Spectrum: Interactive Media & Online Developer News 19 August 2002
Reported, written and edited by David Duberman
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Today's Headlines (details below)
--IGDA Forms AI Interface Standards Committee
IN THE INFOGROOVE
--Mozilla.Org Launches Open-Source Browser --Fiber-to-the-Home Installations Expanded Last Year
--NaturalMotion Announces Virtual MoCap
--Gefen Switcher Enables Apple Display on PC
THE DIALS & LEVERS OF POWER
--O'Reilly Publishes VoIP Book
--Vivendi Establishes New Game Development Studio
GAMES PEOPLE PLAY
--SCEA to Bring PS2 Online 8/27
--Shogun Follow-up Set to Ship
--LucasArts Announces Galactic Battlegrounds Collection --SCEA, Jet Li Collab on New PS2 Action-Adventure --Activision to Publish Worms 3
--Agetec to Release Japanese PS2 Hit Title
--Mobile Entertainment Expo Set for Hollywood
IGDA Forms AI Interface Standards Committee
The International Game Developers Association (IGDA) recently formed an Artificial Intelligence (AI) Interface Standards Committee.
The stated goal: With industry standards in place for basic AI interfaces, developers will be able to create believable and interesting non-player characters that can learn and have emotions, as well as complex reasoning and interaction skills. Also, developers will be able to create advanced AI technologies like automated storytelling systems that adapt to a player's interests.
"The next qualitative jump for artificial intelligence in games will be dependent on appropriate interfaces for in-house and external AI tools and middleware," stated committee chairperson and Carnegie Mellon University scientist Alexander Nareyek. "The Committee's work will unburden game AI developers from worrying about low-level procedures, and will enable them to focus on higher-level creative AI tasks."
The initiative is a joint effort of game AI developers, academics, middleware representatives and other relevant experts. The Committee will develop interface standards in such areas as pathfinding, steering, decision trees, finite state machines, rule-based systems, goal-oriented action planning and world interfacing.
The Committee involves over 65 AI experts, with the various working groups being led by:
* Ruth Aylett - University of Salford
* Abdennour El Rhalibi - Liverpool John Moores University * Richard Evans - Lionhead Studios
* Ian Frank - Future University-Hakodate * Nick Porcino - LucasArts Entertainment * Dave C. Pottinger - Ensemble Studios
* Michael Van Lent - University of Southern California
IN THE INFOGROOVE
Mozilla.Org Launches Open-Source Browser
Mozilla.org, the organization that coordinates Mozilla open-source development and provides services to assist the Mozilla community, last week released Mozilla 1.0, the first major-version public release of the Mozilla software. A browser suite based on the latest Internet standards as well as a cross-platform toolkit, Mozilla 1.0 is targeted at the developer community and is designed to enable the creation of Internet-based applications. Mozilla 1.0 was developed in an open-source environment and built by harnessing the creative power of thousands of programmers and tens of thousands of testers on the Internet, incorporating their best enhancements.
Built on the Gecko layout engine, Mozilla 1.0 is cross-platform and integrates a core set of applications that allow users to access the capabilities of the Web, including a Web browser, an email reader and a chat client. Gecko is the core browser component in Mozilla 1.0 and was developed as part of the mozilla.org open-source project; it is freely available for inclusion in third-party products.
Further, Mozilla has been designed for easy localization into languages other than English, and localized versions of Mozilla 1.0 will be available in the following languages (with more to follow): Asturian, Chinese, Dutch, Estonian, Galician, German, Georgian, Greek, Hungarian, Italian, Japanese, Malay, Polish, Slovak, Sorbian and Ukrainian.
Fiber-to-the-Home Installations Expanded Last Year
Fiber-to-the-home (FTTH) installations increased by well over 200 percent in the past 12 months, according to "U.S. Optical Fiber Communities 2002," a new list from the FTTH Council. The list details 50 communities in 16 states that are leading the nation into all-optical communications.
The council, which released the list in advance of its quarterly meeting in Park City, Utah next week, is a nonprofit organization established to educate the public on the opportunities and benefits of FTTH solutions.
Optical fiber is said to bring not only crystal-clear communications and entertainment to communities, but also life-changing applications such as telecommuting, telemedicine and distance learning.
The report highlights the claim that FTTH, once considered a technology of the future, is now a reality. Industry leaders note that FTTH deployments are growing rapidly due to two factors -- reduced costs for FTTH systems that place fiber on par with copper or coaxial cable, and increased homeowner demand. "For homeowners, the benefits of FTTH typically start with fiber's ability to converge traditional services such as phone, cable TV, high-speed Internet connectivity and security into one ... package," says James Salter, president of the FTTH Council.
