28 February 2000
Reported, written and edited by David Duberman
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Just out from Sane Solutions is NetTracker 4.5, a new version of its Web site traffic analysis software. It comes in three versions: Professional, Enterprise, and eBusiness edition. The new features in version 4.5 of all three include:
Additional NetTracker 4.5 features exclusive to the eBusiness Edition include:
Demos and eval copies at http://www.sane.com
Macromedia, Inc. and Intuwave, a developer of wireless data services and applications, last week announced a partnership to enable the development of wireless content and services based on Macromedia Flash technology. Intuwave will begin by porting the Macromedia Flash Player to the Symbian platform.
Founded by Ericsson, Matsushita, Motorola, Nokia and Psion, Symbian is an industry consortium that promotes standards for the interoperability of wireless information devices with wireless networks, content services, messaging, and enterprise wide solutions. Macromedia Flash technology is the de facto standard for vector-based Web content that delivers motion, sound, interactivity, and graphics. Existing Macromedia Flash content will be viewable on wireless devices that include the Macromedia Flash Player ported by Intuwave. Flash content is said to be well-suited to mobile devices due to its compact file size and ability to scale to any aspect ratio.
Red Hat, Inc. and RealNetworks, Inc. are joining forces to create integrated media-delivery solutions based on RealSystem G2 and Red Hat Linux.
As part of the agreement, RealNetworks' RealServer 7.0 will be physically bundled with Red Hat's open source operating system software.
Service and support for this enterprise solution will be collaboratively provided by both companies. The two companies will also jointly market, on a worldwide basis, this combined solution. RealNetworks will join the Red Hat Linux Enterprise Edition Program, a collaborative effort between Red Hat and application providers designed to deliver solutions, incorporating support and simplified configuration of enterprise and Internet applications, to enterprise customers.
RealNetworks also announced RealPlayer 7 for Linux, to be made available within 30 days.
France's Realviz S.A. last week shipped its ImageModeler photo-modeling software application for 3D model creation. The software produces 3-D models from photo, video or cinematic still images. The $5,000 program runs on the WindowsNT platform. Application-specific versions of ImageModeler for Maya, Softimage/3D, 3D Studio Max/Viz and LightWave export-only licenses are available at a reduced price.
An object is filmed or photographed from different viewpoints. The images are digitized and imported into ImageModeler. All images are displayed within the ImageModeler interface, and the user selects a few corresponding points on the object within each photo. The software then establishes a spatial relationship between all of the photos, and it calculates the 3D space that the object resides in. ImageModeler then displays a polygonal mesh that can be edited by the user. Finally, a combination of the original digital images are attached to the model's surfaces as texture maps. The resulting model can be exported to compositing, animation or CAD software for further enhancement and animation.
Just out from New Zealand-based Right Hemisphere is Raygun 3, a US$300 plug-in the company claims is much faster than the internal 3D Studio MAX R3 ray tracer.
Raygun 3 features:
SGI-owned Alias|Wavefront last week announced Maya 3, the upcoming fifth major release of its 3D animation and visual effects software for film, broadcast, video and game development. With this release, Alias|Wavefront will introduce Trax, an advanced nonlinear animation tool said to be beneficial to games artists who need to edit large amounts of motion-capture data or mix together multiple animation sequences of the same character in a non-destructive, hierarchical and time-independent manner. Maya 3 software is slated to ship this summer.
AW says the new Trax feature in Maya 3 is particularly significant for the games industry since developers need to manipulate extensive amounts of animation and blend them in a way that can be reproduced in the final game play. The ability to make subtle changes to motion capture data while leaving the original data intact will reportedly enable animators to adjust the moves of motion captured actors to more precisely fit their environments.
Maya Complete 3 will be available this summer for Windows NT and Silicon GraphicsIRIX. Maya Complete has a SRP of $7,500 and includes modeling, rendering, animation, dynamics, Maya Artisan, MEL (an embedded scripting language) and an API that provides an open interface for programming in Maya.
Maya Unlimited 3, available this summer for Windows NT and Silicon Graphics IRIX, has a SRP of $16,000 and includes Maya Complete, Maya Live, Maya Fur, Maya Cloth, Advanced Modeling and additional batch rendering capability.
Maya Builder 3 for game programmers and level designers will be available on Windows NT and Silicon Graphics IRIX this summer, and includes Trax, Artisan Paint Textures, and the new polygon architecture. Maya Builder has a SRP of $ 2,995.
Newly available from Ulead Systems is Cool 3D 3.0 ($80) for the creation of still and animated titles for Web sites, video projects and presentations. The primary new feature is vector-based editing.
