3 December 2001
Reported, written and edited by David Duberman
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Digimation, the Discreet Preferred Plug-in Publisher, is the leader in the plug-in market for 3ds max. As we enter into our 10th year, we are committed to creating innovative plug-ins that offer the 3ds max community a way to turn ideas into reality. Check our website for our Anniversary Specials. http://www.digimation.com.
MINDROVER: THE EUROPA PROJECT
'MindRover: The Europa Project', the intelligent robot simulation/strategy game from CogniToy. Players program research rovers to race around the halls, play tag, or battle it out in the quarry.
Adrenaline vault gives MindRover 5 stars: "Only once in a blue moon does a game sweep through the industry by surprise to take top honors." Demo available at: www.cognitoy.com
Xara Online, a provider of modular Web Services, last week released of its Dreamweaver Extension, which lets Dreamweaver users enhance their Web pages with a variety of Web page add-ons called Xara Modules.
Features that can be added with the modules include custom Web graphics, animated photos, scrolling text effects, audio streaming, counters, trackers as well the new form, mail list management and database services.
Dreamweaver users can download the free Extension, which will then automatically provide a new Insert Menu option, enabling users to create and edit Xara Modules directly. When the user has created a Module it is automatically placed in his Web page without requiring programming, HTML or scripting.
Arete Entertainment, Inc. has released Digital GameWare, a physics-driven middleware solution for game developers that enables simulation and rendering of ocean environment FX at real-time frame rates. Digital GameWare is the newest addition to Arete's Digital NatureTools and Digital PyroTools product lines, used to generate FX for feature films such as "Cast Away," "Pearl Harbor," and "Titanic."
Digital GameWare v1.0 provides drop-in C++ components for adding physics-driven wave surfaces, buoyancy FX, polygonal mesh geometry, and photo-realistic texture, environment, and sphere maps to game environments. The Digital GameWare C++ API delivers platform-independent vertex data and bitmap texture data that can be integrated into OpenGL, Direct 3D, and other rendering pipelines.
SGI last week announced the OpenGL Performer 2.5 application programming interface (API) upgrade for both SGI IRIX and Linux operating systems.
OpenGL Performer is an API for creating real-time visual-simulation and other high-performance 3D graphics applications. The software provides visual effects, multiprocessor and multichannel management, real-time performance and various tools and features for industries using interactive visualization. A unified interface provides the bridge between IRIX and Linux.
New features, functionality, and performance enhancements include:
An evaluation version of OpenGL Perfomer 2.5 for Linux can be downloaded free of charge on the SGI Web site. In addition, with this release, SGI continues to support the Web-based source code repository introduced last year, where the OpenGL Performer development community can freely share modifications and enhancements to utility libraries, file loaders and programming examples.
Coming next month (January 2002) from Sun Microsystems is MultiGen-Paradigm's Vega Prime software toolkit for realtime 3D application development on Sun's 64-bit Solaris 8 Operating Environment.
Vega Prime is a cross-platform, extendable and scalable development environment that includes MultiGen-Paradigm's low-level scene graph (VSG), as well as a high-level abstraction API, delivering a range of customizable optimization and multi-level functionality. The combination is designed to give military, government and commercial simulation customers a cost-effective alternative to deploy high-performance, realtime 3D visual simulation applications.
Smart Technologies Inc. last week released SynchronEyes 2.0 for Macintosh. The computer-lab instruction software uses a TCP/IP network to create a focused learning environment where instructors can monitor and control up to 40 Macintosh workstations from a single computer. It's designed to help instructors focus attention, assist students and track their progress. Version 2.0 is also available for Windows.
SynchronEyes displays thumbnail images of all student screens on the teacher's desktop so she can monitor each student's progress. When a student has a question, he can send it directly to the teacher, who can then type a response or click on that student's thumbnail image to work through the problem together. If several students need assistance at the same time, the teacher can show her screen, or any student screen, to the entire class. To direct attention to the front of the classroom, teachers can blank all student screens and disable mice and keyboards.
In case you've got $20K burning a hole in your pocket and some extra desk space to fill: Manufacturer NEC Technologies last week reduced the price of its PlasmaSync 61MP1 -- the world's first 61-inch display -- from $27,995 (SRP) to $19,995.
