Spectrum: Interactive Media & Online Developer News

21 April 2003

Reported, written and edited by David Duberman

For editorial/subscription inquiries, send mailto: spectrum1@broadviewnet.net

Search the Spectrum archives at http://www.3dlinks.com/spectrum

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Today's Headlines (details below)

FEATURE REVIEWS

finalToon Review

Xenofex 2 Review

Book Review: 3ds max Animation and Visual Effects Techniques

WEBMEISTER

Biznews24 Ships Web Authoring Software

IN THE INFOGROOVE

Apple Updates Safari Beta

GRAPHICALLY SPEAKING

Turbo Squid Releases DreamScape 2.0

Alias/Wavefront Announces Maya 5

StereoGraphics Announces 3D Cinema Server

Discreet Introduces Digital Grading, Color Correction System

THE DIALS & LEVERS OF POWER

Acacia Discounts 2002 Market Studies

Sony Forms Gamer Advisory Panel

DEALS

Activision Announces Publishing Partnership with Spark Unlimited

GAMES PEOPLE PLAY

Sony Announces PS2 Arc the Lad: Twilight of The Spirits

DIGERATI ILLUMINATI

Webby Awards Nominees Announced

F.Y.I.

About Spectrum

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FEATURE REVIEWS

finalToon Review

Believe it or don't, 3D graphics is no longer the gee-whiz-bang wunderkind we in the biz have always assumed to be. After all, the Disney movie Tron came out over 20 years ago. Since then, we've had a number of pure-CGI movies, and nowadays a game ain't nothin' if it's not in full 3D with real-time cut-scenes. So the public is getting a little jaded about the whole 3D thing, which is why developers and artists have been casting about for new ways to render, to freshen up the look of the graphics. The latest rage is cel shading, which is actually a step away from photo-realism, but has been used to produce fascinating looks for PlayStation2 games like Sly Cooper and Wild Arms 3, among others; perhaps most notably, in the latest Zelda for Nintendo.

Cel shading, at bottom, is nothing but computer-generated emulation of classical hand-drawn animation as it was done in the early-to-mid twentieth century at studios like Disney and Warner Bros. It has a low-tech look, but is not that easy to achieve with algorithms. The latest version of 3ds max comes with a toon shader called Ink 'n Paint, but it lacks versatility. If you're serious about giving your images and animations a hand-drawn look, consider finalToon, a spiffy new max plug-in from German developer Cebas. It's one of the new Discreet-certified 3ds max plug-ins distributed by Turbo Squid.

finalToon takes the form of a Rendering Effect; just turn it on, and everything in your scene is rendered with the default line styles and normal surfaces. If you'd like to use cel shading on surfaces instead, you can apply the included finalToon material. The material also lets you specify line styles locally, so you can have an unlimited number of line styles per scene.

finalToon gives you six different line types, with a visible and hidden version of each. The most important type is the Fold line, an object edge that shares one front-side and one back-side face. Essentially, fold lines define the object outline. Perhaps the next most important is the Crease line, which is an edge that doesn't qualify as a fold that's shared by two faces with different smoothing groups. The smoothing must be unique; that is, they faces can't share any groups. An example of this would be the foremost three edges of a box viewed at an oblique angle; you can see both faces attached to each of these edges, so they don't qualify as Fold lines.

Next is the Intersection line, which occurs where two objects intersect. These lines are calculated; there need not be any geometry edges at intersections. You can also have lines between areas with different material IDs, and along visible edges. Lastly, you can specify that finalToon should draw lines between faces that meet at an angle within a certain range. For example, you can have it draw lines only between faces that meet at an angle between 0 to 45 degrees. The visible lines are those facing the camera; the hidden ones are, of course, those facing away. By assigning a different line style to each, you can achieve a virtually endless variety of effects.

And boy oh boy, does finalToon have line styles. For each style, you can assign a specific color, or use the color defined by the object's material's Ambient, Diffuse, or Specular properties. It uses only the actual colors, not any coloring from maps assigned to those properties in the material. Also, if the object uses a compound material such as Multi/Sub-Object, it'll use the coloring only from sub-material #1.

