Spectrum: Interactive Media & Online Developer News

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

--Xara Updates Menu Maker
--O'Reilly Releases "DNS on Windows Server 2003"
--O'Reilly Releases "RELAX NG"

--Turbo Squid Updates Stitch as clothfx
--Ulead, Nova Release PhotoImpact Pro 8.5

--O'Reilly to Host Digital Democracy Teach-In

--Acclaim to Publish Worms 3D

--Square Enix Announces Drakengard for PS2
--Enlight to Publish Nemesis of the Roman Empire

--Sony Announces Big Holiday Sales

--GDC Announces Keynoters
--2004 SharewareJunkies.com Awards Announced

--GDC 2004 Conference Guide Available Online

--About Spectrum



Xara Updates Menu Maker

U.K.-based graphics publisher Xara last week released an enhanced version of Menu Maker, its software for creating NavBars and menus. With a few clicks, users can create graphical navigation bars and DHTML menus without the need for artistic or technical skill.

Menu Maker 1.1 includes an additional 55 new NavBar templates with 23 designs in up to four variations each, most with both horizontal and vertical designs. This adds to the existing 250 customizable NavBar templates.

Menu Maker 1.1 also has extended browser compatibility for Opera 7+, Mozilla and Safari (Mac). Other enhancements include updates to the FrontPage Add-in and Dreamweaver Extension that allow the Menus to be inserted directly into any Web page created with these authoring packages.

MenuMaker's vector rendering engine and "smart button scaling" technology reportedly allow graphical buttons to accommodate any length text without distortion. Graphics are optimized to create small files and the menu DHTML is compact to ensure fast-loadi ng Websites.

A trial version is available at http://www.xara.com


O'Reilly Releases "DNS on Windows Server 2003"

While computers and other devices identify each other on networks or the Internet by using unique addresses made up of numbers, humans rely on the Domain Name System (DNS), the distributed database that allows us to identify machines by name. DNS does the work of translating domain names into numerical IP addresses, routing mail to its proper destination, and many other services, so that users require little or no knowledge of the system. If you're a network or system administrator, however, configuring, implementing, and maintaining DNS zones can be a formidable challenge. And now, with Windows Server 2003, an understanding of the workings of DNS is even more critical.

"DNS on Windows Server 2003" (O'Reilly, US $39.95) by veteran O'Reilly authors Matt Larson, Cricket Liu, and Robbie Allen is a special Windows-oriented edition of the classic "DNS and BIND," that explains the whole system in terms of the new Windows Server 2003, from starting and stopping a DNS service to establishing an organization's namespace in the global hierarchy. "The new edition has been updated to cover the many changes to DNS, large and small, found in Windows Server 2003," state the authors. "In particular, this edition documents the use of the dnscmd program to manage the Microsoft DNS Server from the command line and development using the WMI DBS provider to manage the name server programmatically. The book also covers new features of the Mic rosoft DNS Server in Windows Server 2003, including conditional forwarding and zone storage in Active Directory application partitions."

"DNS on Windows Server 2003" is intended primarily for administrators who manage zones and one or more name servers, but also includes material for network engineers, postmasters, and others. The book addresses the critical issue of DNS security, including details on preventing unauthorized zone transfers, securing dynamic updates, and disabling recursion on delegated name servers. The authors pay special attention to system tuning, caching, and zone change notification, and cover such issues as troubleshooting and planning for growth.

Chapter 8, "Integrating with Active Directory," is available online at: http://www.oreilly.com/catalog/dnswinsvr/chapter/index.html



O'Reilly Releases "RELAX NG"

The beauty of XML is that it is extensible, even to the point that developers can invent new elements and attributes as they write XML documents. Then, however, they need to define their changes so applications will be able to make sense of them. This is where XML schema languages come into play. In his new book, "RELAX NG" (O'Reilly, US $29.95), author Eric van der Vlist introduces the Regular Language Description for XML Core--New Generation, or RELAX NG (pronounced "relaxing"), an alternative to other schema languages that's quickly gaining momentum. Designed to solve a variety of common problems raised in the creation and sharing of XML vocabularies, RELAX NG is less complex than the W3C's XML Schema Recommendation and more powerful and flexible than DTDs.