In July 2001, NEC was the first to mass-produce a plasma monitor that broke the 50-inch screen size barrier with a 61-inch panel, which is manufactured out of NEC's production facility in Kagoshima, Japan.
Features include split-screen capability, digital zoom, and wide XGA (1365 x 768) native resolution with square pixels. Cited applications include conference room, boardroom, videoconferencing, training and broadcast production applications.
Big Apple-based Sorceron last week released beta-test versions of its Cauldron, Cauldron Server and Cauldron Player, an application suite for creating, streaming and playback of rich-media shows via narrowband or broadband connections. The Cauldron family of products are the first publicly available components of the Sorceron Media Engine, a platform for delivery of streamed 3D, video, audio, 2D, HTML, text and other rich-media formats.
Cauldron features reportedly include:
OpenTV, an interactive television company, and Macromedia last week announced an agreement to make the Macromedia Flash Player immediately available with OpenTV's HTML engine Device Mosaic 5.0, and to integrate the Macromedia Flash Player with OpenTV's Middleware Solutions. The agreement opens the door for the Flash developers community to create interactive content for OpenTV's middleware, said to be deployed in more than 20 million set-top boxes worldwide. Device Mosaic is deployed in more than seven million set-top boxes worldwide.
OpenTV Middleware Solutions support a range of standards including C, HTML, Java, and now Macromedia Flash. Macromedia Flash enables set-top manufacturers, operators and content developers to deliver interactive TV to digital television viewers with animation, interactive games, t-commerce and more.
Microsoft demonstrated the role of Microsoft .NET in the future of interactive television services at the Western Show 2001 last week in Anaheim, Calif.. Through the .NET Lounge, an interactive set of demo stations located at the Microsoft booth (Booth No. 5031, Hall B), Microsoft showed how cable operators can use XML-based Web services to provide a range of personalized, integrated services to their subscribers including Short Message Service (SMS) text messaging from the television to mobile phone; instant messaging between the television and the PC; remote programming of personal video recording (PVR) devices; and media management for photos, music and videos.
The .NET Platform lets developers create and deliver applications and services to enable information to be accessed by different devices, including a Microsoft TV-powered set-top box. .NET applications and services are based on industry standards such as XML, Simple Object Access Protocol (SOAP) and Universal Description, Discovery and Integration (UDDI), enabling clients and servers that implement these standards to participate, whether or not they are running Microsoft software.
XML Web services created using the .NET Platform are based on industry standards for development, integration and delivery of services between applications and devices. XML, the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) standard for formatting data on the Web, is at the core of .NET. SOAP, also maintained at the W3C, is the standard protocol for exchanging information between applications on the Web and is one of the key enabling technologies for the XML Web services model and .NET. Other components of .NET, including Web Services Description Language (WSDL) and UDDI, are also being standardized.
Discreet, a division of Autodesk, Inc., announced last week the availability of its Intel Pentium 4 Processor Performance Pack optimization software, designed as a cooperative 3D initiative with Intel. The two companies teamed engineering resources to deliver new optimizations specific to Discreet's 3ds max 4.2 software. The new optimization software reportedly offers performance gains of up to 30% on Pentium 4 processor-based systems.
The Pentium 4 processor Performance Pack is available as a free download from Discreet at http://www.discreet.com/products/3dsmax/p4 for 3ds max 4.2 customers. This update installs a dynamic link library (DLL) to existing installations of 3ds max 4.2, and offers performance gains on systems with Intel Pentium 4 as well as Pentium III processor-based systems.
The performance pack increases rendering speed for CPU intensive operations such as ray tracing, blur, rendering, and volumetric lighting while also improving handling of large 3D scene interaction and increasing frame rates for smoother animation.
LightWork Design last week released LightWorks Sketch, the company's move into the realm of non-photorealism. The new rendering product lets application developers to provide their customers with the ability to create impressionistic and stylized design renderings. Working directly from the 3D model, LightWorks Sketch enables non-photorealistic and hand-drawn images to be created at any stage of the design process.
A variety of sketch style shaders are available within LightWorks Sketch, ranging from pencil sketches to watercolor paintings. This means that designers can create many different design impressions for presentation to their customers. LightWorks Sketch is 3D-based, so sketch images can be quickly re-rendered from any viewpoint without having to use other tools. The drag-and-drop user-interface allows the rapid addition of sketch rendering to any application.
