Multimedia Exploration Journal: August 12, 2003
The mountain town of Silverthorne,
Colorado is sort of like one big outdoor mall thanks to the
Factory Stores. I can not necessarily articulate what a factory store is
supposed to be, but if the K*B Toys
factory store is any indication, a factory store is where products go to
die. This is not a bad thing, mind you; in fact, it plays right into
my hands as this store has piles of forgotten CD-ROM entertainment software.
This is a 3D action game from 1999. No FMV is emphasized on the box and there
is maybe 10 megabytes of actual game data on the disc (though there is 6 times
as much space used for DirectX distribution).
The game installs fine through Wine (and quickly with its extreme light
weight). Running the game is a bit tricky since it blanks the entire screen
while it also prompts me for a series of setup dialogs, which I can not see
since the screen is blanked. Using some tricks, I can continue through the
dialogs and eventually work through a series of 2 company logos. Then Wine
gets an unhandled exception.
Published by WizardWorks, developed by Utopia Technologies. This is yet another
3D update to a classic, beloved computer game. The box copy lists "Hilarious
full-motion video sequences". I'll be the judge of that.
Video is done with the help of Smacker files. How very common.
Installation under Wine goes smoothly. There are apparently 3 games:
Montezuma's Return VG, which crashes after the company logo animation,
Montezuma's Return 3D, which I can not run unless I have 3DFX support,
and the classic Montezuma's Revenge. I'm starting to get really good
at "killall -9 wine".
That's Philip Jose Farmer's River World, for completeness. This is
by Cryo Entertainment. I recall that the Dreamcatcher title Beyond
Atlantis used multimedia technology ostensibly developed at Cryo. And would
you believe that this game has a series of .HNM files just like Beyond
No dice on getting it to run under Wine. Maybe it is because I have not
worked out how to make DirectX work properly through Wine.
Spy Fox 2: Some Assembly Required
Humongous Entertainment has good representation on the K*B Toy Store with
its kid-oriented titles. This looks to be a point-and-click type of adventure
game. The disc contains *.HE? resource files that have the basic fourcc-size
structure to them. Representative fourccs are TLKB, TALK, HSHD, SBNG, SDAT,
SONG, SGHD, SGEN, and DIGI.
Followup: Several readers have reported that Humongous Entertainment
was started by a group from LucasArts. As such, their games are based
on the SCUMM engine.
The game is a James Bond parody geared for children and is rather entertaining
for grown-ups (well, me, anyway). Like another Humongous Entertainment title
I tested (Putt-Putt Goes To The Moon), this game works quite well in
Wine. There is a lot of animation but it is clearly done with
cleverly-manipulated bitmap images to give an effective cartoonish feel.
Spooky Castle: The Adventures of Kid Mystic
Published by eGames (ahem, "The Greatest
Games In The Galaxy"-- their words, not mine), the front of the
box boldly proclaims, "The best fantasy role playing game for the PC!".
Perhaps the thing about the box that really grabbed me is that they list
not only their website URL, physical street address, and phone number, but
also their Nasdaq symbol (EGAM). The game is copyright 1999 and I somehow
have visions of these people getting caught up in the eCraze of the late
1990s and hoping to cash in big. Their website survives to this day but they
have dropped the silly "Greatest Games" spiel and simply go by the slogan,
"Family Friendly (TM) Software".
All that aside, the game looks pretty good from the screenshots-- the classical
Zelda-style, overhead medieval adventure game. I am drawn to this type of
electronic entertainment. Browsing the CD-ROM filesystem,
I see an Xtras/ subdirectory that has runtime setups for Visual Basic versions
4, 5, and 6. I don't mind telling you that seeing those setups does not sit
well with me. Alas, I cannot even get the game to run under Wine which comes
as no big surprise considering that I actually tried to make the game work
in Windows XP earlier-- no luck there, either. But at least it failed in
"different" ways under Wine. Several different ways, in fact.
However, the game does have some multimedia. It has ~150 WAV files for sound
effects and background music. The music is strangely hissy. It also has FMV
in the form of FLC files! Amazing; the format lives on!
FLI/FLC sample files]
Eidos Absolute Action Pack
This is a bundle consisting of 3 Eidos-published games for the PC.
- Gangsters: Organized Crime (MobyGames entry): This was briefly examined in a previous
- Tomb Raider III (MobyGames entry): Hopefully, this will have more of that RPL media.
