Spectrum: Interactive Media & Online Developer News

15 December 1997

Reported, written and edited by David Duberman for editorial/ subscription inquiries, send mailto:duberman@dnai.com

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Editor's note: There were so many hot stories in the past week that we couldn't cram them all into this edition of Spectrum. Watch for a special supplementary edition in the next few days. Also, next Monday's edition (December 22) will be the last until January 5, so if you've got an item to submit that needs to get out before the holidays, please get it to us by this Friday (December 19).

 

Today's Headlines (details below)

WEBMEISTER

--Macromedia Ships Dreamweaver --Distinct Updates Visual Internet Toolkit
--Ephyx Releases V-Active for NetShow Interactive Video Streams
--Cybration Announces Internet Videoconferencing Software
--NetPulser Launches Vector Graphics Java Authoring Tool
--ArborText to Support Style Sheets for XML

DEVELOPER'S TOOLBOX

--Microsoft, SGI Announce Windows OpenGL DDK
--Microsoft Releases DirectAnimation, DirectShow APIs
--Motion Pixels Releases Video Compression Engine
--ThunderWave Product Lets Curators Design Media Experiences
--Cosmo Software Brings Cosmo Code Java Tool to Windows

IN THE INFOGROOVE

--QUALCOMM Ships Eudora Pro Email 4.0 for Windows
--QUALCOMM to Offer Free Eudora Web-Based Email
--AltaVista Delivers Free Web Translation Service
--.NU $49.95 Service Provides Domain Name, Web Hosting, Email Forwarding
--Zurf Launches ZurfRider AI Search Utility

GRAPHICALLY SPEAKING

--Sven Releases SurfaceSuite MAX 1.1
--Black Dirt Software Releases Java Graphical Conversion Software
--Ubi Soft Offers Instructional Drawing Course CD-ROM

THE DIALS & LEVERS OF POWER

--RealNetworks Announces RealFlash International Animation Festival
--Java Developers Respond to Poll
--Internet Commerce Developments in 1998: Pithy Predictions

DEALS

--Sierra Re-acquires Krondor License
--ENSONIQ to be Acquired by Creative Technology

GAMES PEOPLE PLAY

--Blizzard Moves Starcraft Release Date to January
--Interplay Ships Gambling, Sports Titles
--MicroProse Announces Magic: The Gathering Online Play
--id Software, Activision Release QUAKE II
--Quest/Strategy Game Announced by DreamCatcher Interactive
--CUC International Announces Internet Gaming Site
--Westwood Releases C&C Online Version

F.Y.I.

--About Spectrum

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WEBMEISTER

Macromedia Ships Dreamweaver

Macromedia announced that Dreamweaver, its visual Web authoring tool, is now shipping for Windows and Macintosh. The product is said to combine the power and productivity of a visual tool with the control and flexibility of an HTML text editor. Dreamweaver also provides support for cross-browser dynamic HTML. Watch Spectrum Review for an upcoming review.

Also, Macromedia and Project Cool have launched the Dreamweaver Web site design contest. Entries for the contest will be accepted through February 28, 1998 at www.projectcool.com/dreamweaver with winners announced at Spring Internet World on March 12, 1998. Winners will receive roundtrip airfare anywhere in the world.

In North America, Dreamweaver for Windows 95/NT, or Macintosh Power PC is available for an estimated street price of US $499, but will be offered for an estimated street price of US $299 until February 28, 1998.

For sales and product info, call (800) 326-2128 or visit http://www.macromedia.com.

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Distinct Updates Visual Internet Toolkit

Distinct Corporation announces the forthcoming release of the Distinct Visual Internet Toolkit version 3.0 (VIT 3.0), the next generation of its SDK designed to help developers incorporate networking (Internet and intranet) functionality into their applications.