However, you can assign maps directly to any combination of a line style's color, shadow, thickness, opacity, and bumpiness. For example, you can use max's Falloff map to make an object's outline thinner where it's closest to a light source. Unfortunately, finalToon doesn't let you drag a map from the Material Editor to its map buttons; you have go the indirect route by clicking a button and choosing the map from the Material/Map Browser.

When you use a material color as the line color, it's nice that you can change the brightness and opacity, to differentiate the line coloring from that of the surface. You can also set the end shape to give rounded or squared-off corners, and set a pattern such as dashed, dotted, and various combinations. And, of course, you can set the line thickness and scale of the pattern.

But that's not all by a long shot. For each style, you can define all of the above parameters separately for lines that line in a shadowed area. You can also apply random noise to each line style in three different ways: thickness, opacity, and the direction the line is drawn (gives a wavy line). And for each of these, you can set the amount of noise applied, the frequency, and, if you want the noise to vary during an animation, the phase.

But wait, there's more! And this is some very, very cool stuff. For the ultimate in hand-drawn verisimilitude, finalToon provides five 2D Effect settings. Extend draws lines a little farther at corners, and lets you set the amount. Concave creates lines that taper from thin to thick and back again. You can set the amount of tapering, and the angle lets you specify where the tapering occurs. Slash Pen is a sophisticated, somewhat subtle effect that emulates a rectangular marker pen, drawing vertical lines at a different thickness from horizontal lines. Thickness Pressure varies line thickness by distance, and Opacity Pressure varies line opacity by distance; both have user-settable distance ranges, and share a pair of Falloff Direction options: right/left and up/down. Similar to the latter two, but producing a more subtle effect, are the 3D Effect options Thickness Cue Depth and Opacity Cue Depth, also each with their own distance range settings. Lastly, the 2D, 3D, and noise effects share a Step setting that controls the resolution at which the effects are applied. For convenience, the setting appears in all three rollouts, which might also be a bit confusing, but changing one changes all three.

With the 3D effects, you can set line thickness to decrease as the distance from the camera increases, but you must set both near and far distances in absolute terms. So for maximum value, you pretty much have to measure the distances first. These values are animatable, but it would be nice if you could do it dynamically, so that objects farthest from the camera use the thinnest lines, and those that are closest use the thickest. And for special effects, the software should let you reverse the effect, so line thickness increases with distance.

The finalToon material is fairly straightforward. As with Ink 'n Paint, you can define different colors or maps to lit and shadowed/shaded areas, as well as to specular highlights. You can set each area's relative brightness, and specify relative sizes to highlight and shadowed areas. The latter setting doesn't affect shadow size; just areas that aren't directly lit. You can also set the amount of blending between shadowed and lit areas, as well as between lit areas and highlights. More blending causes a smoother transition. In addition, you can combine 2D and 3D shading by mixing in shading from a 3ds max material.

But the finalToon material truly starts to shine when you apply one of the plug-in's most valuable features: the finalToon Hatching map. This map can be used in any max material, but it's best with the finalToon material, where you can specify different hatching setups for the three differently lit areas. As its name implies, the Hatching map simulates the drawing method in which shading is produced by repeated lines, whether parallel or crossed. You use an image file, or "stroke," to define the line; a number of samples come with the software. You can scale the stroke bitmap, and use its own coloring, or specify a color or map. In the latter case, the map is applied across the strokes, rather than on a per-stroke basis; very nice. The map has a wealth of additional settings, such as the option to cross strokes, two ways of blending the strokes into the background material, and different methods for determining how lighting interacts with the texture. If you've ever wanted to produce a genuinely hand-sketched look from your renderings, this will do it.

finalToon also comes with its own version of 3ds max's Flat Mirror, Reflect/Refract, and Thin Wall Refraction maps, which work the same as those that come with the original program, but are compatible with the finalToon Rendering Effect. While not essential, these are very cool, and add a lot of versatility to the range of imagery you can produce with the software. Also, if you need vector-based output, finalToon can save rendered images in Flash (SWF) and Adobe Illustrator (AI) formats.

