Spectrum: Interactive Media & Online Developer News

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

--Ngrain Ships Constructor 3.0
--AppForge Ships Crossfire 5.0

--Harris Poll Shows Online Activity Grows
--NASA 3D Interactive Mars Tour Available

--Dan Ritchie Updates Budget Painter Project Dogwaffle
--nPower announces Power RhinoToMax
--Superscape to Show 3D Games for Mobiles at Imagina 2004

--Holt Launches New AI Tutors
--O'Reilly Releases "Perl Template Toolkit"

--EA to Publish TimeSplitters Sequel
--Sammy Studios Picks Havok 2 Dynamics Engine

--Baldur's Gate: Dark Alliance II Ships to Retail
--Eidos, Ion Storm Announce Thief Sequel
--New Dev Studio Announced
--Final Fantasy X-2 Hits Million-Unit N.A. Sales Mark

--AIAS Announces Speakers for 2004 DICE Summit
--DEMO 2004 to Focus on Enterprise, Blogging

--About Spectrum



Ngrain Ships Constructor 3.0

Ngrain Corporation, a developer of interactive 3D visualization and simulation software tools, last week announced customer-driven advancements in its software development kit (SDK) Ngrain Constructor 3.0. The product consists of a set of software develop ment libraries, utilities, source code, and documentation designed for use with the Microsoft .NET Framework. Constructor reportedly reduces the time and expense associated with producing 3D applications by eliminating the need for high-end computing syst ems during application development and enabling developers with little 3D knowledge or experience to develop a variety of customized interactive 3D applications.



AppForge Ships Crossfire 5.0

AppForge, Inc., a creator of multi-platform mobile and wireless application-development solutions, last week released Crossfire, its mobile and wireless application development environment for the Microsoft .NET platform.

Using Crossfire, developers can create a single application, and then deploy it to any number of Palm OS, Pocket PC, or Symbian devices including PDAs, Smartphones, and industrial devices. Crossfire also provides built-in database support, and integration with database-synchronization solutions.

AppForge also offers a subscription program under which customers receive continuous updates to insure that applications will run on the latest mobile devices.




Harris Poll Shows Online Activity Grows

A new Harris Poll finds that the Internet continues to become more useful and more used. While the total Internet population is rising more slowly than in the late 90s, the proportion of those with broadband is rising much faster (Harris Poll of January 1 4, 2004) and more people are using the Internet for a wider variety of purposes.

Sending or receiving email is still, by a wide margin, the most common online activity. It is followed by research for work or school, looking for news including the weather, gathering information about products or services and looking for information abo ut hobbies or special interest.

These were also the most common online activities three years ago. The biggest change over the last three years is that among the (now much larger) online population, the frequency of email use has declined somewhat while those using the Internet for many other purposes have increased.

These are the results of a nationwide telephone survey conducted by Harris Interactive between December 10 and 16, 2003 among a sample of 729 adults who are online from home, work, school, library or other location. In total, 69% of U.S. adults are now on line.

The proportions of those online who use the Internet "very often" or "often" for the most common activities are, in descending order of use:
* sending or receiving email (67%)
* doing research for work or school (45%)
* getting information about products and services (41%)
* getting information about hobbies or special interests (36%)
* checking news, weather, etc. (40%)
* surfing the Web to explore new and different sites (32%)
* shopping online (22%)
* obtaining information on local amusements and activities (19%)
* paying bills (18%)
* downloading or playing games (18%)
* financial management and investing (15%)
* making travel plans or arrangements (15%)
* obtaining information about health or disease (15%)

Given that the number of people who are online has increased over the last three years (from 63% in 2000 to 69% by December 2003), the numbers of people doing all of the activities on the list has increased also. And the percentages of those online that are doing most of these activities often have also increased. The biggest increases are in the percentages of online adults who are doing each of the following "very often" or "often":
* gathering information about products and services: up from 25% to 41%
* doing research for work or school: up from 37% to 45%
* surfing the Web to explore new and different sites: up from 24% to 32%
* obtaining information on local amusements and activities: up from 11% to 19%
* downloading or playing games: up from 13% to 18%
* making travel plans and arrangements: up from 11% to 15%.


