Multimedia Exploration Journal: November 27, 2002

I've been at it again, purchasing absurd amounts of old software. Today I picked up 13 titles at one shop. Here is a cursory investigation.

1: Movie CD

First up is a "Movie CD" of Macross Plus. I thought maybe it was a VCD. But it definitely is not. The CD has one big AVI and software to play it in Windows 3.1 or 95. The codec is 'mvi2' which is not listed at (although 'mv12' is listed with no other information). I see that there was some discussion about this codec on the MPlayer users list back in July, and there is a sample AVI file on the MPlayer samples FTP. Here is a page with some information about the codec. To give you an idea of the age and the probable level of sophistication, this is from the intro paragraph: "Another new codec has stepped up to challenge the dominance of Cinepak and Indeo."

There is a company at But if it is still the same company, they radically shifted their business focus sometime ago. No trace of codec technology.

Curious item about the big AVI file: It has several JUNK chunks which contain the string "David Whipple/Christian Huygen" over and over and over again. There is a page about their achievements here. The article claims that the algorithm is patented but a patent search didn't turn up anything. There is also a very curious reference to these people on this page. The latter makes me wonder if this codec was used for games.

[Link: AVI samples using MVI2]

2: LucasArts Sampler

I found a LucasArts Entertainment sampler CD-ROM with demos of Afterlife, Tie Fighter, and Mortimer. The reason I picked this up is that several Lucasarts games use a game engine called SCUMM which is known to have a custom animation format. The Afterlife demo does not appear to contain any animations. The Mortimer demo contains many .san and .nut files which, according to this page are cutscene and font resource files formats, respectively. They have a familiar chunked format. The Tie Fighter demo does not have any recognizable animations, but lots of Creative voice (VOC) files, just like the full game.

The CD-ROM also has a bunch of Quicktime videos including some schlocky virtual reality videos with Cinepak/PCM. There is also a directory with a bunch of Chrysler/Plymouth car commercials (who apparently sponsored the CD-ROM).

[Link: LucasArts SAN sample files]

3: Microsoft Interactive CD Sampler

No surprises here. Lots of AVI files with Cinepak, MS Video-1, Indeo 3.2, Indeo 4.1, and even raw RGB video, all with linear PCM.

Did you know that Microsoft published a rock climbing simulation? It is entitled "Microsoft Beyond the Limit Ultimate Climb". The Indeo 3.2-encoded AVI trailer provides amusement for authentic, real-life rock climbers. Moving right along...

4: Eidos Demos

I was curious to know if Eidos games have any common media format. The disc has an AVI trailer for the game Daikatana. You may recall that when this game was released in 1999 it was widely regarded as very late and very bad. If you can believe it, the trailer was encoded in MS Video-1. This was 1999, remember. There is another AVI trailer but for a game called Anachronox. This is in Indeo 5.

The directory TOMB4 (presumably a Tomb Raider title) contains the Win32 Smacker codec DLL. This leads me to believe that the game uses Smacker video files.

[Link: Smacker samples]

The disc also has subdirectories for FORMULA1, KAIN, OMIKRON, REVENANT, TOMB3, TRGOLD, TR2GOLD, ThiefGold, abomination, commandos, cutthroats, and gangsters. They each have a single executable, probably self-extracting and self-installing.

Followup: Gabucino has offered the following intelligence on the Thief series:

5: Critical Path (MobyGames entry, IMDb Entry)

Critical Path, starring Eileen Weisinger as Kat. Ever hear of her? No? Well, that's not exactly unusual for early multimedia titles. Anyway, the game is comprised of QT files (Cinepak at a painful 240x180, and PCM audio), BMP files, and some WAV files.

With the help of a Quicktime-capable multimedia player, you can get the basic gist of what looks like a very short game. Basically it's just a series of Quicktime movies which let you make a life-or-death decision at certain points.

6: Wing Commander Prophecy (MobyGames entry)

This game is 3 CD-ROMs. The game still packages many files together in .TRE resource files like Wing Commander III and IV but the format is completely different than the earlier format. The game uses Electronic Arts' WVE and UV2 formats.

The box also mentions Dolby Surround.

[Link: EA WVE sample files]

7: Magic Carpet (MobyGames entry)

Copyright 1994 by Bullfrog software. I really had no reason to suspect that this game had any multimedia but it was from 1994, came on a CD-ROM, and was available at the used shop for 1 dollar. The game has a number of .DAT files which certainly appear to be FLI files, except that they will not play in any known FLI player. This will require further examination.

Followup: The files use a slightly modified variant of the FLI format. An explanation and several samples can be found here:

8: SI Sports Almanac

Sports Illustrated 1995 Multimedia Almanac. What do you expect? 89 Quicktime files. Almost all of them are Cinepak. But there are some RLE and SMC videos, too.

9: The C.H.A.O.S. Continuum (MobyGames entry)

The game is by Creative Multimedia Corporation and bears the Multimedia PC (MPC) logo, so it must have some kind of video files. Let's look...oh boy...625 Quicktime files. I better go make some popcorn.

The files are a mish-mash of QT RLE, SMC, and Cinepak with PCM. This is getting to be a common theme. Maybe Apple knew what they were doing by including a range on codecs with QT for different applications.

10: Chaos Control (MobyGames entry)

Chaos Control (not to be confused with the previous game). DOS game. Published by Philips. Created by Infogrames/I-Motion. Sounds like it could have some FMV. (But the game's requirements state specifically that it does not support Gravis sound cards; how bogus is that?) The box copy lists the game's key features as: The CD-ROM contains a game executable, an installation executable, a readme.txt file, and a 200MB file. This resource file begins with an incredibly simple file index which includes filename, absolute offset in resource, and file length. A lot of the files have an extension of smp. Other extensions include bin, mcg, a3, fla, and mux. The smp files are just Creative Voice (VOC) files (maybe the game just fed VOC files straight into the Sound Blaster software API which, as I recall, was difficult to emulate on the Gravis Ultrasound).

The mux files sound interesting because of filenames like credits.mux and intro1.mux. A mux file has the numbers 320 and 200 encoded in its header, but that is the only pattern that has jumped out at me so far.

More information on the MUX format can be found in "1-Hit Wonder" Formats.

[Link: MUX samples from Chaos Control]

11: Code Blue (MobyGames entry)

"The All-New Interactive ER Game." 2 discs. This is yet another Quicktime-based game. However, it is the first one I have seen that uses Sorenson video! All of the video is SVQ1. All of the audio is Qualcomm Qclp. I guess this makes sense since Qualcomm's codec is reputed to be great for compressing speech and that's what the audio in this game primarily consists of.

12: Command & Conquer (MobyGames entry)

Westwood Studios VQA movie files and AUD audio files, all contained in .MIX resource files. The specs for these files are mostly available already.

[Link: Westwood VQA samples]

13: Command & Conquer: The Covert Operations (MobyGames entry)

This is an expansion set for C&C. More VQA and AUD media in MIX resource files.

[Link: Westwood VQA samples]

by Mike Melanson (mike at

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