What is a private server?
A World of Warcraft private server is a server code developed and hosted not by Blizzard, where you can play for free using the same game client with a changed realmlist.
Sounds great isn't it? Not at all I would say. Because of two main factors: quality and legality and this is what I am going to talk about.
A little bit of history or how do they appear.
There are mainly two groups of people that are tightly connected to creating private servers.
The open source developers that are doing this for education, because reversing the client server communication protocol and implementing server in their own way is an interesting and challenging task. They do not host the code. They only write it and perhaps test it on their own computers with friends.
The second group consists of people who are interested in making money from a private server by offering in-game items for real money. These guys are directly responsible for making the server available to public.
Is this legal?
Quick answer: No it's not. World Of Warcraft game client and all data that is transferred between client and server is an intellectual property of Blizzard. Another fact is that there are many private servers on the Internet. How could it be?
There is a DMCA. The Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) is a United states copyright law that implements two 1996 treaties of the World Intellectual property Organization (WIPO). It criminalizes production and dissemination of technology, devices, or services intended to circumvent measures (commonly known as digital rights management or DRM) that control access to copyrighted works.
But not all countries recognize DMCA, so if a server is hosted in such country it is pretty difficult to take action against it.
So what about the quality?
First I need to mention that private servers can differ from retail in many ways. There are basically two types of private servers: Blizlike and Fun servers. Blizlike can be Nx rate. Where N is number that shows how many times faster you gain experience and skills than on retail servers. Fun servers are very customized. Usually you get instantly level 80, have access to some gear for free and there might be special game events and zones.
When a new expansion is released it takes like 1-2 years for open source developers to come at least a little close to retail version. So in the beginning there are a lot of bugs and many things don't work. After some time you can get the feeling that you are playing on retail, however the support will never be even close to Blizzard's.
Why do people play on private servers? Pros and Cons.
- It's free.
- Leveling could be faster.
- Less to farm
- Instant 80 servers allow players to try all classes and learn them.
- No gold problems.
- Paying for game items could make you character much more powerful than others.
- Usually many bugs.
- Poor support.
- Possible downtime.
- Players are less friendly.
- No guarantee.