"XML schema languages are a nice idea as long as they don't become so complicated that XML vocabularies built using them are difficult to extend," says van der Vlist. "Unfortunately, that's what was starting to happen before RELAX NG appeared. W3C XML Schema, the dominant XML schema language, is so complex and incorporates ideas from so many conflicting fields that it is difficult to learn, difficult to extend--yet its expressive power is still too limited to describe all the possibilities offered by XML! " Although many applications will to use this mammoth language, van der Vlist adds, many people need the lighter-weight, simpler alternative found in RELAX NG.

In "RELAX NG," developers are introduced to this unique language and will learn a no-nonsense method for creating XML schemas. This book offers a clear-cut explanation of RELAX NG that enables intermediate and advanced XML developers to focus on XML document structures and content rather than battle the intricacies of yet another convoluted standard.

Chapter 6, "More Complex Patterns," is available online at: http://www.oreilly.com/catalog/relax/chapter/index.html




Turbo Squid Updates Stitch as clothfx

Turbo Squidlast week announced that Stitch has been updated and released as a new Discreet Certified 3ds max Plug-in. The new $595 product, called clothfx, is a cloth-simulation system for 3ds max developed by Size8 Software.

The software includes tools for creating realistic fabrics and clothing for characters and creatures. Clothing can be modeled in two ways: creating the objects that represent cloth with standard 3ds max modeling methods and then applying the clothfx modifier to it; or designing virtual clothing patterns in a more traditional way (artists can even import spline patterns from external applications) and stitching together various virtual panels to f orm a full garment.

Artists can also apply separate cloth properties to the various panels within their clothing. With over a dozen preset cloth types like cotton, silk, wool, etc., clothfx reportedly eliminates the need to refine how clothing behaves when applied.

Collision detection (including cloth-to-cloth collisions) can be run providing feedback on how well cloth is performing during a simulation. Users can also stage simulations in sections.



Ulead, Nova Release PhotoImpact Pro 8.5

Ulead Systems and Nova Development last week released PhotoImpact Pro 8.5, the $100 North American retail edition of Ulead's image-editing software. PhotoImpact Pro offers the same basic functionality as PhotoImpact XL (which Ulead continues to sell on its Website and to OEM, education, government and corporate channels), but adds several features and software components.

Basic features include new learning materials, filters and effects, and photo-correction tools. The enhanced retail version distributed by Nova adds Alien Skin's Xenofex 2 filters (a $129 retail value), 250 Corbis Images, 5,000+ photo objects, and a book on mastering digital photography.

The new learning materials include a 45-minute, 13-chapter video tutorial and seven hands-on project lessons. Also included is ExpressFix, a photo-correction wizard that suggests how to fix common photo problems including improper exposure, incorrect color balance, and out-of-focus photos. New digital photography effects include Sunlight, Diffraction (rainbow), and Multivision filters as well as an effect for creating realistic moons. Advanced photography features include a High Dynamic Range tool that extends the tonal range of a photo to make it closer to the natural luminescence perceived by the human eye.

Graphic design options include painting, drawing and cloning tools, as well as particle, texture and lighting effects and tools to create 2D/3D vector graphics. The software also offers Web tools for buttons, background and banners as well as interactive JavaScript effects, Web slideshows and animation. Also included are GIF Animator 5 for creating Web animations, Cool 360 for generating 360-degree panoramas, and an eBay photo macro that automatically resizes graphics to fit within eBay ad specifications.




O'Reilly to Host Digital Democracy Teach-In

Internet technologies are putting power back into the hands of the people. Using blogs, MeetUp, Websites, cell phones, and plain old email, citizen activists have already altered the face of the next US presidential election.

Are we on the verge of a fundamental shift towards truer democracy, or will these new Internet-fueled tools be co-opted to maintain the status quo?

That question and more will be addressed at the at the Digital Democracy Teach-In on February 9, held at San Diego's Westin Horton Plaza in conjunction with the O'Reilly Emerging Technology Conference (ETech).

Hear from the people who are defying conventional wisdom and changing the rules of the game--the founders of MoveOn and MeetUp, Dean campaign staffers, influential political bloggers, and grassroots advocates. They'll explain how, as political outsiders with technology chops and an urge to change the world, they've hacked the old guard's system.

Digital Democracy Teach-In schedule and speaker information: http://conferences.oreillynet.com/et2004/edemo.csp



Acclaim to Publish Worms 3D

Acclaim Entertainment last week signed an exclusive publishing agreement with Brit developer Team 17 for Worms 3D, the latest installment in the video game brand that has sold more than eight million units worldwide. In Worms 3D, coming next month, players battle against other teams of worms in an action-strategy game with outrageous weapons, humor and online head-to-head play.

