Multimedia Exploration Journal: August 7, 2004

The past few months of raiding bargain bins and discount stores has been good to me. I am still finding unique multimedia formats.

Catechumen (MobyGames entry)

My first exposure to this Christian-themed game was via this interesting interview with the game's creator. One thing that stood out at me was the fact that they developed their own 3D engine from scratch for this biblical FPS game. Thus, I wondered if they came up with their own multimedia format as well.

Catechumen Intro After unpacking the game's data files, I find that there are, in fact, 3 AVI files. One is a title screen animation that actually uses Raw RGB frames. The other 2 are soundless Cinepak files. In the same directory, there are some large resource files with the extension .vfs. Inside the file entitled sound.vfs are some curious markers: Repeated "OggS" and "vorbis" strings as well as "Xiphophorus libVorbis I 20000508" and "Track encoded using L.A.M.E. libvorbis interface." This is the first commercial game I have encountered that actually uses Ogg Vorbis.

Ominous Horizons: A Paladin's Calling (MobyGames entry)

Apparently the followup to Catechumen, also developed by N'Lightning. As with the predecessor, this 2001 game makes no mention of any multimedia technology on the box copy. However, there is a file called DivX4CodecInstaller.exe on the disc. So it is quite likely that the game uses DivX (ISO MPEG-4) video for its FMV. However, all of the game's data is in an unknown resource file format.

The Movie Collection

This is a 3-pack of games that are all based on various blockbuster movies. Each game consists of 2 discs.

Gods & Generals (MobyGames entry)

"An Epic Civil War Game". Based on the epic civil war movie of the same title. Ostensibly developed by Anivision and published by a division of Activision named Activision Value. As for FMV, the game uses Bink. Nice, safe Bink. There are 2 logo animations, one for each company involved, as well as 3 clips from the movie which were not de-interlaced prior to re-compression. I think the aspect ratio is a little off, or else everyone was a little shorter back then.

Gods and Generals, Bull Run scene

[Link: Bink sample files]

Scene It? The DVD Game

And yet another multimedia title relating directly to movies. This one is actually a trivia board game that uses a DVD to call up clips. That is what I gather from the box copy, anyway. I have not actually gotten around to playing the game. The game is pleased to announce that it uses Optreve(TM) DVD enhancement technology. I am not entirely clear on what that means, but my desktop DVD/multimedia player has no trouble handling the disc. Scene It? Main Screen

Nancy Drew: Stay Tuned For Danger (MobyGames entry)

There are a lot of Nancy Drew-branded mystery games from Her Interactive ("For girls who aren't afraid of a [computer] mouse") and Dreamcatcher. I finally found one cheap enough that I was motivated to purchase it and see about multimedia. The features on the back of the case do not mention FMV specifically.

I had this weird feeling that the games probably used Bink for its multimedia. In fact, it uses a format I have never encountered before: Something called AVF files. That is the assumption anyway, based on the fact that all of these files live in a directory named CDVideo/. The files begin with the signature 'AVF WayneSikes'. MobyGames comes through with a rap sheet on said individual.

[Link: AVF sample files]

Diablo II (MobyGames entry)

The 3-disc sequel to Blizzard's wildly popular first game. With that many discs, it must have some FMV. Sure enough, there is a disc marked "Cinematics Disc" (as opposed to the "Install Disc" and "Play Disc"). However, all of the data is locked up in those Blizzard MoPaQ (.mpq) resource files. But there is a Bink Windows DLL present which pretty well indicates what kind of multimedia is present.

[Link: Bink sample files]

CD Value Pak/Taxcut

This is a 4-pack of CD-ROMs I purchased a long, long time ago when I first got a CD-ROM drive in 1995. One of the CDs, Taxcut relies very heavily on FMV as there are dozens of video clips of a guy in a tie meticulously explaining the ins and outs of income tax law. The videos are encoded in AVIs using PCM and MS Video-1 @ 160x120. It is difficult to tell if they were filming the videos in front of a blue screen and if so, why. Maybe they read somewhere that compression will work better if they have a constant background. Tax Cut Guy With Tie

300 Arcade Games

Wow, where to begin? Well, with 300 arcade-style games, are any likely to contain any FMV? Probably nothing too extensive. If anything, they might be some simple animations like FLIC files or similar. However, since there are, as promised, over 300 packages, and the largest package is close of 8 megabytes, this is one I might revisit later...

Joint Strike Fighter (MobyGames entry)

1998 title published by Eidos. Games under the Eidos company umbrella tend to use .rpl files with the custom Escape codec. Sure enough, this game is no exception and contains 6 different RPL files on its shiny surface.

[Link: RPL sample files]

Dune 2000 (MobyGames entry)

"Long Live The Fighters!", or so the copy notes. Anyway, this is a Westwood Studios game and is alleged to have Westwood VQA media. It is good to collect as many types of VQA media as possible since Westwood apparently tweaked the format on every new game released. They obviously were not concerned with ever building a general-purpose VQA multimedia player.

