Multimedia Exploration Journal: August 31, 2003

If you let a few months transpire, even the stock at the spent shops will turn over dramatically.

Saturday Night Live Goes Political

This disc reminded me of Comedy Central's Sports Shorts. I assume it has some fairly standard multimedia, probably using some older technology, but would be far more entertaining the usual digitized cheez that passes for multimedia diversions.

The manual sports the "Made with Macromedia" and multi-colored (pre-v4) Quicktime logos. When I run the installer in Wine, I am prompted to install QT v2.13. Old school.

So the disc uses Quicktime. Unfortunately, my Linux computer cannot seem to see any of the data files on the disc. The CD-ROM contains installation executable for the SNL app as well as QT, but no data files are seen even though 'df -k' reports a full CD-ROM. It might be a similar issue as with The Daedalus Encounter. I will need to check if the data files appear in Windows.

Yoda Stories/Star Wars: Behind The Magic (MobyGames entry)

This looks like some kind of combo CD-ROM with 2 distinct titles: Yoda Stories and Star Wars: Behind The Magic. LucasArts likes to use a variety of multimedia formats on their titles. Let's see what's on here.

The CD-ROM has a 200+ MB file called bundle.000 which apparently belongs to the Behind the Magic portion. The file is a typical fourcc/chunked file format. The master chunk type is BUND which contains a BNHD chunk at the front. After the BNHD chunk comes a BNDT chunk. This is rather interesting as it is some kind of computer script in plaintext. It starts off as:

#include "general\\scripts\\intrnatl.s"
// Globals
   public char demo_version = 1;
   public char global_path_string[201] = {0};
   public char global_file_string[51] = {0};
   public char global_path_string2[201] = {0};
   public char global_file_string2[51] = {0};
   public char global_string1[81] = {0};
   public char global_search_string[81] = {0};
   public long global_long1 = 0;
   public long global_long2 = 0;
   public long global_long3 = 0;
   public char trivia_table[500];
   public int  trivia_correct = 0;
   public int  trivia_found = 0;
   public int  option_video_back = 0;
   public int  option_subtitles = 0;
   public int  option_print_orient = 0;
   public int  option_print_size = 2;
   public int TRIVIA_COUNT = 300;
   if (demo_version==1) {
                        "LucasArts Entertainment Company LLC",
                        "Behind The Magic",
                        "VSE" );
   } else {
                        "LucasArts Entertainment Company LLC",
                        "Behind The Magic",
                        "v1.0" );
// Resources
   wor_CursorLoad( "GENERAL\\IMAGES\\", "" );
   wor_FontFree( TRUE );
   wor_FontLoad( "GENERAL\\FONTS\\", "ARIAL14.BM" );

...and it goes on and on with plenty of plaintext data. All of the referenced images and other associated resources must be contained within as well and the main program is likely a script interpreter.

The Yoda Stories portion only has a 4.5 MB fourcc/chunked data file so it, but plenty of .WAV sound effects in a separate directory.

As for Wine compatibility, setup.exe runs nicely and installs Yoda Stories. Unfortunately, that game crashes. As for the Behind The Magic: Vehicles Special Edition application, that works absolutely perfectly. Further, it contains video clips of Star Wars vehicles in action. Given the fourcc/chunked format of the data files, I would expect the clips to be in LucasArts' own SAN format. The application also has a map screen which illustrates many, many behind-the-magic areas to explore. This disc only contains a sampling: Vehicles.

Shattered Light (MobyGames entry)

This is one of those games that does not give me much data, save for what is printed on the physical CD-ROM. Copyright 1999 Bill Fawcett & Associates. Published by Simon & Schuster Interactive. Here is at least one favorable review.

The installation file is 210+ MB and seems to install just fine in Wine. The setup screens make copious references to something called Catware. As I watch the Wise installation program install hundreds upon hundreds of data files with the extention .ptb, I ponder how the game could have benefitted from resource files...still watching the installation...judging from the number of files with the words char (character) and npc (commonly non-player character) in the filename, and the number of and names of different files in the maps directory (witches lair, road of doom?), this has got to be some kind of fantasy role playing game.

Ah, at long last, the installation is installing the \Sounds\Music directory. I see TRACK1.wav, TRACK2.wav, etc. Will there be FMV to go along with it? Doesn't look like it. Though there does seem to be a map creation utility.

Finally, the installation nears completion and the game asks if I want to install shortcuts to the client, the server, and/or the mapmaker. Server? Is this a MMORPG? I really don't know as the game wants a 16-bit color mode in order to run.

Witchaven II: Blood Vengeance (MobyGames entry)

Bonus: Chronomaster Demo Included! Whatever this game is, the first game must have sold enough copies to merit a sequel. Like the previous game in this entry, this game appears to be a fantasy RPG, and includes a level editor. Copyright 1996 by Intracorp.

