.

Posted: Apr 9th 2010 8:44AM lizardbones said

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I think it would be cool, but I think there are a couple of issues they would have to overcome or ignore:
* Customer Satisfaction: For instance, person X leveled to max level in about 4 hours, brags about it, etc. Person Y took the normal 2 weeks (or months) on the official servers, and complains about it.
* Cost: Are the people running the premium/custom servers charging for the experience of playing on those servers? Are they getting advertising revenue from having a website associated with their server? How expsnsive would those custom worlds have to be to make them profitable.
* Service and Support: It's hard enough to have game support on 1 version of a game. How do you support the idiots that are making changes to the game along with all the end-user players?
* Dilution of Product Image: If the custom servers are official, what's so great about the vanilla product offered by the company...would you even have a vanilla product for people to play on? Would it be nothing but the custom servers out there?
* Size of the Player Base: How do you limit the number of players per server? Do you even bother with this?

I think it's a really cool idea, but I think you'd have to do it all custom, or nothing. i.e. your product is a game world that you can customize, and you don't offer a vanilla world for people to play in. I would love that kind of thing, depending on the costs involved, of course.

Posted: Apr 9th 2010 8:58AM (Unverified) said

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It's revenue splitting so not a chance, it's not good business sense within a region (limited by ping and laws).
The biggest MMOs do licence out based on region like mythic (WH) and blizzard (WoW) but they are locked in licences.

There's 1 exception closed games like Auto Assault; they could licence them out with no support and it would work. Community donations for servers and licence fees etc.

Posted: Apr 9th 2010 9:00AM Psychotic Storm said

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I would pay to play in a TR private server.

Posted: Apr 9th 2010 1:00PM ZenJitsu said

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I second the motion.

Too bad it seems like NCSoft would rather bury it than possibly license it out to other parties. It'd make a great ground combat component for Star Trek Online.
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Posted: Apr 9th 2010 9:01AM Shirogetsune said

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There is only one time I have ever supported a private server, and that is for games that are no longer officially running like Phantasy Star Online or SubSpace / Continium. (I'm also looking forward to the Shadowbane Emulator.) If a gaming company is still in business, I'd rather it do the support for their own product rather than delegating that aspect to a fanbase of virtual dungeon masters, so to speak. After all, if the servers start to have issues and the players are relying on other users to contact customer service and resolve the issue... I wouldn't be playing that game for long.

Posted: Apr 9th 2010 9:24AM redsolar said

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I would prefer a private server option to allow for customized machinima. Tell bots and npcs where to go and what to do using a script-driven system. Have a controlled environment without lots of players roaming around in front of a live camera. Fly and transport wherever needed. Those kinds of things.

Posted: Apr 9th 2010 9:31AM Stormwaltz said

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My guild isn't large enough to make that an interesting or affordable proposition.

Posted: Apr 9th 2010 9:50AM (Unverified) said

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Well, the only way that I can appreciate a private server, it's for a game that was pretty damn fun that got canned. The word around the virtual campfire is that theres a Front Mission Online Private server in the works, with a very strong team working on translation and they already got their hands on the client. I'm just sayin'.

Posted: Apr 9th 2010 9:58AM (Unverified) said

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I'm not a legal whiz, but I feel like throwing the term ILLEGAL around is inaccurate at best. Sure, the servers and users may be breaking the TOS, but are they breaking some sort of federal or state law? There are an awful lot of these servers in the US that have been running for years... I would think that if it were unlawful they would have been shut down by now. I could be wrong. Like I said, I'm no Robert Shapiro. But it seems wrong to criminalize these people... I bet some of them even end up working in the industry.