NASA 3D Interactive Mars Tour Available

NASA Earth Observing System (EOS) Website launched the ability to tour Mars in 3D online ( http://www.eoscenter.com ), using technology from Skyline Software Systems, Inc., a provider of 3D visualization software and Web-based interactive 3D "fly-through" technology.

Skyline technology, collectively called TerraSuite, is currently available to explore Mars, using the NASA imagery. Mars enthusiasts can download the free Skyline viewer and discover where the "Spirit" rover landed.

The Mars 3D model was created from multiple NASA data sources including imagery from Mars Viking Orbiter (global imagery) and Mars Global Surveyor (high resolution) and terrain elevation data from the Mars Orbiter Laser Altimeter (MOLA).

The NASA EOS Education Project disseminates Earth imagery, develops interdisciplinary programs and deploys advance technologies for use in our global society. More information: http://www.eoscenter.com/ .




Dan Ritchie Updates Budget Painter Project Dogwaffle

Dan Ritchie, developer and publisher of Project Dogwaffle, last week released version 2 of his $67 paint and animation software.

New features include:
* multiple layers
* dynamic panning and zooming
* the new media manager
* Paintsmear mode
* custom brushes can react to brush dynamics to control rotation, scale, and color.
* brush manager
* BrushFX can generate stars and other natural phenomenon
* One-click patterns
* crop, rotate and scale an animation
* apply effects to an animation
* animation playback speed and accuracy has been improved
* loading and saving of AVI files
* improved text tool
* image browser shows thumbnails of images before loading them
* drag & drop of files
* improved tablet support


Ritchie, who is also a writer, recently finished and published his novel, Silver Squirrel. For more details about his work, visit http://www.squirreldome.com .


nPower announces Power RhinoToMax

Just out from nPower Software is Power RhinoToMax for 3ds max / VIZ. The software provides translation of native Rhino models directly into 3ds max / VIZ. Users can build surface models in the Rhino modeling environment and import them directly into 3ds Max / Viz for renderings, animation, etc. Power RhinoToMax introduces a new, precise NURBS-based boundary representation object within 3ds max / VIZ. Instead of importing polygonal approximations, Power RhinoToMax uses its representation to generate smooth, crack-free renderings without polygonal artifacts.

Power RhinoToMax utilizes a CAD geometric modeling kernel that has been added to 3ds max. It performs dynamic tessellation at render time to generate a render mesh with the appropriate level of detail based on the size of the object in the view, eliminating the need for multiple levels of detail. Power RhinoToMax is powered by SMLib, a NURBS-based modeling kernel from IntegrityWare Inc.

Features include:
* native translation of Rhino models
* import precise trimmed NURBS
* user control of tessellation for display / rendering
* batch import with mesh generation
* manual sewing of import data
* trim / un-trim surfaces
* snapping to imported Rhino objects
* native translation of Rhino 3dm files

A free, 30-day evaluation copy is available at http://www.nPowerSoftware.com


Superscape to Show 3D Games for Mobiles at Imagina 2004

Superscape plc, a developer of 3D technology to deliver games on mobile phones, will be showing the latest additions to its games portfolio at the Imagina 2004 conference and exhibition to be held in Monaco from 2-5 February 2004.

At the conference, Superscape chief technology officer Paul Beardow will give a presentation entitled "Developing Games for the new Mobile 3D Graphics API". Product Development Manager Sean Ellis will speak on "A Designer's Guide to the Mobile 3D Graphics API."

Superscape's Swerve 3D technology is a commercially available implementation of the Mobile 3D Graphics API (JSR 184), a new international standard ratified by the Java Standards Community for the delivery of 3D on mobile devices. Swerve has also been recently extended to provide support for the BREW platform from Qualcomm.

Comprising an engine (Swerve Client), authoring tools (Swerve Studio) and a portfolio of games, Superscape's Swerve has been selected by such firms as Siemens, Samsung and Motorola as their 3D-enabling technology. The first Swerve-enabled handsets are currently being shipped, with others coming to the market early in 2004.

Imagina 2004 is expected to attract over 3,000 delegates with key themes for this year's event including 3D animation, mobile technologies, and visualization.