Pinnacle Systems last week shipped CineWave RT for performing real-time editing, effects, and compositing with uncompressed standard-definition (SD) video. Users can perform keyframeable image-control and motion effects, as well as create transitions on up to two tracks of video and two tracks of graphics with alpha channels in real time.
The product comprises software and hardware working together on the Apple Power Mac G4 to provide unlimited layering, effects, advanced non-linear editing, motion tracking, paint, and compositing tools. It includes a full version of Apple's Final Cut Pro, Commotion Pro, Knoll Light Factory, the TARGA Cine Engine, and the CineWave RT software.
Alias/Wavefront has begun shipping Maya 4 for the Red Hat Linux operating system. Maya Builder, Maya Complete and Maya Unlimited became available on Linux for the first time this past March.
Maya 4 for Red Hat Linux 6.2 and 7.1 is available at the same price as Maya 4 for the IRIX, Windows and Macintosh platforms, starting with Maya Builder at US$2,995. International pricing will vary. The feature set of the Linux version of Maya will be identical to those in Maya for other platforms.
Autodesk says it will begin development of a dedicated 3D modeling kernel, named Autodesk ShapeManager, to be incorporated in Autodesk Inventor and other Autodesk design software. The kernel will be based on the ACIS 7.0 kernel licensed by Autodesk from Spatial Corp. Autodesk ShapeManager will let users build and modify complex virtual models, which require sophisticated mathematical computations to define and communicate three-dimensional design intent.
Because Autodesk ShapeManager shares its heritage with the same ACIS kernel present in current and legacy versions of Autodesk Inventor and the AutoCAD family of products, the company says its integration will create no file-migration problems, nor will geometry-migration utilities be required. ShapeManager will maintain compatibility with ACIS versions 7.0 and below. Future kernel development efforts will be focused on the requirements of feature modeling for Autodesk Inventor and on advanced shape description for complex geometric designs such as those in the consumer-products industries.
Dedicated "To all who sleep, eat, and dream Dreamweaver" by coauthor Heather Williamson, "Dreamweaver in a Nutshell" (US $29.95), was just published by O'Reilly & Associates. The book was designed to give developers and designers quick reference both to advanced features as well as those used every day, providing guidance in the tasks of creating complex Web sites. With Dreamweaver, professional Web developers can not only create Web pages, but also manage complicated sites, whether they use HTML only, or server-side languages. While it focuses on Dreamweaver, the book also applies to Dreamweaver UltraDev.
Chapter 6, "Managing a Web Site," is available free online at: http://www.oreilly.com/catalog/dreamweavernut/chapter/ch06.html
For more information about the book, including Table of Contents, index, author biography, and samples, see: http://www.oreilly.com/catalog/dreamweavernut/
Sony Computer Entertainment America Inc. last week released Twisted Metal Small Brawl for the PS one and PlayStation game consoles. Developed by Incog Inc. Entertainment and designed and produced by SCEA Santa Monica, the sixth game in the popular series, features a mischievous crew of strangely familiar characters in remote-control vehicles.
Controlling a crew of defiant little terrors who have seized a stash of remote-control cars, players navigate recklessly through environments such as an abandoned movie theater, bowling alley, sand box, kitchen and anywhere else they can wreak havoc. The game offers 16 cars, each with unique handling, physics and special moves. It spans 11 different interactive environments throughout which players can destroy virtually any object in their path. The weapon system assists novice players, while allowing skilled gamers to perform difficult combo moves, expanded special moves and intricate defense maneuvers.
Other features include improved graphics, including richer textures and higher polygon counts per vehicle, an enhanced level of detail allowing visible damage to be displayed on vehicles, an increased number of obstacles throughout the levels and improved vehicle design. Opponent artificial intelligence (AI) has also been refined, designed to create heated rivalries and vengeful vendettas amongst players. A variety of play modes are available, including single-player, two-player head-to-head, two-player free-for-all and two-player tag team.
Activision recently released its alien-blasting side-scrolling action game, Alienators: Evolution Continues for Game Boy Advance. Based on the animated series of the same name, which airs on Fox Kids, the game follows the adventures of four unlikely heroes and their quest to stop a strange alien menace known as the Genus.
