Spectrum: Interactive Media & Online Developer News

23 February 2004
Reported, written and edited by David Duberman
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Today's Headlines (details below)

--Anark Updates Studio Authoring App
--Virtools Launches the Dev 3.0 Development Platform
--GarageGames Adds Blender Support to Torque
--NBOR Announces Dyoun
--Pixel Game Tech Announces New JIVE Functionalities

--Cloth Simulation Plug-In Available for Houdini
--nPower announces Power Solids, Power Booleans Viewers
--iPIX Ships Interactive Studio Platform
--Hybrid Graphics Delivers OpenGL ES API Implementation
--Cosmos to Support 3D Motion Controllers

--Westwood College Adds Game Art and Design Program
--Discreet to Hold 3D Mobile Gaming Competition
--Activision Announces Call of Duty Mapmaker Competition
--Alias Sponsors Maya Contest

--HI Licenses 3D Engine to Chinese Company TCL

--Sony Releases PS2 Rise to Honor
--Square Enix to Present Final Fantasy Concert in L.A.

--Cerny to Receive Lifetime Achievement Award at GDC

--GDC Announces Visual Arts Track

--About Spectrum



Anark Updates Studio Authoring App

Just out from Anark Corporation, a provider of 3D interactive software and multimedia solutions, is version 2.5 of its Anark Studio and Anark Player software. The Anark Media Platform is designed for communicating through interactive visuals for training, visualization, product demonstration, corporate and other multimedia presentations.

New features include:
* Real-time 3D rendering in hardware or software mode supports OpenGL, DirectX, and Windows software.
* Expanded feature set includes new behaviors such as Collider, Fly, and Walk. Remote sourcing of images can be used to load a sequence of images with a behavior.
* Plug-ins for Maya, discreet 3ds max, Lightwave3D, Adobe Photoshop, Deep Exploration and Cinema 4D have been added, updated or enhanced.
* Improved cross-platform storage palette for assets, combined with industry-standard timeline allows unlimited layers of key-frame based 3D to give developers easy control of objects and animation time sequences.



Virtools Launches the Dev 3.0 Development Platform

Paris-based Virtools, a provider of interactive 3D authoring tools, recently released the Virtools Software Suite and Version 3.0 of its flagship product, Virtools Dev..

The Virtools Software Suite encompasses an array of solutions and related license agreements. The reformulated offer parallels the modular structure of Virtools solutions, designed to make it easier for clients to choose the right combination of tools for their specific production constraints (video game prototyping and development, interactive VR/simulations, online marketing applications).

Based on Virtools Dev as the main authoring hub, the Virtools Software Suite is said to offer a multi-faceted, streamlined framework, while also clarifying the delivery phase to provide end user experiences via free download of the Virtools Web Player or custom players/executables.

The Virtools Software Suite is suitable for creating and publishing specialized content such as Virtual Reality and multiuser applications. Users can activate a suite of add-on packages with Virtools Dev to streamline deployment and delivery:
* Virtools Physics Pack and Virtools AI Pack authoring tools to enhance content with capabilities in these specific areas.
* Virtools Server / Virtools Publishing Server: authoring and publishing tools for creating multiuser applications and making customized components accessible for the Virtools Web Player.
* Virtools VR Pack Development / Publishing Editions: authoring and publishing tools for managing Virtual Reality peripherals and creating immersive applications.

With Dev 3.0 users now have access to high-level features such as programmable vertex and pixel shaders, along with the Action Manager for smoother development and NXN alienbrain asset management integration for improved teamwork. New behaviors include Web BBs for dynamic file download and content exchange to and from Webservers.



GarageGames Adds Blender Support to Torque

New from GarageGames is an exporter tool that allows Blender, an open-source 3D content-creation suite, to be used with GarageGames' flagship Torque Game Engine technology. The Blender exporter runs on the Mac OS X, Linux and Windows platforms.

The TGE Blender exporter offers compatibility with the Torque Game Engine DTS native file format including Level-of-Detail (LOD), and bone and mesh animation sequences.

For more information the Torque Game Engine or to download the demo of TGE goto http://www.garagegames.com/torque . For more information on the TGE Blender exporter resource and links to the documentation goto http://www.garagegames.com/blender .

Blender is an integrated 3D graphics creation suite allowing modeling, animation, rendering, post-production, real-time interactive 3D and game creation and playback with cross-platform compatibility in a free downloadable package! Blender 2.3x is now available and can be downloaded at http://www.blender3d.com/ . To review current development work go to http://www.blender.org/ .