Sure enough; it has a fmv/ directory with 2 files: Intr_Eng.rpl and logo.rpl.
logo.rpl is precisely the same file as from Tomb Raider II. Under Wine, the
system configuration fails gracefully. I did not have high hopes for it
working correctly due to my lack of 3D support on my main machine. But it
was refreshing to see an app not crash for once.
- Legacy of Kain: Soul Reaver (MobyGames entry): I have this title for the Sega
Dreamcast and it certainly seems to have FMV there. Let's see if it got
ported to the PC version. I can not get the software to kick off in Wine
because the system is unable to find certain necessary files. However, the
root directory of the disc contains 11 RPL files. There are also DLL files
such as Winplay.dll, Winsdec.dll, and Winstr.dll that export functions that
appear to be related to demuxing, decoding, and playing back multimedia files.
The primary executable kain2.exe imports from Winplay.dll, which imports from
Winstr.dll, which imports from Winsdec.dll, and also 2 other DLLs, Dec130.dll
and edec.dll. According to the RPL file headers, the video format is #130.
Hmmm...unfortunately, Dec130.dll's functions are named very unintuitively as
ExpFn0000() .. ExpFn0009(). Also, judging by the "4 bits per sample" field
in the file headers, it is safe to assume that the files use some sort of
ADPCM audio compression.
RPL sample files]
Disney's Hades Challenge
Another Disney's Hercules computer game is the only piece of software I have
yet encountered that uses a file format called ETV, thought to be eTreppid
video. I had hopes that maybe this was similar. Alas, the manual specifically
mentions RadGameTools/Smacker/Miles. Sure enough-- the game has over 500
Running under Wine was probably doomed from the start as it wants the screen
in 256-color mode.
Computer game based on the Disney/Pixar animation. Curiously, it has a
Psygnosis symbol attached to it and the box front proudly displays an award
as the winner of the Academy of Interactive Arts And Sciences. Anyway, the
back of the box promises FMV. After much searching on the CD, I finally
found a TEMP/ directory that contained a series of large .BUG files. The
files are each plain MPEG files. I guess they figured any other video
format just would not do the animation justice.
The installation works itself into a state where it complains about some
DirectX inconsistency, tosses up a dialog prompting to terminate installation,
but won't get rid of the hourglass mouse icon.
"Create the ultimate coaster-- and ride it!" A roller coaster simulator from
Disney Imagineering. The box copy has emblems for
Gigawatt Studios and X-audio. According
to the website at xaudio.com, the
organization licenses a portable decoding SDK targeted at MPEG layers 1, 2,
and 3. The disc has a music directory that, curiously, has its songs in both
MP3 and WAV formats. The WAV format must be for machines that can't keep up
with the MP3 decoding. But there is a file called BonusMusic.mp3 which must
be some kind of value-add for machines fast enough to play the MP3.
The only FMV files on the disc consist of 640x480 AVI files showcasing
Disney and Gigawatt logos and use MS
ADPCM for audio and either Cinepak, Indeo 3, or Indeo 5 for video.
Under Wine, I couldn't make the installer(s) play nice. After listening to the
songs, I wasn't too pumped to play the game anyway.
Billboard Music Guide/Blockbuster Movie Guide
This is a double pack of CD-ROM entertainment guides from Creative Multimedia
(a company which no longer holds the creativemm.com domain). The boxes list the
old Quicktime multi-colored logo which likely indicates QT v3. There are
also logos for Indeo Technology as well as "Compression by Pegasus". Given the
age of the the software, I am guessing the Indeo version is 3 at best. Time to
There are over 40 Indeo 3/PCM AVI files on the Blockbuster disc showcasing
famous movies. The Billboard disc contains over 50 similarly-formatted AVI
files with random music video and performance clips. The disc also contains
well over 1000 MPEG layer 2 audio clips that are each approximately 10-15
seconds long. I'm not entirely sure where the Quicktime or the Pegasus
technologies come into play. Maybe Pegasus created and published
Creative Multimedia's particular version of the MPEG audio encoder.
The Billboard disc attempts to install the Juno
free email service. Their
slogan is (or, perhaps, was) "Email was meant to be free". That mentality
brings back fond memories.
As a bonus, the Billboard box also came with a "Try before you buy" edition
of The Family Doctor CD-ROM. This feels a little suspect to have a trial
version of a CD-ROM media reference ("To see the full treatment for that
venomous snakebite, please purchase the full version, which also comes with
a parent's guide to dealing with scraped knees"). The structure of the disc
follows the same pattern as the Billboard and Blockbuster discs.
by Mike Melanson (mike at multimedia.cx).
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