The original Ragnarok Online, much troubled by private servers.The original Ragnarok Online, much troubled by private servers.

Server emulators (better known as private servers): it’s an issue that often plagues various games, and for various reasons.  The original Ragnarok Online, for example, had PSes abound by the dozens because of both the server software leak and a belief that Gravity wasn’t running their local versions (especially the US servers) very well.  Others, such as the recent Blade & Soul, have had PSes pop up after disgruntled gamers waited for years without a response for an English version before enterprising Russian hackers decided to come up with one.  In even more cases, some, such as the now-defunct Phantasy Star Online and Phantasy Star Universe, are being resurrected by hackers long after Sega shut the servers down.

I’m not going to personally qualify the value of PSes, though I do believe in the value of keeping history alive, and PSes help to do that.  I was more interested about what others think.  So I asked a group of gamers on Steam, and this is what we came up with.  Some answers were edited for clarity and nothing further.

1. Should online games that have been abandoned (no longer available on the market at all) (e.g. City of Heroes, Star Wars Galaxies) be made into private servers, regardless of legality?

CK:  Only if it’s legal.

BZ:  Yes.

CC:  I don’t know about “should”, as there’s no moral imperative to do so, but I certainly don’t believe there’s anything morally wrong with doing so

PV:  It depends on the game’s popularity, because huge MMO take a lot to run, but for smaller multiplayers I’d say yes.

JF:  I suppose, if original company no longer profits by it, what’s the harm?

2. In the case of the above, should it be legally allowed?

CK:  Yes, it should be legal.

BZ:  Depending on the age of the game and who owns the IP (or would make money from the game). Truly abandoned games should be allowed to have private servers set up as the only people who would run them would be the same few people who would want to play them. If the IP is still active, then something should be worked out with the company who owns the rights if a better version of the game off the IP isn’t already due to come out (i.e. Armored Core).

CC:  Given my above stance on “not morally wrong”, I believe it should be legal, yes.

PV:  Well by the sounds of it they don’t want to give outside control so they can do what they please with the servers when they are done. I think that if there are still a fair enough margin of people who want to play the game they should crowd fund the server, but if not there are always people who ” hack” the game and make their own copy to run it on their own servers. like Star Wars Galaxies.

JF:  Yes.

3. Should it be done in the event that company doesn’t want it done, whether they’ve made public statements (e.g. SNK’s statements on the short-lived Samurai Shodown RPG Online) or are heavily-engineered it to prevent PSes (e.g. Sega’s heavily-encrypted Phantasy Star Universe, done so due to concerns about PSes)?

CK:  It should not be done if they’ve made public statements.  Passive-aggressive shit has no standing, IMO.

BZ:  It should be at least allowed in cases of games where the publishing company no longer supports the game or otherwise would be making money off of it. In other words, if a publisher discontinues the game entirely, an independent PS running the game in a limited group shouldn’t be a problem.

CC:  I don’t believe it to be morally wrong no matter what the company says on the matter; that being said, I also think the company is well within their rights to use whatever technical (not judicial) means they can to make it harder to do so.

PV:  It depends if there is a high demand for the product. If there is than yes, If not than no.

JF:  Not sure.

4. Should a PS be made if the game is no longer available in your native language or region but is available elsewhere (e.g. Windysoft’s Rusty Hearts Online, which is no longer distributed in English by Perfect World, but is available in English in Indonesia)?

CK:   Only if it is not a subscription-based service and the private server does not allow anything that supported players are expected to pay for.

BZ:  No, as long as the game is supported in any form accessible, regardless of localization, then it would be wrong to pirate the game onto a PS simply to understand what characters are saying. At the same time, publishers should at least include subtitles for other languages simply for the sake of having options for players not catered to locally.

CC:  There’s no moral imperative to make a private server in any of the instances, but it’s not morally wrong to do so in any of them.

PV:  Most modern games give the ability to change the language that the game is in, so I don’t see how this is too much of a problem.

JF:  Yes.

5. Should a local-region PS be made if the game is available elsewhere in your language, but the ping-rate makes it hard to play? (e.g. Australian players on Ragnarok Online 2, whose SEA servers were shut down but were mostly moved to the US servers?)

CK:   Yes, provided the server is used only to allow the game to function and has no connection to any method by which the company monetizes the product.

BZ:  With some allowance to the company because of the rights, a group of dedicated players running a licensed PS of the game simply to improve the ability to play the game should be allowed and even supported, simple business logic would suggest this simply because more players can’t hardly be a bad thing for getting more money.

CC:  Again, there’s no moral imperative to make a private server in any of the instances, but it’s not morally wrong to do so in any of them.

PV:  Yes.

JF:  Yes, if for no other reason that some games are server region-locked; i.e. when CK and I considered playing Conan Online, I would have had to have a US region account or him a European one to play in the same instance.

6. Should a PS be made if you like the game but you don’t like the game developer or local distributor (if not the same as the developer) (e.g. Dynasty Warriors BB, made by Koei Temco but distributed in the US by Aeria Games)?

CK:  No.

BZ:  No. By that logic, if somebody doesn’t like any given game dev, distributor, or otherwise, that would be somebody’s potential excuse (albeit a bad one) to pirate any games from any company.

CC:  Again, there’s no moral imperative to make a private server in any of the instances, but it’s not morally wrong to do so in any of them.

PV:   This happened with a MMO called Star Wars Galaxies that I mentioned earlier. The company changed some core dynamics and the game was very different from the original product. A lot of people were not happy with the change, so a couple of people made their own servers so the game was like it was before the update. My opinion is that in some extreme cases it should happen but not often.

JF:  Not sure.

7. Should a PS be made if you just think the game has promise, but the local distributor is running it horribly (and other regions are run great), as was believed to be the case with Gravity and the original Ragnarok Online?

CK:  No.

BZ:  No, that would still be piracy in various ways. If you can’t get the distributor to run the game on the level of others, then the best way to protest that is to simply not play the game. The distributor’s superiors would notice the game underperforming in player count in comparison to everywhere else and thus want things to change.

CC: Once more, there’s no moral imperative to make a private server in any of the instances, but it’s not morally wrong to do so in any of them.

PV:   If the localized devs aren’t making good choices then someone sooner or later is going to do it.

JF:  Yes.