NBOR Announces Dyoun

Aren't acronyms annoying? Well, these could just be intriguing as well. NBOR, or "No Boundaries or Rules," Denny Jaeger's company, will release Dyoun (sic) (Design Your Own Universe Now) on March 15 for personal computers and pen tablets using the Windows 2000 and XP operating systems. On his Website, Jaeger describes his software in a rather hyperbolic way; for instance: NBOR replaces the prevalent process of operating computers, which has existed for over 25 years, with a new way of working and thinking. This "way" can be different for every user of Blackspace. NBOR gives you a single drawing surface, called Blackspace, where there are, for all intents and purposes, no programs. Programs are replaced with Universal Tools.

Find out more and get the free player software at http://www.nbor.com/index.htm .


Pixel Game Tech Announces New JIVE Functionalities

In conjunction with 3GSM World Congress, Pixel Technologies, a provider of interactive, multi-user connected games-services technology and content, announced a new suite of services and features added to its JIVE games, including integration of artificial intelligence (AI) engines into the JIVE service, available on Microsoft Windows Mobile software for Smartphones and Pocket PCs.

Users can now play online connected games and use game services such as tournaments, ladders, statistics, invitations, match-up, chat and saved games on Windows Mobile enabled handsets. Pixel has integrated AI engines into JIVE, enabling users to choose playing against human opponents or against AIs such as the Deep Junior Chess AI, which has challenged Gary Kasparov. JIVE-based game services are deployed commercially at over 13 operators worldwide.

Pixel's content channels and services include JiveGames for advanced game services and KidsWise for kids' edutainment services. Both JiveGames and KidsWise are available for mobile and interactive TV networks worldwide. Pixel's JIVE Platform enables iTV and mobile operators, as well as content publishers and developers, to create and offer game services such as score submission and management of user accounts, leader boards, tournaments, and prizes as well as multiplayer games services.




Cloth Simulation Plug-In Available for Houdini

Side Effects Software, developer of the Houdini family of 3D software, and Syflex LLC, a developer of cloth simulation software, announced last week a Houdini-compatible version of the Syflex cloth simulator. The $2,200 plug-in reportedly lets users produce simulations that adapt to a character's movements. Artists can animate articles of clothing such as shirts, pants, aprons, skirts, jackets in a range of materials and fabrics, such as cotton, leather and silk.



nPower announces Power Solids, Power Booleans Viewers

nPower Software last week released two new free products: Power Solids Viewer and Power Booleans Viewer for 3ds Max / Viz. Power Solids, Power Translators, Power RhinoToMax and Power Booleans are tools for artists, engineers, designers, architects, and others. Models built with these programs can be shared with others using the new free viewer plug-ins. Power Solids viewer allows users to view and render models created with Power Solids, Power Translators and Power RhinoToMax. Power Booleans viewer allows viewing and rendering of models containing Power Booleans.

Power Solids is CAD geometric modeling kernel for 3ds max. It performs dynamic tessellation at render time to generate precise and efficient representation. Power Solids and Power Translators data is suited for export back to CAD systems through STEP, IGES, SAT, Rhino data translation. Power Solids and Power Translators are powered by SOLIDS++, the Object Oriented Modeling Kernel, a NURBS-based solids-modeling kernel from IntegrityWare.

The Power Booleans plug-in extends 3ds max with polygonal Boolean operations. Power Booleans also supports level editing, quad meshing, and integrated decimation. Power Booleans is powered by POPLib, a polygonal modeling kernel from IntegrityWare.



iPIX Ships Interactive Studio Platform

New from iPIX InfoMedia, a developer of tools for the creation of 360-degree panoramic photography and movies content, is iPIX Interactive Studio, a 360-degree panoramic imaging platform for digital photography and design for customers. The software is designed to serve as the interoperable platform for plug-in development by technology partners that will provide customers with panoramic photography features previously available only in separate, workflow incompatible tools.

The company also announced that it is introducing flexible, unlimited annual licensing.

Photographic professionals have used iPIX immersive technology to create 360-degree images for resale or visual documentation purposes for over 10 years. The new software lets them choose which features best meet their customers' content-development needs, and do so with an unlimited image output license. In addition to providing tools to create panoramic images from fisheye lenses, plug-ins are available for compatibility with a range of panoramic photography file formats including QuickTime, imaging editing and paint tools, and panoramic image stitching technologies.

The platform offers customers an expanded range of panorama photography capture modes, including single-row, multi-shot panoramas and multi-shot, full-frame fisheye, not previously available from iPIX.

The software supports both Mac OS X and Microsoft Windows. The Essentials and Enhancer Packages are offered in a single-user unlimited annual seat license, or in a multi-user enterprise unlimited annual seat license for users who desire to run multiple concurrent network licenses. In North America, iPIX image keys will be available for sale until December 31, 2004.



