3 January 2000
Reported, written and edited by David Duberman
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In a new corporate strategy, MetaCreations Corporation will focus solely on e-commerce visualization solutions for the World Wide Web. MetaCreations' e-commerce visualization business is centered on the company's MetaStream technology, specifically for the streaming and display of interactive 3D virtual product presentation over the Web.
The MetaStream 3D streaming technologies are initially being focused on virtual product merchandising for hard goods, such as electronics, clothing, housewares and sporting goods. As a result, the company will restructure its business to focus on its e-commerce visualization solutions and to divest its graphics software assets that do not complement this strategy, as well as about 100 employees, all of whom are associated with the professional graphics business. The company, which closed its European offices December 31, expects to report a loss of approximately $38 million to $42 million, substantially as a result of this decision.
The next major version of MetaStream, MetaStream 3.0, is also the enabling technology for a new licensing model for MetaStream, where e-retailers and e-merchandisers will pay license fees to broadcast MetaStream models from their sites. The company expects a full release of MetaStream 3.0 during the first quarter of 2000.
MetaCreations has engaged the services of Silicon Valley financial advisory firm Alliant Partners to help with the divestment of its non-strategic assets. The company expects to generate additional cash through the sale of these non-strategic software assets.
NetObjects, Inc. recently announced NetObjects Authoring Server for Java Server Pages (NAS for JSP), set to ship this quarter. NetObjects Authoring Server, a collaborative Web development and content management solution, combined with JSP and Java server technology from Sun Microsystems, provides an integrated platform for development of enterprise Web applications.
According to NetObjects, users will be able to integrate teams of Web designers with Web developers to rapidly produce Java-based Web. Applications developed with NAS for JSP can be deployed to Java Application Servers such as IBM Websphere, BEA WebLogic, iPlanet Application Server from the Sun/Netscape Alliance, and others.
The visual environment is said to facilitate collaboration among members with different roles and skill sets to speed site deployment. In addition, NAS provides central control over workflow and Web production, provides ease of administration, and leverages investments in existing tools, as well as other front- and back-office applications and systems.
In response to the recent news that NetObjects has ceased Fusion development on the Macintosh platform, Oxford, England-based SoftPress Systems is offering NetObjects Fusion Mac users a half-price crossgrade to the company's Web design software, Freeway 2. The crossgrade is available to verified users of any version of Fusion for US$149.50.
The Motion Factory, developer of the Motivate 3D Development System, expects to ship its Motivate 2.0 Developers Toolkit this quarter. A real-time animation and behavior programming toolkit, Motivate’s core architecture has been redesigned, reportedly making it modular, portable, compact and extensible. In addition, the new version adds real-time articulated body dynamic simulation, and expanded cross-platform and Internet support. Cross-platform and Internet support is said to let developers extend their player communities to include the Web, Sony PlayStation 2, Sega Dreamcast, Windows NT and Macintosh platforms.
The Motivate System includes development tools, an SDK, server technology, and runtime engines for several platforms.
Modular extensible architecture lets developers to select, replace or omit parts of the Development System to suit their specific needs, and use individual technology components of the system in isolation if desired. Developers can extend and customize Motivate through an enhanced and simplified Motivate SDK, incorporating plug-in editors and assets into the Motivate Tool Kit. New drag-and-drop capabilities and asset sharing functions further simplify the content creation process.
Available Motivate 2 modules include:
Developers can license each module and SDK, including source code, individually or in combination.
Motivate 2.0’s new dynamic simulation module reportedly simulates from first principles of physics, articulated body reactions to an applied force, in real time, eliminating the need to animate reactions by hand. Developers need only register the force applied to a character, and Motivate’s Dynamics engine automatically creates the response of the entire kinematics chain, based on the principles of physics.
To facilitate Web browser-based interactive game development, Motivate 2 includes an embeddable ActiveX control and/or plug-in for Internet Explorer and Navigator 4 respectively, as well as multi-user servers, multi-user enabled client players, and runtimes for both PC and Macintosh systems. Motivate 2 also provides a streaming capability for downloading large content, providing the end user with instant game play while contiguous parts of the environment stream and become available to the client machine in the background.
Just out from British firm Criterion Software is the official Gold release of RenderWare 3 for PlayStation2. The product reportedly incorporates feedback from over 650 beta test sites worldwide. Performance increases include triangle throughput up 100 percent to over 15M textured triangles/sec (using VU1 only), object handling up 300 percent and animation up 500 percent.
Additional functionality includes:
RenderWare3 for PC will go Gold in January 2000, and RenderWare3 for Macintosh and Dreamcast will go Beta in Q1 2000 and Gold in Q2 2000.
