16 August 1999
Reported, written and edited by David Duberman
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Editor's note: Most of the news last week came out of Siggraph, the graphics geek's idea of heaven on earth. We'll be publishing a special Siggraph edition of Spectrum later this week, with some exclusive surprises you won't to miss!
- David Duberman
Store, retrieve and share your files from any location! For work or play, FreeDrive eliminates the juggling act between hard drives, floppies, zip drives and CD ROMs. Use your FreeDrive to privately store or share any type of file.
Premiere Technologies, Inc. last week introduced VisionCast, a Web-enabled product designed to let organizations bring together audio, data and visual capabilities on the Internet or an intranet site to conduct real-time interactive broadcast and collaborative presentations.
New interactive features let clients lead "Web tours" and slide presentations by controlling participants' browsers; poll and have participants vote electronically on items within a presentation, and then show the results to participants; and utilize chat features, which allow participants to communicate privately with the presenter without interrupting a presentation. In addition, VisionCast offers co-leader functions that provide access to designated participants to help guide and control the presentation; white board options that allow participants to write, type, draw and highlight on the slides and during the presentations; playback features, which allow people who missed the seminar to access both the audio and visual presentation in synchronized format from an Internet address; and the ability to continuously monitor participation in the presentation.
AdKnowledge's new eAnalytics service combines new data mining with AdKnowledge’s existing audience profiling and daily tracking of leads and sales. The company claims it will provide Web marketers with strategic insight into the real drivers of brand awareness and purchase behavior on an individual level.
eAnalytics combines three services:
Raleigh Group International's Visual SourceFormat, a tool for instantly reformatting source code, now has a viewer edition that lets you take any C++ source code file of any size and see it in your own personal style. The Visual SourceFormat Viewer is normally priced at $99, but for a limited time, you can download the Visual SourceFormat Viewer for free at http://www.ralgi.com/premium/VSFviewer.html.
Mixman Technologies last week announced the availability of version 3.0 of its virtual DJ software for the Windows platform. Mixman Studio Pro ($90) lets users create or remix their own music or remix music from major label recording artists, using D*Plates, Mixman's recently announced "Internet singles."
New features include:
WebSideStory, a provider of Internet tracking and traffic analysis, last week reported that Microsoft's Internet Explorer has increased its lead of browser users to a dominant 3-to-1 ratio. This information is published at StatMarket.com (http://www.statmarket.com), which publishes data gathered in real time from more than 31,000,000 unique daily visitors to more than 114,000 Web sites using WebSideStory's HitBOX Web traffic analysis technology. The statistics provided by StatMarket are based on actual browser usage, not installed-base numbers.
On Monday, August 2, 1999, Microsoft's Internet Explorer (all versions) accounted for 75.31% of the total market. Netscape has slipped to 24.68%.
The figures reported were:
MSIE 4.x 44.73%
MSIE 5.x 24.86%
Netscape 4.x 22.03%
MSIE 3.x 3.60%
Netscape 3.x 2.32%
New from Web Internet, LLC are free domain names and free email at its Web.com address. Web.com's free WebAddress service provides users with a simple anyname.Web.com domain name that redirects visitors to any existing Web page. Web site owners can use WebAddress to replace a longer, more complicated address given to them by their Internet Service Provider (ISP) or Web hosting company.
In addition to WebAddress, Web.com offers WebMail, a free email service providing easy-to-remember email addresses. Mailers will have to remember only a simple @Web.com address. Users choose the first part of the address--first name, last name or nickname--and place @Web.com after it. The service is offered in six different languages - English, German, Italian, Swedish, French and Spanish.
myHq's new Web-based bookmark manager offers these features:
To share bookmarks collaboratively, users "grab" bookmarks from another user and these bookmarks are always kept in sync with the originals. Thus, if the original bookmarks are edited, the copies will reflect the changes.
Public pages can be automatically created from a selectable subset of the folders. If so desired, the public pages can also be password protected.
Microsoft's official Web site for Flight Simulator 2000is now live with information such as a features list for both the Professional Edition, said to be realistic enough to be used as a complement to formal flight training, and the Standard Edition, designed for seasoned and novice pilots. The site also provides current news and articles, links to the flight simulation community, and screen shots.
sourceXchange, an Open Source development marketplace, went live last week, as more than 1,500 developers got their first look at seven RFPs from founding sponsor Hewlett-Packard (HP). Additional RFPs are slated to be posted within weeks, as the site ramps up during its Beta launch. sourceXchange is a project of Collab.net, an O'Reilly affiliate company that provides services and infrastructure for the development of Open Source software.