Hybrid Graphics Delivers OpenGL ES API Implementation

The Khronos Group says Hybrid's OpenGL ES API Framework is the first software implementation to successfully complete the conformance testing process defined by Khronos, and is the first OpenGL ES software library able to demonstrate conformance with the official open standard for embedded graphics. As a member of Khronos, Finland-based Hybrid has been a participant in defining the OpenGL ES API standard and has licensed its implementation to the Khronos Group as a part of the official OpenGL ES 1.0 Adopter's Pack received by OpenGL ES adopters.

"OpenGL ES is the key to growing the mobile content market and our high-performance implementation brings 3D graphics to handsets without any additional hardware modifications," says Harri Holopainen, CTO of Hybrid Graphics. "We are glad to see leading game engine and middleware vendors targeting OpenGL ES and our software implementation now delivers a conformant API in a wide range of devices; enabling advanced graphics applications to run everywhere to create significant opportunities for content developers."

The Hybrid OpenGL ES API Framework brings 3D graphics core technology into mobile phones and embedded devices. Integrated by device manufacturers and embedded platform vendors, the Framework supports software-only, multimedia hardware, or 3D graphics hardware acceleration, depending on the platform's capabilities. The API Framework has been tested with middleware and content engine offerings and ships with testing and verification tools. Hybrid offers support, integration and maintenance services for device deployment and content development. The Hybrid OpenGL ES API Framework is available for licensing now, and has already been licensed by major mobile phone vendors.

Khronos is now accepting OpenGL ES Adopting Members. The Adopter's Package contains software and documentation intended to drive evaluation, deployment and acceptance of the OpenGL ES API in embedded markets requiring 3D graphics: official conformance tests for the OpenGL ES 1.0 API; an open-source sample implementation of the OpenGL ES API created as a wrapper over a desktop implementation on Windows and Linux OS; and an executable copy of The Hybrid OpenGL ES API Framework library for Windows.



Cosmos to Support 3D Motion Controllers

Cosmos says that in response to customer requests, CosmosDesignSTAR 4.5 software, which will be released in a few months, will support the motion controllers CadMan, SpaceBall, SpaceMouse, and SpaceTraveler from 3Dconnexion.

3Dconnexion's controllers operate together with a traditional mouse to work with 3D geometry. Instead of using a "normal" mouse with one hand as an input device for all activities -- including zoom, pan, rotate, select, and click on icons and menus -- users of 3Dconnexion's motion controllers can use one hand to move and rotate the part or assembly, and see CAD models and analysis results from all sides and angles, while using the other hand to perform all the normal selection tasks with the mouse.

CosmosDesignSTAR helps designers and analysts detect potential design problems correct them before beginning prototype production, saving companies the time and expense of post-production fixes. In use in some 2,000 companies, CosmosDesignSTAR is associative with SolidWorks, Solid Edge, and Autodesk Inventor, and can also read geometry files from such other popular solid modeling programs as CATIA, Pro/ENGINEER, CADKEY, and IDEAS.




Westwood College Adds Game Art and Design Program

Westwood College of Technology, with four campuses in Calif., has added a career-focused program to train students for jobs in Game Art and Design.

"According to the U.S. Entertainment Software Association, sales for game software reached $6.9 billion dollars in 2003 and trained animators and designers are becoming more and more highly sought after," said Jamie Turner, president of Westwood College. "If the growth of the game industry remains steady at the current pace of 14 percent per year, as estimated by the U.S. Entertainment Software Association, the number of new job openings this year is likely to be more than 15,000, and that figure is projected to continue to grow," Turner added.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics in its Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2002-03 Edition, careers for multimedia artists and animators are expected to grow by 22 percent from now until 2010. Industries from entertainment to virtual training for emergency response workers will employ these people.

The Game Art and Design program trains graduates to be part of creative teams that develop story lines, rule systems and game structures as well as designing detailed environments and non-player characters that bring the software to life. Jobs can include artist, animator, character modeler, game/Web designer, game/Web animator and game-play tester. The new Game Art and Design program complements existing programs of Animation and Game Software Development.



Discreet to Hold 3D Mobile Gaming Competition

Discreet and mobile game partners are launching an international 3D mobile gaming competition. With more than $50,000 US worth value in prizes to be awarded, the contest will enable independent mobile gaming artists or developers, traditional PC/Console Game developers, and 3D freelancers to carry out creative concepts for mobile games.

