Let me clarify some things:
Smacker is a company which produces various audio tools, among them at least two video codecs, "Smacker" and "Bink".
The Smacker codec is a 256-color codec http://www.radgametools.com/smkintro.htm
. You can't do that with MPEG etc., they simply don't allow this.
Granted, for modern games, you want 16/24 bit color for your videos (which e.g. the Bink codec provides), but back then, you only had 256 colors, and so it made sense to have a codec optimized for that setting. Comparing it to XVID, MPEG-1/2/4, etc. is really like comparing apples and oranges. Or like suggesting to drop PNG in favor of JPG or vice versa...
Additionally, it doesn't matter if somebody REs the Smacker codec (we certainly could have done that by ourselves years ago) -- as long as Smacker (the company) explicitly forbids reimplementations, we won't use any of these, to avoid big legal troubles. That said, if ffmpeg really adds such a codec (which I doubt for the moment), it'll create a quite interesting legal situation. Either Smacker willl bite the sour apple and release Smacker; or else they must
take legal actions if they want to keep their rights. This would then either give ffmpeg a bloody nose; or if smacker looses, give other parties (such as ScummVM) a potential opportunity to use code to playback Smacker videos.
The point being here that we do not want to risk those legal troubles, but if somebody is willing to jump the gun, we won't stop 'em, just make sure none of the blood and gore hits us