Spectrum: Interactive Media & Online Developer News 16 December 2002

Reported, written and edited by David Duberman
For editorial/subscription inquiries, send spectrum1@broadviewnet.net
Search the Spectrum archives at www.3dlinks.com/spectrum
Holiday Greetings!

This is the last edition of Spectrum in 2002. We'll be taking a holiday break over the next couple of weeks, and will return with a fresh new batch of news and reviews on January 6. Until then, be well, and enjoy the festivities!
- David Duberman

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Today's Headlines (details below)

SPECTRUM REVIEWS
--Metroid Prime
--Hunter: The Reckoning & Baldur's Gate: Dark Alliance

DEVELOPER'S TOOLBOX
--Corel Launches Smart Graphics Studio for SVG Graphics
--FastScript3D Site Launched --Superscape, Cybiko Announce Initiative for Wireless 3D Games

GRAPHICALLY SPEAKING
--Anark Announces Model Exchange File Format, Plug-Ins
--Digital Element to Distribute LWWB Communicator for Strela
--Ulead Updates MediaStudio Pro

THE DIALS & LEVERS OF POWER
--Communication Arts Announces Interactive Call for Entries
--O'Reilly Releases "PHP Cookbook"

DEALS
--NCsoft Acquires ArenaNet

GAMES PEOPLE PLAY
--GarageGames Launches Three New Games
--Project Entropia Goes Gold

DIGERATI ILLUMINATI
--Gama Network Announces Indie Games Festival Finalists

HAPPENINGS
--Mobile Developers to Meet at GDC Mobile

F.Y.I.
--About Spectrum

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SPECTRUM REVIEWS

Metroid Prime

A headline on the front cover of the current issue of Wired magazine reads: Why Nintendo Won't Grow Up. Admittedly, the company has a well-deserved reputation for making "kiddie games," despite its occasional release of adult (i.e., sophisticated, mature) fare such as Eternal Darkness. Which, incidentally, is one of the better Gamecube titles to date.

Chalk up a major new entry in Nintendo's adult game lineup with the recent release of Metroid Prime. The Metroid series dates all the way back to the NES, the company's first game console. Perhaps the best-known title in the series is Super Metroid, one of the most popular games released for the SNES, Nintendo's highly successful 16-bit console. But following in the tradition of video game sequels excelling their predecessors, in my opinion Metroid Prime is the best Metroid yet. It's one of the finest games of the year for any number of reasons.

Take story, for instance. The heroine, Samus Aran, who always appears in her heavy exo-skeletal armor, lands on the unexplored planet Tallon IV. As in previous episodes, she's on the tail of the evil Space Pirates, but here she also finds evidence of habitation by the Chozo, the mysterious alien race responsible for her existence. As she explores, she gradually finds out more about how the Chozo lived on this planet, and what happened to them.

How Samus learns this is due to a clever gameplay device: Built into her multipurpose visor is a scanning device. Whenever you flip it on and look in the direction of a clue, an icon appears. When you see the icon, you hold down a button that scans for info, and ultimately the clue appears in text, and is also added to your data library, available for perusal by pressing the Start button. Other information you can get by scanning includes enemy characteristics, including strengths and weaknesses, as well as hints for getting past various obstacles.

Of course, the real essence of the gameplay is navigation and combat. The very beginning of the game finds Samus at peak power, but shortly thereafter she loses most of her capabilities. Regaining them is how you spend much of the game. Navigation is a combination of walking--on land and under water--jumping, and rolling (about which more shortly) Every so often an alert appears, and pressing a button takes you to the highly functional 3D auto map, where a new landmark appears. It's not always obvious how to get there, but if you make it to the vicinity, you'll be able to figure it out.

When you reach the location (marked with a ? on the map, so you can't miss it), or on the way, you'll encounter a unique challenge: a boss monster, a difficult puzzle, or just a long stretch with lots of tough enemies and no save points. Overcome it, and you get to power up just a bit more. You start with a weak projectile weapon, and eventually get more powerful and different types of weapons whose effectiveness depends on what you're trying to do, and in which context. Other upgrades include visor improvements, such as infrared vision, and suit enhancements, such as being able to jump higher. And, as in previous Metroids, Samus can transform into a rolling sphere called the Morph Ball, which also benefits from various improvements gained throughout the adventure. On your travels, if you're observant and work a bit, you can also get incidental power-ups like increased missile-carrying capacity and more hit points.