In addition to its set of ActiveX controls and DLLs, this version includes a desktop software "sniffer," Distinct Network Monitor, that allows developers to debug the networking-related problems in their applications from their own desktop. The Distinct Network Monitor is capable of capturing all subnet traffic and has built in parsers for all major TCP/IP based protocols. It is also extensible and developers can add their own parsers for other protocols that they wish to analyze. VIT 3.0 also includes the Distinct License Manager to create time limited trial copies of applications developed using this toolkit and the Distinct Floating License Manager for developers wanting to distribute applications, built with the Distinct components, on a concurrent usage basis.

This new version is expected to be available today for download on the Distinct Web site at http://www.distinct.com

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Ephyx Releases V-Active for NetShow Interactive Video Streams

Ephyx Technologies, Inc. announces the release of V-Active for NetShow. The tool lets developers can transform linear video into interactive streaming hypervideo (digital video with embedded time-based events and interactive hotspots) for delivery over Microsoft NetShow 2.0's networked audio/video streaming platform.

Developers can import audio/video interleave (AVI) or QuickTime video files and convert them to interactive hypervideo applications by embedding time-based events and automatically-defined interactive hotspots. These launch URL flips and link to other Web pages, pop-up dialog boxes, other Active Streaming Format (ASF) video/sound files and specified frames in the same video.

Hotspots are defined and tracked using Ephyx's proprietary automatic tracking engine. For easy recognition, designers can define the appearance of the hotspots with graphic filters, highlights or images superimposed over them.

To contact Ephyx, call 1-888-GO-EPHYX or visit http://www.ephyx.com

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Cybration Announces Internet Videoconferencing Software

Cybration Inc. of Corpus Christi, Texas announces ICUII, an IP-based videoconferencing software application at a new low price point of $19.95.

Optimized for MMX, ICUII features live video and audio conferencing, chat, caller ID, do-not-disturb, 320x240 pixel images, global listings, friends list and dynamic People Watch.

ICUII has a built-in function that automatically blocks questionable users and redirects them to a more suitable location.

"Intelliblock cautions profanity users to go to the Alternative Lifestyle Server, a site available to anyone who chooses to participate in questionable behavior," says CEO Kevin Adair. "If they choose not to leave our G-rated site, the program automatically blocks them from further use until a defined period of time elapses."

A 21-day free trial is available at http://www.ICUII.com/ICUII23t.exe.

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NetPulser Launches Vector Graphics Java Authoring Tool

FFM Software, a Silicon Valley-based developer, has released NetPulser 1.0, a Web authoring tool that uses a single applet to deliver multimedia content over the Web. NetPulser's approach employs Java to control the entire Web site rather than on a page-by-page basis. This is said to accelerate performance, eliminate the need to download multiple applets, and allow instantaneous page transition.

NetPulser's Java engine that drives multimedia content, called the Mediapplet, remains the same in every application and is transparent to the user. Mediapplet displays both vector and bitmap graphics and controls animation. It also handles audio, email, page transition, interactivity, and the user interface.

The NetPulser Editor Tool allows the user to design, build and test Java-based pages that can incorporate features such as vector graphics, animation, sound and dynamic clickable regions.

The NetPulser Editor Tool is available for Windows 95 and Windows NT as a free download from http://www.netpulser.com. Macintosh and Sun Solaris versions are expected January 1.

NetPulser Mediapplet, regularly priced at $800, is offered at an introductory price of $499 through January 31.

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ArborText to Support Style Sheets for XML

At Internet World last week in New York, ArborText, a provider of content creation and management software for scalable XML applications, previewed its Cedar project, focused on the creation of style sheets based on the Extensible Style Language (XSL) for XML documents.

XSL is the style specification language being developed in conjunction with the XML initiative. In September, a proposal for the XSL specification was submitted to the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) by ArborText, Inso, and Microsoft.

Extensible Style Language separates form from content in XML and HTML documents, ideally telling a Web browser how to present information that is stored in a media-independent format.

An online beta version of Cedar will be available from http://www.arbortext.com early in 1998.

