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Private Warcraft server restoring original Burning Crusade shut down hours after going online [Correction]

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Four years’ worth of work by a single fan, gone

Blizzard Entertainment

Another private server recreating an older version of World of Warcraft has been shut down — barely hours after coming online — vaporizing four years of work by its creator.

Felmyst, as the project by Gummy52 was known, was to have been a presentation of World of Warcraft during the Burning Crusade expansion, which launched in January 2007. Ars Technica reported that Gummy52 had worked on it for four years while unemployed and coping with muscular dystrophy.

Correction: An earlier version of this story misidentified Gummy52’s medical condition. It has been revised.

The effort to restore a "vanilla" version of World of Warcraft resembles another fan-driven legacy effort, Nostalrius, which was similarly shut down by Blizzard's legal representation but at least forced a dialogue on sanctioning legacy servers.

Nostalrius was initially closed in April 2016, though its development team later met with Blizzard apparently to reach an understanding on private servers, which are forbidden under Warcraft's terms of use. That discussion evidently went nowhere, and Nostalrius' administration released their source code to another private server hosted overseas.

Gummy52, according to Ars, has considered both releasing the source code and hosting Felmyst in another jurisdiction harder for Blizzard lawyers to reach. However, he's unsure of the legal exposure created by distributing the source, and he doesn't have the resources to move the servers.

Felmyst could support about 3,000 players, Gummy52 said, and in a note posted on the Felmyst website he said he hoped its small size would avoid Blizzard's legal radar. However, it drew coverage from Kotaku, Eurogamer, GameSpot and others in the run-up to its July 21 launch.

Hours after it went live, Gummy52 was served with the legal notice "and then basically sat around in disbelief for a few hours," he told Ars. He verified the demand's authenticity with a phone call to the firm and then posted an image of the letter to the Felmyst homepage, removing all other forums, pages and content related to the project.

In the post underneath that image, Gummy52 explains why he invested so much time in the project and continued with it even after Blizzard's public posture against private legacy servers during the Nostalrius matter.

"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."

In April, World of Warcraft's executive producer acknowledged the desire of many users to play legacy editions of the game. Blizzard, said J. Allen Brack, had even explored developing its own classic servers, but that posed "tremendous operational challenges," in incorporating multiple live versions of the MMO.

Though Blizzard later met with Nostalrius' developers, when Blizzcon 2016 came and went with no statement or action on the legacy server topic, they distributed the source code. However, less than a month later, Nostalrius developers asked Elysium to quit using their code, as few of the original Nostalrius players had migrated to the new server and the project was causing division within the community.