Conclusion

You can probably tell that I liked finalToon. It's difficult to imagine how it could be improved, other than increasing the compatibility with the interactive renderer. With so many options, it's important to be able to change any parameter and get instant feedback without having to invoke a render. Also, I discovered an incompatibility with max's Double Sided material, in which finalToon used as sub-materials didn't seem to be able to render locally defined lines. But overall, finalToon shines as a wonderful new way to get more out of rendering with max.

http://www.finaltoon.com

http://www.turbosquid.com/HTMLClient/FullPreview/FullPreview.cfm/ID/193469/Action/FullPreview

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Xenofex 2 Review

Millions of trees have died that we might learn the serious benefits of image-editing programs like Photoshop: how useful they are, how much they enhance productivity, etc., etc. But one thing we don't hear about very often is how much fun they are to use. You can spend hours, or days, or even weeks, exploring the creative possibilities inherent in a single image, using just the standard functionality in your fave image editor. And if you add plug-in effects software, the possibilities increase exponentially.

Nobody makes funner plug-in effects for Photoshop and its ilk (namely, Fireworks MX and Paint Shop Pro) than Alien Skin Software, the North Carolina-based company that pledges never to wear suits. The informally dressed developer recently released Xenofex 2, with 14 filters, reviewed herewith for your consideration. Version 2 differs from its predecessor as follows: five new filters, including Burnt Edges, Classic Mosaic, Cracks, Rip Open, and Shatter; a new user interface (from the Eye Candy 4000 UI); and improvements to existing filters. It's available for Windows and Mac, and upgrade/sidegrade pricing is available.

First, a quick look at the UI. It's a clean, large, separate dialog with the parameters lined up vertically on the left side, and a big window for viewing the results on the right. Above the main window are a miniature view that works like Photoshop's Navigator, a before/after button, and buttons for pan and zoom mode. As with Photoshop, you can use keys to pan in zoom mode and vice-versa. You can adjust the numerical parameters with a mouse slider or from the keyboard. And each filter has a Random Seed setting that you can specify, or have calculated randomly. Menu commands include the usual Cut/Copy/Paste/Zoom etc., plus options for changing the filter on the fly, saving and choosing presets, and getting help.

My favorite Xenofex 2 filter is Classic Mosaic, which breaks an image up into roughly rectangular blocks of various colors, with a one-color "grouting" in between. You can set the overall tile size and grouting width, but the most interesting parameter is Edge Sensitivity, which determines how closely the blocks patterning follows the contours in the original image. Even at a low sensitivity setting, the filter does a great job of approximating the contours by combining linear and circular tile arrangements within the image. At high sensitivity, the patterns are more irregular.

The Burnt Edges filter, by default, makes the image look as though it fell victim to a fire that ate away the edges. You can set the edge roughness and color.

Constellation is an interesting effect that traces edges with starry dots whose colors approximate those in the original image, and scatters other stars loosely around the image to resemble the sky on a moonless night. You can set the background to a solid color (it's black by default), or to the original image. Other controls include "twinkle" (rays emanating from each dot) amount and rotation, overall and edge density, and Overdrive, which determines the overall brightness of the stars.

Cracks creates irregular, fractal-based streaks that are widest at the selection edge and narrow as they move inward. With settings that control the depth, roughness, spacing, width, and length, it's capable of remarkable range of results. Be sure to check out the included presets to see what it can do. One only wishes that Alien Skin had included the ability to change the color from black.

Crumple makes the selection look as though it were on paper that's been wadded up and then slightly smoothed out, complete with optional irregular edges. The basic parameters are the size and depth of the crumpling effect, and you can force seamless edges for tiling. It's sort of a 3D effect, so you can set the lighting direction and intensity, and highlight brightness, size, and color. With the right settings, you can achieve a variety of stucco-like effects as well.

The Electrify effect superimposes a network of glowing, lightning-like streaks, radiating outward from the selection center. You control the number of streaks by setting the spacing, and you can also control length, jaggedness, and branching. Other settings include colors of the streaks and glow, and the glow width and opacity. This is a great-looking effect, albeit one with limited utility. Similar to this is Lightning, which lets you specify the start and end locations for a single streak by dragging gizmos in the preview window. An additional parameter here is Flash Size, which creates a circular glow around the start point, and you can also turn off the tapering effect for a mad-scientist electric arc.