New housing developments are installing FTTH in Houston and Austin, Texas, where several thousand homes have now been passed with fiber. With numerous high-tech corporations in this region, many employees there can now take advantage of FTTH technology to telecommute.
Western Kansas provider Rural Telephone Service Co., Inc. began working with fiber more than a decade ago in an attempt to boost population and business growth for the local economy. One of the company's first fiber projects included the development of a two-way interactive video network for local schools, an education and training tool that today links 10 schools and a community college. In 1996 the company completed an FTTH project in Hill City, and since then has developed three more through its subsidiary Nex-Tech in Osborne, Norton and Almena, overall delivering FTTH services to more than 3,000 homes and businesses.
Also highlighted in the FTTH Council list are four rural counties in Washington State -- Chelan, Douglas, Grant and Mason Counties -- where some residents did not have basic telephone service until the counties' municipal utilities deployed FTTH networks. The Grant County Public Utility District (GCPUD) has passed more than 7,000 homes with fiber, with 2,600 households already subscribing to FTTH services and many more awaiting hook-up. Grant County plans to reach more than 35,000 homes and businesses by 2005. Since the build, five new businesses have been attracted to the area, creating 96 new jobs and $8 million in economic development.
NaturalMotion Announces Virtual MoCap
NaturalMotion of Oxford, England recently announced VMC Action, its virtual motion-capture studio. Using simulated humans, VMC Action purports to let 3D character animators create action scenes in software without a motion capture facility, and to produce clean, ready-to-use motion-capture data within minutes.
VMC Action is the first product based on the company's Active Character Technology, which, in turn, is based on Oxford University's research on the control of human and animal motions. A spokesperson describes it this way: In essence, we built a physical, biomechanical model of a character (e.g., a human or a dinosaur), implant an appropriate brain structure (usually a neural network), and use optimization techniques (such as artificial evolution) to create the desired behavior.
VMC Action key facts:
* actively controlled and physically simulated characters for action-related behaviors
* integration into existing workflows
* import of environment geometries from standard animation tools * import of character geometry from standard animation tools * export of clean motion capture data; all standard formats supported.
* full animator control over character behaviors
VMC Action is scheduled for release on the Windows platform at the end of 2002.
Gefen Switcher Enables Apple Display on PC
Gefen's new ex-tend-it ADC Switcher ($449) allows Apple Cinema Display users to work on two cross-platform computers using one display, keyboard and mouse. It supports most DVI computers so either Macintosh or non-Macintosh computers (with DVI outputs) can connect to an Apple Cinema Display via the Switcher. Gefen says this is important because Apple Cinema Displays require an ADC connection in order to operate, which only recently became available on newer Macintosh computers. With the ADC Switcher, a DVI to ADC conversion is essentially built into the Switcher itself, improving compatibility between a wider variety of computers and Apple's line of digital displays.
To jump between two computers using an Apple Cinema Display, users plug display and peripherals into the back of the Switcher, connect the Switcher to the computers, and then select a computer directly or with a remote control (sold separately). The ADC Switcher, which is compatible with all of Apple's flat-panel digital displays, is designed to require less cabling.
THE DIALS & LEVERS OF POWER
O'Reilly Publishes VoIP Book
For those who are interested in building their own Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) system, O'Reilly's just-released, "Practical VoIP Using VOCAL" by Luan Dang, Cullen Jennings, and David Kelly (US $44.95), describes how such a phone system is actually built, and how you can acquire the source code, install it onto a system, connect phones, and make calls.
VOCAL (the Vovida Open Communication Library) is an open-source software project that provides call control, routing, media, policy, billing information, and provisioning on a system that can scale from a single box in a lab with a few test phones to a large, multihost carrier grade network supporting hundreds of thousands of users. VOCAL is freely available from the Cisco systems-sponsored Vovida.org community Web site.