Targeting 3D as well as 2.5D mobile gaming, the contest is divided into two main categories--downloadable and non-downloadable mobile games--that will focus on exploiting technologies and gaming hardware handsets.

The 3D Mobile Gaming contest, launched at the IMAGINA 2004 tradeshow, will also be highlighted during such major international industry events as 3GSM in Cannes, France, February 23-26; and GDC 2004, in San Jose, California, March 22-26; as well as during the European Discreet Games Tour that will run until the end of July, 2004. Winners will be announced this summer.

The deadline for registration is March 31.

Dependent on specific needs, winning entries will receive prizes that will assist in co-development and co-production of their project. In addition, the best concept developers will receive tool kits for their development.



Activision Announces Call of Duty Mapmaker Competition

Through March 26, 2004, map-makers can log on to http://www.callofduty.com and enter to win the "Call of Duty Mapmaker Competition." Using the mapmaking toolset located on the official Website, gamers can create and submit multiplayer levels for the chance to win a grand prize package that includes a free trip to Los Angeles to meet with Infinity Ward, the developer of Call of Duty, an Asylum GeForce FX 5950 Ultra-based graphics card www.bfgtech.com/5950u_redux.html, and the potential to have their map(s) included in future Call of Duty games.

The deadline for registration is March 20, 2004, and the final deadline for map submission is March 26, 2004. All maps will be judged by a panel of Call of Duty team members. Three grand prize winners will be announced on the official Call of Duty Website on April 9, 2004. Additionally, all non-finalist entrants will be able to have their maps judged online in a "Vote for the Best of the Rest" contest hosted by GameSpy on www.fileplanet.com and on www.planetcallofduty.com. The top three winners from the online vote will each receive a prize package from GameSpy's File-Planet.


Alias Sponsors Maya Contest

Alias has joined with HP and Gnomon 3D to give Maya Personal Learning Edition software users a chance to compete for a HP professional workstation, Maya software and a DVD training pack. By downloading Maya Personal Learning Edition and a rigged character from the Alias community web site, entrants can create an animation, texture and pose of their choice to enter. The contest runs from February 9 to April 28.

To enter the contest, entrants join the Alias community at www.alias.com/community/contest and download the contest's free rigged character - then let their imaginations direct their creativity in three areas: animation, texturing and character pose.

In the animation component there will be three options to choose from - climbing a rope, shuffling against the wall and low-crawl. For the texturing component entrants will make any texture and apply it to their character. The last element of the entry is in the character pose where entrants design their best character pose, as if it would be used on a movie poster or magazine cover. The pose can be dramatic, comic, conservative or whatever unique pose entrants can come up with.

A team of 3D industry experts will judge the contest: Jean-Eric Henault, editor, CG Channel; John Harker, creature technical director, Tippett Studio;Cory Mogk, Maya product specialist; Alias, Alex Alvarez, director and founder of Gnomon School of Visual Effects and a judge representing HP. The online community will also have a chance to voice their opinion and vote for their favorite entry at www.cgchannel.com/contest/alias .

The entries will be judged on defined criteria that include originality and creativity, technique, quality of texturing, quality of animation, innovation of the image and community rating.



HI Licenses 3D Engine to Chinese Company TCL

HI Corporation (head office: Meguro-ku, Tokyo; president: Kazuo Kawabata) recently concluded an agreement with China-based mobile-handset manufacturer TCL Communication Co., Ltd. for HI to license "Mascot Capsule Engine Micro3D Edition" to TCL for embedding into TCL's mobile handsets.

TCL is a Chinese mobile device manufacturer under local ownership with the largest market share in China. The agreement calls for HI to supply TCL a one-year license to embed Micro 3D Edition in mobile handsets that TCL will produce in China for sale in domestic and overseas markets. Mobile handsets capable of operating 3D content will reportedly be supplied to Chinese and overseas markets in the near future, resulting in market expansion for 3D content. The first handset model embedded with Micro 3D Edition under this license was released for sale at the end of January, with successive model releases planned ahead.

Mascot Capsule Engine represents real-time 3D rendering software that enables a full 3D perspective for content display, including the background, with the introduction of Z sorting. Already implemented in Japan for NTT DoCoMo 504i and 505i series handsets, Vodafone Japan handsets, and KDDI handsets, Micro 3D Edition has been embedded in over 20 million handsets shipped.



Sony Releases PS2 Rise to Honor

Just out from Sony Computer Entertainment America Inc. is Rise to Honor, an action for PlayStation2 game inspired by the cinematic style of the Hong Kong movie genre. Created by Sony Computer Entertainment America's Foster City Studio in collaboration with action star Jet Li, the game immerses players into an action-packed storyline centered on family, deceit and honor in a chain of dangerous events extending from Hong Kong to San Francisco.