Created by Brian Behlendorf, Collab.net president/CTO and co-founder of the Apache Software Foundation, and O'Reilly & Associates, sourceXchange provides a forum where sponsors who need Open Source programming talent can contract with qualified developers for specific development projects. Developers can also submit proposals to the sourceXchange Wish List, soliciting the talents of their peers in Open Source community for projects that contribute to the common good.
Several of HP's proposals center around the company's new e-speak initiative. HP is seeking developers for Open Source projects that provide enhancements to e-speak, OpenMail and other technologies.
Hagiwara Sys-Com last week introduced the FlashGate CompactFlash Reader/Writer USB, a USB-based peripheral that transfers data from Type I CompactFlash cards to PCs, reportedly 60 to160 times faster than serial connections. The unit’s status LED flashes continuously whenever a read/write action is in process, helping to ensure that users do not damage the card by accidentally ejecting it. In addition, FlashGate’s power LED changes its color from green to red whenever it detects a damaged or defective CompactFlash card.
The product sells for a suggested retail price of $85.00, and is plug-and-play compatible with Windows 98, and also works with Mac OS Version 8.1 or later.
The Secure Digital Music Initiative (SDMI) has selected an audio watermarking technology for use in the initial screening function to be included in the next generation of portable devices for digital music. SDMI selected the watermarking technology developed by ARIS Technologies, Inc., subject to final approval of a definitive licensing agreement at the next SDMI plenary.
The testing process included "internationally recognized" experts who listened to a diverse selection of music samples to ensure that the watermark was inaudible.
Sky Fitness, Inc. plans to incorporate the RTIME Interactive Networking Engine into SkyCycle, an exercise machine that offers online entertainment and social interaction. The company describes its product as an immersive, human-powered flight simulator that allows people to maneuver their way through a variety of virtual environments while getting both upper and lower body workouts. With the use of RTIME's networking platform, SkyCyclists at fitness clubs around the world can compete with each other in several online, interactive scenarios that include maneuvering through obstacle courses, racing, and a free-for-all, shoot-em-up dogfight. Sky Fitness will begin delivering the SkyCycle to customers early this fall.
Publisher Charles River Media announces the introduction of an online subscription service for the computer graphics professional. The Graphics Resource Club provides online access to graphics books, monthly tutorials from fellow professionals, and one free printed book each year. Supported apps include ElectricImage, Ray Dream, Poser, Bryce, trueSpace, form-Z, Animation:Master, HTML, and Maya. A $99 one-year subscription includes these components:
Selected chapters of CRM titles are available at http://www.charlesriver.com
3D Pipeline Corporation, Doubletake Productions and Starcom Entertainment International, Inc. announce their new collaborative company called eGAD!, which will focus specifically on console game platform tool development. 3D Pipeline will provide engineering expertise and marketing services while Double Take will provide artistic and production experience. Starcom Entertainment will provide support capital. eGAD! plans to create easy-to-use rendering tools for porting PC games to games consoles.
Electronic Arts and Looking Glass Studios last week shipped System Shock 2, a 3D science fiction/horror role-playing game (RPG) and sequel to the critically acclaimed System Shock. The $45 title, which pits players against the evil artificial intelligence SHODAN, was co-developed by Looking Glass Studios and startup Irrational Games, and is co-published by Looking Glass Studios and Electronic Arts.
System Shock 2 takes place in the 22nd century on the Von Braun starship, where something has gone terribly wrong. The player must utilize weapons and psionic powers to defeat monsters and mechanical enemies. Gadgets are also available to help the player upgrade weapons, research alien technology, neutralize enemies, heal wounds, crack computer systems, convert matter to energy and more.
System Shock 2 is based on a next-generation version of Looking Glass' proprietary 3D technology, the Dark Engine, which offers 16-bit graphics, colored lighting, and variable translucent objects. The game features 10 levels and a rich science fiction action/role-playing game system, with detailed character generation and growth, inventory and equipping, and groups of special traits unique to each character. A multiplayer patch will be offered online shortly.
Just out from Mindscape/SSI is Rites of War, the latest in the Warhammer 40,000 series of strategy games. Developed by DreamForge and Games Workshop, the Win9x CD-ROM title features:
Infogrames North America today ships Independence War Deluxe Edition for the PC. The $30 game features an all-new Defiance Campaign, where the player fights from the rebel side in 18 new missions. Deluxe Edition includes the original space simulation, in which players command an 8,520 ton, 160 meter Dreadnaught-Class Corvette, and battle their opponents with two new weapons that include a hull-mounted Gatling and a sniper particle bean cannon. Other new features include in-mission save points, a new sniper view mode, and new ships and stations.