One of the things you do quite often is fight various types of mutated creatures. The designers did a great job in creating a broad range of weird, menacing enemies that fly, crawl, swim, or just kind of float there, striking when you least expect it. They don't respawn immediately, but if return to an area after traveling elsewhere for a while, there they are, ready to deal damage. Perhaps the most menacing is the titular monster, about which the game gives you clues as you progress, building up the suspense admirably.

As in most console games, saving is limited to specific points in the game; fortunately, a save point is sometimes available before a major challenge (or sometimes after), and as a side benefit, visiting a save point restores full health. You can save only one game, but because Super Metroid has no points of no return, that's all you need. Other, rarer sites restore all your missiles.

The gameplay is excellent, but the aspect of the game that really knocks my socks off every time is the art direction. If you've ever said, as I have, that graphics aren't that important in a game, Metroid Prime just might have you changing your tune. The designers and artists have done a masterful job of creating an absolutely convincing, utterly alien world that encourages you to explore every nook and cranny. Most 3D game worlds look a bit sterile, not to mention somewhat repetitive due to the necessary reuse of game resources. But Metroid Prime, thanks to its painstaking design, looks almost as natural as anything you might see in the real world. The detail is astonishing, down to water dripping off the front of your visor when you emerge from the depths, and the blue wake from certain flying creatures. To anyone who's looking for the state of the art in game graphics: Here it is. If Metroid Prime doesn't win the GDC Excellence in Visual Arts award next year, I'll be very surprised.

Complaints? I have a few, but none serious. The game doesn't let you skip cut-scenes, such as when you're taking an elevator ride or are about to encounter a boss monster (yeah, I saw the entire Thardus intro about a dozen times). Also, when you switch to Morph Ball mode, the camera cuts to a close-up, third-person view, with the result that you don't see much of the environment, which can lead to missing important items. Even in first-person mode, the angle of view is somewhat narrow, forcing you to look around more than usual. And there's no Load command; all you can do is quit and then restart, which takes time.

Metroid Prime took two-and-a-half years to develop, as a close collaboration between Nintendo and the developer Retro Studios, and it shows. It's a big game, so be prepared to invest some time in playing; it'll be worth it. A word of advice: Look everywhere and scan everything. Metroid Prime is a strong contender for game of the year; if you have a Gamecube, don't miss it.

http://www.metroid.com/

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Hunter: The Reckoning & Baldur's Gate: Dark Alliance

Survival horror is a quintessential console-only game genre, first popularized by Capcom's Resident Evil series. I played the first RE on PlayStation, but never get very far due to the antiquated control system. That system survives to this day, so I haven't played any RE games since. I don't need to, now that Hunter: The Reckoning is here; I can get in some zombie killing with a better control system.

Interplay previously released the game for Xbox, but I reviewed the new Gamecube version, developed by High Voltage Software. In it, you play one of four hunters whose goal is to take out the evil stalking the town. The hunters are Avenger, a seven-foot killing machine armed with an axe and rifle; Defender, a no-nonsense lady cop equipped with katana and revolver; Martyr, a young heiress packing twin daggers and dual pistols; and Judge, a priest who eliminates evil spirits with a sword and crossbow. All four have a connection with Ashcroft Penitentiary, where renegade ghosts were once imprisoned and from which they have now escaped and are ravaging the surrounding town. Incidentally, you can't switch characters mid-game, but when you load a game, you can pick any hunter. Best to stick with the one you started with, though, because he or she gains skills as you go along, and the game definitely gets tougher near the end.

