The much anticipated unofficial World of Warcraft Burning Crusade legacy server Felmyst was shut down by Blizzard just hours after its official launch. Developer Gummy has said that he was in the middle of upgrading the Felmyst servers, which were struggling under a launch day wave of players, when a cease and desist order was hand delivered. Blizzard lawyers demanded an immediate shutdown of Gummy’s server, and with the server just five hours into its existence he complied.
Blizzard’s reasons for issuing the cease and desist order are about as straightforward as one might expect. Gummy was allegedly violating Blizzard’s intellectual property rights by developing, distributing, and hosting an emulated World of Warcraft server. Specific detail was added with regards to allowing users to play “illegitimate copies” of World of Warcraft without the required subscription. Blizzard’s demands included shutting down the server, the server’s website, and other online distribution methods, and even the server’s YouTube channel for showing video of the emulated server.
Gummy would later clarify that he received the cease and desist just an hour after the server going live. After about four hours spent verifying the letter’s origin and sitting in “disbelief for a few hours,” he did what he had to and pulled the plug on the Felmyst server, website, and YouTube channel. Gummy has since said he was aware of the risks:
“I began this project roughly four years ago and last year when Blizzard began taking action more seriously it weighed heavily on me as not only was I already heavily invested into the work but others around me were as well. Because of my health situation I wasn’t in a position to cut losses and start over on something different, at least not something that would take four years to make. Last year’s news of what Blizzard was doing came at the absolute worst time for me, frankly, with so many years already invested.”
As far as fan projects go, he’d done everything he could short of not making Felmyst in the first place. Felmyst survived just five hours, and even that was more than Blizzard wanted.
It makes sense, then, that Gummy is taking the events of the past few days rather poorly. Not only has he had to shut down everything he’s worked on for the past four years, but he’s now subjected to constant suspicion and harassment online from angry World of Warcraft private server community members. Despite that, he is being open about the process:
“So why did I make this project? I love the game and community, especially the community. The old game was a great way to meet people and see new faces. It makes me happy, and programming makes me happy. 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. This project gave the last four years of my life a sense of purpose that I thoroughly enjoyed. “
As for Blizzard, the company remains extremely heavy handed with regards to World of Warcraft fan projects over the past year. Five years ago Gummy got his start with a vanilla World of Warcraft server that was left ignored. Now, Gummy’s Felmyst is just one of many servers to be shut down.
For a server that would have housed just 3,000 players, there’s something less than fair or ideal at the heart of Blizzard’s actions. Yet there’s really no argument that it isn’t within their rights.
For the time being, there remains many World of Warcraft private servers available for players to check out on their own should they go looking. Felmyst and Gummy’s work on World of Warcraft servers, however, ends here. Hopefully he’s able to find a new project soon, perhaps of an IP of his own creation. There’s likely a community ready and waiting to help make it happen.