Cool 3D now supports both AVI and QuickTime formats with enhanced save features for video output. Users can save as frame- or field-based video, apply NTSC or PAL video color-safe filters, specify the compression scheme or CODEC and specify the frame rate and frame size. And, users can specify the target playback drive and preview video output before saving. Version 3.0 gives video users a list of standard video frame dimensions for templates. New support for the RealText 3D format allows users to create animations with small file sizes, suitable for sharing on the Web. This file format is a new feature of the RealPlayer Plus G2.
Version 3.0 also incorporates GIF animation optimization features to shrink file sizes for faster viewing on the Web. Users can choose the number of colors in the animation, create a global palette and remove redundant pixels. In addition, the program lists the "before" and "after" file sizes and download times as well as the option to preview the animation in a browser before saving. Version 3.0 integrates with Ulead SmartSaver Pro for additional control over optimization. Cool 3D now provides list of standard Web banner dimensions, like the popular 468x 60 ad banner size. It also includes enhanced independent key-frame and timeline control with the ability to show and hide individual key frames in an animation. Finally, a new playback cache system makes animation playback smoother and faster when previewing within Cool 3D.
The new 2D path editor lets designers create and edit customized logos and objects by using shapes, Bezier tools and freehand drawing. The paths can be converted into 3D objects and manipulated. Users can open any image, like a company logo, then trace or convert the raster image into a vector path. The image can be edited further by adding and manipulating nodes (control points) along the path. Version 3.0 lets users import vector-based WMF graphics and Microsoft X models as well as instantly create 3D primitives like spheres, cones, cubes and other basic geometric shapes. A new object manager keeps track of all 3D objects in the workspace where they can be grouped and regrouped for manipulation.
New 3D transition effects include Blast, which first "explodes" a piece of text or object, then transitions the pieces into a different text or object. The EasyPalette has been reorganized to make it easier to drag-and-drop hundreds of preset effects. EasyPalette effects include customizable settings.
New from Superscape VR plc is Superscape e-Visualizer (SeV), a technology designed for the Internet, said to deliver interactive 3D visualization platform for e-business environments. Superscape says SeV is complementary with existing rich-media technologies and compatible with standard Web content authoring tools.
Superscape e-Visualizer has a file size of 150K, with no dependencies on other associated technologies such as DirectX or DirectMedia. The technology has been designed to work with Internet Explorer and Netscape Navigator, and is compatible with Windows 95, 98, NT and Windows 2000. Rendering of 3D images is managed by the software rather than hardware.
Files sizes for the interactive 3D content are also small. Using a technology called surface subdivision, an object description comprising a simplified model and instructions for adding detail are downloaded to the user's PC. These are used to create a detailed representation of the object on the PC. Typical file sizes for content are reportedly eight to ten times smaller than any other solution currently available.
S3 Incorporated’s professional graphics division and Dresden University of Technology partnered to demonstrate stereoscopic viewing at CeBIT 2000 last week in Hannover, Germany. The two companies have collaborated to enable the display of any 3D OpenGL windows in stereographic using a dual Diamond Fire GL1 graphics accelerator-based system and a Dresden 3D Display (D4D) monitor.
"D4D is a unique monitor technology that provides stereoscopic viewing without the use of glasses," said Ian Cartwright, president of S3’s Professional Graphics Division.
"We have designed D4D as a new type of output device providing 'true' 3D visual presentation on the desktop," said Dr. Armin Schwerdtner, project manager of the Research Group at Dresden 3D Display, Dresden University of Technology.
Microtek's new ScanMaker X12USL, a 42-bit, 1200-dpi color flatbed scanner, is available in two versions - Standard and Professional. The latter adds a Lightlid 5" x 6" and LaserSoft Silverfast color management software. Both versions include Microtek's ScanWizard 5, TWAIN-compliant scanning software which provides two choices of the user interface, plus Adobe PhotoShop 5.0 LE image editing software, Caere PageKeeper document-management software, and Caere Omnipage Limited Edition OCR software to convert printed documents into editable text.
The unit, which can handle legal-sized documents, provides an optical resolution of 1200 x 2400 dpi and features both USB and SCSI connections.
Electronic Arts last week announced the acquisition of multimedia developer DreamWorks Interactive, LLC. Under the agreement, DreamWorks Interactive (DWI) will become a wholly owned subsidiary of Electronic Arts. Financial terms were not disclosed.
Formed as a joint venture in March 1995 by Microsoft and DreamWorks SKG, DreamWorks Interactive is known for such PlayStation titles as Lost World: Jurassic Park and the new release Medal of Honor. Other titles released to date are Skullmonkeys, The Neverhood, Goosebumps: Escape From Horrorland, Someone's In the Kitchen! and Steven Spielberg's Director's Chair.
