How can I get past my distrust of MMO emulators?

In the year of our good Lord 2020 A.D., there is certainly something to celebrate in the MMO scene: the rise and acceptance of emulators. Rogue servers, as we call them at Massively OP.  There are so, so many of these out there, and while there’s not one for every dead MMO that exists, plenty of these former projects are being preserved with love and care by diehard fans.

Today, you can step back into games like Star Wars Galaxies, The Sims Online, and Earth & Beyond, even though these MMOs have been shuttered for many years now. And not only can you play them again, but you can play them with thriving communities of modern day players. That’s pretty amazing.

All of this gets my approval — I have no ethical or moral qualms about preserving shuttered MMOs — but I’ve also noticed that I am emotionally wary about getting invested in such games. Last year’s revival of City of Heroes, amazing as it was, wasn’t enough to keep me coming back for too long. It wasn’t that I was uninterested (nor am now), but that there are some yellow flags that warn me away.

I feel likewise with Return of Reckoning, the Warhammer Online server that I keep promising myself I’m going to check out. You know, one of these days. Sometime. It still hasn’t happened.

I think it’s a mixture of the following:

  • Distrust of volunteer developers who may not always have the best interests of the players at heart
  • Perceived instability of these projects and their coding and backend tech
  • Concern about long-time commitment to maintaining these games
  • A lack of legal approval

None of these are deal-breakers — I have played City of Heroes, Chronicles of Spellborn, and Star Wars Galaxies emulators — but they do a lot to make me hesitate getting that invested into MMOs that could end up folding overnight if the team doesn’t pay the server bill, dissolves in a fight, or gets slapped with a C&D from the IP owners.

We’ve been waiting over a year now for the City of Heroes Homecoming group to work out a deal with NCsoft for actual ownership or official permission to run these servers, but I’ve getting more doubtful the longer these “talks” continue that it’s actually going to happen. If they did go through, I’ll tell you that it would work a lot in the game’s factor to attract me.

Of course, the project I really want to see happen is a WildStar emulator. I think I’d rather NCsoft sell the game to a company that’d be interested in running it as a legit thing, but I’d be happy if someone managed to jury-rig WildStar up on an Amazon server and let us return to Nexus. I’d still be worried about the state of such an emulator, but… yeah, I’d play in a heartbeat.

4 thoughts on “How can I get past my distrust of MMO emulators?

  1. Telwyn September 11, 2020 / 10:16 am

    Wildstar would be my num 1 choice too, just to play my engineer again. But then as you said a wildly improbable relaunch would be even better…

  2. bhagpuss September 11, 2020 / 1:22 pm

    I dunno… is it really any more likely that any of those bad things are going to happen on a fan project than on an official server? I mean, the very premise of emulators for “shuttered” games is that a bona fide commercial operator failed to keep them running.

    There are no guarantees. MMORPGs are inherantly fragile and yet inherantly resilient. Just be ready to re-start now and again.

  3. Den (@Dengarsw) September 11, 2020 / 11:21 pm

    A lot of this is why I don’t do emulators long term, even for favorite games (RIP Asheron’s Call). One other thing though is the effect these factors have on the community. I was in a Ragnorak Online emu that got shut down. People went to different servers, the admins were different, it was.. weird. So not only can you lose progress, but lose whole communities, much like with MMOs. It’s also why I’m not fond of private servers for basically any game, like Minecraft or Conan. I play MMOs for stability!

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