4 February 2002
Reported, written and edited by David Duberman
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Macmillan Software, an imprint of Pearson Technology Group, has released Game Programming Starter Kit 5.0 for the PC. The kit is said to contain everything necessary to learn to program games and publish them royalty-free.
Coming this May from Sony Computer Entertainment America Inc. is "Linux (for PlayStation 2)" Release 1.0, targeted toward the Linux development community in North America. Designed as a hobbyist development environment, users can not only run the wide variety of computer applications written for the Linux operating system, but also create original programs and applications designed to run on "Linux (for PlayStation 2)." The company expects the kit to sell for about $199 USD when it is made available exclusively through its Website, http://www.us.playstation.com.
The "Linux (for PlayStation 2)" Release 1.0 kit includes:
Linux use is growing at unprecedented levels and according to market research firm IDC, the Linux operating system market share is expected to reach 38 percent worldwide by 2004. In response to requests from the Japanese Linux society to enable Linux programming on PlayStation 2, Linux Beta Version Kit was made available to approximately 7,900 users in Japan in July 2001. Since then, requests have continued on Linux community Websites all over the world, with approximately 9,500 people joining the movement.
Also, according to questionnaires conducted by Sony Computer Entertainment America and Sony Computer Entertainment Europe, more than 28,000 people have expressed interest in the "Linux (for PlayStation 2)" development kit to date.
This led the company to release a new version as Release 1.0 to support users of the worldwide Linux community. The company responded to feedback received from the Beta test program in Japan and modifications were incorporated for "Linux (for PlayStation 2)" Release 1.0.
Customer support and other community-based features will be handled through the North American PlayStation 2 Linux Website, http://www.playstation2-linux.com. More details regarding the "Linux (for PlayStation 2)" release, FAQs and related news will be disseminated through this Website, as they become available.
Bitstream Inc. last week released Font Fusion 2.2, its smallest font rasterizing engine. Simultaneously, Bitstream released the Wireless Font Set, designed for handheld and wireless devices.
Bitstream assembled the Wireless Font Set using the Kaasila font family. This family of fonts is designed specifically for wireless devices, and is named in honor of Font Fusion's chief software architect, Sampo Kaasila. The fonts, designed to fit as much text as possible onto a small screen, are all new designs and are delta-hinted.
Delta hinting is the process of fine-tuning fonts so that they are easy to read at small sizes. Hinting has been optimized to produce the best quality output for color LCD displays. The Wireless Font Set includes four proportional fonts, four monospaced fonts, and one symbol font:
Available as an SDK (Software Developers' Kit), Font Fusion is able to rasterize eight different font formats: TrueType, Type 1, CFF/Type2, T2K Latin, T2K Asian, TrueDoc PFR (portable font resource), Bitstream Speedo, and Font Fusion stroke (FFS) format, as well as embedded bitmaps. Developers can also license a number of different suites of fonts, including delta-hinted screen fonts and the TV Font Pack.
Most developers can compile the source code in 32-105 KB, depending on options. It generates more than 16,000 characters per second, using the Arial font at 25 lines per em on a 233MHz Pentium II processor, cache turned off.
Font Fusion is designed for operating systems, software applications, Web applications, low-resolution screen devices, multimedia servers, high-definition television screens (HDTVs), set-top boxes, continuous tone printers, personal digital assistants (PDAs), and other embedded systems and information and wireless appliances.
FailSafe Technologies, a Salt Lake City-based security and privacy group, has just released Guard-IE Ad Blocking Privacy Suite, Version 2.2. The Internet security solution combines multiple privacy functions with advertisement blocking in a tool designed for Internet Explorer.
The utility is designed to provide privacy from snoops and relief from advertising.
Privacy data can be completely erased, either automatically or by pressing a button. Wiped data includes Web histories, cached Web pages, temporary Internet files and images, confidential information input into Web pages and forms such as passwords, search terms, and other text, rendering that information inaccessible to snoops. The user can specify which privacy data to keep such as a list of Good Cookies, which are required for online shopping.
Guard IE suppresses the pop-up/pop-under windows used by Websites to display ads above or below the browser window; a "smart list" lets users selectively allow desired pop-ups from specific sites.
