by Moradin Guildforger
Founder and Commander-in-Chief of the Stormlords
Alliance guild established on 31 October, 2012.
by Moradin Guildforger
Founder and Commander-in-Chief of the Stormlords
Alliance guild established on 31 October, 2012.
I'm hereby offering an exhaustive report to provide everyone an overview of the company and the realm me and my guild transferred to, and why did I choose it over Nostalrius. Maybe those who are still undecided will make up their mind. The migration from our previous realm (we initially started and developed on Emerald Dream @Feenix) was necessary to save the guild, as that server is almost entirely dead by now.
So, simply put, two alternatives presented to us: Nostalrius and Kronos. I gathered information on both (although I had been following Kronos' development blog every now and then), checked their communities, tried the early levels for the same classes in the same areas, and I ended up choosing Kronos without a second thought, with the rest of our senior members agreeing on that almost unanimously (only one adverse opinion received).
There is also a video review where Dodgykebaab - a known reviewer in the private server scene - compares the two realms, coming to the same conclusions. This review of mine, however, will hopefully provide you with a more detailed insight.
First, allow me to sum up both realms and their main features.
1.2 Realm Summary
Released: 28 February 2015
Development: 5 years, starting in 2010 (reportedly), no other information available.
Server location: France
Rates: 1x (all)
Content release: gradual, 100% blizzlike.
Donation rewards: none, they occasionally ask people to donate until they gather the amount needed for hardware improvements.
Peak population (A+H): ≈7400 (September 2015)
Particulars: two-step phased itemization (1.4 > 1.12.1); custom-made, buffed version of Alterac Valley.
+ Huge population (3 retail realms at full capacity)
+ Fully blizzlike timeline
+ No reward system whatsoever
+ Chance to copy characters to future TBC realm
+ Custom-made buffed version of Alterac Valley
- Toxic population (all ED's garbage, basically)
- Latency issues
- Overcrowding problems (excessive ganking, node/mob rush, etc.)
- Lots of bugs, duping and botting
- No additional services (no armory nor database)
Released: 28 March 2015
Development: confirmed 4 years at least (previously a Czech-only realm released in 2011, re-released on the 12 December 2012 as an international realm with 0-7x rates, reduced to 0-4x rates during spring 2014, closed the next summer for further improvement and finally relaunched as a full 1x international realm).
Server location: Sweden
Rates: 1x (all)
Content release: gradual, mostly blizzlike (Dire Maul, Azuregos and Lord Kazzak available at launch, Silithus quests added before BWL release, Dungeon Set 2 quests added shortly after).
Donation rewards: only non-combat pets, vanity items and Collector's Edition mounts (no riding skill).
Peak population (A+H): ≈1200 (September 2015)
Particulars: respec cost capped at 5
+ Game world wonderfully coded
+ Dedicated community and zealous developers
+ Excellent bugtracker
+ Highly professional website
+ Long experience in realm hosting by TwinStar
- Lower population during off-peak time
- Cross-faction special mounts available to donors
- Character name change service
- Slightly altered timeline (see Content release in the overview)
- Still no word on future plans (international, brand-new TBC realm?)
1.3 The Dossier
That being said, I'm now going to explain how the strengths of Kronos I found to be more relevant than the ones for Nostalrius, trying to be as unbiased as possible - I really only took a decision after I could test them both for a while, I didn't randomly choose one beforehand to cluelessly advocate it just because - and also describing their respective flaws. Bear in mind that I'm presenting you this review "as is". Hopefully both realms will thrive, competition being what will keep them going whereas ED's uniqueness ultimately made it slack with its year-old bugs and totally missing scripts. To my eyes however, the differences between the two realms are marked. I shall now comment on the good things I listed for Kronos going deeper into details, explaining how the Nostalrius pros aren't as consistent as they might look at a first glance. Let's begin.
2.1 Note about the team
The Kronos staff have behind themselves a solid team that has been running WoW private servers for many years already. Some of our members have had a very good experience in the past playing on their realms, and were glad to know TwinStar was the path we'd take. Having been in this business for so long means they were able to guarantee stability and safety (a.k.a. strong DDoS protection, proven by the fact we ourselves have yet to witness any downtime due to such attacks), and that's probably the first element to take into account when facing a long term decision. The Nostalrius crew is an upstart one on their first endeavor, they struggled to launch first and win people over to their server even though that meant releasing raids in a bug-ridden state; the Kronos crew, on the other hand, took their time to polish everything they could before going live, and it shows - even if the chance was suggested to postpone it for six months or so, and only the great hype made them come around. All in all, slow and steady wins the race.
2.2 The TwinStar website
Whereas the Nostalrius website is basically a feature main page coupled to a forum, the Kronos counterpart is much more complex: a blog maintained by the realm administrator and chief developer (Chero) which also contains changelogs and general information; plus the TwinStar main site, which provides various additional and useful game-related services. The professionalism and the level of organization put into the making of the site is evident, especially to me, who have always dedicated so much time to create and maintain our own place. Let's have a closer look at the most peculiar features.
