Warcraft Adventures: Lord of the Clans was a point-and-click adventure game cancelled by Blizzard in 1998, and how time flies. The game was lost for most of its history, only existing in a few old screenshots and videos that floated around the internet, but in 2016 the full game suddenly appeared as a download (opens in new tab). It was playable, near-complete including cinematics and voice acting, and the individual who leaked it said: "This is my gift for all Blizzard fans, old and new."
To which Blizzard's lawyers responded "This is my DMCA for all hosts of Warcraft Adventures, old and new." The game is thus Out There Somewhere, in the way that nothing can ever be truly scrubbed from the internet, but don't go around bragging if you do find it.
The reason you might want to is that modder DerSilver83 has spent the last six years, on and off, fixing one of the biggest problems with the build, and one pretty important for an adventure game (first spotted by IndieRetroNews (opens in new tab)). The original leak of Warcraft Adventures was playable start to finish and included nearly all cutscenes, but the latter in particular suffered from de-synced audio and missing sound effects.
"Additionally these had been encoded with a low bitrate and suffered from a lot of compression artifacts," writes DerSilver83 "A few weeks later 2 missing cutscenes were found on a DVD, but being filmed from a TV screen, these had even bigger issues."
DerSilver83 has now released The Warcraft Adventure Cutscenes Remaster project, a standalone mod containing all the game's cutscenes (i.e. you'll need to track down the game yourself), including the 2 that were not present in the original leak, all completely remastered. Here are the main changes:
- Fitting sound effects and music have been added (200+ sound effects, music from Warcraft 1 + 3).
- The audio has been synced, with noise filtering, reverb etc. applied when necessary.
- A lot of compression artifacts have been removed by hand (this tedious work has been done for all cutscenes).
- The previously missing cutscenes, only available as a TV recording, have been carefully remastered by using deflickering filters, waifu upscaling, Photoshop editing and repainting big parts of almost every frame by hand. In addition they have been carefully adjusted to 12 fps as originally intended.
- Missing voices have been restored in the alternate “AMI intro” by using the original script and TTS software.
- Continuity errors (e.g. disappearing orcs or items, that should no longer exist) have been fixed.
"From 2016–2022 I have been working on this little project in my spare time," writes DerSilver83. You can download the remastered cutscenes here (opens in new tab).
Warcraft Adventures was conceived in an era when point-and-click adventures were hugely popular and Blizzard wanted a piece of the action with its biggest brand. Blizzard wasn't really a specialist at elements of adventure games though and so partnered with the Russian studio Animation Magic (best-known for the infamous Legend of Zelda CD-I games).
The story would revolve around Thrall uniting the various orc clans and eventually forming the Horde as we know it, but the game was cancelled shortly before E3 1998, with Blizzard essentially feeling that its traditional adventure stylings would no longer be state-of-the-art next to competitors like the stunning Grim Fandango. Former Blizzard VP Bill Roper later said of the decision: "when we got to the point where we cancelled it, it was just because we looked at where we were and said, you know, this would have been great three years ago."
Here's a deep-dive on the game's troubled development (opens in new tab).
The game's story was turned into a novel, Warcraft: Lord of the Clans, and Warcraft Adventures disappeared until videos began surfacing on Youtube in 2011. The Russian origin of many seemed to suggest that former Animation Magic staff or freelancers may have been behind the boosted copies
Warcraft Adventures is a relic, a curio from a time when Warcraft wasn't yet a world, and Blizzard was still figuring out elements like the tone and humour it would use in the future: this is a game where the world-destroying dragon Deathwing puffs on a hookah (opens in new tab).
The only major problem the leaked Warcraft Adventures had was these cutscene issues, and it's kind of amazing that one devoted individual has just been tinkering away with them for the past six years.
"Version 1.0 is a turning point for me," writes DerSilver83 (opens in new tab). "I have been working on it for the last 6 years and in that time I have done almost all I can do within a reasonable timeframe to complete and enhance the cutscenes. For me the game is very much enjoyable now and I see no real use in enhancing the cutscenes any further. I want to remember this project as something fun before it transforms into some kind of a burden. So this is it. The final release of my Cutscenes Remaster Project and I hope everybody who uses it can enjoy it as much as I do."
Fully playable start-to-finish, and now with all the extant cutscenes now working as they should: there are a lot worse fates for cancelled games than this.