Electrify doesn't work on the entire image--it requires a sub-selection--but Flag works best with the entire image. It creates a realistic simulation of the image applied to a large piece of cloth and flapping in the wind. By default, it uses simplified settings that let you specify only the degree of shrinkage and wind strength, plus the background color, and light direction and contrast. If you turn off the simple mode, you can also set the wind direction, amount of distortion, and to which corners and/or sides the flag is attached.

If you're fond of Photoshop's venerable Clouds filter, but would like something with a little more control (like: any control <g>), you'll probably appreciate Xenofex 2's Little Fluffy Clouds effect. Like Clouds, it's a Render-type filter, which means that, by default, it replaces the selection. Besides fluffy, the clouds can be wispy or puffy (Let's see: Fluffy, Wispy, and Puffy: weren't they Casper's three nasty brothers?). Also in the basic controls, you can set the puff size, cloud density (or coverage), and edge sharpness, as well as colors for the clouds and their edges. Another set of controls lets you specify camera and settings such as view elevation, field of view, and cloud height, plus sky colors, haze, and gradient. New in LFC is a seamless tiling option. This is potentially a very useful filter; you'll never have to fear an overcast sky again.

The remaining filters are interesting, but fairly specialized. Puzzle divides the selection into jigsaw pieces; you can decimate the number of pieces (make the kids look for the missing ones), and set connector lengths and lighting. Rip Open makes the image look as though someone went at it with a knife; it could be useful as a framing effect for another image, underneath. Shatter gives the effect of broken glass; it looks a bit like Mosaic, but with bigger pieces, more randomly scattered. Stain gives the impression of having dripped some sort of liquid on the image, and then let it dry. And Television makes your image look as though it were broadcast in the '50s, complete with fat scan lines, optional curved sides, black-and-white, static, and ghosting. Uncle Miltie would've loved this one!

If you've used any Alien Skin software before, you probably won't need much selling on this one. And if you haven't, the price of $129 should convince you that it could pay for itself and then some with one job. Xenofex 2 is a special-effects gem, and the only thing I would wish for in addition, admittedly somewhat unrealistically, is the ability to create animated effects for use with video programs like Premiere and After Effects.

http://www.alienskin.com

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Book Review: 3ds max Animation and Visual Effects Techniques

Although 3ds max 5 has been available for a while, there aren't many books out yet that cover the new version. Filling the gap is a new book from Sanford Kennedy, who knows more about this software than most. Kennedy has been using the program since the early DOS days (3D Studio R2), and has worked in Hollywood special effects for over 25 years. The book, 3ds max Animation and Visual Effects Techniques, published by Charles River Media, take the reader through a single real-world project: the making of Kennedy's movie Homing Instinct. He describes the movie (it's still in production) as a semi-realistic animated feature film based on a science-fiction/vampire story he wrote.

The book begins with an overview of 3ds max features it covers, including character-animation tools such as bones and skin, and use of the Morpher modifier for facial animation. The introductory chapter also mentions the new Curve Editor and Dope Sheet dialogs, which replaced Track View. Following this are brief sections on special effects, dynamics (Reactor), modeling, materials, lighting and rendering, plug-ins, and Maxscript.

Next, Kennedy outlines the entire process of creating of a computer-animated film. Once you have a script, you need to start visualizing and sketching the images that will go into the movie. You then combine these into storyboards, following which you actually produce the content, recording dialog, creating special effects, and rendering animation. Lastly, post-production is where you combine all the individual elements created during production.

Since the book is about 3ds max, the remaining chapters mainly cover specifics of its usage. Kennedy starts by using displacement tools to build a "master" landscape, which includes all the locations in the movie. He then goes briefly into modeling detailed interiors. The bulk of the book covers character modeling and animation; Kennedy goes into great depth here, even giving step-by-step instructions on creating details such as ears, fingers, and toes, with lots of explanations along the way. In showing how to build characters, Kennedy demonstrates both mesh- and patch-based methods.