Pricing is $1000 (€950 Euro or £650) per programmer seat / per platform / per year / unlimited titles / no royalties / basic email support included.
Full details can be found at http://www.renderware.com/rwgames.
MetaCreations Corporation bills its new Carrara 1.0 as a 3D modeling and animation solution for print, video and the Web. Evolving from earlier products such as Ray Dream and Infini-D, Carrara reportedly combines a high-end feature set, fast rendering engine, a new workflow approach called SmartFlow, and output to the MetaStream 3D file format for streaming over the Web.
Features include a hybrid ray tracer, shader editors, multiple modelers, real-time Metaballs, particle systems, 3D light sources, lens flares, motion blur, key framing, physical effects and deformers. SmartFlow lets users to "walk" projects through a series of production steps, with each compartmentalized area featuring applicable tools. A storyboarding capability enables pre-visualization of animations, and Physical Effects let users to apply characteristics such as weight and bounce to modeled objects for animation effects.
Carrara is available now for Windows 95/98/2000/NT and Power Macintosh for a suggested retail price of US $499. Upgrades from Ray Dream Studio versions 4, 5, or 5.5 and Infini-D 4 and later are available for US $199.
For more information, visit http://www.metacreations.com/products/carrara or call 800-846-0111.
Just out from Discreet is 3D Studio MAX Release 3.1 (English), available as a free maintenance update to registered users of 3DS MAX R3, and replacing R3.0 as the currently shipping version of 3D Studio MAX. French, German, Italian, Spanish and Japanese language versions of 3DS MAX R3.1 will be available this month.
3DS MAX Release 3.1 reportedly requires fewer resources when running under Windows 98 and improves items found needing attention through worldwide production feedback. Release 3.1 also provides data containers for use by the mental ray renderer (a separate product, to be shipping in early 2000).
Developer Alien Skin announces free patches to its Eye Candy and Xenofex plug-ins. The patches optimize Alien Skin filters for use as Live Effects in Macromedia's Fireworks 3 graphics program. Thus all filters remain completely editable after being applied in Fireworks 3. In addition, Alien Skin effects will automatically update to match changes made to an original graphic. The new versions are also compatible with Photoshop LE 4.0 or later.
The changes will be folded into Eye Candy 4.0, which is currently in development. Alien Skin is working on new filters (including Wood and Marble textures with optional seamless tiling), as well as enhanced functionality in the existing filters, and a new user interface that will let users switch between filters from the preview window. They'll be showing off some of the new features at MacWorld San Francisco this month at Booth #406.
One of the coolest new programs we saw at last year's Siggraph in L.A. was Synthetik Software's currently Mac-only graphics software Studio Artist 1.1. The company will be exhibiting at booth 4235 in the North Hall at this week's MacWorld San Francisco.
Synthetik bills Studio Artist as a "Graphics Synthesizer," a smart interactive painting, drawing, video processing, auto-rotoscoping and image-manipulation program modeled after the music synthesizer. They claim it knows how to intelligently assist with painting and drawing based on research in cognitive neuroscience. Artists and designers can create unlimited paint and drawing styles with over 200 interactive controls.
According to recent multimedia reports released by Cahners In-Stat Group, DVD player shipments will double in 2000, while DVD-ROM drives will experience lower growth.
"Many manufacturers have jumped on the DVD bandwagon, which resulted in the price declines that have driven sales growth," says Michelle Abraham, senior analyst with In-Stat. "In 2000, players will reach the sub-$150 price level which will contribute to continued growth." Abraham added that DVD-Audio will also help propel DVD player sales due to its multichannel sound capability.
The DVD drive market is still not meeting original expectations. CD-ROM drives will continue to outship DVD-ROM drives until 2002. The popularity of CD-RW drives is having an impact as PC OEMs choose between incorporating a CD-RW or DVD-ROM drive into their PC models. "Rather than make that choice, PC OEMs are eager for combination CD-RW/DVD-ROM drives,' said Abraham.
In-Stat's research also found:
The reports, DVD Markets and Opportunities in the Living Room, #MM9911ST, and CD Still Ahead of DVD in the PC, #MM9912MI, provide unit and revenue forecasts and discuss DVD technology and manufacturers. The DVD Markets report also contains DVD semiconductor component price and revenue forecasts.
To purchase the report or for more information about the service, call Matt Woods at 617.630.2139; firstname.lastname@example.org or visit http://www.instat.com/catalog/zd/dvd.htm to purchase online. The price of the reports are $2,995 and $2,495 respectively.