As team leader, Ira Kane, players explore 12 levels teaming with extraterrestrial trouble. Armed with the Devolver, a multi-function weapon that fires Blue Goo, rockets, rapid fire blasts and grenades, players zap eight different alien types into primordial ooze.
Simon & Schuster Interactive plans to release its first titles for the Windows CE or "Pocket PC" platform. The four titles scheduled to ship in December include:
All titles are developed by Machine Works NW LLC (www.machineworks.com).
Square Electronic Arts, the publisher of Squaresoft products in North America, announced last week that Final Fantasy X for the PlayStation 2 computer entertainment system will start shipping limited quantities to retail stores nationwide on December 26, 2001, instead of the originally scheduled January 2002.
The game was released in Japan on July 19 and sold through 90% of the 2.14 million units it shipped in the first four days. It is the first PlayStation 2 title to reach the two million-unit mark.
The story: The main character, Tidus, meets a young woman named Yuna, who must travel to distant temples and learn the secret art of summoning aeons -- powerful spirits of yore, in order to defeat "Sin." Tidus learns that a thousand years in the past, mankind lived in spectacular cities and relied on machines for everything, until Sin suddenly appeared and destroyed all civilization.
Numero X will be the first in the series to feature voiceovers for the characters. James Arnold Taylor ("A Moment of Silence") and Hedy Burress ("Valentine") will voice the main characters in the U.S. release. The game also offers 3D environments that integrate real-time movement with battles, allowing players to walk around and engage in battles on the same field map screen. The high-polygon, motion-captured characters were designed by Tetsuya Nomura (Final Fantasy VII, VIII, Parasite Eve, Parasite Eve 2). Mini-games include the sport of blitzball and the Al Bhed language. FFX carries a newly designed battle system with a character-development system that uses a "Sphere Grid."
It's not exactly a Game Boy, but … Sony Computer Entertainment America Inc. announced last week the LCD Screen (for PS one) for the re-designed, compact version of its PlayStation videogame console. The $129, five-inches-diagonally, lightweight peripheral delivers brightness of 650 Candela (cd/m2) and high-definition features by receiving the video signal directly from PS one through the RGB input. It also provides stereo sound through 40mm x 28mm oval 1.0W, built-in stereo speakers.
A PS one car adapter (sold separately) will be available for a limited time in early 2002 and will enable gamers to use their PS one consoles in automobiles.
Ignoring strong economic headwinds, Nintendo's Gamecube has reportedly become the fastest-selling home video game console of this generation. Through its first week of availability, consumers bought more than one-half million systems, at a rate nearly twice that of Microsoft's Xbox, and at least 25 percent faster than the launch of Sony's Playstation 2 last year.
In addition, Nintendo claims the ghost-themed title Luigi's Mansion has become the most popular console launch game ever, with sales rates even eclipsing those of Super Mario 64, which launched with the Nintendo 64 console in 1996.
Of initial North American shipments of some 740,000 hardware units, approximately 100,000 systems went to Canada and Latin America and another 75,000 to U.S. rental and other distribution channels. Of the approximately 80 percent destined for U.S. retail locations, virtually all are now sold out. However, the first of weekly replenishments of approximately 125,000 units are already arriving at stores.
With Luigi's Mansion and Lucas Arts' Star Wars Rogue Squadron II: Rogue Leader leading the way, consumers are buying about two games for every Gamecube purchased. Two Nintendo exclusives--Pikmin and Super Smash Brothers Melee--will be introduced this week. In all, a total of 22 Gamecube titles will be available by year-end, growing to some 35 by the end of March.
The Gama Network and the International Game Developers Association (IGDA) have named the 2002 Game Developers Choice Awards (GDCA) advisory board.
The Game Developers Choice Award advisory board will shape the annual event and assist in the selection of non-voted honors, including the Lifetime Achievement award. Remaining distinctions will be nominated and voted on by professional game developers at large, beginning Jan. 2, 2002.
In addition, board members will be presenters at the awards ceremony, scheduled to take place at the Game Developer's Conference (GDC), March 21 - 23, 2002, in San Jose, Calif.
The board will seat the following game-development industry members:
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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