Digital Leisure's new DVD version of Space Ace, playable on set-top DVD movie players, lets players use the remote control for their DVD players to control the action as Ace battles the evil Commander Borf. One of the first animated video games, Space Ace stars the evil Commander Borf, who has kidnapped Ace’s girlfriend, the beautiful Kimberly, and is plotting to enslave the Earth using his dreaded Infanto Ray, a weapon that transforms its victims into helpless babies. Gamers can choose to guide Ace, or his weak alter-ego Dexter, through Borf’s strongholds to find and destroy the Infanto Ray, rescue Kimberly and save the Earth.
The Space Ace DVD-Video release also contains exclusive interviews with Don Bluth and Rick Dyer, co-creators and designers of the game. A special "Watch" option allows players to view the entire game without requiring moves on the DVD remote.
Digital Leisure plans to release Space Ace DVD-ROM in September and Dragon’s Lair II: Time Warp for DVD-Video and DVD-ROM in October.
Sierra Studios is accepting new Team Fortress Classic (TFC) levels for inclusion in Half-Life: Opposing Force (Op For), the official game expansion for Valve's 3D action thriller.
To enter, users follow the directions for submitting their TFC levels at http://www.won.net/lounge/contests/opposingforce/. Then, a panel of judges from Valve and Gearbox Software will select three winning levels for inclusion in the official game expansion. In addition to being listed in the game credits, each of the winning level editors will earn $1,000 for their work.
According to the leader board on www.theclq.com, Team Fortress Classic is currently the most popular online action game based on total number of players and hours played.
Just out from Hasbro Interactive is Civilization II: Test of Time, which lets players develop empires and then travel to new worlds. The new version of the classic strategy game adds two new universes of science fiction and fantasy, with unique terrains, graphics and technology trees to map cultural progress.
Players can choose from three games covering 10 worlds, rendered with updated graphics and animations. Civilization II: Test of Time contains the original Civilization II, with added colonization of the Centaurus star system. Also new are a new fantasy game and the science fiction game, Universe of Lalande. The fantasy and science fiction games feature new advances, units, wonders and land types for players to research and use to their advantage. In addition, each new game has linked maps to four worlds for new levels of strategy.
Just out from Strategy First is Clans, a fantasy adventure/RPG game to be distributed by GT Interactive. The game's story tells of four ancient races who centuries before had fought amongst each other at the behest of an evil demon bent on destroying them all. Heroes from each of the four clans are sent to the castle to collect the Crown of Peace and save their land -- none was ever seen again. Now at the point of ultimate ruin, each of the clans -- the Barbarians, Elves, Dwarfs and Warriors - send their greatest and last warrior to battle the demon, collect the Crown and save their land from the nightmare of terror.
The game combines RPG fantasy, adventure, and puzzles with 16-bit graphics, real-time colored lighting effects and multi-layered 3D graphics. It offers single and multiplayer support for up to four players, where an entire quest can be played competitively or in cooperative mode.
Eidos Interactive's new PC CD-ROM strategy game Braveheart focuses on the struggles of the Scottish rebel warrior William Wallace. The player pursues Wallace's mission to unite the ancient clans of Scotland through battles with the well-armed troops of tyrannical English king Edward I.
The game models movie characters such as William Wallace, Robert the Bruce, Muron, King Edward, Stephen, and Hamish and others. Images, dialogue and movie scenes from the Braveheart film are also interwoven into the game.
Braveheart features all the clans of the era, with the option to lead one of 16 clans. Each has its own territory, population and resources. Elements such as climate, military tactics and economic infrastructure are historically accurate. As leader of a clan, the player must come to terms with all aspects of daily life in the 13th century.
The game's 3D engine that emulates day/night phases, seasonal variations, wildlife, geographic landmarks and battlefield warfare. The combat engine can recreate massive onscreen conflict as depicted in the movie. Combat situations include castle sieges, cavalry clashes and village raids. The 3D models of soldiers are skinned and boned which allows for realistic combat injuries. As battlefield commander, the player decides on the formation and tactics in the fight to carry the day.
Square Electronic Arts last week shipped Chocobo Racing, an action/racing game for the PlayStation game console. The $40 arcade-style game features eight cartoon-like characters who race their way over eight tracks, in five game modes, picking up special abilities to help them outpace their challengers.
The game's modes include Story, Grand Prix (GP), Time Attack, Versus, and Relay Race.
Story Mode is set in an old fashioned, pop-up storybook where the story unfolds through cinematic cut scenes. Chocobo progresses through the story on a quest to find more ability enhancing "Blue Crystals." He must compete against different characters as he moves into each new chapter and is faced with a new and more challenging race.
