I have made several stops at some of my favorite used video game and used software shops over the past few weeks.
[Link: LMS samples from Ecco the Dolphin]
[Link: FILM samples from the Batman and Robin Sega CD game]
Mansion of Hidden Souls was also released on the Sega Saturn. The game lets you roam around a mansion from a first-person perspective. However, all of the movement paths are pre-rendered and stored as CPK files (400+ CPK files). Still, I have to give the game credit for its relative seamlessness. One quirk I observed while playing through all the files on this game is that there are a few files which have animation for about the first half of the file and then hold the frame about halfway through. This is perfectly reasonable given the constraints of the format and the environment it was expected to operate in. But it confuses certain multimedia players that expect a constant feed of audio and video.
[Link: FILM/CPK samples from various Sega Saturn games]
Creature Shock: Special Edition (MobyGames entry) is a Sega Saturn title that uses lots of pre-rendered 3D animation contained in some kind of multimedia format. The format is certainly not FILM. It is certainly not smooth, either. All of the video plays very choppy.
The disc contains 2 large .TRE resource files (Origin really likes that extension). The format is different from the other TRE resource formats I have seen so far. Among the files in the resource files are many Creative Voice (VOC) files, presumably for the speech.
Anyway, if you are curious, there is a review for this game at Adventure Collective.
Followup: I was eventually able to read this CD-ROM under Linux using the Linux HFS facilities. As expected, the multimedia files consist of Quicktime and AIFF files.
The disc contains only a data track and there is no CD digital audio track as the surface of the CD-ROM insinuated.
The CD-ROM contains lots of WAV and AVI files. The WAV files are uniformly mono, 8-bit, 22010 Hz PCM. They contain in-game speech samples and some decent music clips. Out of all the AVI files, there are 11 "Making of..." videos in Cinepak/PCM. There are also AVI files that contain concatenations of building hallway navigation scenes compressed in Microsoft Video-1 at a fairly high resolution (480x216). At least one MS RLE AVI is thrown in for the title animation. There are also a few Cinepak cutscenes animation thrown in. And there are also some Indeo 3 videos. These people really used the whole gamut of early codecs.
For more information on the Journeyman Project series, check the Adventure Collective's reviews for The Journeyman Project, The Journeyman Project 2: Buried in Time, The Journeyman Project 3: Legacy of Time, and an editorial on Legacy of the Journeyman Project.
When I did a little web research on Flash Traffic (MobyGames entry) I found a version that apparently required an MPEG decoder card. I hypothesized that the game used flat MPEG files. A different version of the game might, but this version certainly does not. This demo is loaded with a bunch of large .bfi files. The files range in size from a few hunded kilobytes up to 20 megabytes. The format appears to be your average chunked multimedia format which chunk signatures like 'BF&I' and 'IVAS'. I also see a width and height (320x140) encoded in the header.
More information on the BFI format can be found in "1-Hit Wonder" Formats.
[Link: BFI sample files]
There is a demo for a game called Return to Ringworld. The directory for the demo contains a 32 megabyte file called r2rw.rlb and a 110 megabyte file called snd4k.res. The .res file is most likely a resource format. It contains chunks with signatures like 'SPAM' (!), 'FEED', and 'MORE'. I'm not sure about the content of the .rlb file.
As for the main attraction, Blue Force (MobyGames entry), the directory contains 2 of those .rlb files: install.rlb (small) and blue.rlb (63 megabytes). It seems reasonable that these are resource files to hold all of the game's data. The files begin with the signature 'TMI-'.
[Link: EA WVE samples]
[Link: Smacker samples]
The files contain the strings "CRYO" and "Pascal URRO" in the header. According to this page, one Pascal Urro is known to do game development work for an entity named Cryo Entertainment.
The disc contains 60+ sports-related standup comedy AVI clips. All of the files are apparently encoded with 240x180 Microsoft Video-1 and 11025 Hz mono, 8-bit PCM.
The multimedia on this disc may be fairly low quality by today's standards but the content is still a refreshing break from the usual computer-generated schlock coupled with horrid acting I'm usually subjected to during these investigations.
[Link: ANM samples from Savage Warriors]
A "du -k" command on the CD-ROM quickly reveals that the Arnie II and Blade Warrior games could each fit snugly on a single floppy disk. Blade Warrior shows its age by its cga/ and ega/ subdirectories. Arnie II has several sound effects contained in Creative Voice files. But it also earns a special place in my heart for using a MOD file for its background music.
