A lot of wildly popular online PC games have a private server equivalent. Maybe you’ve played on one of these yourself or are curious about dipping your toe into the unofficial side of gaming. But how does playing games on private servers differ from official game servers? Let’s take a look.
Never Quite the Same
World of Warcraft Classic was perhaps the biggest experiment we’ve ever seen in private server vs official server differences. For many years, Blizzard was adamant they were never going to host the original version of the game on modern day official servers. However, while this was disappointing to fans of the original game, it wasn’t the end of the world. They had private servers and one very popular private server called Nostalrius. Well, until they didn’t.
On April 10, 2016, Nostalrius hosts were served a cease and desist by Blizzard, and the beloved private server was shut down. It later became clear that Blizzard did this because they were planning launching World of Warcraft Classic. Put simply, they switch their position on the issue when they saw how enormously popular Nostalrius became. They realised Classic WoW could be a considerable source of income. At its peak, Nostalrius had over 10,000 active players and over 800,000 registered accounts!
Nostalrius was highly significant because a vast portion of the private server player base were the exact same people who would be playing Classic WoW. In other words, we could get first-hand accounts of how a Vanilla WoW private server differs from the official server.
Blizzard went with a “no changes” philosophy for Classic WoW, meaning they tried to replicate the original 2004 game as closely as possible. Nostalrius also had the same philosophy, so the two servers should have been nearly identical in theory. Only, they weren’t.
Here are just some of the things that were different:
- Leveling in Dungeons was more XP profitable in Classic than on Private servers. This meant some speed leveling guides from Vanilla WoW private servers weren’t as optimal as they could be.
- Some private server bosses had higher health or stronger damage than the Classic WoW equivalent.
- You couldn’t earn as much gold through specific techniques in Classic WoW as you could on private servers. For example, Dire Maul farms weren’t as profitable in Classic. Quick reminder – If you need some extra gold in Classic, you can always buy WoW gold online.
So why does this happen? Well, the people hosting private servers don’t have access to all the official game files. Some things might be missing, and they have to program these things themselves. To do this, they need to make assumptions or rely on memory, and we all know, memory isn’t perfect.
It’s also worth pointing out that if a private server game is different from the original, even when it doesn’t intend to be, this isn’t always a bad thing. Nostalrius was harder than Classic WoW is, and many players prefer the extra challenge.
An (Almost) Entirely Different Game
Sometimes people play on private servers because they like the game, but they want to play a different version of it. For example, you can play on WoW servers for almost any expansion, although the older ones are more popular. Some people don’t like the latest version of the game and would prefer to play Cataclysm or Wrath of the Lich King.
Additionally, the private servers option allow quality-of-life changes like X2, X5, or X10 levelling speed, faster item spawns or altered loot tables. If you want to play a game you like, but faster and harder, you can find a private server for that. Some let you skip straight to endgame or introduce custom items and events into the game.
For example, Runescape has a healthy private server population across many different types of private servers. One of the most well-known and longest-running private servers is DreamScape. DreamScape has been running for seven years and is highly unique to the point it’s almost an entirely different game from the official Runescape. It hosts custom NPCs, Weapons, and items.
Gaming communities can differ greatly from game to game and even server to server. There will always be a unique culture when it comes to private servers, no matter the game. However, we can make some broad assumptions about the types of cultures that tend to thrive on private servers. They are usually tight communities of highly skilled players.
You might think that because private servers are mostly free, they would attract a wider player base (and more amateur players). However, you’d be wrong. People don’t really stumble on private servers. You have to be looking for one, and the people who look for them are usually avid fans of the game.