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DEVELOPER'S TOOLBOX

Microsoft, SGI Announce Windows OpenGL DDK

Microsoft and Silicon Graphics jointly announce plans to deliver a new 3D Graphics Device Driver Kit (DDK) for the Microsoft Windows operating system. The new DDK will reportedly provide graphics chip vendors and OEMs with improved methods for creating, certifying and distributing 3D graphics drivers based on Silicon Graphics OpenGL graphics technology for Windows 95, Windows NT 4.0 as well as the forthcoming Windows 98 and Windows NT 5.0 operating systems.

Said analyst Jon Peddie, "By collaborating with Silicon Graphics ..., Microsoft is sending a clear signal that it is serious about Windows as a platform for professional 3D graphics."

As part of the DDK, Microsoft will:

· distribute an OpenGL Installable Client Driver (ICD) developed in cooperation with Silicon Graphics for the Windows 9X and Windows NT environments

· distribute a version of the existing Direct3D API DDK, which can also be found in the DirectX set of APIs DDK.

· implement a new certification testing and logo branding program for OpenGL drivers as well as Direct3D drivers created with the DDK through the Windows Hardware Quality Labs.

The new DDK is expected in the spring of 1998 with distribution from Microsoft and joint development and support from Silicon Graphics and Microsoft. For more information on a 3D Graphics DDK license, send mailto:ihv@microsoft.com with the subject line "3-D Graphics DDK Licenses." For more information on OpenGL support on Windows, send mailto:opnglinf@microsoft.com. The OpenGL Architecture Review Board can be found at http://www.opengl.org/.

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Microsoft Releases DirectAnimation, DirectShow APIs

At Fall Internet World '97 last week, Microsoft debuted its DirectAnimation API, the animation component of the DirectX Media 5.1 Software Development Kit (SDK). The media integration and run-time API reportedly enables software developers to add dynamic 2D and 3D animation, user interactivity and integration of text, video and audio media types to Web pages and applications.

Features include:

· consistent interface for dealing with 2D vector graphics and sprites, 3D geometry, text, video and audio media types

· uniform time/event model that enables coordinated interaction among various media types, along with user interactivity

· scalable solution for developers with various levels of programming expertise using a variety of programming and scripting languages, including HTML, Visual Basic Scripting Edition, JScript development software, Java and Visual C++.

· high-level multimedia controls for setting motion paths, sequencing, sprite controls and low-bandwidth vector graphics.

· integration with Dynamic HTML and Windowless Control support

The DirectAnimation SDK is available on the DirectX Media 5.1 SDK via CD-ROM or from Microsoft's Web site at http://www.microsoft.com/directx/.

Microsoft also released its DirectShow API SDK for capture, control, processing and playback of multimedia streams, including digital audio and video, and animation data. DirectShow provides a universal infrastructure for next-generation PC digital devices such as DVD players, DV cameras, and PC television tuner cards, in addition to providing a standard application programming interface (API) for software developers creating applications that take advantage of these devices. DirectShow also includes an ActiveX Control that can be embedded in Web pages and applications for playback of audio and video data in a variety of popular formats, including Intel Indeo Video, Intel Indeo Audio, MPEG, AVI, MOV, WAV, AIFF and AU.

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Motion Pixels Releases Video Compression Engine

After five years of research and programming, the Motion Pixels Company has begun selling its proprietary video engine, used in producing Sirius's MovieCD series.

MP Studio LE is available for free download from http://www.motionpixels.com

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ThunderWave Product Lets Curators Design Media Experiences

ThunderWave Inc., a Washington, D.C.-area software developer, announces the immediate availability of the ThunderWave Interactive Streaming Technology (TWIST) family of presentation software products to the museum and exhibit markets. The product is being launched in conjunction with the opening of the J. Paul Getty Center in Los Angeles this week.

The Getty Museum Art Access system is built around ThunderWave's TWIST family of presentation software products. Using Getty-designed viewstations, visitors touch a screen to request a personalized multimedia presentation. They can view close-up photos, videos, text, detailed information and graphics. TWIST's scalability handles the 160,000 objects that will become part of the Getty Museum Art Access system.

By using TWIST, a museum can present all of its assets in a unified way.