There you can see tabs for the various realms, one for each release of WoW. The TwinStar main infrastructure is made up of four gaming servers plus a login server (and a newly added login one just for Kronos) - all of them with blizzlike rates, by the way, safe for the TBC one where the XP rate is customizable from 0x to 12x for those only interested in the Burning Crusade content. Each of the tab displays the real time status of that realm (online/offline, so you'll never have to wonder whether it's been your Internet which kicked you or some server outage) as well as the Horde:Alliance ratio on that realm, while the Online number indicates the total count of players currently ingame on all realms. Having a distinct server available for every xpac is quite a compelling addition, if you ask me, as that would make your further progression feasible, allowing you to venture forth on Outland and Northrend.
2.3 The TwinHead Database
The next amazing service offered by TwinStar is a great set of realm-specific item databases. It's called TwinHead (the tribute to WoWHead is obvious), and clicking on its button on top of every screen will bring you to a general page where you can pick the one for the game version (realm) you're interested in. Click on Vanilla and you'll end up here:
There you can see a list with the latest fixes, any world event currently in progress along with its duration, and a series of dropdown menus to query the database. The best thing about such service is how good it's been implemented: it's fully integrated with actual ingame data. E.g.: looking for any resource or NPC will provide you with a map showing its actual ingame location for the realm (so it's not based on some third-party, usually unreliable database).
2.4 Special Features
Another really nice treat is the little informative switch that lets you know when the last realm restart happened:
On top of the TwinHead page you'll see again the panel showing the real time status of the servers; clicking on [Switch Stats] will display the date and time of the last realm rollback/restart and update:
Last Restart: tells you when the realm was last rolled back/restarted (dd.mm.);
Last Update: it refers to the last time the server database has been patched (only for authorized members, i.e. members meeting certain membership + ingame requirements who have linked their ingame and website accounts, confirming their identity and being therefore granted a higher status with special privileges). Basically, when Last Restart displays a later time than Last Update, that means the version of the database currently running is the most updated one.
More information about forum authorization can be found here.
Lastly, a quick peek to the latest implemented and fully realm-integrated Armory, a powerful tool that records raiding progression and character data for all guilds - you won't need RealmPlayers ever again. Here's how the Boss Kills Tracker appears (this screen was taken the same day the first Molten Core run happened):
Clicking on the guild's name by the Guild column will show you the raid statistics for that guild (in this case the guild <Synced>, where most of testers were during the beta), displaying a resumptive graph of its raid progression and details for the various raid bosses killed:
That's not all however: if you click on the guild name above the graph, or the link to its Armory just below, that will direct you to that guild's page, showing its roster.
From there, you can click on any player to be brought to its Armory profile, where you can see pretty much every information the retail counterpart would display: 3D model, description tooltips, recent activities, reputation ratings and so on.
Not bad, eh? Seriously, the sheer quantity of functionalities made available for the players, and the quality of the integration with a powerful, fully working database, is something never seen before on any other vanilla server out there.
2.5 Rules & Violations
As you can imagine at this point, it is the TwinStar site that started to convince me of the professionalism of the team; to make a further comparison, just have a look at the set of rules from each of the vanilla 1x realms currently available (ED, Nostalrius and Kronos):
- Feenix Rules
- Nostalrius list of rules non-existent
- TwinStar Rules
Needless to say, I warmly suggest you to read the Kronos/TwinStar list of violations entirely, when you have a chance. The community is far less toxic than Nostalrius and more closely watched over, since TwinStar has a forum built-in form that allows everyone to easily file reports. Named Blacklist, this subforum is yet another example of how seriously violations are dealt with: reports are categorized under two sections (to be solved and resolved).
Go have a peek at how they never overlook the kind of abuses we used to see left unchecked on Feenix... and to think, even a naming policy is enforced. Here is a direct link to the report form.
It's a common thing that size is in inverse proportion to quality when it comes to communities, where both Nostalrius and Kronos make no exception. The player base on Nost is really toxic, and the majority of trolls from ED can be found there. During peak days and times the total online is beyond 7000 people, and I've personally found the faction wide channel to be unjoinable, as in it loses all its usefulness given the amount of people and the continuous trolling; obviously there's absolutely nothing the mods will ever be able to do under such circumstances, so they hide themselves behind the excuse - a rather poor one, if I'm one to say it - that it's a custom channel and everyone there is supposed to be left unchecked.
On the other hand, the much smaller community on Kronos matches actual blizzlike numbers. This makes the World channel much less similar to 4chan, the atmosphere is way more relaxed and healthy and the GMs are of course able to intervene if necessary. Players are generally the caring kind, meaning they will most likely report you if you act with rudeness, using a foul language, being racist or even just bearing an objectionable character name. The best part of it, though, is probably their commitment to bugfixing: most of them uses the bugtracker (dealt with in the following chapter), carrying out thorough research to help the devs fix even the smallest details, using every bit of information from the original vanilla content that's possible to retrieve.