Worms 3D will feature a bizarre and outlandish array of weaponry including ninja ropes, jetpacks and super sheep, as well as new weapons designed to take advantage of the new 3D landscape. The game also includes destructible environments, more than 100 unlockable hidden features, and a variety of single and multiplayer modes.




Square Enix Announces Drakengard for PS2

Coming this march from publisher Square Enix U.S.A. is Drakengard for PlayStation2. The game tells a tale of love, sacrifice, obligation and bitter compromise following the struggles of a Union soldier, Caim. He comes to find the Empire, an army with inexplicable great power, has taken his sister prisoner. In order to save his only living family member, he joins souls with a dragon. Together they begin their quest to unravel the mystery behind the Empire's sudden rise to power. They eventually discover there is a connection between the Empire, Caim's sister, the mythical Seeds of Resurrection and the gods themselves.

Drakengard features diverse battlefields, multiple experiences, and growth elements based on the player's decisions that immerse the player in gameplay combining fantasy, interactivity and a tragic saga. Players can maneuver through the game on a dragon utilizing two different modes: aerial combat, in which players fly high above the landscape attacking airborne enemies; and Strafe Attack, allowing a large mass of enemies to be annihilated in one blast of fire.

Players also explore and battle on foot, with an assortment of weaponry imbued with magic. As the game progresses, the dragon and the character's abilities will mature and the weapon selection will increase, allowing the player to choose from more than 60 different weapons. The story is conveyed through event sequences, CG movies and through the gameplay itself. Depending on the decisions made, players will encounter different story elements, environments, enemies and endings.



Enlight to Publish Nemesis of the Roman Empire

Software developer and publisher Enlight has acquired the North American rights to release Haemimont Games' Nemesis of the Roman Empire. The $30 SRP game will explore the three Punic wars between Rome and Carthage in 264-146 B.C. and will include the campaigns of Hannibal and Scipio Africanus.

For centuries, Italy was renowned as the center of civilization with its core thriving in the glory of Rome. The influence of the "eternal city" extended well beyond its borders and ultimately encompassed the known world. Eventually, the paths of Carthage and Rome crossed and the whirlwind of the conflict that evolved included both Iberians and Gauls. For more than 100 years, great commanders fought ferocious battles and established new borders in the world in what came to be known as The Punic Wars.

Nemesis of the Roman Empire, inspired by the history of The Punic Wars, allows players to experience the brutal warfare between the Romans and Carthaginians. The two new nations in this next installment, Carthaginians and Iberians, are accompanied with their own historical units and buildings. In addition, this title will contain two unique single-player campaigns, new terrain types, custom maps and special enhancements to the Celtic King engine. While remaining true to the game's original concept, Nemesis of the Roman Empire incorporates real-time strategy and role-playing elements, allowing players to discover a conflict that occurred over 2,000 years ago.




Sony Announces Big Holiday Sales

Sony Computer Entertainment America Inc. said last week that its predicted high holiday sales numbers will help fuel the momentum behind the videogame category as a whole for optimistic 2004 forecasts. The company expanded the PlayStation2 community in North America, outperforming the competition, and announced a worldwide product shipment milestone of more than 70 million PlayStation 2 units life to date.

Despite a competitive pricing environment, Sony added close to three million additional PlayStation 2 hardware units during the holiday selling season. Specifically, SCEA sold close to one million PlayStation 2 systems in November and more than two million additional units during December. More than 31 percent of PlayStation 2 hardware sales came as a result of the newly introduced PlayStation2 Combo Pack [includes the PlayStation 2 console, Network Adaptor (Ethernet/modem), and a copy of the online-enabled game, ATV Offroad Fury 2] at a $199 SRP.

These figures helped propel the North America PlayStation 2 installed base to more than 24.5 million units in 38 months on the market, another industry first.

The original PlayStation game console posted sales of nearly 600,000 units in November and December at SRP $49, with more than 1,400 titles. With an installed base of 37 million, a PlayStation or PS one console can be found in more than one out of every t hree U.S. households.

The PS2 territory sales breakdown is as follows:
* Japan (including Asia) 16.18 million units (launch date: March 4, 2000)
* North America 29.26 million units (launch date: October 26, 2000)
* Europe/PAL 24.56 million units (launch date: November 24, 2000)



GDC Announces Keynoters

The 18th annual Game Developers Conference (GDC) will spotlight the Doom creator, the Matrix films' visual-effects supervisor, and the Lord of the Rings game developer as keynotes March 22-26, 2004 in San Jose, Calif. The conference is the world's largest trade event exclusively devoted to game creation, featuring more than 300 lectures, panels, tutorials and roundtable discussions across seven content tracks.