Fear Effect for the PlayStation game console is now shipping from Eidos Interactive. The suspense action/adventure game is described as a mature-themed story of greed and betrayal.
When Wee Ming Lam, the daughter of a powerful Chinese businessman, disappears into the hedonistic and dangerous city of Shan Xi under mysterious circumstances, the player's team of mercenaries infiltrate the city and attempt to reach her first, hoping to leverage her safety for a sizable pile of cash.
They will have to search and fire-fight through the archaic chaos of an alternate-reality China and its inhabitants while being challenged by the henchmen of the girl's father, who have no intention of letting her get away.
Gamers control mercenaries through detailed, animated backgrounds dubbed "Motion FX technology." The game also features "seamless" transitions between narrative and gameplay with action, puzzles, and exploration of six distinct worlds.
Coming March 28 from SouthPeak Interactive is Dawn of War, a $25 real-time strategy game for the PC with a humorous, prehistoric twist. Players fight for survival in a primitive world with vicious dinosaurs, savage adversaries and magic. Players control one of three tribes -- skilled Cro-Magnons, powerful Neanderthals and prolific Saurians -- each with their own special skills and abilities in this prehistoric fight for survival.
Fresh outta Epic Games is a free Unreal Tournament bonus pack, which adds levels, characters and relics to the PC title. The bonus pack includes three characters, including the return of old favorites from the original Unreal:
Among the 11 new Deathmatch and Capture The Flag levels are the Deathmatch-Mojo, a hardcore twisty castle corridor deathmatch, and the Capture the Flag - Hydro 16, a "two bases" industrial-style map.
Pro skateboarder Tony Hawk and Activision, Inc. are in development to bring Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 2 to PlayStation, Nintendo 64, Game Boy Color, Sega Dreamcast and PC. The sequel is expected to be released this fall. As with Tony Hawk's Pro Skater, the sequel's PlayStation game console version is being developed by Neversoft Entertainment.
Features will reportedly include a comprehensive roster of pro skaters, an intuitive control scheme, enhanced skating physics, plus an increased number of tricks and combinations, including new grabs, grinds, inverts and lip and nollie tricks.
The game's Skatepark editor will let players build their own dream parks from scratch. Players can see how their park will look in the game as they plot out a course using a variety of parts - ramps, rails, obstacles and quarterpipes - in the real-time 3D editor. Once a level is laid out it can be saved to a Memory Card and shared with friends. Additionally, a total character customization feature allows gamers to modify the pro skaters' clothing, physical appearance and trick sets, or build an entirely new character from scratch.
Microsoft last week released the first update for Fighter Ace II, its multiplayer WWII air combat game. The online title lets more than 300 pilots fight in a single air combat arena from the cockpit of any one of more than 40 World War II vintage fighters and bombers.
The update adds new airplanes: the tank-busting Ki-84 Hayate (Japan), the IL-2 Sturmovik (Russia), and the Ju-87G Stuka (Germany). Both the IL-2 Sturmovik and Ju-87G Stuka will be featured in the Zone's next large-scale historical scenario, the Battle of Kursk, which was the largest tank battle in history. Details on this event will be announced in the coming weeks. The Fighter Ace II update also offers new 3D cockpits, improved tank functionality, squad tags, and more.
According to Electronic Arts, its Internet-only fantasy world, Ultima Online, now has more than 150,000 paying customers. The title was launched in September of 1997 and reportedly pioneered what is now referred to as the massively multiplayer genre. Ultima Online is developed and supported at Electronic Arts' Origin studio located in Austin, Texas.
Ultima Online is a persistent, virtual world where thousands of people live and play simultaneously on the Internet at a cost of $10 per month. Players can experience social interaction with other participants in real time--form adventuring parties, engage in battles, take on perilous quests or chat in a tavern over a goblet of virtual wine.
In April, ORIGIN will be releasing the latest retail update: Ultima Online: Renaissance. Renaissance will add new features to Ultima Online including the doubling of landmass in the fictional world of Britannia. This will allow for safe zones where only consensual player vs. player combat will be allowed. The upgraded features will also allow new opportunities for housing and include a party system that will further facilitate group adventuring.
EA says Ultima Online is supported by the largest network of servers in the online gaming industry. Currently there are 21 server sets located on four continents. The servers are located in the United States, Europe, Japan, Korea, Taiwan and Australia. The players represent 115 countries including such remote locations as Kazakhstan and Antarctica. The average player logs on to Ultima Online more than 21 hours a week and more than 50 percent of UO players log on every day.