The TwinStar staff is on par with the rest as far as organization and helpfulness go. Forget about the advertisements of dozens shadowy developers and testers no-one has ever seen nor had a clue of you found on Feenix or would find on Nostalrius: every single programmer for Kronos is listed and easily reachable, even through email. Most importantly however, they deal with what issues they are submitted in a very unbiased and professional fashion, whether it is about rule violations or technical problems. They are nothing like what you could witness on Feenix, basically, where you might be banned all of a sudden without even the slightest explanation and forum topics would end up locked and trashed (when not deleted altogether) even if the original poster's only intention was clearly to help the community and the server - I had the displeasure to experience this firsthand. Plus while entire months would pass on ED with not a single fix coming (and some of the bugs there were major ones and present since launch, so much for "a team of 16 developers"), on Kronos several issues are resolved daily, despite the crew being not even close to what numbers rival servers brag about. Anyway, TwinStar has in the interchangeability of its programmers yet another strength: indeed, in order to optimize results, developers swap realms based on what is needed the most at any given moment. Here's a clear example of what rate of fixes you can expect on Kronos:
For the best example of the helpfulness - and readiness - offered by the TwinStar staff (and for a great insight to how the Kronos development and administration are carried out) I believe this thread is really worth a read.
The Kronos' Head Game Master and project administrator goes by the name of Chero, the guy we owe the most for the whole idea behind the realm in the first place. He's an information technology student currently attending university, and the commitment and effort put towards the realm is astounding. He single-handedly run the whole job for most of its existence, and still the work done so far is such that it feels like a whole team of developers assisted all along. Which is especially meaningful when you consider how good scripted Kronos is compared to other projects that claim of being run by dozens professional developers.
To make a comparison, allow me to consider once again the server we left and the one who owns it (better yet its spokesperson), Athairne: he and Chero are poles apart. Above all, Athairne lacked the faintest hint of any technical preparation and competence, only providing the Feenix team with his deal of "I'm all right Jack" attitude - which had nothing to do with reality, to top it all - and nothing else. Chero, on the other hand, is both a jack of all trades and master of everything. I have already had a good display of his prowess, ever so much appreciated as it's paired with two more characteristics the aforesaid individual never showed: sociability and honesty. For instance, he happens to do something wrong that makes the realm crash, and rather than trying to conceal it or giving excuses, he admits it bluntly with ingame server-wide announcements.
Speaking of which, here's some examples of ingame announcements from the realm's administration:
4.1 Devs and players together
It is finally the time now to introduce you the feature which I personally believe to be the best one offered by the site, the one that stands out putting Kronos many steps ahead of competition... the TwinHead Bugtracker.
I must admit that maybe this is the single element that most than everything else has had a decisive influence on my final decision. Forget about the Feenix Issue Tracker, messy, dispersive and uncomfortable to use; and don't even think about the Nostalrius bugtracker, that's in no way better. Instead, this tool alone represents the most serious claim to develop a proper and fully blizzlike game world. Totally integrated with the Kronos database I described before, it's user friendly, simple and informative at the same time, as it comes with a flawless tooltip system that runs without hiccups. Other private servers use to call themselves "project": this is the first time such term really and completely fits in, and that's because of this feature alone. Instead of advertising teams of dozens professional developers working in the shadows (so none ever knows their actual numbers), the guys at TwinStar set up this wonderful platform to have their devs working in the sunlight and involving the whole community into the scripting process. In fact, the amount of information available is nearly overwhelming, not only are many players active and accurate quoting original sources and data to the last detail, you can easily see what developer is currently assigned to what issue, interact with them and track the status of the bugs that you care for the most, enabling website or email notifications whenever new comments are added or the status of a given report is modified.
4.2 Numbers and figures
At the bottom of the page there are two graphs which summarize the global numbers: issues by their category and the overall status percentages. As you can see, right now almost half of the bugs are fixed already; of course more will be reported in time, however, by what feedback we're currently getting from higher level players, it really seems as though all dungeons are properly scripted and working like they have never been since retail, to the point one can't even tell the difference from the original game. I made a comparison between the Ares (TBC) and Kronos bugtrackers, to see how much support can be expected for the newborn realm in the future as deducible by what is done for the older, 2.4.3 one, in terms of development and bugfixing. Here's the results:
NOTE: I intentionally left out all redundant numbers the bugtrackers take into account, i.e. all issues tagged as Won't Fix, Duplicate, Not a Bug, and Canceled, in order to provide actual values.
Data above show that, despite the disproportion of issues, the percentages indicating how bug-free a realm is are similar: this means that the devs carry out a huge work for all the realms (the % of fixes for the TBC realm is particularly impressive, given the workload that release of the game requires) and constantly improve on what has already been done, which in turn makes Kronos the most serious candidate to recreate the ultimate vanilla experience. What has been done thus far doesn't simply make Kronos beat competition, it creates the potential to further increase the gap in the future.
It's time now to see how all this translates into practice.