Multimedia Exploration Journal: April 10, 2004

Just a random grab-bag of old PC software...

American McGee's Alice (MobyGames entry)

Presumably a twisted take on the classic Alice In Wonderland tale. It's hard to tell if there is any FMV since the game's data is locked up in some large resource files (pak0.pk3, pak1_large.pk3, pak1_small.pk3).
Followup: It seems that this game runs off the Quake 3 engine and uses RoQ files for its multimedia. Indeed, it is possible to unpack the .pk3 files using the standard unzip command under Linux. The game contains RoQ files for video animation alongside MP3 files for audio during video playback.

[Link: Id RoQ sample files]

Running the main game executable under Wine does not get far as the game informs we that a debugger has been found. Funny that. The proper installation program doesn't get much further.

Clive Barker's Undying (MobyGames entry)

Packaged along with American McGee's Alice. This means it was put together by the same people and I have as much luck analyzing it and running it under Wine as I do with the previous game.
Followup: It seems that this game actually runs off of the Unreal engine and that all FMV is in-game engine animation.

Jane's F/A-18 Simulator (MobyGames entry)

2-disc, EA-published title that contains a series of .WVE files in a Movies/ subdirectory. WVE files are seen on a number of titles under the EA umbrella.

Installation under Wine works extremely well. But the game crashes immediately when run.

[Link: EA WVE samples]

Crusader: No Regret (MobyGames entry)

I have already examined the Sega Saturn port of this game which uses a custom Origin/EA multimedia format. However, the PC version of this game sticks with Xan-encoded AVIs.

Attempting to run this game under Wine reveals something curious:

wine: L"D:\\INSTALL.EXE" is an OS/2 binary, not supported
This is the first time I have ever picked up an OS/2 title. The disc is not labeled as such.
Followup: I have been notified that this game is not, in fact, an OS/2 game. Rather, Origin chose to use a custom 32-bit .exe and memory manager which confuses Wine.

[Link: Sample AVI files encoded with Xan A/V codecs]

Alien Odyssey (MobyGames entry)

1995 title published by Philips and developed by Argonaut. The disc is littered with .brp files, like those found on FX Fighter by the same developer. These files seem to use a slightly different format (perhaps 16-bit RGB vs. 8-bit palettized).

The game is designed for DOS. From playing the game briefly in DOS, I get the impression that the game belongs to that short-lived sub-genre of multimedia entertainment where the player was behind the wheel of a high-speed vehicle blasting stuff. Only, instead of the 3D scenery being rendered real-time, it is just FMV and the only real control the player has is where the target is pointing.

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

[Link: BRP samples]

Nintendo GameCube sample disc

This is one of those small optical discs, the same size of a Nintendo GameCube game disc, except that this is a CD-ROM and not a DVD. It is also meant to be played in a PC. The disc contains Quicktime installation software and a series of game trailers in Quicktime format. The trailers are all 500x375 SVQ1 video and QDM2 audio.

Trailers include: Extreme G3, Luigi's Mansion, Madden 2002, NBA Courtside 2002, Pikmin, Super Smash Brothers Melee, SSX Tricky, Star Wars: Rogue Leader, Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 3, and Wave Racer: Blue Storm.

Nickelodeon's Are You Afraid of the Dark? (MobyGames entry)

Full Title: Nickelodeon's Are You Afraid of the Dark? The Tale of Orpheo's Curse. I take this to mean that there must be a show on the Nickelodeon cable network with the same name. Published by Viacom Newmedia and bearing a logo for Cinar, an entity with a rather non-descript web presence.

Curiously, the disc also bears the usual Compact Disc logo but with a "Version 1.0" qualifier.

Upon examining the contents of the CD-- which are enough to fit snugly on a 1.2 meg 5.25" floppy disc, I scramble to check the copyright date on the jewelcase-- 1994! A 10-year-old CD-ROM, one of the oldest in my collection. It's not even spec'd to work under Windows. The disc contains an executable, a readme, a directory of sound drivers, and (I believe) some Visual Basic support files.

The back of the CD-ROM jewel case has plugs for "these other exciting titles": Nickelodeon's Director's Lab, Richard Scarry's How Things Work, Richard Scarry's Busy Town (mentioned here), Bill Cosby's Picture Pages- Number and Shapes, Lenny's Time Machine, and Lenny's Multimedia Circus.

Worms 2 (MobyGames entry)

Worms 2 by Team 17, published by Microprose. I have heard of the original Worms game using a custom video codec. This game also has a series of 8 AVI files encoded with the video fourcc 'KMVC'.

Under Wine, installation goes quite smooth. The game starts but crashes when I try to play a single-player game.