Last Friday (February 25), the Bologna Children's Book Fair and Children’s Software Revue announced the winners of the fourth annual Bologna New Media Prize, an award program designed to recognize excellence in children's software and interactive products on a global scale. This year, jurors from nine countries reviewed 715 products from 20 countries that included CD-ROMs, Internet sites, videogames and smart toys. Five products were chosen to receive the award based on their innovation, educational value and ease-of-use. Winning publishers will be commended formally at a gala ceremony on Wednesday evening, March 29 in the town center of Bologna, Italy, one of Europe's "City of Culture for the year 2000."
Here are the winners, along with juror comments:
BEST BOOK ADAPTATION (YOUNGER CHILDREN)
Alphabet by NHK (Japan), EMME (France) and Tivola (Germany)
"Last year, we were so impressed by Midnight Play. This year, we were pleased to find more of Kveta Pacovska's work, in an even more engaging format. This is a dream-like alphabet book with expanded layers of visual creativity. If you want to see new media as an art form, have a look at this program."
Intel Play Me2Cam Activity System with Fun Fair CD-ROM by Mattel Media
"Despite the limited set of activities, this video camera/software package represents an amazing breakthrough in the way that children can interact with a computer. The software is effective in letting children control the experience with their whole body, instead of the mouse."
BEST OVERALL LEARNING SIMULATION
Pit Droids by Lucas Learning (USA)
"This amazingly engaging problem solving exercise is perfect for older children. It is ideal for playfully introducing a new world of logical thinking and spatial problem solving."
BEST NEW TITLE FROM A SMALLER PUBLISHER
Redbeard's Pirate Quest by Zowie Intertainment (USA)
"This toy/software combination gives us a glimpse of the way that interactive technology can support and extend a child's play. While we would have liked to see some more depth to the activities, the ability to concretely manipulate the replica ship in order to control the computer proves that this medium can work extremely well."
BEST BOOK ADAPTATION (OLDER CHILDREN)
Uncle Albert's Magical Album by Emme (France) and VTechSoft, Inc.
"This beautiful product utilizes multimedia and problem solving activities in an exquisite manner. The non-linear activities unfold one lovely page at a time and challenge youngsters to think both creatively and unconventionally."
The jurors identified the following as "Honorable Mentions" for their positive contribution to new media: Sim Theme Park (Maxis/Electric Arts), I Spy Spooky Mansion (Scholastic), JumpStart Phonics Learning System (Knowledge Adventure), 3D Ultra Lionel Train Town (Sierra On-line/Dynamix)
The kudos keep coming for Sierra Studios' and Valve LLC's PC game Half-Life, as the game captured three awards at the sixth annual Milia 2000 trade show held recently in Cannes, France. The distinction bestowed as MILIA d'Or (the golden MILIA award) acknowledged Half-Life in three categories; "Game of the Year," "Action Game of the Year," and "People's Choice Award." Over 500 products from 23 countries were registered for the awards.
Both "Game of the Year" and "Action Game of the Year" were selected by a special Games Grand Jury comprised of international industry experts. The "People's Choice Award" was selected by online votes from the general public from all the nominees. Votes were tabulated through the trade show's Website at http://www.milia.com.
Microsoft CEO Bill Gates will address game developers at the trade-only Game Developers Conference (GDC) in San Jose, CA on Friday, March 10. The presentation is expected to focus on Microsoft’s ongoing commitment to the entertainment market.
Also, in 1999, Vicarious Visions took home Best Programming and Best Game Design awards for Terminus at the 1st Annual GDC Independent Games Festival. This year they're taking home a publishing deal. Terminus is a space-combat RPG, set in a persistent universe. The creators are Karthik Bala, Henry Kropf, David Calvin, Chris Mcevoy, Chuck Homic, Jesse Booth, Daniel Tanguay, Lundin Bialek, Chris Winters, and Todd Masten. Vicarious Visions will be developing ten new Game Boy Color titles for Vatical Entertainment, among other projects.
Visitors to this year's GDC can visit the IGF Pavilion, play the games, meet the developers, and vote for their favorite game. The awards ceremony is Friday, March 10, from 7:00-8:00pm at Vista Point on the second floor of the San Jose Convention Center. Awards presented are grand prize, best audio, best game design, best visual arts, best technical achievement, and the audience award.
2000 IGF Finalists are:
More than 200 speakers on videogame production, entertainment, technology and creativity will take part in the GDC at the San Jose Convention Center, March 8-12, 2000. Other noted speakers include representatives from Sony Computer Entertainment America, Sega of Japan, Walt Disney Imagineering, Hasbro Interactive, Lucasfilm and many more. Exhibits will reveal tools, technology and services for making electronic games.
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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