Embedded Ad Blocker prevents embedded drop-down ads; users can update this feature by downloading the latest Bad Ad Database of Web sites employing these techniques.
Select Script Blocker prevents resizing or moving browser windows.
The Web Bug Sniffer exposes "Web bugs" (small invisible images) placed on Web pages to track and compile a history of Web activities: it renders them visible and supplies a report on their source.
Following is an excerpt from the latest CDT Policy Post. If telemarketers annoy (or plague) you, please follow up on this:
Before going forward with such a national "do not call" program, the FTC wants public input. The FTC's full proposal is long and written for lawyers, but the FTC allows email submissions from ordinary citizens. To make it easier for you to make your voice heard in Washington, CDT has broken down some of the issues raised by the Commission and created a special site where you can learn about the issue and file your comments.
Here's how it works: When you follow this link -- http://www.cdt.org/action/donotcall/ftc.shtml -- you'll come to a page with six questions posed by the FTC, with a block for your comments. Answer any or all of these questions. When you are finished, click "send." We'll create an automatic header with the proper official's name and the docket number and send your comments on to the FTC.
Creature House has released the skeletal stroke-based illustration software Expression 2.4 for Macintosh (from OS 8.6 to native Mac OS X) and Windows (from Windows95 to XP). Major new features since version 2.0 include the Flash Button palette, PDF export with transparency, support for Wacom's Intuos-specific features, color description text input, object/group/layer preview in the object list, object tagging for easy identification, as well as improvements in rasterization and screen-refresh speed.
For existing Expression 2 users, the update is available as a free download at http://www.creaturehouse.com
Softimage is offering an open-source set of data-interchange tools to provide a direct connection for 3D content between its software and other applications and custom pipelines. These tools, based on the dotXSI open-file format for 3D media, are said to simplify the process of working with multiple 3D applications, including Discreet's 3ds max and Macromedia's Director, and allow companies to connect their products with customer applications that support the standard.
Users can currently choose from:
These components are available for immediate download at no cost. A white paper and complete list of projects and locations for the various components can be found at www.softimage.com/Connect.
Software developer Darkling Simulations last week released SimbiontLW, its material plug-in solution for NewTek's LightWave 7.
SimbiontLW lets LightWave users take advantage of DarkTree Textures, Darkling Simulations' stand-alone graphical procedural shader and effects authoring package. The SimbiontLW plug-in comes with a complete set of procedural materials, shaders, and textures ranging from stones, metals, and skins to animated special effects.
SimbiontLW includes both a Shader and a Procedural Texture plug-in. Both plug-ins have access to animatable parameters called Tweaks. Tweaks are high-level custom controls (for example, Dust Thickness, Scratch Color, and Rustiness) that vary the defining attributes of a procedural to create a wide range of looks. Each shader, material and texture that comes with SimbiontLW is designed with unique tweaks.
The Shader plug-in features one-step loading of complex procedural materials and shaders. LightWave's weight maps can be used to control tweaks or to layer multiple shaders onto a single surface, effectively giving the user paint-level control of procedurals. SimbiontLW includes 110 procedural materials and 10 shaders for use with the Shader plug-in.
The Procedural Texture plug-in can be used anywhere there is a "T" button in LightWave. This includes surface attributes like color, bump and specular, as well as volumetric lights, hypervoxels and displacement. SimbiontLW includes 23 procedural textures for use with the Procedural Texture plug-in.
Graphics studio and publisher Marlin Studios, known for its texture-map collections, has launched a companion line of 3D model libraries on CD-ROM. Dubbed “Premium 3D Models,” the line will include a variety of themed 3D model libraries for use by 3D artists. The initial product launch features the release of “Home & Office Furniture.”
The 3D models are presented in the three most popular file formats: 3DS, LWO(6) and OBJ. All 3D models are licensable and royalty free. A version of Right Hemisphere's “3D Exploration” is included with each library for viewing, transforming and manipulating the 3D models.
The first release, Home & Office Furniture, contains 381 furniture models and includes 3D models that can be used to furnish virtual homes and office environments. Models include chairs and tables, kitchen cabinetry and appliances, and other furniture. Fifty 3D office models provide typical system desks, chairs, file cabinets and other accessories. The models range in poly count (number of faces) from 330 to 22,000 polygons and in size from 7KB to 10.7MB. Most models average in the 2,400-polygon range with file sizes of 440KB.
