Multimedia Exploration Journal: February 16, 2003

I have made several stops at some of my favorite used video game and used software shops over the past few weeks.

Sega CD Games

I continue to find Sega CD games fascinating to study from a multimedia perspective. Clearly, there was no standard method for FMV playback. Subsequent systems such as the Sega Saturn and Sony Playstation had fairly standardized SDK support for FMV. But Sega CD developers were on their own. This led to a plethora of multimedia transport and coding formats for this early CD-based system. Some games actually stored sequences of video stored in the Sega Genesis tile format. Eventually, Sega developed the earliest FILM files for use on the console.

Ecco the Dolphin (MobyGames entry)

I purchased this game once before but took it back since I did not think it had any FMV. I re-purchased it because I learned that the 2 large files on the disc actually do contain sequences of uncompressed Sega Genesis tiles. David Morgan has written a Win32 utility called Sega CD Movie Viewer that can play these files as well as the FMV files on Sonic CD. The program is available at Zophar's Domain Sega Genesis Utilities page.

[Link: LMS samples from Ecco the Dolphin]

Mansion of Hidden Souls (MobyGames entry)

This Sega CD game has lots of directories with .mkg and .meg files. The .mkg files appear to be sign/magnitude audio.

Batman and Robin

This Sega CD title contains early FILM files that do not have a full index in the STAB chunk. They also have the codec fourcc 'seg4'.

[Link: FILM samples from the Batman and Robin Sega CD game]

More Sega Saturn Games And Their FILM/CPK Files

In all my time of studying FILM/CPK files from Sega Saturn games I realized that I never encountered a single file that contained stereo audio. However, Tomb Raider (MobyGames entry), Darkstalker's Revenge, and Virtual Hydlide (MobyGames entry) all have stereo CPK files and I found out the rules change just a bit. The PCM audio samples are not interleaved. Each audio chunk has left channel samples for the first half and right channel samples for the second half. This makes sense because on console sound hardware it is common to have to use 2 channels for stereo audio. Set one channel to extreme left, set another channel to extreme right, and send the left and right samples separately.

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.

PC Software

And here we are at my favorite section: Old PC software that hopefully contains multimedia. 20 titles:

1: Wing Commander: Privateer (MobyGames entry)

This CD-ROM has a copyright date of 1994. It came out just before the PC FMV era got rolling. The game originally came as several packages (base game, expansion pack, speech pack) on multiple floppy discs. Eventually, the whole bundle was released on one CD-ROM.

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.

2: The Magic Death

The Magic Death by Shannon Gilligan. Published by Creative Multimedia and copyright 1993. The disc also mentions "MPC/MAC" but without any official logos. The disc will not mount under Linux as an ISO-9660 filesystem. The physical disc surface looks pristine. This must be for Mac computers.

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.

3: 1993 Guinness Multimedia Disc of Records

This Guinness disc bears the MPC and CD-DA logos. It also claims that it is a bundled version and not to be sold separately from hardware. The disc contains many PCX graphic files. There are also 37 Quicktime files compressed with Quicktime Video (RPZA codec). The videos seem more encyclopedic in nature (WW2 D-Day synopsis, space shuttle launch, Hindenburg disaster, jungle animals in their natural habitat) rather than showing world record feats.

The disc contains only a data track and there is no CD digital audio track as the surface of the CD-ROM insinuated.

4: The Journeyman Project Turbo! (MobyGames entry)

By Presto Studios, another lone CD-ROM in a jewel case with no documentation. The disc has a picture of a fellow who bears a resemblance to Marvel's Punisher character.

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.

5: Blue Force (MobyGames entry)

I was very excited when I saw who published this game: Tsunami Media. I saw some very cheesy demos for some of their other interactive movie games on an installation CD-ROM for an ATI video card. This CD-ROM contains their game Blue Force as well as a playable demo of Flash Traffic: City of Angels.

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-'.

6: Nuclear Strike (MobyGames entry)

1997 game published by Electronic Arts. It contains a video/ directory with a 355 megabyte resource file. The resource file has the signature 'TERF'. According to the text strings in the resource, there are WVE and FSV files packed inside. I have not heard of FSV before.

[Link: EA WVE samples]

7: Launch: The Bi-Monthly Entertainment CD-ROM, No. 3

I'm guessing that this CD-ROM came in some kind of publication. The disc surface lists a copyright date of 1995 and boasts that it "Includes Alanis Morissette's 'Hand In My Pocket'" ostensibly in digital audio form. Sure enough, track 2 appears to have some live recording of that song. Other than that, the disc has demo versions for Mechwarrior 2 and FX Fighter (both analyzed in other journal entries) as well as Levi's 501 screensavers for both PC and Mac.