ThunderWave's digital streaming technology taps into a central server and creates a networked interactive presentation. TWIST can link multiple information sources on items so that visitors and museum personnel can study the material in various ways they wish, accessing visual information or descriptions--such as hearing and watching interviews with artists--through an interactive networked system.

TWIST can be updated continually because it is a networked, interactive server-based application. The system runs on PCs and the Windows operating system, streaming video from Sun Microsystems, Inc. video servers.

Additional information is available at http://www.twave.com.

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Cosmo Software Brings Cosmo Code Java Tool to Windows

Cosmo Software, a Silicon Graphics company, announces the availability of Cosmo Code 2.5 ($329), a Java development environment for the Windows 95 and Windows NT 4.0 platforms.

The enhanced Cosmo Code 2.5 feature set includes:

· multi-threaded development and debugging support

· rich static analysis capabilities

· scalability for large applications

· class libraries from Rogue Wave Software

· 100% pure Java development

Tools built into Cosmo Code 2.5 include a Visual Builder for WYSIWYG interface creation and component wiring; a Debugger with source and exception breakpoint support; Static Analysis tools with a class browser and query engine; and a Source Editor and Project Manager for integrated access to all tools and components during the application developmen nt cycle. Previously available only for the Silicon Graphics IRIX platform, Cosmo Code 2.5 now supports the Java JDK 1.1.4 and JavaBeans architecture.

For more information, call (888) 91-COSMO or visit http://cosmo.sgi.com.

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IN THE INFOGROOVE

QUALCOMM Ships Eudora Pro Email 4.0 for Windows

Newly available from QUALCOMM is Eudora Pro Email 4.0 for Windows 95/NT ($39). Key new features include:

· online IMAP4--IMAP4 (Internet Message Access Protocol) provides users with real-time access to mail stored on an IMAP server.

· view and compose rich HTML messages, using graphics and stylized text.

Emails containing HTML look as if they would on a Web browser and include graphics such as embedded images, tables and java applets.

· support for LDAP, Ph, Finger and local address book directory services allows users to query multiple servers simultaneously returning information

· addition of new filtration rules and actions plus new "make filter" command

· customize the interface and group the windows used most into special container windows for easy access.

· view the contents of a message without opening it

· customize their address book and track contents of multiple address books

· step through setup and configuration of new email accounts and import configuration information from other email applications

· configure Eudora clients automatically from an ACAP (Application Configuration Access Protocol) server, such as Eudora WorldMail Server 2.0; saves system administrators time getting end users up and running.

Other features include a built in spell-checker, support for multiple email accounts, and Drag-and-Drop capabilities to attach files and manipulate text, messages, mailboxes and folders.

For more information, visit http://www.eudora.com/.

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QUALCOMM to Offer Free Eudora Web-Based Email

QUALCOMM, Inc. announces the introduction of Eudora Web-Mail--a free, Web-based email system. Users can access Eudora Web-Mail at such mobile locations as airport kiosks and cybercafes as well as any Internet-connected laptop and stationary desktop computers.

An auto-forward option allows users to send and receive email from existing Eudora accounts via the Web.

Eudora Web-Mail includes the following key features:

· personal address book

· directory services

· mailing list management

· automated message reply

· URL hot links

· multiple personalities

Eudora Web-Mail will be available at http://www.eudoramail.com following January 1.

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AltaVista Delivers Free Web Translation Service

Digital Equipment Corporation announced its European language translation service for Web content. Non-English speaking Web surfers (Spanish, French, German, Portuguese and Italian) can translate information on the predominantly English-speaking Web in real time. The new free service, provided on Digital's AltaVista Search service, also gives English-only Web surfers the ability to understand information in five languages.

A test version of the technology is available at http://altavista.digital.com.

 

.NU $49.95 Service Provides Domain Name, Web Hosting, Email Forwarding

What's .NU? (Sorry, couldn't resist.) The .NU Domain announces the .NU InstantWeb, a $49.95 per year Web presence package which includes registration of a .NU domain name, Web hosting or Web forwarding and email forwarding.

