Multimedia Exploration Journal: December 26, 2002

Post-Christmas shopping spree. I picked up 15 individual titles at the used software shop. Discovering what multimedia content lies on the shiny surfaces of these CD-ROMs is like Christmas morning all over again.

1: Baldur's Gate DVD-ROM (MobyGames entry)

This DVD-ROM contains the complete Baldur's Gate CD-ROM collection. Baldur's Gate is an Interplay title that used the Interplay MVE format. The main reason I bought it (besides its cheap price tag) is that I am currently trying to implement the Interplay MVE format for xine. But I am having some trouble with the video decoder. The Interplay MVE document was primarily targeted towards Baldur's Gate. I want to see if the BG movies use a slightly different format than some of the other Interplay titles I have.

[Link: Interplay MVE sample files]

2: The Curse of Monkey Island (MobyGames entry)

A LucasArts game. 2 CD-ROMs. Many resource files, including cutscene animations, as detailed on this page.

[Link: LucasArts SAN samples]

3: Grim Fandango (MobyGames entry)

"An Epic Tale of Crime and Corruption in the Land of the Dead." Another LucasArts title. 2 CD-ROMs. Lots of .lab resource files including some with the word "movie" in the title.

It also seems that this game, as well as a few other LucasArts titles, were developed with the free Lua language.

[Link: LucasArts SAN samples]

4: The Last Dynasty (MobyGames entry)

Sierra title from 1995. The box copy touts "sizzling space combat action" as well as "compelling role-playing adventure". It does not specifically mention any full motion video. However, the first CD-ROM contains a directory called "vfw" which contains rather old versions of Windows VFW codecs (like Indeo 2 and 3). The first CD-ROM also has a directory called "avi" which contains an Indeo3/PCM AVI trailer/making-of video for Phantasmagoria.

Both CD-ROMs contain several large .itk and .stk files which are simple resource files. The filenames in the resource files typically bear extentions such as SND, WAV, and VMD. According to this page, VMD stands for Video and Music data and is a custom Sierra movie format. Another game media format to go after.

My first guess, based on the vfw directory, was that this used a vfw codec binary. Now I tend to think that the video format in the VMD files is a custom Sierra creation and that the VFW install was included for that one game trailer.

Followup: The VMD multimedia system has been reverse engineered. See the multimedia formats page for more information.

[Link: Sierra VMD samples]

5: Millenia: Altered Destinies (MobyGames entry)

Game by Take 2 Interactive Software from 1995. Rated 1 (on a scale of 1-4) for violence due to "Damage to realistic objects". The box mentioned "lavish animation, video, and 3D-rendered graphics", so there will hopefully me some multimedia formats.

The CD-ROM has a directory called cuts/ that has a number of .CIN files. Could it be? The same animation format used in Quake II? No, not even close. It is a resource format that contains a bunch of WAV files. According to the comments at the end of each WAV file, the authors used SoundForge to create the audio.

There is a directory called graphics/ which GLB, RAW, and ABM files. The ABM files tend to be larger than a megabyte so I looked closer. Definitely a tagged animation format. This site has a utility that claims to be able to play the ABM animations in DOS mode.

There is also an intro/ directory which contains 2 large (5MB and 16MB) TSH files. The file begins with the tag 'IAVF'. I would like to think that this is some kind of movie format but I don't see anything that looks like video parameters in the header. There are audio parameters, though (11025 Hz, 1 channel, 8 bits). And the data in the file looks like raw, unsigned PCM.

6: Disney's Atlantis Game (MobyGames entry)

Disney's Atlantis: The Lost Empire-- Search For The Journal. It is pretty typical for Disney video games to have FMV, so I picked this game up. And it uses...lots of Bink (BIK) files. But it also has a bunch of WAV and SWF files in a Windows/Media/ directory. These are likely unrelated to the primary game; probably some bundled internet extras.

[Link: Bink samples]

7: Quantum Gate (MobyGames entry)

Copyright 1994 by HyperBole Studios. No box. No manual. Cost 1 dollar. Hope it has media. The disc seems to have installations for both an early version of Quicktime and an early version of Windows Media Player.