As your hunter of choice, viewed in third person from slightly overhead, your job is to accomplish a series of specific tasks, such as accompanying a lost child to a church, while killing everything that gets in your way. You also have an overarching goal: free 50 "innocents" who can help fix the train that's the only way out of town. Typically, when you free an innocent, he or she excoriates you roughly, giving you the classic role of the misunderstood hero. But you don't care, because you're busy keeping a vast army of vampires, zombies, werewolves, giant skittering robotic spiders, gargoyles, and other assorted baddies at bay.

Despite the apparent differences in armament, each hunter plays more or less the same. You start out with a melee weapon and a limited-range shooter with unlimited ammo. As you explore, you find more-powerful weapons such as a shotgun and machine gun. These kill enemies more efficiently than your standard weapons, but have limited ammo. For most of the game, you'll be playing "run 'n' gun" with your standard shooter. In certain cases your melee weapon is more effective, but in others, such as with the exploding robot spiders, you want to keep as much distance as possible between them and you.

The game's "magic" comes in the form of Edges, which give your hunter special powers. You start off with one, and eventually can gain up to three, with three levels each. Edges include Cleave, which powers up Avenger's melee weapon; Rejuvenate, which heals Defender and any nearby hunters (the game allows up to four to play simultaneously); Demand, which temporarily jacks up Martyr's speed and killing power; and Word of Power, which gives Judge an extra creature-killing tool. Activating an Edge uses up "conviction," equivalent to role-playing games' mana. Sometimes when you kill enemies, they leave glowing balls that restore health or conviction if you touch them before they quickly vanish. Often, though, you'll have to plow through damage-dealing enemies to get at them; an interesting strategic element. And in doing so, you just might find a way to have monsters attack each other!

Hunter is a clear case of gameplay outshining graphics. The game is quite playable and extremely compelling; you just want to keep going to see what's next. The environments, which range from streets to building interiors to sewers, and more, are uniformly drab and depressing. Which is as it should be in a horror game. The cut-scenes' animation is laughable, although the voice acting is competent. However, the in-game animation is quite good, if somewhat monotonous; all monsters of the same type move similarly, in a genuinely menacing way. The control scheme is totally intuitive; just move your stick in the direction you want the character to move. As long as you're facing in the general direction of your enemies, the guns will aim automatically, which is helpful when you're facing down dozens of bloodthirsty critters. Sometimes it seems as though the waves of enemies will never stop, although eventually they do. If you're into this genre, I recommend Hunter; it'll scare the stuffing out of you, in a good way.

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Also new from Interplay for Gamecube is Baldur's Gate: Dark Alliance, developed by Snowblind Studios. The game is virtually identical to the PS2 version released about a year ago, but with improved graphics for the Gamecube's superior engine, and somewhat more challenging gameplay. As one of three young heroes--a human archer, a dwarven fighter, or an elven sorceress--you're robbed by brigands, and set out to recover your cash in passages under the city. You can also undertake a few optional quests for additional experience and booty.

As the game progresses, you travel to other parts of the Forgotten Realms such as a mine and a snowy mountain, but the entire game is really just an extended dungeon crawl. The 3D graphics are a real treat for the eyes, with lots of physical detail and sumptuous texture maps. Most of the time, you see the game from an overhead view, which is appropriate considering that enemies can and do attack from any direction. In most areas, you can rotate the view so as to better see your surroundings, but in some, such as towns, you can't; this can be a bit frustrating, but the automap helps.

Gameplay is refreshingly straightforward: Enter a new maze-like area, kill all the baddies, find the item or items you need to get to the next part, and move on. How you vanquish your foes depends on which character you start with, and which options you choose when you level up. All characters can wield melee weapons such as a sword or axe, but the archer can also fire arrows, and the sorceress can shoot fireballs. When you level up, you assign points in a menu of choices for attributes and abilities. For instance, the archer can add fire or ice to his arrows, while the fighter can opt to strike the ground with his war hammer to smite foes. Attributes include improved defense or faster healing.