8: Hitman (MobyGames entry)

This is the Eidos title from 2000. There is a 263 megabyte file. I installed the game and played briefly. The logo animations appear to be some kind of FMV but I do not know if there is any FMV in the actual movie. Cut scenes seem be comprised of real-time 3D animations.

9: Q2 (MobyGames entry)

Q2, version 2.0 by Microstar. Published in 1996. That is all I know based on the disc. The disc contains the file egavga.bgi. I recognize this file. It is the EGA/VGA driver for the Borland Graphics Interface, used for programming PC graphics in Borland's C and Pascal languages. The disc contains less than 15 megabytes of data so I can't imagine that there is any reasonable multimedia.

10: Gangsters: Organized Crime (MobyGames entry)

Another Eidos-published title. This comes from 1998. The CD-ROM contains 11 tracks. Tracks 2-10 are audio tracks. Track 1 is data. Curiously, track 11 is also data. Not to mention that tracks 8-10 are all silence. The game has a Video/ directory with a variety of Smacker multimedia files.

[Link: Smacker samples]

11: Beyond Atlantis (MobyGames entry)

Beyond Atlantis comes from Dreamcatcher Interactive. A 4-disc game that contains a variety of multimedia files I have not seen before. The discs each contain a datas_a2/ directory which contains subdirectories for 3d/, apc/, hnm/, spf/, spw/, and warp/. My best guess, based on filesizes and names, is that the hnm files are FMV. The files contain plausible video resolution numbers encoded near the start of the file. However, there are no plausible audio-related numbers. However, the apc file do contain such numbers (such as 22050 encoded close to the start of the file). Based on the names of the files, there could be a correlation between between apc and hnm files, e.g., cine040.APC and cine040.HNM.

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.

12: Comedy Central's Sports Short

"The Comedy Club in a Box", "Over 60 minutes of live-action video on CD-ROM". Published by Time-Warner Interactive and bearing the MPC CD-ROM mark.

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.

13: Savage Warriors (MobyGames entry)

1995 title from Mindscape. Lots of PCX pictures. Some XMI MIDI files. There is also an anm/ directory that contains WAV files and ANM files. My best guess is that the ANM files are graphical animations. The files contain the signature 'CHCK' and have 640x480 encoded in the first few bytes.

[Link: ANM samples from Savage Warriors]

14: Arnie II (MobyGames entry) / Blade Warrior (MobyGames entry)

I don't know what this title is but the used software shop has plenty of copies in its dollar bin. The disc is emblazoned with the logo "CD Megapack" and ostensibly comes from Merit Studios. Copyright 1994.

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.

15: The Road Ahead

The Road Ahead, copyright 1995 by William H. Gates III. The CD-ROM has an ISO-9660 data track and 11 CD audio tracks. The data track contains a profiles/ directory with plenty of BMPs, AVIs, and WAVs. WAV files are encoded with MS ADPCM. AVIs are Intel Indeo 3 and PCM. The disc has lots of errors of one kind or another and I have the worst time getting any data from it.

16:Virtual Pool (MobyGames entry)

Pool game published by Interplay in 1995. Maybe it will be good for some Interplay MVE files. I was afraid that a pool simulation would not lend itself well to FMV. But the disc actually contains 86 Interplay MVE files totaling 434 megabytes.

[Link: Interplay MVE samples]

17: Tomb Raider II (MobyGames entry)

Lara Croft's second adventure on the PC. Produced by Core and published by Eidos. The game comes with 2 CD-ROMs that look identical and both say "English", though the manual is written in 3 languages. Is this a multiplayer game?

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:

V:\Project Management\Troy\Tomb2.Fmv\PC\Core\logo.rpl
Copyright (c) 1997 Eidos plc.  All rights reserved.
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]

18: Realms of the Haunting (MobyGames entry)

Realms of the Haunting: The Battleground Between Ultimate Good And Evil, published by Interplay and clearly marked as "Not for sale outside North America". Hmm. Developed by a studio named Gremlin.

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]

19: Diablo (MobyGames entry)

This is the popular game from Blizzard Entertainment. Allegedly contains FMV encoded with Blizzard's own codec. The disc has a demo/ directory with a 32 megabyte blizdemo.exe file and a copy of the Smacker DLL. The primary directory contains a 517 megabyte .mpq MoPaQ file. This is a Blizzard archive file that contains all of the game's data. Multimedia files consist of WAV files and Smacker files.

[Link: Smacker samples]

20: Treasure Quest (MobyGames entry)

Finally I come to Treasure Quest. What stood out about this game was the fact that this title was published by Sirius, the same people responsible for the Movie CDs. As far as I know, this is the only game to use their Motion Pixels video codec.

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:

by Mike Melanson (mike at

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