[Link: Sample AVI files encoded with KMVC]

Afterlife (MobyGames entry)

1996 LucasArts title. Ostensibly, this game relies on LucasArts SAN files. It's a good thing someone already told me that. It would be hard to figure that out from the disc as it contains 2 massive resource files: 'alife.000' and 'full.000'.
Followup: I have been informed that this game probably does not use Smush Animation (SAN) files.

Installing the game under Wine puts me in the awkward situation of when the installation program has taken over the entire monitor but has blocked due to unimplemented Wine functions. Then I have to get creative about killing Wine without taking down the whole X server.

Stonekeep (MobyGames entry)

This is a 1994 game from Interplay. May or may not have actual FMV as the box copy lists "stunning live action cinema sequences" implying that sprites and backgrounds are combined to create FMV-like effect.

The packaging is impressive. Not only does the box have a nifty hologram, the game comes with a 126-page hardcover book entitled "Thera Awakening" (a novella for Interplay's Stonekeep by Steve Jackson and David Pulver).

Examining the disc reveals 26 Interplay MVE files, much to my excitement since I have worked hard on programming Interplay MVE playback systems.

[Link: Interplay MVE samples]

I would be remiss if I did not mention, and reproduce in its entirety, the strangest file on the CD-ROM, a file entitled muffin.txt:

Tim Cain's Chocolate Chip Pumpkin Muffins
They're the Shadowking's favorites!

1 2/3 cup flour              1 cup sugar
2 tsp cinnamon               1 tsp nutmeg
1/4 tsp cloves               1 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp baking powder        1/4 tsp salt
2 eggs                       1 cup pumpkin (half of a 16 oz. can)
1 cup chocolate chips        1/2 cup butter (1 stick), melted

Preheat oven to 350.  Grease muffin tins (one dozen regular sized)
or use baking cups.  Mix flour, sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves,
baking soda, baking powder and salt in a large bowl.  Break eggs
into another bowl.  Add pumpkin and butter and whisk until blended.
Stir in chocolate chips.  Pour over dry ingredients and stir until just
blended.  Do NOT overstir!  Scoop batter into tins and bake 20-25
minutes. After cooling, keep muffins wrapped in plastic to avoid drying.

Novastorm (MobyGames entry)

1994 DOS-only game from Psygnosis. The disc has a variety of *.fa and *.flm files which usually range from 1-10 megabytes apiece. They contain fourcc markers such as SHED (sound header), PCFM (PC frame header?), SPAL (VGA palette), SAMP (PCM audio), FRAM (some kind of encoded video frame).

More information on the Novastorm media formats can be found in "1-Hit Wonder" Formats.

[Link: Various Novastorm media samples]

Deadlock: Planetary Conflict (MobyGames entry)

1997 title from Accolade (I remember them well thanks to Test Drive III). The game was in a dollar bin which meant that it came in a random, scratched-up, non-descript jewel case which gave me no information about the game. However, the first thing I notice in the root directory of the disc is a file called deadsong.wav. If the song, loosely titled "If I ever get back home again, that recruiter's gonna die," is any indication, the spirit of the game is rather whimsical and lighthearted. A Google search for "accolade deadlock deadsong lyrics" reveals that the song was a tribute to the game penned by one Paul Kwinn. Full lyrics here.

As for other multimedia, the game is rife with Smacker files, over 1400 of them. A wav/ directory contains a great number of WAV files, while a music/ directory contains a series of .raw files which are clearly 8-bit, unsigned PCM, but no indication of mono/stereo, or sample rate (things that would only be determined empirically).

[Link: Smacker samples]

The disc devotes about 47 MB of space to a demo for a game called Eradicator. No indication of FMV in the giant .001 resource file.

I suppose I could read the files in the doc/ directory to find out what the game is about. But I think it's more fun to figure it out based of the deadsong.wav lyrics. I gather the point of the game is to conquer a piece of space territory that various alien races are squabbling over.

Attempting to install the game under Wine ends with an error reporting that it is unable to locate a SETUP.INS script file on the CD-ROM.

My First Encyclopedia: Spider-Man Cartoon Maker

1995 CD-ROM from Knowledge Adventure. Packard Bell OEM Version, sale and resale are strictly prohibited. Oops. Anyway, I have absolutely no idea what to make of this disc-- a children's encyclopedia crossed with a comic book creation program, perhaps? Time to crack open this dollar bin treasure...

The root directory of the disc contains a 560 MB file simply and beautifully entitled "tree". There is a mtdemo/ directory which contains another subdirectory called movies/. The only item in this directory is a readme.txt files which claims, "This directory contains movies." I'm disappointed.

Under Wine, the installation complains about a non 256 color graphics mode, but still seems to install fine. Running the program reveals a primitive painting program that allows you do drop in pre-made Spider-Man-type graphics as well as drawing random color streaks across the image. The program allows you to put multiple frames together as a movie, add FM or MIDI music, and apparently lets you record sound through the microphone.

by Mike Melanson (mike at

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