The game is almost completely linear; you're almost always forging ahead, hacking your way through hordes of monsters and proceeding inexorably toward the ultimate goal. After you reach it, you get some extras, such as a tough Extreme mode. For amateur fun-seekers who have only a few hours a day or a week to try to get gaming satisfaction, BGDA is a great way to go after it. It's truly addictive, and I hope Black Isle makes many more.

http://www.interplay.com/

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DEVELOPER'S TOOLBOX

Corel Launches Smart Graphics Studio for SVG Graphics

Corel Corporation last week unveiled its Smart Graphics Studio, a development platform for the creation of SVG-based smart graphics - a new form of enterprise-class, graphically rich Web applications. These solutions transform XML and legacy data into dynamic and interactive graphics, reportedly enabling organizations to deliver information to virtually any device, anywhere.

Features include:

* Developer SG is a rapid graphical application development (RAD) environment works in conjunction with a standards-compliant SVG authoring tool like CorelDRAW to enable the creation of interfaces that include dynamic behaviors and data-driven elements. It provides a WYSIWYG environment to produce applications while maintaining the ability to work directly with the underlying code.

* Server SG is a platform for the execution of smart graphics applications at run time, transforming data into interactive graphics. It provides server management tools such as analysis, queuing, and caching; integrated support for Web Services; and connector architecture, which communicates with the server from native Java, .NET, or COM applications.

* SVG Viewer is a Web browser plug-in providing end users with access to solutions created and deployed with standards-compliant SVG graphics.

Corel Smart Graphics Studio will be available in mid-2003. For more information on smart graphics or Corel Smart Graphics Studio, visit

http://www.corelcom/smartgraphics.

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FastScript3D Site Launched

FastScript3D is designed to provide an easy to use JavaScript interface to Java3D. Users can exploit the Java3D API without the need for a detailed understanding of the Java3D programming language, creating 3D Web content using just HTML and JavaScript. FastScript3D is designed to be easily extended, and is free to use. The download includes documentation and source code and the Web site includes plenty of applet examples.

http://fastscript3d.jpl.nasa.gov

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Superscape, Cybiko Announce Initiative for Wireless 3D Games

Interactive 3D enabling technology specialist Superscape plc and US-based Cybiko Wireless Inc. are working together to develop 3D games for mobile phones, with the aim of establishing Superscape's Swerve technology as the premier 3D engine and authoring tools.

Swerve technology is designed for delivering a range of applications to 2.5 and 3G handsets. Cybiko develops wireless games, with over 55 titles launched including MotoGP, a perspective-view racer for THQ.

Cybiko's designers and engineers are currently familiarizing themselves with the Swerve technology in preparation to develop 3D content covering the racing, sports, strategy, and shoot-out game genres. It is anticipated that the first game developed by Cybiko will be available early next year.

http://www.cybiko.com/ http://www.superscape.com/

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GRAPHICALLY SPEAKING

Anark Announces Model Exchange File Format, Plug-Ins

Anark Corporation last week released its new Model Exchange format for 3D content integration into its multimedia-authoring software, Anark Studio. Export plug-ins are available with the Anark Studio 1.5.2 update for Discreet's 3ds max and Plasma with additional versions to be released on the Anark Website. The plug-in allows 3D artists to export scenes into an Anark Model Exchange (AMX) file with full retention of complex 3D data. The file format and exporters are designed to improve integration with 3D modeling tools.

Said Eric Morin, a multimedia developer and director of content development for Anark, "We now have the ability to create precise models in 3ds max incorporating highly complex object groups and hierarchy, and once in Anark Studio, the object positions appear exactly as we originally created them. Most importantly, basic materials import virtually identical and we can create captivating 3D, interactive presentations for our clients much easier than ever before."

In addition, the updated Anark Studio 1.5.2 adds the ability to play Anark content within the Windows Media 9 Series Player and SCORM conformance to its lengthy feature list. In the future, the AMX plug-in's flexibility will enable Anark Studio to support a variety of 3D modeling programs. Additionally, new export plug-ins for other 3D applications will be made available on Anark's Website and a licensing program for 3D application builders will be forthcoming.

http://www.anark.com/

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Digital Element to Distribute LWWB Communicator for Strela

Digital Element, with the help of NewTek, last week announced the first product release from Strela, a company made up mostly of former Russian nuclear scientists. The first product is a $149 plug-in for NewTek's LightWave 3D and Digital Element's WorldBuilder Pro 3.5. Called the LWWB (Lightwave WorldBuilder) Communicator, it allows digital artists using the two packages to work together and build combined scenes. The product is the second in Digital Element's line of Rosetta Communicator Plugins.