The first thing I notice about the file system is the presence of a smk/ directory. Seeing Smacker files pretty much brings the investigation to a close everytime. However, there is also a victory/ subdirectory that contains a 92 KB file named smackply.exe. It is a small, MS-DOS (MZ-format) executable program that looks like a standalone Smacker file player.

[Link: Smacker samples]

In the directory for the Chronomaster format, there is a number of files with the extension .DFA. They range anywhere in size from a few kilobytes up to almost 6 megabytes. Judging by certain markers in the file, it appears to be a simple palettized animation format that supports arbitrary sizes.

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

[Link: Chronomaster DFA samples]

Running under Wine does not yield much success, probably because the games (both the main game and the demo game) are DOS games at heart.

Gabriel Knight: The Beast Within (MobyGames entry)

>6-disc Sierra adventure game from 1995. Sierra VMD files suspected. Yep, the discs have movies/ subdirectories with dozens of .VMD files. They are named in the usual, curious, random number fashion, i.e., 120.vmd, 130.vmd, 160.vmd, 161.vmd, etc.

Attempting to install the game under Wine leads absolutely nowhere.

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

[Link: Sierra VMD samples]

Gabriel Knight 3: Blood of the Sacred, Blood of the Damned (MobyGames entry)

Another title in Sierra's Gabriel Knight adventure series. This game is from 1999 so I wonder if it still uses VMD files. The title severely cuts back on the number of CDs with only 3. The number of discs may have shrunk since the developers appear to have abandoned the VMD format at this point and rely on Bink files for animation. Also, the game's core data seems to be encapsulated in a resource format called .brn which apparently stands for BARN file. Among the files contained in a BARN resource are ANM files which are likely to be some kind of animation format.

[Link: Bink samples]

The game also has a New Line Video/ subdirectory with a TV commercial for the Nightmare on Elm Street collection released some years ago. The commercial comes in both MPEG and SVQ1/IMA ADPCM QT formats.

Installing under Wine runs smoothly enough. Then it fails when it gets to the DirectX 6.1 setup. Trying to run the game afterwards results in a "Unrecognized Fatal Exception" error.

Ring: The Legend of Nibelungen (MobyGames entry)

Ring, another Cryo entertainment title. Hopefully it will have more of that HNM media.

Digging through the CD-ROMs' data directories, I find a series of files named .cnm which have markers indicating that they could be animation files (based on the clear presence of audio and video parameters in the header).

All of the executables on the disc fail rather silently when run under Wine.

In The First Degree (MobyGames entry)

Someone's Dead. Someone's Lying. Can You Prove Murder One? So goes the copy on the CD-ROM jewel case. All for only 1 dollar, too. The game purportedly works under Windows 3.1, 95, and Macintosh and is published by Broderbund. I picked it up because I suspected it was probably an interactive movie genre game. Actually, it does have the multi-colored Quicktime logo on the back of the jewel case and is copyright 1995.

All of the QT files are Cinepak at reasonably high resolution for the time, and 11025 Hz PCM. Watching through the QT movies, I have to say that this is the best-produced interactive movie game I have seen. Some of the story is told through the perspective of the evening news anchorpeople and is interspersed with clever faux commercials. The rest of the video in the game is, well, reasonably well-acted given the genre.

The installation does not last very long under Wine but that's okay since any competent QT-compatible player can handle the data files.

National Parks

Over 30 minutes of videos, over 400 photos! Published by SimplyMedia in 2000. Hmm, considering that it was a 2000 title, the 240x180 Cinepak AVI files are not the best they could do. However, there are even some AVI files encoded with fourcc RT21, which is known as an early Intel Indeo version. The disc has a Windows 3.1 NE-format .DRV file for decoding the data.

The application runs quite well under Wine, though the multimedia fails to play when selected.

[Link: AVI samples compressed with RT21]

Privateer 2: The Darkening, Deluxe Edition (MobyGames entry)

The sequel to Origin's Privateer game, ostensibly dealing with intergalactic trade. 3 CD-ROMs, and each disc has a movies/ directory with dozens of .TGV movie files which is a fairly standard fourcc/chunked format.

The game itself installs and plays just fine under Wine. At least the intro movie plays fine. After the intro movie, the game did not really do anything.

[Link: TGV sample files]

Of Light and Darkness: The Prophecy (MobyGames entry)

A "Real-Time Adventure" published by Interplay. Features the voice talents of James Woods and Lolita Davidovich. 3-disc game, let's see if it uses Interplay MVE files. There is a videos/ directory with a bunch of .vid files. Inside each .vid file is an Interplay MVE file with some other 0x18-byte header tacked on the front. There is also a movies/ directory with play .MVE files. Additionally, the first disc has demos for several other Interplay games, complete with MVE or AVI trailers.

[Link: Interplay MVE samples]

by Mike Melanson (mike at

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