Players skilled enough to make it to the end of the story are rewarded with the ability to customize their own character. At the end of the Story Mode, the player is given a score of points which he can use to change the five different "parameters" or "stats" of his new racer. Ultimately each new racing character a player builds can be saved on a MEMORY CARD and raced in other game modes.
GP isn't just about speed. Players must pay attention to magic stones, abilities and driving techniques to outdistance competitors. GP allows six racers to compete on four courses. The character with the highest score from the series of races is dubbed the "Supreme Champion."
The three other modes offer time and team intensive racing action. They include Time Attack where players race against a clock; Versus which lets players race head-to-head against a friend or against one of the game's artificial intelligence (AI) characters; and Relay Race, which pits teams of three against three in a race to the checkered flag. Players can ratchet up the excitement with two player action in GP, Versus and Relay Race modes.
Beginning today, Impressions Games will be accepting beta testers for the upcoming fall release of Pharaoh. During August 16-20, game fans can visit the official Pharaoh Web site (http://www.pharaoh1.com) to register to become an official beta tester for Impressions Games. Once the registration process is complete, Impressions Games will begin notifying those selected to participate via email beginning Monday, August 23.
Pharaoh, a strategy game set in ancient Egypt during the period when the great pyramids were built, allows players to build Egyptian cities and watch them come to life. Players will build pyramids that can become world wonders, and discover why the Nile was so crucial to all aspects of life by watching the effects of the seasonal flooding on the daily routines of the local inhabitants.
Sierra Studios has acquired the publishing rights to Ground Control, a real-time strategy game being developed by Swedish-based Massive Entertainment. More information will be available on the Sierra Studios' Web site www.sierrastudios.com in the coming weeks.
At its core, Ground Control combines strategy elements with 3D technology primarily associated with action games. Through a variety of missions, players control customizable squads of soldiers, tanks, hovercraft, aircraft, and other units as they fight for control of a distant New World. In addition to the single-player game, Ground Control will offer both classic and new multiplayer options.
Massive Entertainment is located in Ronneby, Sweden and comprised of over 20 programmers, artists, and game designers. The company was founded in 1997.
Financially troubled game publisher Interplay Entertainment Corp. last week reported operating results for the second quarter ended June 30, 1999. For the third quarter in a row, Interplay reduced its net loss from the preceding quarter. Interplay reported net revenues of $29.4 million, and a net loss of $6.9 million, or $(0.33) per share, compared to net revenues of $40.7 million, and net income of $0.7 million, or $0.06 per share (diluted) for the same period in the prior year. The current year period included approximately $5 million of charges taken against deferred income taxes and one-time charges for severance arrangements on the departure of the company's former president as well as additional reserves for product returns, price protection and bad debts in connection with past due receivables and distribution arrangements in the U.S. and Europe.
Direct sales, including sales via the company's Web site, rose 47 percent in the second quarter of 1999 compared to the same period in 1998 and 54 percent for the first six months of 1999 over the same period in 1998. In addition, OEM, licensing and royalty revenues were up 34 percent from the same period in 1998 and 150 percent from the first quarter of 1999. Net revenues by platform for the quarter were 65 percent PC, 10 percent console, and 25 percent OEM, royalties and licensing. On a geographic basis, second quarter net revenues for 1999 in North America represented 53 percent of total net revenues, international represented 22 percent, and OEM, royalty and licensing accounted for 25 percent.
The first ever international forum for internet content providers hits San Francisco this fall, with more than 85 senior level speakers and industry players at Internet Content ’99.
The event, to be held September 14-15 at the Cathedral Hill Hotel, is designed to be a platform for idea development, with open-forum sessions featuring heavily in the program. Sessions are chaired by digerati including Neil Weintraut of 21st Centure Venture Partners, Rafe Needleman, Editor of Red Herring.com and Jakob Neilsen, Usability Guru, with panels featuring executives from companies including GoTo.com, ZDNet, AltaVista, About.com, Homestead and CNN.com, amongst dozens of others.
Keynote speakers include Mark Walsh of VerticalNet, Chris Barr of CNET and Naveen Jain of Infospace.com Inc. Walsh opens the conference with the key question ‘What is Internet Content?’.
The conference also features an exhibition for delegates to get hands on with the latest solutions, and social events, including an exclusive opening night party.
For further information, contact:
Karen Gold, Event Director
Telephone: 1 800 814 3459
Fax: 1 800 814 3460
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 and online development tools and CD-ROMs for review.
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- David Duberman
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