"Practical VoIP Using VOCAL" shows system administrators and programmers how to implement, program, and administer VoIP systems using open-source tools. The book also covers:
* C++, C, and Java architecture found within VOCAL * Provisioning a VoIP system
* SIP (Session Initiation Protocol), SDP (Session Description Protocol), and RTP (Real-time Transport Protocol) for call control and media * TRIP (Telephony Routing over IP), DNS SRV, and ENUM for routing * MGCP (Media Gateway Control Protocol) and H.323 for call control and translation into SIP
* COPS (Common Open Policy Service), OSP (Open Settlement Protocol), and RSVP (Reservation Protocol) for policy and Quality of Service * RADIUS (Remote Authentication Dial In User Service) for interfacing with billing servers
* SNMP (Simple Network Management Protocol)
An interview with the authors can be found at: http://www.oreillynet.com/pub/a/network/2002/08/06/voip.html
Chapter 7, "Session Initiation Protocol and Related Protocols," is available free online at:
Vivendi Establishes New Game Development Studio
Vivendi Universal Publishing (VU Publishing), which has recently been rumored to be looking to sell its game-development business, last week formed Black Label Games, Inc. The new development studio will publish PC and console-based interactive entertainment products for the company's global Games division, Vivendi Universal Games (VU Games). The studio will develop titles based on original intellectual properties, as well as content licensed from external strategic partners, targeting the Teen-to-Mature-rated category. VU Games' other studios include Blizzard Entertainment, NDA Productions, Sierra Entertainment and Universal Interactive.
The first titles due from Black Label Games include The Thing, a sequel to John Carpenter's 1982 film of the same name; The Lord of The Rings: Fellowship of the Ring, based on Tolkien's literary saga; and Enclave, a third-person action RPG from Conspiracy Entertainment for Xbox.
GAMES PEOPLE PLAY
SCEA to Bring PS2 Online 8/27
Sony Computer Entertainment America will offer users the option to play games online through PlayStation2 on August 27. Consumers with an in-home Internet Service Provider (ISP) account and the Network Adaptor (Ethernet/Modem) (for PlayStation2) will be able to play across the Internet via PlayStation 2 games specifically designed to take advantage of this capability.
The network adaptor, which accommodates both broadband and dial-up connectivity, will be available through retail outlets on August 27 at SRP $40. The company announced product shipments of 250,000 units for the initial launch window, with a cumulative target of 400,000 units shipped by year-end.
SCEA has established an open model for third-party developers for the creation of online content for PlayStation 2 with the following features: * no online platform royalties for free online gameplay * freedom to establish pricing of online * retain control of customer relationships and databases * create online games as they choose
* greater flexibility and are encouraged to build and maintain their own networks, partner with Internet Service Providers, third-party game sites, etc.
Online games for PlayStation 2 already in the works include: * SOCOM: U.S. Navy SEALs from SCEA
* Twisted Metal:Black ONLINE from SCEA
* ATV Offroad Fury 2 from SCEA
* NFL GameDay 2003 from SCEA
* My Street from SCEA
* Frequency 2 from SCEA
* Madden NFL 2003 from EA Sports
* NBA Live 2003 from EA Sports
* Tribes Aerial Assault from Sierra Entertainment * Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 4 from Activision * SEGA Sports NFL 2K3 from Sega of America * SEGA Sports NBA 2K3 from Sega of America * SEGA Sport NCAA College Basketball from Sega of America * auto modellista from Capcom
Shogun Follow-up Set to Ship
Shipping this Tuesday from Activision is Medieval: Total War, the sequel to Shogun: Total War. The PC strategy game lets players vie for control of Europe through battles that span more than 400 years of savage medieval combat.
Claims Tim Ansell, managing director of U.K.-based developer The Creative Assembly, "Medieval: Total War is the first strategy game to ever properly represent warfare on such a massive scale. The sight of 10,000 troops clashing onscreen is like nothing gamers have ever seen before."
Players take control of one of 12 European powers as they attempt to rewrite history through a mixture of battles, trade, diplomacy and resource management. The game's 3D engine supports real-time battles of more than 10,000 troops and more than 100 unique unit types, including knights, infantry and siege engines, in terrain as varied as deserts, forest, plains and mountains. Players will utilize battle strategies and tactics as they unleash their forces against medieval castles and fortresses with an arsenal of battle-field weapons including long-bows, muskets, cannons and catapults which can pound castle walls and buildings to rubble.
LucasArts Announces Galactic Battlegrounds Collection
Coming in October from LucasArts Entertainment Company is Star Wars Galactic Battlegrounds Saga, which gathers the real-time strategy Windows PC game Star Wars Galactic Battlegrounds and its expansion Star Wars Galactic Battlegrounds: Clone Campaigns in a single package. The low-priced collection will include more than 50 battle campaigns representing the classic and prequel Star Wars universe.
As a bonus, Wizards of the Coast will throw in booster packs for the Star Wars trading card game, with estimated retail value of $10.00.