The .NU domain is managed by the Internet Users Society--Niue, and the Savage Island Network in Niue, with cooperation from the government of Niue.

To access the .NU domain name registration service, visit http://www.nunames.NU.

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Zurf Launches ZurfRider AI Search Utility

Zurf, Inc. has released ZurfRider, its new intelligent personal search utility said to use advanced artificial intelligence (AI) to reduce Internet search time up to 75 percent. ZurfRider queries dozens of Web search engines in parallel, merges the results, removes irrelevant hits and checks for valid links. It organizes the results into neat, understandable groups and then asks the user a series of questions in simple terms that help narrow, refine and complete the search successfully.

A search for "bulb," for example, creates separate folders for results on light bulbs, garden bulbs and light bulb jokes. Some of the questions it generates ask the user which type of bulb, light or flower he or she is interested in, with automatically suggested answers ordered by their likelihood.

A standalone application designed to be used in conjunction with standard Web browsers, ZurfRider can be downloaded for an introductory price of $19.95 from http://www.zurf.com. A trial version is also available at the site.

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GRAPHICALLY SPEAKING

Sven Releases SurfaceSuite MAX 1.1

Sven Technologies announces the availability of SurfaceSuite MAX Version 1.1 for Windows 95/NT. The $995 product lets 3D artists map and warp multiple photorealistic textures onto complex 3D objects. New features designed with game developers and broadcast/film animators in mind include Global Map Generation, enhanced rendering speed, and the ability to drag and drop textures within the material editor, plus full support of the just-released 3D Studio MAX R2 from Kinetix.

The new Global Map Generation feature lets users composite multiple blended texture maps from a model into one contiguous texture map that can integrate surface effects such as bump mapping and lighting. Game developers can then export this single map into real-time rendering engines. Global Map Generation can also be used to generate 360-degree panoramic images of scenes for virtual walkthroughs and games.

Watch Spectrum Reviews for in-depth coverage of this product, coming soon.

Meanwhile, for further information, browse http://www.sven-tech.com or call (650) 852-9242.

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Black Dirt Software Releases Java Graphical Conversion Software

Black Dirt Software announces the release of WMF2TEQ - a Windows Metafile to Montage Translator. Montage is a product of Ludens and has been included in Sun's Java Studio product.

Montage allows Java programmers to create graphically attractive applets and standalone applications. It consists of a drawing tool, a programmer's library, an online manual, tutorials, and sample source code showing how to write applets, stand alone applications, and Painters.

Find Black Dirt Software at http://www.blackdirt.com, and Ludens at http://www.ludens.com.mx

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Ubi Soft Offers Instructional Drawing Course CD-ROM

Artist! from Ubi Soft Entertainment is a $59.95 CD-ROM drawing instruction program and the first title in a new Ubi Soft series called Arts Factory, designed to bring the the interactive format to various areas of fine art instruction.

Artist! serves as a virtual tutor that teaches users working with pencil and paper how to reproduce 40 different subjects in five categories. The program is divided into portraits, still life, life drawing, landscape and nude studies, with eight illustrations per section, each broken down into a series of 20 to 30 steps to assist in the reconstruction of the subject at hand. A narrative explanation accompanying each step ensures understanding and provides useful technique information. Each lesson also covers the concepts of volume, proportion, shading and contouring.

For more information, call Ubi Soft at 415/547-4000 or visit the company Web site at http://www.ubisoft.com.

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THE DIALS & LEVERS OF POWER

RealNetworks Announces RealFlash International Animation Festival

RealNetworks announces the RealFlash International Animation Festival, established to encourage the work of independent and commercial design animators to promote the Internet as a new medium for animation distribution. The festival is co-sponsored by Animation World Network, Cartoon Network, Macromedia, Marvel Comics and Sci Fi Channel.

RealFlash is a joint development between RealNetworks and Macromedia, enabling Flash animation to be synchronized with RealAudio and then streamed directly to users with the RealPlayer 5.0. For an in-depth review of Macromedia Flash 2 software, see Spectrum Reviews 5, 12 December 14, 1997, available exclusively to subscribers of this publication.