Just out from Ulead Systems is Ulead VideoStudio 6, a new version of its consumer video editor. The new version's user interface reportedly makes intelligent use of valuable screen real estate to present all these video editing tasks logically and conveniently. An expandable, full-screen storyboard mode enables arrangement of long projects while full-screen previews let video producers see how the final project will appear.
New InstaView technology takes advantage of processor speeds and allows for real-time previews without requiring a render phase. The software's MPEG-Direct capture lets users grab DVD-ready video straight from a DV or D8 camcorder without converting it to an AVI file format first.
In the new interface design, the overlay track is clearly defined. Users can place video, images and 3D titles on this track to create picture-in-picture effects with transparency and motion attributes. More text effects are available as well as customizable motion title effects that let users make their text travel across the screen, a letter, word or line at a time. A text animation library of drag-and-drop text pre-sets can make words fade, flop, zoom or whirl over videos.
A DVD authoring wizard lets users create DVD, VCD and SVCD videos from within Ulead's video editing program, and CD and DVD burner support are included.
As most systems administrators can attest to, computer performance is often linked closely with human productivity. This provides administrators with a strong economic incentive, if no other, to ensure that their systems are performing optimally. Although the definition of "good" performance is often vague, systems that provide fast, consistent response time are generally more acceptable to the people who use them, explain Mark Friedman and Odysseas Pentakalos, coauthors of the just-released "Windows 2000 Performance Guide" (O'Reilly, US $44.95). On the other hand, systems with severe performance problems are often rejected outright by their users and fail, leading to costly delays, expensive rewrites, and loss of productivity. For computer performance analysts then, the task is finding out what it takes to turn "bad" performance into "good" performance.
"Windows 2000 Performance Guide" explains how Windows 2000 and the various hardware components associated with it work, how to tell when the performance of an application running under Windows 2000 is not optimal, and what can be done about it. Friedman and Pentakalos focus on practical problem solving, with an emphasis on understanding and interpreting performance measurement data. The book includes information on processor performance, application profiling and hardware considerations, multiprocessing, memory and paging, file cache, disk performance, networking, and IIS.
An article by coauthor Mark Friedman, "Top Six FAQs on Windows 2000 Disk Performance" can be found at: http://www.oreillynet.com/pub/a//network/2002/01/18/diskperf.html
Chapter 5, "Multiprocessing" is available free online at: http://www.oreilly.com/catalog/w2kperf/chapter/ch05.html
eVision, LLC has published "The Guide to Search Engine Marketing". The book is available in hardcopy or as an online book in Acrobat Reader (PDF) Format. (Prices - $24.99 online book, $39.50 hardcopy).
This 88-page book, shows step by step, how to modify a Web site to improve search engine and directory results (a process called search engine optimization). By following the steps it should take about five to 10 hours to optimize and submit a Web site to the major search engines and directories. The book shows the reader how to:
LucasArts Entertainment Company LLC has chosen Planet Moon Studios to create an original humorous action title for next-generation game consoles. Best known for its clever, offbeat, multi-genre title Giants: Citizen Kabuto, Planet Moon's game for LucasArts will reportedly follow in the tradition of wry humor and intelligently crafted play style of the company's classic titles. The game is expected to release in 2003.
Teledesic LLC, a satellite communications services company, has signed an agreement with the Italian satellite manufacturer Alenia Spazio SpA, a Finmeccanica company, to build satellites for Teledesic's global, broadband Internet-in-the-Sky satellite communications network.
The agreement covers construction of Teledesic's first two satellites. Teledesic is negotiating with Alenia Spazio and other satellite manufacturers for the remainder of its satellites.
Teledesic has developed a satellite network design said to let the company provide commercial service with fewer satellites at reduced cost. The new constellation design features 30 medium-Earth-orbit satellites. The first 12 satellites are expected to cost under $1 billion, and will allow the company to begin continuous commercial service in several areas of the world. The next 18 satellites will enable full global coverage capability. This design will facilitate spectrum sharing between Teledesic and other future non-geostationary Ka-band satellites.