Following modeling comes animation, of course, but first you must prepare your models to be animated, and Kennedy proves to be no slouch here. Detailed procedures cover setting up bones for optimal interaction, using the Skin modifier to bind a character mesh to its skeleton, and adjusting the Skin parameters to avoid problems while animating. Kennedy then covers such character-animation techniques as creating a run cycle and leaning into a turn while running. Later chapters deal with special effects, materials and lighting, and add-ons such as Combustion and Character Studio.

Of course, making a feature animation is a labor-intensive operation, which Kennedy couldn't possibly cover in every detail in the book's 474 pages. Nevertheless, there's a good deal of interest here for any 3D artist, and especially for those who are using 3ds max to produce character animation. Highly recommended.

http://www.charlesriver.com/

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WEBMEISTER

Biznews24 Ships Web Authoring Software

Biznews24 recently introduced Media Mixer, a Web authoring and assembly tool. Designed to simplify the development and publishing of Web presentations, the software's universal publishing technology automatically generates presentations for multiple mediums, browsers, media players, streaming media formats, languages, and bandwidth alternates.

Its capabilities include:

Media Mixer's list price is $1,495 US. Three-packs are $3,995 US and six-packs are $7,495 US.

http://www.mediamixer.com

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IN THE INFOGROOVE

Apple Updates Safari Beta

Apple last week released Safari Beta 2, an updated beta version of the Safari browser that delivers requested features including tabbed browsing and AutoFill forms. Safari has logged more than two million downloads since its free public beta release on January 7. Apples says it's the fastest Web browser ever created for the Mac, and offers innovations like built-in Google search; SnapBack to instantly return to search results; a new way to name, organize and present bookmarks; and automatic "pop-up" ad blocking.

Beta 2 offers tabbed browsing, an AutoFill feature for Web form completion by using information from the Address Book or previous forms to automatically fill in name, street address, city, zip code, email and other information. The updated beta also provides the option of automatically filling in user names and passwords, which are securely stored in the Mac OS X Keychain.

The new "Reset Safari" option erases browsing history, empties the cache, clears the Downloads window, removes cookies, clears Google search entries and removes any saved names and passwords or other AutoFill text. Additional Beta 2 features and enhancements include: easy import of Netscape and Mozilla bookmarks, increased support for AppleScript, enhanced standards compatibility for improved Web browsing and expanded language support for Japanese, French and German.

Safari-related sessions planned for the upcoming Worldwide Developers Conference, June 23-27 in San Francisco, will help developers learn how to factor Safari technology into applications. For more information on conference tracks, exhibits and registration, visit www.apple.com/wwdc.

The Safari Beta 2 release is available for free download at www.apple.com/safari, requires Mac OS X version 10.2 "Jaguar" and is optimized for Mac OS X v10.2.3 or later. Safari Beta 2 is a compact 3.9MB download and is localized for English, Japanese, French and German. The final version of Safari will be made available later in 2003.

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GRAPHICALLY SPEAKING

Turbo Squid Releases DreamScape 2.0

New from Turbo Squid is DreamScape 2.0 by Sitni Sati, the latest offering in the Discreet Certified 3ds max Plug-in program. The product is an integrated suite of modeling and animation tools for building complete environments including mountainous landscapes, realistic skies, and bodies of water.

 

New features in Dreamscape 2.0 include:

http://www.turbosquid.com/dcpstore

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Alias/Wavefront Announces Maya 5

Scheduled to ship next month from Alias/Wavefront is Maya 5. The latest version of the 3D software promises new ways to create digital content along with customer-suggested productivity enhancements.

Maya 5 offers four options for rendering: the Maya software renderer, mental ray for Maya, a new vector renderer and a hardware renderer.

Hardware rendering reportedly lets users produce images up to 20 times faster than before. The vector renderer lets artists to create content in formats such as Macromedia Flash (SWF), Encapsulated PostScript (EPS), Adobe Illustrator (AI), and Scalable Vector Graphic (SVG). mental ray is now a standard part of Maya, and Maya 5 includes version 3.2 of the renderer.

Animation improvements include enhancements to animation constraints, plus a visual form of FK/IK blending, and new ghosting and channel muting options that speed up animation tasks.

An expanded range of modeling tools includes a new polygon-reduction facility, and new UV editing and extrusion tools, including a graph-based profile curve for taper control. Artists can now use the Maya Artisan brush feature to paint face vertices for more precise placement of and even paint weighting values for polygon reduction, to keep detail in a chosen area.