The game is definitely a member of the "interactive movie" genre. Only they prefer to call it "Virtual Cinema". Anyway, the CD-ROM has 667 Quicktime files. It looks like they are all Cinepak/PCM. I am not going to look through them all.

8: Earth Siege 2 (MobyGames entry)

1995 Sierra Online game. Unfortunately, my CD-ROM drive refuses to read the disc (or maybe it just knows something that I do not). I just can not seem to mount the disc under Linux (2.4.18 kernel) but Windows reads it just fine. The media is contained in AVI and WAV files. Strange that it does not use the VMD format seen earlier today.

The AVI files are all Indeo 3/PCM files with one stray Indeo 4 file.

9: CD-R Demo

CD-R demo. Really. "The CD-Recording Alliance presents: Behind the Scenes With Warren Miller. A Demonstration of Compact Disc Recordable Technology." Multimedia files are MPEG files which is quite a pleasant change, even though the quality is not that high. The CD also has some audio tracks to show off the full flexibility of CD-R.

10: Beyond Time (MobyGames entry)

1997 game from Dreamcatcher Interactive. 2 CD-ROMs. Able to run on Windows 3.1 with a 66 MHz 486. The Quicktime logo is featured prominently. The game's media files consist of Indeo3-encoded QT files along with a trailer of another game in Cinepak format.

11: The Messenger (MobyGames entry)

2001 game also published by Dreamcatcher Interactive. This game has 2 CD-ROMs and both have a data/ directory with a very large number of data files. Quite a few WAV and PCX files. But there are also files with the extension 4xm. This is apparently the file format used by 4X Technologies. I have seen this format used in Alone In The Dark: The New Nightmare for the Sega Dreamcast. According to their homepage, the codec was also used to compress the video for Britney's Dance Beat on the Game Boy Advance. For some reason, I tend to think that if their codec was being used for absolutely any other game in current release, that game would have merited mention over Ms. Spears.

Anyway, this is the first PC game that I have seen which uses 4X Movie.

Followup: All of the components of the 4X multimedia system (file format, video codec, and audio codec) have been reverse engineered. See the multimedia research page for more information.

[Link: 4xm samples from The Messenger and other games]

12: FX Fighter (MobyGames entry)

PC fighting game from 1995. The jewel case copy did not specifically mention FMV but it did mention "SGI rendered animations and backgrounds". The CD-ROM does contain a video directory with a number of BRP files. This is certainly a tagged animation format. Among the files, there is a file called credits.brp (credits animation), a file called gte.brp (this game is published by GTE Entertainment so this is probably a logo animation), and then there is a file called pxan.brp. This makes me wonder if the file is related to the video codecs used in Wing Commander III and IV.

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

[Link: BRP samples]

13: Compton's Concise Encyclopedia

CD-ROM Encyclopedia. Hopefully, it will be good for some multimedia files. Sure enough: Cinepak and Indeo3 AVI files with PCM, and MS ADPCM-encoded WAV files.

14: Frankenstein: Through The Eyes of the Monster (MobyGames entry)

This is an Interplay-published title from 1996. Interplay titles usually use the custom Interplay MVE format. Yet this CD-ROM prominently displays the Quicktime logo. Then again, Interplay is simply the publisher. The game was developed by Amazing Media Inc. and I imagine that individual game developers are given freedom to use whichever formats they choose.

343 Quicktime files. 939 AIFF files. Apparently, all of the Quicktime files are Cinepak-encoded, many at a rather painfully low resolution.

I just remembered that this is the interactive movie video game starring Tim Curry. Here is the brief IMDb entry.

15: James Cameron's Titanic Explorer

3-disc set from Fox Interactive. Runs on Windows and Macintosh. Quicktime-based. It uses a range of QT codecs including a little Cinepak and QT Graphics (SMC). But most of it uses Sorenson. This was a big surprise to me since I imagine this software must have been available in early 1998. It was apparently QTv3-based and it uses SVQ1.

by Mike Melanson (mike at

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