Content submissions will be accepted through February 1, 1998 and displayed on the RealFlash International Animation Festival Web site. Winners will be announced on February 20, 1998 at the World Animation Celebration in Pasadena, CA. Prizes include four multimedia computers, multimedia software and prominent placement on RealNetworks' Web site.

For a list of guidelines, complete official rules and more information on the RealFlash Animation Festival, visit http://www.real.com/festival/.

For details on how to create RealFlash animation, download the Content Creation Guide located at http://www.real.com/devzone/flash/.

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Java Developers Respond to Poll

With an eye toward obtaining firsthand knowledge of what developers think of Sun Microsystems' Java language, JavaWorld magazine recently launched its JavaWorld Internet Poll--a survey posted weekly at http://www.javaworld.com. Recognizing the importance to developers of Sun's "write once, run anywhere" goal for Java, JavaWorld focused two of its most recent Internet polls on this topic. Thousands responded to the survey.

JavaWorld queried its readers twice about Sun's "write once, run anywhere":

1. As a Java developer, how satisfied are you with the progress of "write once, run anywhere" to date?

1,080 readers responded:

-- 22% were very satisfied with the progress of "write once, run anywhere"--40% were satisfied

-- 34% were not satisfied

-- 2% had no opinion.

2. How much practical importance do you personally--in your work as a professional developer--place on the "write once, run anywhere" concept?

That is, Java's promise of cross-platform portability?

2,355 readers responded:

-- 90% said Java's promise of cross-platform portability was extremely important

-- 6% said it was somewhat important

-- 2% said it was not important.

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Internet Commerce Developments in 1998: Pithy Predictions

John Audette has decided to go out on a limb and make some "pithy predictions" for Internet commerce developments in 1998. Audette moderates the Internet-Sales Discussion List <http://www.mmgco.com/isales.html>, with posts compiled into a daily digest. The following predictions are excerpted from a list first published in the I-Sales Digest, 12/3/97.

(1) tilting playing field: advantage big dogs

(a) bigger pipes.

(b) net stratification

(c) location

(2) small businesses will thrive in niches (3) targeted, opt-in emailing will grow (4) e-pub advertising will explode

(5) increasing commodization: razor-thin margins (6) online malls will die

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DEALS

Sierra Re-acquires Krondor License

Sierra announced the acquisition from 7th Level of PyroTechnix, Inc., makers of the highly anticipated role-playing computer game "Return to Krondor." Designed by author Raymond E. Feist, "Return to Krondor" marks the return of the Riftwar Saga to computer role-playing in the sequel to Betrayal at Krondor.

"We're thrilled to welcome Raymond Feist and the 'Krondor' series back to the Sierra family," said Scott Lynch, senion vice president at Sierra.

"When the Sierra team saw the game engine technology developed by PyroTechnix, combined with the brilliant story and character development of Mr. Feist, we were blown away. Return to Krondor is the experience gamers have been waiting for since Betrayal at Krondor's release in 1993."

The True3D engine, created by PyroTechnix, powers the sequel. True 3D creates a realistic environment through six degrees of freedom, motion-captured, real-time characters and the integration of 2D animation with 3D characters. Additional features include real-time light and sound sourcing, translucency and 16-bit color. The Windows 95-native game is slated for a Holiday 1998 release.

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ENSONIQ to be Acquired by Creative Technology

Audio technology specialist ENSONIQ has entered into an agreement to be acquired by Singapore-based Creative Technology Ltd. Creative will distribute ENSONIQ products, including PCI audio microchips and electronic musical instruments, and ENSONIQ will provides Creative with other technologies complementary to Creative's recently announced Environmental Audio technology and its future Sound Blaster Live! product line.

ENSONIQ executives and staff will stay in place and continue to operate from the Malvern, Penn. facility.

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GAMES PEOPLE PLAY

Blizzard Moves Starcraft Release Date to January

Irvine, Calif.,-based Blizzard Entertainment of WarCraft II and Diablo fame announced last week that StarCraft, the company's highly anticipated real-time strategy game, will release in late January. The game, which was originally slated as a holiday title, is still expected to sell-in 600,000 copies domestically and more than 1 million copies worldwide.