The LWWB Communicator allows scenes from each package to be rendered in their native environment, eliminating the need for traditional importing and exporting. The software packages talk to each other and agree on final rendering decisions, instead of one package forcing the other to work within the other's framework by importing scene data. The communicator manages both renders and composites the scenes together into a single scene, sharing lights, camera, and shadows.

http://www.digi-element.com

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Ulead Updates MediaStudio Pro

Coming in March from Ulead Systems is MediaStudio Pro 7.0. The newest version of the professional video-editing software can reportedly play and output five or more DV streams simultaneously on a single processor Pentium 4 processor-based 3.0 GHz system. If complex sections in the project exceed the particular system's RT performance, the software flags these sections, giving the user the option to render those segments only Version 7.0 also offers a multi-threaded code base to use dual processors and Intel's new Hyper-Threading Technology (HT).

Other new features include support for real-time, full-screen display on a second CRT monitor, TV, or 1394 display device. The software handles both Type-1 and Type-2 DV sources in all real-time, dual-display modes. This full-screen display can be sourced from the Timeline Preview and from any effect preview interface in the application, such as transition, motion path and video filter dialogs. The software also supports Flash (SWF) and Cool 3D Studio (C3D) files, which can be imported to the timeline, as well as pre-scan tape logging of scenes by thumbnail for visual batch capture. It also offers scene detection by content on all video formats and improved efficiency with Ulead's Summary Timeline view.

Additional new enhancements include real-time, multi-track audio mixing, more automatic, add-to-timeline options and enhanced timecode and source management. New creative tools consist of a title tool with advanced texture, shadow and motion effects, as well as new video filters such as Old Film, Smart Blur and Diffuse Glow. MediaStudio Pro 7.0 also handles non-square pixel 16:9 ratio and offers improved overlay key algorithms.

http://www.ulead.com

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THE DIALS & LEVERS OF POWER

Communication Arts Announces Interactive Call for Entries

Communication Arts magazine announces a call for entries for its design competition in interactive media, now in its ninth year. The deadline for submissions is January 15, 2003. Any interactive project created for digital distribution on the World Wide Web, CD-ROM, interactive kiosk or handheld device is eligible.

Each year, a jury is assembled from practitioners in interactive media. The jury brings a variety of creative and technical skills to the evaluation process, ensuring a complete analysis of each project.

During the three-month evaluation process, the judges interact directly and in-depth with all of the submitted projects. All projects are viewed using the medium for which they were intended (e.g., Web sites are viewed online, disk-based projects are viewed from the disk). Technical support is provided throughout the process to guarantee the fair evaluation of each entry.

The selected entries are reproduced in the September/October Interactive Annual issue of Communication Arts. The chosen projects are also featured on the magazine's Web site, providing worldwide exposure to the creators of these award-winning projects.

For information, go to: http://www.commarts.com/CA/magazine/comp / To download an entry form, visit:

http://www.commarts.com/CA/download/ia03.pdf .

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O'Reilly Releases "PHP Cookbook"

The new "PHP Cookbook" (O'Reilly, US $39.95), by David Sklar and Adam Trachtenberg, contains an extensive collection of solutions and best practices for everyday PHP programming dilemmas. For each problem addressed in the book, there's a solution--a short, focused piece of code that programmers can insert directly into their applications. The book also expounds theory and explains how the code works, so readers can learn to adapt the problem-solving techniques to similar situations.