The good news is that Westwood put all the .vqa files in one directory called movies/; no .mix resource file nonsense for this one. There are over 40 VQA files on the disc and, given that this title was published in 2000, it probably uses the most complicated variation of VQA files thus far. Further, there are over a dozen music files in Westwood's custom .aud format.

It seems there is a Earthlink internet value-add on the CD-ROM that has a series of AVI and WAV files featuring "Lisa" who will guide you every step of the way to setting up an Earthlink account.

[Link: VQA sample files from a variety of games]

[Link: AUD sample files]

Manic Karts (MobyGames entry)

Manic Karts by Manic Media, published by Virgin Interactive, copyright 1996. "Go head-to-head in the fastest go-karting sim on the PC," is the jewel-case copy. And the only go-karting PC sim, to the best of my knowledge. Realistically, I know that is unfair since there are always knock-offs of even the worst game concepts.

I have no real reason to believe that this game has any FMV at all. But I was hooked by the "fastest go-karting" hype. The disc contains about 80 megabytes, most of which are occupied by a gigantic kart.dat data file. However, there are 2 other files, intro.amf and manic.amf, which are between 700 KB and 2.5 MB and have the markings of animation files (hmm, maybe that is what .amf stands for). The files contain 320x200 encoded in the first few bytes, followed by what appears to be a palette. No PCM audio or related audio parameters are seen.

[Link: AMF sample files]

Populous: The Beginning (MobyGames entry)

I have fond memories of the old Populous game on both the PC and the Super Nintendo. Now I have finally picked up a copy of Bullfrog's Populous: The Beginning. Too bad I will most likely never get around to actually playing it.

As for FMV, there is a handy directory on the game's CD-ROM named 'FMV/'. This directory contains 7 different TGQ files, used in various games under the Electronic Arts umbrella. There is also an Indeo3 AVI trailer for SimCity 3000.

[Link: TGQ sample files]

Quake II: Extremities (MobyGames entry)

I admit, I just picked up this Quake II expansion pack in the hopes that it would have some more of that notoriously naively coded media that goes with the extension .cin. Much to my chagrin, there is no trace of FMV on the disc.

Power Monger/Sega CD (MobyGames entry)

Another Bullfrog title (the makers of the much-enjoyed Populous game). I remember playing this game on the PC (and I should really dig up the old floppy since it had at least one animation file). Personally, I never cared much for the PC version of this game. The point is to command an army of guys and have them totally beat up other armies of guys. I have a hard enough time playing games where I only have to worry about 1 character in real-time. Control dozens of characters? Not likely. No kidding, my armies always seemed to amble off down by the lake when they were supposed to be engaging in combat. Oh well. It would not be the first game I could not get the hang off.

This version does not look quite as sharp but probably has some FMV since it claims, "CD version features spectacular new animations, including a 3D 'flyby' of each world." In reality, such 3D must be handled by the limited 3D resources of the Sega CD since there is no evidence of FMV on the disc.

Clockwork Knight/Sega Saturn (MobyGames entry)

A 1995 Sega Saturn title that revolves around the bunch of toys in a little child's room, a concept not unlike a popular movie at the same time. The case copy mentions "stunning cinema-quality SGI-rendered characters and graphics..."; I seem to recall that "SGI-rendered" was a popular selling point during that period in gaming history.

Clockwork Knight Anyway, the game relies on the good old Sega Saturn Cinepak-encoded CPK files, one of my all-time formats. Further, the game also has some curious files such as cpkopen.bin and cpkend.bin. These files would be quite interesting if the system was not already reverse engineered.

[Link: FILM/CPK sample files from a variety of games]

Skeleton Warriors/Sega Saturn (MobyGames entry)

This game lists fully rendered 3D characters and FMV as its first key features, not to mention a CD-quality soundtrack by one award-winning composer by the name of Tommy Tallarico. A quick Google search corroborates that someone by that name has composed music for a variety of video games.

The game does, in fact, use CPK files for its FMV. I will give the game credit for being as good-looking as the box copy promises.

[Link: FILM/CPK sample files from a variety of games]

Skeleton Warriors

Blazing Dragons/Sega Saturn (MobyGames entry)

1996 Saturn title by Crystal Dynamics, distributed by Mindscape. The Duck Truemotion logo is displayed on the box so there is no mystery about the format of the FMV. The screenshots on the box appear highly cartoonish and the game features the voice talent of Cheech Marin and Harry Shearer.

The disc is organized with a series of 12 voice directories that have a multitude of .raw files. Clearly, the data is header-less, 8-bit, signed PCM. There are 4 Duck AVI files on the disc but they are all logo files for the various organizations responsible for creating and distibuting the games. All of the in-game animation must be real-time.

[Link: DUCK sample files from a variety of games]

by Mike Melanson (mike at

Multimedia Exploration Journal
Multimedia Research Institute Main Page