Said Bob McKenzie, divisional merchandise manager, Babbages Etc., "Missing Christmas will not negatively affect a AAA title like StarCraft. The software industry needs to become a year-round business, instead of only focusing on the holiday-selling season."

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Interplay Ships Gambling, Sports Titles

The four latest games from prolific gamemaker Interplay take their inspiration from the world of non-electronic entertainment, but add enough digital delights to more than justify their virtualization. Interplay proper offers two titles for gambling without risk, while VR Sports, the company's sports division, provides diversion for fans of both baseball and pool. All titles are for Windows 95.

Developed by Cetasoft, Beat the House 2 offers a slew of familiar games, plus a new set of video poker games before they hit the casinos. There are six slots such as classic bars, classic progressive, King's Ransom and the newly designed Gridiron Gold. You'll also find craps, blackjack, roulette and Mini-Baccarat. The four new video poker games, created by casino consultant David Slansky, reportedly play more like traditional poker, are Stud Challenge and Double Stud Challenge, Hold 'Em Challenge and Double Hold 'Em Challenge. The game provides an optional coaching feature, and included in the box is the new edition of Avery Cardoza's book, Beat the House 2 Companion.

There's no point in going to Vegas now that Elvis is gone, so you can get the glitz without the risk by glomming onto Caesars Palace, developed by Interplay Productions. The title uses digitized photos to bring the famed Vegas casino to your home screen, down to the insignia on the chips and gaming tables. The official tutorials teach the novice gambler to play blackjack, roulette and craps. Options include multiple decks, double odds, multiple and progressive payouts and multiple-player action. Other games include slots and video poker. Interplay employed gaming export William Bertram to ensure the odds are accurate.

When Interplay released Virtual Pool, reportedly the best-selling computer sports title of 1995, the company offered to refund your money if it didn't improve your pool game. The offer still holds with Virtual Pool 2, once again developed by ex-military contractor/simulation experts Celeris. New features include jump balls, "real-time ray tracing" for photo-realistic graphics, up to 128 computer opponents, a new tournament mode, and five new games: 10 Ball, Six Ball, Three Ball, Bank Pool and One Pocket, plus three different styles of Eight Ball. Also, the player can adjust table settings such as pocket size and cut, rail cushioning and table speed, play audio CDs during the game, and challenge other humans over a network or via modem.

Big-league baseball won't be back until the spring, but until then you can relive the thrills with VR Baseball Hardware Accelerated, which requires a PC with a 3D hardware accelerator (supports 3Dfx, Rendition, and ATI 3D Rage Pro). Features include:

· viewing the action from any position or perspective

· 640 x 480 16-bit graphics with bilinear filtering and real cast shadows

· season play mode with to 10 or full statistics, mid-season All-Star voting/game

· updated statistics

· over 700 Major League Baseball players

· all 28 stadiums in 3D, menu-less pitching and batting interface

For Interplay titles, see http://www.interplay.com. For VR Sports titles, visit http://www.vrsports.com.

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MicroProse Announces Magic: The Gathering Online Play

MicroProse announced the release date of Magic: The Gathering ManaLink, the free multiplayer update that allows fans to play Magic duels online with other players. A limited release will be available for download in mid-December to purchasers of the Magic: The Gathering Spells of the Ancients expansion disk in North America. ManaLink is scheduled for general release at http://www.gathering.net on January 1 in five languages, including English, French, Italian, Spanish and German. Free Magic: The Gathering Internet game play will be hosted by Total Entertainment Network (TEN) at the GatheringNet Web site on http://www.gathering.net.

The online software enables two players to duel over the Internet, chat, send messages and taunt opponents inside and outside of the Duel. For opponent matching over the Net, ManaLink creates a "live" player environment, allowing players to view a list of other Magic players who are currently online and playing over the Internet. Players can sort potential opponents by attributes such as rank and location.