Powered by the Age of Empires: Age of Kings technology, Star Wars Galactic Battlegrounds Saga allows players to deploy armies, manage resources and create custom single and multiplayer campaigns on Tatooine, Naboo, Endor, Hoth, and Geonosis.
SCEA, Jet Li Collab on New PS2 Action-Adventure
Sony Computer Entertainment America Inc. plan a fall 2003 release of Rise to Honor (working title), an action-adventure game inspired by the Hong Kong action-movie genre, developed for PlayStation2. Created by SCEA's Foster City Studio in collaboration with action star Jet Li (The One, Kiss of the Dragon, Lethal Weapon 4, The Bodyguard from Beijing, Fist of Legend, Shaolin Temple), Rise to Honor will immerse players into a chain of lethal missions that extend from Hong Kong to San Francisco.
The game will incorporate signature movements of Jet Li into the game through motion capture. Fight choreographer Cory Yuen, who has partnered with Li, is working with the development team to choreograph the action sequences for Rise to Honor. In addition to his motion-capture performance, Li is providing voiceover for the main character in the game, as well as contributing to the creative direction of the project.
Activision to Publish Worms 3
Activision has entered into an agreement with the U.K.-based developer, Team 17, to publish the upcoming title Worms 3 and an additional yet-to-be-announced Worms title. Under the terms of the agreement, Activision has acquired multi-platform worldwide publishing and distribution rights for the game, excluding PC rights in Korea, Taiwan and China.
The first official sequel since the popular games Worms 1 and Worms 2, Worms 3 will offer features afforded by next-generation platform tech, featuring deformable landscape technology. Worms 3 will showcase a raft of new gameplay features, while retaining all the familiar chaos of the original titles, complete with bizarre power-ups, loopy weaponry, and crazy cartoon graphics, in both single- and multi-player modes. Worms 3 is expected to ship in 2003.
Team 17 Software Limited is a privately owned entertainment software development company headquartered in West Yorkshire, England. Team 17 has developed over 100 SKUs in its eleven-year history and specializes in original titles using proprietary technology across all major hardware platforms. Its franchises and brands include Worms, Alien Breed, Project X and Superfrog.
Agetec to Release Japanese PS2 Hit Title
Publisher Agetec has secured the rights to release IREM's sleeper hit, Zettai Zetsumei Toshi, for PlayStation2 in the United States and Canada.
The title, which garnered the #3 ranking in Famitsu Weekly Magazine upon its April release in Japan, will be localized and released under the name Disaster Report, and is slated to reach store shelves during the fourth quarter of this year.
Created by IREM Software Engineering, the developers behind such games as the R-Type series, Disaster Report reportedly delivers an original twist on the survival action-adventure genre. Unlike other games in this category, players are pit against nature in a battle to stay alive. The game is set on man-made island called Capital City, built by the government as a means of managing resources, communications, commerce and an ever-growing population.
Cast in the role of a young newspaper reporter, each player arrives at Capital City just as a massive earthquake strikes the island, setting off a chain of destruction and catastrophic events. Given no obvious weapons or tools, the player must explore, collect items, and employ ingenuity to solve puzzles and conserve life-sustaining resources. The outcome is determined by the items collected and lives saved, resulting in one of seven endings.
Technological advances in the game include utilization of the S-Force 3D Sound Library, a sound middleware developed for PlayStation 2 titles by the Sony Corporation. The library, first used in the game Silent Hill 2, is said to reproduce dynamic, three-dimensional sound through two-channel speakers.
Mobile Entertainment Expo Set for Hollywood
MultiMeteor, Inc. will hold the first annual Mobile Entertainment and Gaming Exposition (MEG Expo) at The Renaissance Hotel in Hollywood, CA, October 23-24, 2002. MEG Expo, which will take place in conjunction with the Pocket PC Summit, targets film, music and game producers, and wireless network providers.
The conference will offer panel discussions, presentations, and case studies designed to help navigate the future of the rapidly growing industry of entertainment on wireless computers, cell phones, and smartphones by bringing together leaders that are shaping the industry today. A corresponding exposition is planned, showcasing 10 mobile entertainment companies.
Day one of the conference will focus on wireless gaming. The gaming portion of MEG Expo conference will include topics such as Mobile Gaming: Waking Up to the Opportunities; Mobile Phones: Quit Chatting, Start Playing; and The Future of Mobile Gaming. Doug Dyer, general manager of the wireless arm of THQ, is scheduled to keynote.
Day two will be dedicated to the future of entertainment on handhelds including movies, music and messaging, and will offer a presentation from Qualcomm's Samir Khazaka foretelling the future of high speed entertainment networks.
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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