A/W says performance in Maya 5 has also been improved in the area of dynamics computation while speed on the Windows operating system has been improved by up to 90%.

Programmers and technical directors will see enhancements to the Maya API, including a node/attribute callback mechanism, more detailed exposure of light data and high-level polygon operations. There is also a new Maya Embedded Language (MEL) "renderer" command that simplifies the hookup of third party renderers.

Maya Paint Effects can now be drawn as, or converted to, polygons. This latest advance enables the results to be edited with regular polygon tools and output to other renderers, including mental ray. In addition, a new Thin Line brush mode in Maya Paint Effects brings multi-streaked realistic hair within reach. Over 100 new preset brushes demonstrate the new mesh-based features; buildings, to crystals, infinitely detailed flowers, and trees.

In Maya Unlimited, Maya Fluid Effects includes dynamic computation of wakes and the accurate simulation of ponds and lakes. A new Make Motion Field feature lets users simulate the effect of objects moving through a fluid, such as a character emerging from a smoke cloud or a helicopter hovering above rippling water. Among the enhancements to Maya Fur is the addition of a new clumping feature that supports a range of hairy looks such as wet, matted or dirty fur. This new feature, together with support for animated file textures, lets artists achieve time-based effects such as fur spreading out over a surface.

The software also includes a free Maya Learning Tool DVD.

Maya Complete for the Windows, IRIX, Linux and Mac OS X operating systems, is priced at $1,999 and includes modeling, rendering, animation, dynamics, Artisan, Paint Effects, mental ray, and Maya Embedded Language (MEL), an open interface for programming and scripting. Maya Unlimited for the Windows, IRIX and Linux operating systems, is priced at $6,999 and includes all features in Maya Complete along with Fluid Effects, Fur, Cloth, and Maya Live.

http://www.aliaswavefront.com

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StereoGraphics Announces 3D Cinema Server

Just out from StereoGraphics Corporation is its Cinema Server, a stereoscopic server designed for the digital cinema. The server uses a Sun Blade 2000 workstation as a platform, and it features a media player that exploits the Sun StorEdge MultiPack Fiber Channel disk array architecture to deliver high-definition, uncompressed stereoscopic images to the projector.

The Cinema Server and a single projector can show 3D movies with polarizing glasses using the company's Projection ZScreen for large audiences. The image quality of this approach is said to match that of the current system used in theme parks. StereoGraphics' CrystalEyes can also be used in conjunction with the theater emitter for the ultimate quality for smaller audiences demanding perfection.

The new server is the keystone of a stereoscopic projection solution when used in conjunction with various models of stereo digital projectors from Barco and Christie that use the Texas Instruments DLP image engine.

The StereoGraphics' Cinema Server is available immediately for a manufacturer's suggested retail price of US $64,995 for hardware and software. This includes the Sun Blade 2000 workstation, 360 GB Disk Packs, StereoGraphics Media Player, and an initial eight-hour training for up to five people. The media player can be purchased separately for US $22,995, and includes the initial training.

http://www.stereographics.com/products/cinema_server/index.htm

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Discreet Introduces Digital Grading, Color Correction System

Coming this summer from Discreet is lustre, its real-time system for digital grading and color correction. The new digital color correction technology operates on non-proprietary computer hardware.

Developed in conjunction with Colorfront (Hungary), luster offers colorists and color timers an environment for interactive color correction sessions, enabling them to collaborate directly with directors of photography, cinematographers and filmmakers to adjust the colors and look of a film.

Features include:

http://www.discreet.com

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THE DIALS & LEVERS OF POWER

Acacia Discounts 2002 Market Studies

Acacia Research Group, a provider of information on advanced content creation and delivery, is offering savings on market studies published in 2002, including:

Each of these reports is now available at a 25% discount (excerpts are discounted 20%) and can be ordered through sales@acaciarg.com. Details about these studies can be found at http://www.acaciarg.com.