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id Software, Activision Release QUAKE II

QUAKE II hit approximately 15,000 retail stores in the U.S. and Canada last week. Players prowl through 39 levels packed with complex missions in an alien landscape and wreak havoc with an arsenal of weapons that includes the return of the BFG. As players maneuver through molten lava, fire and flooded passages, more than 18 flesh-hungry monsters relentlessly hunt them down. The twitchy, dog-like Parasite sucks the life out of hapless victims, while the Beserker uses melee attacks to fell unsuspecting prey.

Accelerating the butchery are the Brain, whose deadly tentacles flail and search for its next victim, and the Tank, whose three methods of attack--machine gun, blaster and rocket volley--effortlessly destroy all in its path.

See our exclusive QUAKE II review, one of the first published anywhere, in Spectrum Reviews 5, 12 December 14, 1997, available only to subscribers of this publication.

For official info, visit http://www.idsoftware.com and http://www.activision.com.

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Quest/Strategy Game Announced by DreamCatcher Interactive

Toronto-based DreamCatcher Interactive, Inc. announces Beyond Time, a new story-driven quest/strategy game, with graphic adventures and featuring over 50 situational and tactile puzzles. Based on the novel "Obelisk" by Dr. Judith Kaye Jones, Beyond Time lets players explore a variety of places and civilizations throughout history, including the majestic Temple of Osiris on the banks of the Nile, The Ancient City of Lhasa in Tibet, the Mayan city of Tikal in the steaming Yucatan and the lost Royal City of Atlantis.

This two CD-ROM disc set features over 2,000 photo-realistic 3D screens, over 40 hours of gameplay at a variety of difficulty levels, and more than 80 minutes of cinematic scenes that help to develop the story.

For more information, contact DreamCatcher Interactive, Inc. at 416-638-5000, toll free at 888-611-9999, or visit http://www.dreamcatcherinc.com.

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CUC International Announces Internet Gaming Site

CUC International Inc. announces the public beta launch of its new Internet gaming site: the World Opponent Network (WON). The free online gaming environment can be accessed at http://www.won.net.

Following is a list of games that can be activated as of the December 1 beta launch date (NOTE: although the service is free, players must have purchased the actual CD-ROM versions of the following games to connect and play), Shivers 2, Birthright, Outpost 2: Divided Destiny, MissionForce: Cyberstorm, Lords of the Realm II, Civil War Generals 2, 3D Ultra Minigolf, The Time Warp of Dr. Brain, Front Page Sports: Football '97 & '98, Front Page Sports: Golf, Trophy Bass 2, Hoyle Black Jack, Hoyle Poker, Hoyle Board Games (Backgammon, Battling Ships, Checkers, Chinese Checkers, Chess, Yacht), Hoyle Cards (includes Spades, Hearts, Gin and Poker), Hoyle Casino (includes four versions of Poker: 5-card draw, 5-card draw low-ball, 7-card stud and Texas Hold 'em), Trophy Rivers, Power Chess and Power Chess '98.

By the end of the year the following titles will be added: Lords of Magic, Front Page Sports: Ski Racing and Red Baron II.

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Westwood Releases C&C Online Version

Westwood Studios has released Command & Conquer Sole Survivor Online for Windows 95. The latest installment in the Command & Conquer product line can be played off-line in practice mode or online against other players on the company's free online gaming network, Westwood Online. Live players simultaneously compete on one of Sole Survivor's multiplayer maps. Westwood Online tracks each game and provides automatic ranking so players can compete in tournaments and contests.

Players select a single unit from a list of over 20 (including mammoth tanks, rocket bikes, commandos, artillery and many more.) Once selected, players command their units in a contest of combat against other live players. To gain a competitive advantage and customize their units, players race to find power-up crates scattered throughout the battlefield. The crates enhance unit characteristics, including speed and weapon strength, and provide other benefits, such as first aid and stealth capabilities.

However, some crates contain booby traps that can damage or even destroy player units.

Find more info at http://www.westwood.com, or call 1-800-874-4607.

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F.Y.I.

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