Posted: Apr 9th 2010 10:37AM nomoredroids said

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Following the TOS is required in order to legally play the game, so if you are breaking the TOS that would make playing the game...drum roll, please...illegal!
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Posted: Apr 9th 2010 10:58AM Kyoji said

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That's not necessarily true. You have to follow the ToS to play on their servers, it has no jurisdiction over private servers. Private server software is a gray area legally. If the server is running third party code that replicates the official software (ie, a server emulator) and does not charge for access/offer download links to propriety information (ie, the game client) then the operation is technically legal, at least here in the states. That doesn't make the process anymore appealing to the company who runs the game, but it makes it much harder to go after. If it wasn't as gray as it is today, private servers for games would not be as abundant as they are.
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Posted: Apr 9th 2010 2:21PM WanderingFool said

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Tell that to guys behing bnetd
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Posted: Apr 9th 2010 5:12PM (Unverified) said

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Havok, you can break the TOS in other ways than playing a private server. It's also usually against the TOS to use racist or sexual language... yet I highly doubt anyone will go to prison or be fined for using the "N" word (even if they deserve a punch in the nose for it)...

Between that and the fact that yeah, most of the emus are clean of stolen code, makes the whole situation a gray area at best.

I still don't think ILLEGAL should be thrown around so handily.
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Posted: Apr 9th 2010 10:35AM MewmewGrrl said

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It's not really economically viable for most companies, nor renters.

Let's take WoW as an example.

If someone could play on someone elses private server for free legally, why pay to play on Blizzard's servers?

But anyway, let's say the person "only" gets 10,000 people playing on their private server.

That's $150,000 in lost revenue for Blizzard a month, people playing there instead of on their server. So in order for them to make up the money, they will have to charge the person renting close to that price. What RPG enthusiast really wants to pay $150,000 a month to rent his own private server? Anything less than that would be a loss (and 10,000 is a conservative number talking about WoW).

You simply can't make up the money by renting out copies of your major game. Companies are looking for a hit and looking to keep every player they can get on their server.

As far as smaller web based games, running your own versions of them has been happening right along.

Take for instance, Lunatics online. You are able to pay to run your own version of it, tho I am unsure the costs, and not a lot of people do (they all charge fees to play to try to make up for the costs associated tho).

The other thing is they don't want people to take the game, screw it all around (make the characters all naked and run around yelling "Bring on the Goats!" or something), and then relate that to the original property somehow. They need to retain some control over the property and know that the name isn't going to be messed with. Tho that is a lesser concern, it's really mostly money based. Seriously it's just not a viable thing for them to rent out copies of the world.

Posted: Apr 9th 2010 1:33PM kasapina said

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In the case of WoW private servers, a company as big as Blizzard would have no problem shutting down the bigger and longer - lasting servers. They don't do it because there is a big benefit in having private servers - they act as a free trial for the game. Those servers let you get to the max level quickly or slowly, and thus can draw all potential players. They are also free, so a player thinks "Hey, I can play the famous game without spending a dime!". The thing is, they are very buggy, with literally no endgame (endgame instances are either too easy, with none of the real mechanics working, too hard, with insane mob damage and the real mechanics still not working, or are closed, and pvp is just as bad, with abilities not working or using wrong damage formulas). Want to play the endgame, with quality pvp? Want to experience Ulduar with working vehicles and bosses who are more than tank&spank? Play in the real servers.
So Blizzard gets a free trial that is almost as addictive as the real game, and they don't have to do anything to sustain it. Only do they have to check periodically for servers who grow to be too much like the real game, and root them out. In conclusion, there are more than financial incentives to have private servers. But then, the example I gave presents no real reason for the company to "shelter" its fans' servers.
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Posted: Apr 9th 2010 11:04AM (Unverified) said

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I have never played on a private server, except NWN, so am curious how they sustain themselves financially. Hardware and bandwidth costs money so who pays for it?

In NWN, the servers and bandwidth requirements were small enough that you could easily host it at home on a "spare" machine; I had one running on my old gaming machine over DSL for years. For a MMOG with hundreds of concurrent users I imagine you want something considerably more powerful and with a larger "pipe."

Also, if the source code for the server was stolen and the game seems more "pirate" than "private" why would you trust them enough to run a client program inside your firewall?

Posted: Apr 9th 2010 3:45PM Nadril said

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They run off of donations and advert money. Some have gotten into trouble for it in the past (by using donation money for themselves and not the server) but for most servers that is how it works.

Also there is no reason for a private server (or a pirated game for that matter) to be simply malware or a virus. That's not to say you shouldn't exercise caution but, still, it's not a big risk.
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