Using motion capture technology to incorporate Jet Li's signature moves, Rise to Honor lets gamers simultaneously battle multiple enemies through a 360-degree fight system. Players will utilize hand-to-hand moves, weapon based attacks, and interactive objects to defeat enemies.



Square Enix to Present Final Fantasy Concert in L.A.

Game publisher Square Enix U.S.A., Inc. will present the first Final Fantasy symphony concert in the U.S. on Monday, May 10, 2004, at the Walt Disney Concert Hall in Los Angeles, Calif. The performance will feature music from Square Enix's Final Fantasy video game series, performed by the Los Angeles Philharmonic and the Los Angeles Master Chorale. The event will take place during the week of E3 (Electronic Entertainment Expo), the largest interactive entertainment trade show in the U.S.

Series composer Nobuo Uematsu will create the score for the two-hour concert. Featuring a full orchestra and a 32-person choir, this concert will mark the first of its kind in the U.S. A dedicated Web site featuring composer Uematsu, the "favorite Final Fantasy music" fan poll and concert information can be found at www.square-enix-usa.com/uematsu. Additional information about the concert including ticket sales, prices and on-sale dates will be announced at a later date.

The first Final Fantasy concert was held in Japan in February 2002, performed by the Tokyo Philharmonic Orchestra. Led by conductor Taizo Takemoto (New Japan Philharmonic), the sold-out concert was held at the Tokyo International Forum with over 5,000 guests. Building upon the success of the first concert, Square Enix recently announced a six-city, seven-show concert series titled "Tour de Japon - music from Final Fantasy," to be held this coming March and April in Japan.



Cerny to Receive Lifetime Achievement Award at GDC

The International Game Developers Association (IGDA) will recognize Mark Cerny for his lifelong contribution to the video game industry with the Lifetime Achievement Award, to be presented at the Game Developers Choice Awards ceremony on March 24, 2004 during the 2004 Game Developers Conference (GDC) in San Jose, Calif.

Cerny is known internationally as a master collaborator. Having served in a number of functions from creator and producer to programmer, designer, and publishing executive, he utilizes his intuition, insight and experience to bring the key people and necessary elements together to develop and market consistently successful games. Cerny's career is decorated with blockbusters such as the Crash Bandicoot and Spyro the Dragon series, and more recently with work on Ratchet and Clank and Jak and Daxter.

Cerny has also been praised for his unique production method, an unconventional but successful approach to bringing games to market. The "Cerny Method" emphasizes an explorative risk-taking pre-production period, based on the belief that the best ideas require a period of creative freedom free from rigidly scheduled deadlines. Cerny also asserts that the ultimate success or failure of a game can be determined by its first playable level.

Before the age of twenty, Cerny was already a team leader, designer and graphics programmer for Atari's Marble Madness, an early arcade classic.

After Atari, Cerny spent several years with Sega in Japan. He founded and managed the Sega Technical Institute, where he oversaw the creation of Sonic the Hedgehog 2 and Kid Chameleon.

Cerny later joined Universal Interactive Studios as vice president, becoming its president two years later. Serving also as executive producer on Universal's titles, Cerny made significant creative contributions to the Crash Bandicoot and Spyro the Dragon series, which collectively sold more than 30 million units.

As founder of Cerny Games, a game design consultancy, Cerny continues to offer his expertise in the areas of production, design and technology. Cerny Games has contributed to the release of seven new million-selling game titles, including Jak II and Ratchet and Clank: Going Commando.




GDC Announces Visual Arts Track

The 2004 Game Developers Conference (GDC) Visual Arts Track will host a lineup of speakers with film credits from The Matrix, Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon, Mission Impossible 2, Harry Potter and Finding Nemo. This year's Visual Arts Track will reflect the crossover between the game and film industries and focus on exploring new ideas and tools that will help the artist make their creation prominent in either industry.

The Visual Arts keynote speaker will be John Gaeta, visual effects supervisor on the feature films "The Matrix," "The Matrix Reloaded" and "Matrix Revolutions." He won both an Academy Award and a BAFTA award for his work on "The Matrix." His session titled, "From Visual Anti-Establishmentarianism to Ubiquity and Back," will be an advanced session concentrating on visual graphics art.

Additional highlights include:
* Lighting in The REEL World: Tom Denove
* Raising the Bar in In-Game Character Animation: Jeremy Cantor
* Workflow Convergence: How Motion Picture Pipelines Are Merging With Game Development: John DesJardin
* 3D Animation: Andy Murdock




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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/online-development tools and end product for review.

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