Disney Interactive last week launched Plaid Banana Entertainment, a new publishing label under which Hulabee Entertainment, a digital media company established by Humongous Entertainment co-founders Shelley Day and Ron Gilbert, will create a line of software in the kid's adventure genre, featuring new stories and characters.
Designed for kids ages three to nine, Plaid Banana products focus development on interactive adventures filled with bright colors, immersive, places for kids to explore, and plots that unfold through the eyes of original, memorable characters. The line will debut in March 2002 with two titles: "Moop & Dreadly in The Treasure on Bing Bong Island" and "Ollo and the Sunny Valley Fair."
Day and Gilbert are the creative forces behind such franchises as Freddi Fish, Putt-Putt, Pajama Sam and the Backyard Sports series, which have sold a combined total of more than seven million units to date.
Under the agreement, Disney Interactive will handle all marketing and distribution for Plaid Banana Entertainment titles. "Moop & Dreadly" also will be available in a Spanish-language version. Both titles are Windows and Macintosh compatible.
NXN Software, a supplier of digital production management (DPM) systems for the interactive entertainment, animation and new media industries and Electronic Arts (EA) have entered into an agreement where EA will use the NXN alienbrain DPM software to manage their game development projects at studios worldwide.
Electronic Arts tested NXN alienbrain during the development of NHL 2002 and has implemented it completely for the production management of NHL 2003, as well as other titles. EA's worldwide implementation of NXN alienbrain will provide development management continuity throughout EA's internal studios, including EA Canada, EA Redwood Shores, Westwood Studios, EALA, Maxis and EA Tiburon.
Sony Computer Entertainment America last week released Drakan: The Ancients' Gates, the continuation of the franchise that originated on the PC. Developed for PlayStation2 by Surreal Software Inc., the new high-flying adventure reunites the female warrior, Rynn, and her dragon, Arokh, on a quest to defend their empire from corruption within its core.
In Drakan: The Ancients' Gates, Rynn and Arokh are called upon to save the immortal Spirit Dragons that are being held captive within the dimensional fabric between the gates to the ancient empire. Battles alternate between air-based combat, where Rynn and Arokh team up for aerial battle, and hand-to-hand combat with Rynn fighting their enemies on the ground. Players can trade items and skills to boost the abilities of rider and dragon. They can hone their fighting abilities to master more than 80 weapons and become skilled archers, deadly fighters or powerful sorcerers. The game features eight environments including mountains, swamps, deserts, islands, and arctic regions.
Acclaim Entertainment will release Shadow Man: 2econd Coming for PlayStation2 in early March. Featuring a new PS2-specific game engine, the title marks the return of Mike LeRoi, an undead demon-hunter on a voodoo quest to battle the Grigori, a group of sadistic demons that have been masquerading as humans for the past 2000 years. Players assume the role of both LeRoi and his "Deadside" alter ego, Shadow Man. Features include:
Simon & Schuster Interactive last week shipped Darkened Skye for Windows. Set in an ancient fantasy world that is in the hands of an evil overlord, gamers play "Skye," a shapely heroine who is in search of five ancient prisms to save the earth. Features include:
Game developers and academics will focus on research and curriculum development at the interactive entertainment industry's first Academic Summit, held by the International Game Developers Association (IGDA) at this year's Game Developers Conference (GDC), March 19 - 23, in San Jose, Calif. The Summit will take place during the first two days of the GDC, March 19 - 20.
The two-day summit will include lectures, case studies and panel discussions covering university research initiatives, building industry-academia relationships and the development of game-related curricula. The goals are to foster new research projects and support the next generation of game developers.
"The current ranks of game developers, for the most part, are self-taught experts or have formal training only in computer programming and graphic design," said Henry Jenkins, director of the Comparative Media Studies Program at MIT. "As games are emerging as one of the significant entertainment media for the 21st century, new kinds of expertise are needed, including familiarity with the basic vocabulary of visual storytelling and a grasp of the social dynamics around game play. We are responding at a time when a growing number of students start out with the explicit goal of breaking into the games industry."
The complete list of industry and academic speakers includes:
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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