Multimedia Exploration Journal: August 12, 2003

The mountain town of Silverthorne, Colorado is sort of like one big outdoor mall thanks to the Silverthorne 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.

Montezuma's Return

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.

[Link: Smacker samples]

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".

River World

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 Atlantis?

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!

[Link: FLI/FLC sample files]

Eidos Absolute Action Pack

This is a bundle consisting of 3 Eidos-published games for the PC.

[Link: 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 Smacker files.

Running under Wine was probably doomed from the start as it wants the screen in 256-color mode.

[Link: Smacker samples]

A Bug's Life (MobyGames entry)

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.

Ultimate Ride (MobyGames entry)

"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, 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 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 investigate.

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

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