Videos in Russian quests – FLIC and Indeo

It should be obvious by the fact that in ex-USSR countries there are usually “quest games” or simply “quests” instead of adventure games that Sierra games were favoured way more than anything else (while Germany seems to be more Lucas Arts land). But unlike either of these companies, Russian quest games history is much more limited both in time and quantity.

There are just a couple of games that can be called Russian quests. They appeared in 1997-1998 and remembered dearly up to this day. Almost anything coming has been forgotten and for good reasons too.

First I’d like to give a short review of the games:

  • Петька и Василий Иванович спасают галактику (Petka and Vasiliy Ivanovich save the Galaxy or simply Red Comrades as it is known abroad). The game is based on anecdotes about the characters of a black-and-white movie based on a book. As you can guess the characters were popular enough to survive for decades. Add quality animation and voice acting, consistent story, appealing art, humour and Easter eggs and you get a great game that’s been a hit back then, remastered for different platform several times and still sold even today. Then there was a sequel that feels more like DLC made mostly from the same assets. After that a completely different studio (with the same publisher) made another sequel in different style but it was mediocre. And another one. And another. There are around nine games in total but only first one and a half are good.
  • Gag—the game matches its title. It is a story of a secret agent bitten by a po-o-oisonous snake venomous penguin and this agent has to save the world from evil cultists. The game had English localisation as well but I don’t think it got much popularity abroad. Then there was Gag+, a butchered game with suggestive moments replaced with erotic ones and a story hacked to pieces just to be somewhat present. And then there was Gag 2 from different developers that tried to cash on the recognized name and erotic moments completely ignoring such things as plot, acting or visual style.

And here are some honourable mentions (i.e. games that are not that good but not bad either):

  • Братья пилоты (aka Pilot Brothers) based on a Soviet cartoon. It is not a very long game done in Gobliiins style (you have two characters on the screen who can do different things and until you solve the current screen you can’t move further). Most people seem to remember it for a fridge safe puzzle, I remember it mostly for a sewer level right before that one where you need to play an action minigame. Nevertheless the game has nostalgic characters, was made with love and skill and thus it’s loved by many to this day. It also spawned countless sequels of varying quality and done by various studios (and some of them were platformers or minigame collections too).
  • Полная труба aka Full Pipe. This is an arthouse game, a spiritual equivalent of Amanita/Samorost. ScummVM supports it so you can obtain the game and play it if you like. I’d rather just respect it from a distance.
  • Ядерный титбит (Nuclear Tidbit). A game based on writings by certain countercultural Russian writer. If you’re not a fan of his style you’d better stay away from it.
  • Иван Ложкин: Цена Свободы (Ivan Lozhkin: the Price of Freedom). The game inspired by true events Space Quest series and the authors are open about it. It feels like some Space Quest clone too.
  • Штырлиц (self-titled as ‘the suckiest game of the millenium’ and it tries hard). Essentially it is a trash game based on a character from anecdotes inspired by a black-and-white TV multi-episode movie based on a book series about Soviet intelligence officer (not a spy, Soviet man can’t be a spy!) working undercover as high-ranking German officer. The game takes place in 1945 where the titular hero has to locate the party gold in Berlin. Definitely not a game to play in Germany. It also spawned several sequels that became more and more vulgar, absurd and unfunny. The first game was not a masterpiece but at least it provided some fun.

The rest of the games were rip-offs mostly using the same formula (take some character from anecdotes or popular movie or cartoon, add some nonsensical plot and you’re done) or even simply suggest the game has nude women in it by giving it some vulgar suggestive title and you can sell it. There were tons of the games and they made words “Russian quest” sound dirty and rightfully so.

Anyway, let’s move to the video formats the games used (spoiler: predominantly those two mentioned in the title):

  • Ivan Lozhkin had Smacker cutscenes played by stand-alone smackply.exe (you could even spot the Smacker player banner when it was run to play a cutscene);
  • Red Comrades used Indeo 3 for cutscenes (the second game used Indeo 5) and FLIC for internal animation (i.e. the one played as part of in-game scene);
  • most of the other games mentioned used Indeo 3 or 5 for cutscenes as well;
  • Gag is special. There is a partly finished (and fully abandoned) effort to support it in ScummVM and it turns out the game used FLIC with its own extensions. It added two chunks for image compression that beside usual RLE or skips+RLE also allowed to copy part of the line from some offset in the decoded part. But that’s not all, it also added sound to it. Yes, there were special chunks with WAVEFORMAT header, with PCM data, and a special chunk to signal end of audio playback. So far that’s the most interesting video format I’ve seen in these games.

From what I remember newer games used DivX and I’m not sure if anybody bothered to create their own video codec (though I heard some of the erotic games tried to obfuscate format a bit). Plus there were some FMV games (DVDs with actions programmed, so ordinary DVD player was enough) varying from “the usual shit” to “legendary bad”.

In either case it was nice to remember (some of) those games and it’s somewhat surprising to see how few formats they used. Other game assets had significantly more in-house developed formats but that’s a story for somebody researching that aspect and not me.

6 Responses to “Videos in Russian quests – FLIC and Indeo”

  1. Paul says:

    Please fix SVQ1 decoding, it is broken.

  2. Kostya says:

    It is not something I care about and it worked fine on a single sample I tried, so please point at least at the wrongly decoded file because I may look at it but I’m not willing to search for it myself.

  3. Kostya says:

    I have bad news for you – it’s the shitty encoding. I ran my old PowerPC-based MacMini (first time in many many years) and tried playing it with the official QuickTime 7 player there. What do you know, you have the same blockiness and white leftovers.

  4. Paul says:

    Confirmed, but this one works with QT: https://0x0.st/-KF0.mov

  5. […] my recent post about video in Russian quests I said that the Russian adventure games I looked at used standard video formats (except for one […]

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