The disc also contains directories for ioddemo and maeldemo. I can't tell for sure which games these represent. ioddemo has some Creative Voice files and 3 very messed up FLI files depicting a jungle adventurer meeting with a very gruesome demise. The maeldemo has several .anm files but not the same kind seen in Savage Warriors.
[Link: FLI/FLC sample files]
Finally, there also seems to be playable demo for a game called the Psychotron. I remember purchasing this game once but I could not get it to run on my PC so I returned it. The demo occupies 120 megabytes on the CD-ROM. There are 33 AVI files depicting pre-rendered 3D movement around a building and some of the very worst acting I have ever witnessed in any interactive movie video game (and that's saying a lot for this genre). Some of these movies actually start with the video paused and tracking lines at the bottom of the frame. Anyway, technical info: The videos are 320x240 Cinepak with PCM.
[Link: Interplay MVE samples]
The disc has a directory called fmv/ (I like it when they make it simple like that). The directory contains several .rpl files. It seems that this stands for RePLay file and that the compression technology used inside is known as "Escape". Eidos has released a standalone Win32 program that can handle these files. The program will only run in 16-bit color mode which may offer a clue about the underlying codec.
The RPL files start with a lot of useful playback information in tabular textual format. For example:
ARMovie V:\Project Management\Troy\Tomb2.Fmv\PC\Core\logo.rpl Copyright (c) 1997 Eidos plc. All rights reserved. ESCAPE 2.0 130 video format 320 pixels 240 pixels 16 bits per pixel RGB 30.000000 frames per second 1 sound format - standard 22050 Hz samples 2 channels 16 bits per sample (LINEAR UNSIGNED) 1 frames per chunk 868 number of chunks 0 even chunk size 0 odd chunk size 15979364 offset to chunk cat 1024 offset to sprite 0 size of sprite 0 offset to key frames
I am still a bit confused as to why this game comes in a deluxe jewel case capable of accommodating 4 CD-ROMs but includes 2 identical discs. I don't see any indication that this is a multiplayer game where 2 computers would be able to use a CD apiece.
[Link: RPL samples]
Anyway, the box copy lists digital video as a key feature. It is a 4-disc game. More Interplay MVE files? Let's see. There is a startrek subdirectory for with a file called trailer.sfa. It's an Interplay MVE file. Moving on to the actual game, the signature string "Interplay MVE File" does not occur in the game data files on the first disc. There is a gdv/ directory with a number of large (0.5 -> 90 megabytes) .gdv files. My best guess is that these files are the FMV files and is probably a chunked format similar to Interplay MVE. Some of the files are encoded with audio parameters close to the beginning. The files also appear to have 6-bit VGA palette information close to the start of the file.
According to the Unofficial website devoted to the game, GDV stands for Gremlin Digital Video. The website has a standalone player available for download.
[Link: GDV sample files]
[Link: Smacker samples]
The gimmick for this game was the possibility to win $1 million of, you know, real-life American currency. "It is the first and only multimedia mystery challenge with a one million dollar prize." When I was originally researching the Motion Pixels codec, I came across this curious page dealing with Treasure Quest. Now I think I understand why people would have such a keen interest in knowing every finest detail of the game.
The game stars Terry Farrell of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine fame. The goal of the game is to solve the puzzle left behind by a recently-deceased professor to obtain the prize. I must note the game has some very nice packaging and everything was still in mint condition, even though this was a used copy. Aside from the instruction manual and the game CD-ROM, there is also a separate CD for the game soundtrack by one Jody Marie Gnant, a little invitation from the professor to his students issuing the challenge and an authentic-looking last will and testament from the professor.
Followup: According to this page, a fellow named Richard Gnant is the CEO of Sirius, the publisher of this game. Coincidence? Not according to this old review of the game which specifically notes the relationship.
As one might imagine, the game CD-ROM is jammed full of AVI and WAV files. The AVI files are actually compressed with the fourcc 'mvi1' in contrast to the Movie CD I studied which used 'mvi2'. There is at least one AVI file encoded with Microsoft Video-1.
[Link: AVI samples compressed with MVI1 ]
Last but not least, the game comes with promotional material for the Motion Pixels codec. The brochure notes:
The Motion Pixels Player program offers multimedia developers a wide choice of playback options:
- 12 resizing options
- three color choices
- five screen resolutions
- chroma keying (blue/green screening)
- single field
- wide field split
- predictive frame doubling
by Mike Melanson (mike at multimedia.cx).
Multimedia Exploration Journal
Codec Research Institute Main Page