 

The Website also offers information about Acacia's market studies published in 2003:

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Sony Forms Gamer Advisory Panel

Sony Computer Entertainment America Inc. recently launched its Gamer Advisory Panel (GAP), composed of thousands of users, designed to enable two-way dialog between its members and PlayStation. By collaborating with gamers, Sony hopes to gain insight into the evolving world of gaming, and thus improve product offerings and marketing communications. In turn, members of the panel will play a direct role in shaping the future, while receiving member-only privileges.

For more information on how to qualify for the Gamer Advisory Panel, log on to us.playstation.com.

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DEALS

Activision Announces Publishing Partnership with Spark Unlimited

 

Activision, Inc. has signed an exclusive, long-term agreement to publish games developed by Spark Unlimited, a newly formed studio comprising 28 of the individuals who developed titles in the Medal of Honor console and PC series, including several of the production leads. Members of the Spark team have worked on such games as Medal of Honor Frontline, Medal of Honor Allied Assault, Medal of Honor Underground and Medal of Honor.

 Under the terms of the agreement, Spark will develop three console-based games for Activision that will be released on multiple platforms. The first title, which will be released under the Call of Duty brand, will be a first-person action game that is slated for release in 2004.

http://www.activision.com

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GAMES PEOPLE PLAY

Sony Announces PS2 Arc the Lad: Twilight of The Spirits

Sony Computer Entertainment America will release Arc the Lad: Twilight of the Spirits, the continuation of the Arc the Lad series, in June 2003 for PlayStation2.

The traditional role-playing game (RPG) takes place thousands of years after the last installment in the series with a new storyline and battle system and a variety of playable characters with unique abilities.

Arc the Lad: Twilight of the Spirits will introduce gamers to a dark world of betrayal and self-destruction filled with strategic combat and adventure, with more than 60 hours of gameplay. Players will join brothers Darc and Kharg on their mystical journey to capture the Spirit Stones and bring peace and stability to a chaotic world. Utilizing more than 14 playable characters, each with its own special abilities, weapons and combination attacks, players will engage in tactical fighting sequences.

http://www.us.playstation.com

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DIGERATI ILLUMINATI

Webby Awards Nominees Announced

Living up to the Web's democratic roots, sites that spur dialogue and action on everything from the war in Iraq and grassroots organizing to newsgathering and online auctions are among the nominees competing for The 7th Annual Webby Awards. The International Academy of Digital Arts & Sciences recently unveiled the nominees for the year's best Web sites in 30 categories, including Activism, Community, Film, News, Personal Web Sites, Politics, and Spirituality. A complete list of nominees is available at http://www.Webbyawards.com/main/Webby_awards/nominees.html.

The public can also vote for their favorite Web sites in The People's Voice Awards. Through May 23, online fans can cast their ballots at http://www.Webbyawards.com/peoplesvoice/.

While the list of nominees boasts stalwarts like eBay, ESPN.com, HBO.com, MSNBC.com and popular newcomer NetFlix, it also boasts a record 24 international nominees, including Homeless (Australia); Japanese Streets (Japan); Lucire (New Zealand); City of Bologna (Italy); Blinkenlights (Germany); and David Still (The Netherlands).

For the third year, the Academy will present The Best Practices Award, which recognizes a single Web site that serves as a model of excellence. This year's nominees are: Commanding Heights Online; Edutopia, Movable Type, Theban Mapping Project; and Wired News.

Winners of The 7th Annual Webby Awards will be announced June 5, 2003 in San Francisco. In keeping with Webby tradition, winners will once again be held to a five-words-or-less acceptance speech.

The Academy is also currently seeking entries for the first-ever Webby Business Awards, which will honor companies that excel at using the Web as a mature tool to achieve critical business goals. To enter, visit http://www.Webbyawards.com/Webby_biz/index.html for submission guidelines and entry fees.

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F.Y.I.

About Spectrum

Spectrum is an independent news service published every Monday for the interactive media professional community by Motion Blur Media. Spectrum covers the tools and technologies used to create interactive multimedia applications and infrastructure for business, education, and entertainment; and the interactive media industry scene. We love to receive interactive media/online-development tools and end product for review.

Send your interactive multimedia business, product, people, event, or technology news by email only to: spectrum1@broadviewnet.net.

If you contact companies or organizations mentioned here, please tell them you saw the news in Spectrum. Thanks.

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