The recipes in the "PHP Cookbook" range from simple tasks, such as sending a database query and fetching URLs, to entire programs that demonstrate complex tasks, such as printing HTML tables and generating bar charts. The book's 250+ recipes cover such topics as: * working with basic data types, including strings, numbers, dates and times, and arrays * PHP building blocks, such as variables, functions, classes, and objects * Web programming, including forms, database access, and XML * useful features such as regular expressions, encryption and security, graphics, internationalization and localization, and internet services * working with files and directories * command-line PHP and PHP-GTK * PEAR, the PHP Extension and Application Repository

An article by coauthor David Sklar, "Trip Mapping with PHP," can be found at: http://www.onlamp.com/pub/a/php/2002/11/07/php_map.html

Chapter 8, "Web Basics," is available free online at: http://www.oreilly.com/catalog/phpckbk/chapter/index.html

For more information about the book, including Table of Contents, index, author bios and samples, see http://www.oreilly.com/catalog/phpckbk/

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DEALS

NCsoft Acquires ArenaNet

South Korea-based NCsoft Corporation, said to be the world's largest online game company, last week announced the acquisition of ArenaNet, a Seattle-based game-development studio established in 2000 by members of the Blizzard Entertainment development team. The founders were involved in leadership roles in the creation of the Warcraft, StarCraft and Diablo game series, and were responsible for the creation of the Battle.net gaming network. ArenaNet's mission is to create an interactive game network and to design and publish multiplayer online games.

http://www.ncsoft.net http://www.arena.net

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GAMES PEOPLE PLAY

GarageGames Launches Three New Games

After graduating from the corporate world of big-budget games, Dynamix co-founder Jeff Tunnell and partners are once again making games, in the form of a new independent publisher, GarageGames.

Nearly three years ago, Tunnell left Dynamix, along with fellow technologists Rick Overman, Tim Gift, and Mark Frohnmayer, with a stated vision of helping independent game developers make a living by investing in their own games. Their first step was to focus on developing games and to "even the technology playing field" for small companies by selling the Torque Game Engine, the power behind Tribes 2, for $100. This initiative has reportedly grown to become one of the world's largest independent game-developer communities.

Last week, the rest of the vision became reality by focusing on publishing games with the launch of the "Play Games" addition to http://www.GarageGames.com. Play Games offers full-version game downloads for sale as well as other features.

"Giving developers great technology and staying out of their way will result in fun games, and we feel these titles are proof of that vision," says Tunnell. He goes on to say, "GarageGames is turning the traditional publishing model on its head in order to build the kind of publishing company we would want to work with as a developer."

The first three titles, all nonviolent games for any age or gender, are available for download at $15 each. They are:

* Chain Reaction - developed by Monster Studios, the creators of The Incredible Machine, is a puzzle construction game that allows players to create problem-solving contraptions. Players choose from an array of objects such as a conveyor belt, basketball, solar panel and dynamite to create convoluted contraptions and solve problems.

* Marble Blast, produced by GarageGames in cooperation with Monster Studios, is the first title to use the Torque Game Engine. The arcade-style action game has players racing against time as they navigate their marbles through moving platforms and dangerous hazards, collecting treasure along the way. A variety of power-ups including "Super Speed," "Super Bounce" and "Gyrocopter" enhance players' abilities as they race to complete each course in record time.

* Robot Battle puts a twist on traditional gameplay by challenging players to design and code adaptable battling robots. Players create robots or teams of robots to compete in tournaments against friends or players from around the world. Robots fight using skills like radar scanning and by firing missiles, dodging, ramming, avoiding mines, and collecting energy bonuses.

Spectrum will feature reviews of these three early next year.

http://www.garagegames.com

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Project Entropia Goes Gold

Swedish interactive entertainment developer MindArk says Project Entropia, its virtual universe, will go gold next month. The software project, said to be Sweden's largest ever, has been in development since 1997.

Project Entropia is a three-dimensional virtual universe on the Internet. The entertainment product's goal is society and community building for social interaction and adventure with global usage across culture, age and sex barriers. Features include a real economy whose currency, PED, is exchangeable with any major currency in the world. The software needed to enjoy Project Entropia is free to download, and the virtual universe is free to enter and spend time in.