Maryland-based Firaxis Games has released Sid Meier's Antietam! for PC CD-ROM. Based on the Gettysburg! game system, the title puts players on a historically detailed 3D battlefield, giving them command of animated Union or Confederate troops. Enhancements requested by Gettysburg! fans include troops detailed in historically accurate uniforms including Union and Confederate Zouaves, the Irish Brigade, Berdan's Sharpshooters, and the Louisiana Tigers of New Orleans, plus new terrain features and AI enhancements.
Antietam! includes a number of short engagements - both historical and speculative - and full-battle or half-day scenarios. Players can choose historical scenarios and seek to change the outcome, or experience a host of historically plausible, "what-if situations." The game also includes a random-scenario generator and multi-player functions: up to eight over a LAN and up to four on the Internet.
The game also includes the previously unpublished Civil War manuscript of Ezra Carman, the commanding officer of the 13th New Jersey Volunteers. After the Battle of Antietam, Carman spent the rest of his life documenting the momentous events that occurred on the battlefield. Over a span of several decades, he corresponded with hundreds of battle veterans from both the Union and the Confederacy. At the request of the U.S. government, Carman authored an 1,800 page history of Antietam, undoubtedly the most comprehensive documentation of the Battle.
Also, Firaxis has announced that the title of Meier's "secret project," a strategy game about dinosaurs in the prehistoric world, will be announced early this year. The dinosaur game, to be published by Electronic Arts, is the next offering in Firaxis' "Sweep of Time" series that also includes Alpha Centauri and upcoming Civilization III (to be published by Hasbro).
A downloadable demo of CogniToy's first game, MindRover: the Europa Project, is available at their Website: http://www.cognitoy.com.
MindRover, released for sale in early November, is a 3D strategy/programming game that lets players create their own intelligent robotic vehicles to compete in a variety of challenges.
The demo runs in 3D and requires an OpenGL-compatible graphics accelerator. It contains four working levels of the game, including one tutorial level, and a small subset of the components and vehicles offered in the full game.
Players start with an empty vehicle and add components such as sensors, weapons, and engines. They wire the components together using a visual programming system and set the vehicles free in the game world to compete without further intervention. CogniToy supplies opponents for these competitions, but encourages players to compete their creations against their friends and others on the Internet.
The Website also supplies hints, techniques, contests, new components and scenarios to download, and a place for people to find others to chat with and compete against.
Mindmaker, Inc.'s new Game Commander MX is an enhanced version of Game Commander that can operate simultaneously with voice chat software (chat software not included). Game Commander’s voice recognition allows PC gamers to say commands instead of using keystrokes. Users can simultaneously control games with voice commands and chat with friends during game play using software such as Roger Wilco or BattleCom.
WinZip, the popular utility for compressing and decompressing files, has won the Best Program of the Year honors in the 2000 SharewareJunkies.com Awards. WinZip was also named Best Windows Program in the fourth annual awards, sponsored by the Web site SharewareJunkies.com.
The SharewareJunkies.com Awards were voted on by a global audience of software enthusiasts who cast their ballots online during November and December for the best programs among the four top operating systems: Windows, Macintosh, OS/2 and DOS. A fifth award, celebrating the Best Freeware Program, was open to any program which is available at no cost. The programs which earned the most votes in each category won the top prize therein and the overall highest vote-getter, in this case WinZip, won the Best Program title. In addition, SharewareJunkies.com presented a Special Award to the Webcasters Coalition for Free Speech, a cyber-advocacy organization.
The winners of the 2000 SharewareJunkies.com Awards are:
Best Program Of The Year and Best Windows Program: WinZip, a utility program currently in its seventh version which is designed to compress and decompress files for easier distribution and archiving. From Nico Mak Computing, Mansfield, Connecticut; http://www.winzip.com/
Best Macintosh Program: OptimaHTML, a utility program for compacting HTML documents. From MacZ Sofware, Espoo, Finland; http://www.intsys.fi/macz/optimahtml.html
Best OS/2 Program: WarpZip, a software application designed to simplify the downloading and archiving of files. From PillarSoft, Jamestown, North Dakota; http://www.pillarsoft.net/warpzip.html
Best DOS Program: Account Pro, a finance planning and accounting program designed for business and private usage. From AcctSoft Shareware, Staefa, Switzerland; http://www.accsoft-ch.com/apdos.htm
Best Freeware Program: Pegasus Mail, an electronic mail system available in several different operating systems. From David Harris, Dunedin, New Zealand.
Special Achievement Award: The Webcasters Coalition for Free Speech, Washington, DC, (http://thesync.com/wcfs), for the non-partisan advocacy of free speech in all corners of cyberspace.
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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