Keynote speakers are:
* Visual Arts track: 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.
* General Interest: Andrew House, executive vice president, Sony Computer Entertainment America, responsible for the game content lineup, brand management and advertising of the Playstation 1 and 2 consoles.
* Production track: David Perry, president, Shiny Entertainment, a 21-year game industry veteran. His last project was the game Enter the Matrix.
* Game Design track: Neil Young, vice president and executive in charge of production, Electronic Arts, who is currently leading the development of The Lord of the Rings games.
* Programming track: John Carmack, founder/owner/lead programmer, id Software, whose credits include Doom, Quake and Wolfenstein. He is currently working on Doom III.
* Visual arts: Phil Tippet, founder of Tippet Studios, visual effects supervisior on such feature films as: The Empire Strikes Back, Return of the Jedi, Jurassic Park.



2004 SharewareJunkies.com Awards Announced

Blaze Media Pro, a media player, won Best Program of the Year honors in the 2004 SharewareJunkies.com Awards. Blaze Media Pro was also named Best Windows Program in the eighth annual awards, sponsored by the Web site SharewareJunkies.com (http://www.share warejunkies.com).

The SharewareJunkies.com Awards were voted on by software enthusiasts during November and December for the best programs among the main operating systems: Windows, Macintosh and DOS. A fourth award, celebrating the Best Freeware Program, was open to any p rogram 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.

The winners of the 2004 SharewareJunkies.com Awards are:

* Best Program of the Year and Best Windows Program: Blaze Media Pro. A combination media player, playlist (including full screen video), converter, editor, recorder, and more. Other features include audio and data CD/DVD recording, video capture, video c reation/combining/extraction, video editing, batch video processing, media management, audio merge, MusicID audio recognition, lyrics search, and more. From Mystik Media, Hampstead, NC. http://www.mystikmedia.com.

* Best Macintosh Program: TypingMaster for Mac/Linux, for learning to type and for increasing typing skills. From Typing Master Finland, Inc. Helsinki, Finland. http://www.typingmaster.com

* Best DOS Program: Account Pro. From AuAccSoft Shareware, Staefa, Switzerland. http://www.accsoft-ch.com.

* Best Freeware Program: Irfran View. A venerable image & multimedia viewer/converter for everyday work. From Irfan Skiljan F├╝rth, Jajce, Bosnia. http://www.irfanview.com/

* Special Achievement Award: Jessica Dewell, chairman of the board of the association of shareware professionals, and Terry Swiers, president of the association of shareware professionals, for their work reorganizing the Association of Shareware Professio nals.



GDC 2004 Conference Guide Available Online

The Game Developers Conference (GDC) has posted its 2004 conference guide, available on the Web at www.gdconf.com/conference/printablecatalog.htm . The guide features interviews with industry leaders, as well as previews of tracks, tutorials and speakers.

The online program catalog was designed to inform attendees and help navigate the conference. It also provides an inside look at the content for those new to GDC.

Highlights from the guide include:
Interviews with:
* John Carmack, id Software
* Julien Merceron, Ubi Soft Entertainment
* Chris Taylor, Gas Powered Games
* David Perry, Shiny Entertainment
* Bob Rafei, Naughty Dog
* Jonathan Peedin, Red Storm Entertainment
* Marty O'Donnell, Bungie Software
* Dave Ranyard, Sony Computer Entertainment Europe
* Chance Thomas, HUGEsound
* Eric Zimmerman, game lab
* Jonathan Blow, Experimental Gameplay Workshop
* Mark Cerny, Cerny Games
* Neil Young, Electronic Arts
* Masaya Matsuura, Masahiro Sukurai, Kenji Kaido and Fumita Ueda, Japanese developers

* Information on the GDC Mobile focus and content
* Breakdowns of each track including: Game Design, Programming, Production, Visual Arts, Business and Legal, Audio Track and International Game Developer's Association
* Two-day Tutorial agendas, including the Serious Games Summit and Developing a Massively Multiplayer Game
* Listing of events including: GAMEHOTEL, 4th Annual Game Developers Choice Awards, 6th Annual Independent Games Festival, Game Theater, Suite Night and IGDA Annual Meeting
* Schedule-at-a-Glance



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/online-development tools and end product for review.

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