"It is even possible to make a living in Project Entropia," says chairman Benny Iggland. "This is being demonstrated by several of our commercial trial users. A market economy is rapidly evolving, with our users defining prices on various commodities and items available in the virtual universe. Project Entropia will also incorporate real-world commodity trading in a three dimensional environment."

The release date is set for January 30, 2003, but anyone who wants a head start can enter the Project Entropia universe now after downloading the software at http://www.project-entropia.com.

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DIGERATI ILLUMINATI

Gama Network Announces Indie Games Festival Finalists

CMP Media's Gama Network last week announced the finalists in the fifth annual Independent Games Festival (IGF) Competition. Selected by a panel of game industry professionals, 10 finalist teams will compete for the $15,000 Seumas McNally grand prize as well as technical excellence, game design, visual art and audio awards. Finalists will exhibit their games at the Game Developers Conference March 4-8, 2003 in San Jose, California.

The 10 games selected are (in alphabetical order):

* BaseGolf by Alitius (Foster City, CA, USA). The game takes the batter and pitcher from baseball and places them in different golf course-like scenarios, in which the batter aims for the putting green.

* Furcadia by Dragon's Eye Productions (Austin, TX, USA). A massively multiplayer online social game with fantasy themed, animal-like characters and tools that let players develop their own dream worlds for others to explore.

* Mr. Bigshot by Mr. Bigshot, Inc. (Cincinnati, OH, USA). An investment game where players flash back in time and invest in stocks, using real information to experience the stock market as it runs its true historical course.

* Pontifex 2 by Chronic Logic (Santa Cruz, CA, USA). A game in which players design bridges using specified materials and a budget, and then test their bridges under real-world physical conditions.

* Reiner Knizia's Samurai by Klear Games, LLC (Dallas, TX, USA). A turn-based strategy game set in pre-unification Japan, in which you try to secure influence within three feudal castes by carefully administering your resources and thwarting your opponent.

* Strange Adventures In Infinite Space by Digital Eel (Kirkland, WA, USA). An exploration and adventure game in which you command a starship to explore the galaxy, trade with allies and fight enemies - all within a tight time frame.

* Teenage Lawnmower by Robinson Technologies (Fukuyama-shi, Hiroshima-ken, Japan). As a 17 year-old caught between the demands of your alcoholic mother and her abusive boyfriend, your only hope to save the family is to raise money by mowing neighborhood lawns.

* Terraformers by Pong Interactive HB (Tumba, Sweden). A 3D first-person adventure game that features an audio interface for sight-disabled players.

* Wild Earth by Super X Studios (Federal Way, WA, USA). As a photo journalist for a prestigious nature magazine, it's your job to track big game on the African savannah, take pictures of beasts, and assemble your article's content.

* Word 'Em Up by Shizmoo Games, Inc. (New York, NY, USA). A twist on traditional crossword puzzle games in which you play against an online opponent to assemble words as fast as you can using given tiles, without taking turns.

Winners will be announced at the Game Developers Choice Awards Ceremony on March 6, 2003 in San Jose, California. The IGF presents six awards: Innovation in Game Design, Innovation in Visual Arts, Innovation in Audio, Technical Excellence, an Audience Award determined by balloting show attendees, and the event's most prestigious honor, The Seumas McNally Award For Independent Game of the Year.

http://www.igf.com

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HAPPENINGS

Mobile Developers to Meet at GDC Mobile

For the first time, leaders of the mobile communications industry join the largest annual gathering of game developers to explore the future of mobile entertainment at the Game Developers Conference Mobile. The two-day event takes place March 4-5, 2003, at CMP Media's Game Developers Conference (GDC), in San Jose, Calif.

Takeshi Natsuno, executive vice-president, NTT DoCoMo i-mode and Ilkka Raiskinen, senior vice-president, media and entertainment, Nokia, will present keynote addresses. Sessions will give attendees the opportunity to meet mobile game development leaders, learn technologies for developing mobile games, and address game-design issues specific to the mobile medium.

The GDC, March 4-8, 2003, also includes sessions focusing on mobile gaming. For more information on speakers, topics and sessions, visit http://www.gdcmobile.com.

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F.Y.I.


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

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