Holt Launches New AI Tutors

Holt, Rinehart and Winston last week announced three new Quantum Artificial Intelligence tutors to complement chemistry and physical science lessons in chemistry, modern chemistry, and science spectrum physical science, as well as professional development for teachers. The three new tutors--stoichiometry, chemical reactions and chemical bonding--join six online tutors that were released in January 2003, providing instruction for student learning and teacher development.

The Quantum tutors provide an on-demand, Web-based educational resource for students who need personal coaching on difficult science concepts. Teachers can use them as a refresher or for lesson planning. Similar to a human tutor, the Quantum tutors provide individualized hints, guidance, and advice throughout the solution, based on the student's or teacher's own work, reportedly ensuring a conceptually balanced and more meaningful understanding of the subject. The tutors use dialogue-driven technology to help the student or teacher understand why an answer is correct or incorrect. Students and teachers enter their own work just as they would on paper and the tutor interprets their work and coaches them through the problem-solving process. Additionally, the tutors follow progress, presenting increasingly more challenging problem-solving scenarios as students and teachers become more successful at a particular topic.

The original six Tutors in the Holt portfolio addressed the science topics of elements, ionic compound formulas, mathematics of chemical formulas, measurement, equation balancing, and oxidation numbers.



O'Reilly Releases "Perl Template Toolkit"

Among the many different approaches to "templating" with Perl--such as Embperl, Mason, HTML::Template, and hundreds of other lesser-known systems--the Template Toolkit is said to be one of the most versatile. Like other templating systems, the Template Toolkit allows programmers to embed Perl code and custom macros into HTML documents in order to create customized documents on the fly. But unlike the others, the Template Toolkit can produce PDF, XML, or any other output format as easily as it produces HTML. And because it has its own simple templating language, templates can be written and edited by people who don't know Perl. In short, the Template Toolkit combines the best features of its competitors with ease-of-use and flexibility, resulting in a tech nology that's fast, powerful and extensible, and suited to the production and maintenance of Web content and other dynamic document systems.

The new book "Perl Template Toolkit" (O'Reilly, US $39.95) by Darren Chamberlain, David Cross, and Andy Wardley covers this popular technology. The book shows how to build Web sites and other dynamic document systems in such a way that they can be updated, modified, and re-branded. Written by core members of the technology's development team, the book moves through the process of installing, configuring, using, and extending the Template Toolkit.

The book begins with a tutorial on building Web content with the Template Toolkit, and then covers the process of generating and using data files, particularly with XML. It also provides detailed information on the Template Toolkit's modules, libraries, and tools in addition to a complete reference manual.

Chapter 2, "Building a Complete Website Using the Template Toolkit," is available online at: http://www.oreilly.com/catalog/perltt/chapter/index.html



EA to Publish TimeSplitters Sequel

Electronic Arts and UK-based developer Free Radical Design Ltd. recently reached a distribution and publishing agreement for the next game in the TimeSplitters franchise. Developed by Free Radical, the new title in the series will be published by EA Partn ers and is slated for worldwide release in 2005.

Originally released in 2000, Free Radical's TimeSplitters first-person shooter introduced players to a time-traveling gameplay mechanic. That title and TimeSplitters 2, released in 2002 have sold over 2 million units combined. The next title will add impr oved gameplay and graphics, new story, and online play.



Sammy Studios Picks Havok 2 Dynamics Engine

Publisher Sammy Studios recently chose physics middleware Havok 2 for its upcoming title Darkwatch: Curse of the West. Recent titles that shipped containing Havok 2 game dynamics include Max Payne 2, Deus Ex Invisible War, URU, and Crash Nitro Cart.

Havok 2 provides a dynamics workflow framework with exporters for 3ds max and Maya, XML serialization, and visual debugging and profiling tools. Features include collision detection, rigid-body physics, character controller, vehicles, ragdolls and bone dynamics. The Havok 2 dynamics engine can be integrated with third party and in-house rendering engines including RenderWare, Unreal, Gamebryo, and Source, and is optimized for PlayStation2, Xbox, GameCube and the PC. Over 70 top game developers such as Bungie, Cyan, EA, Ion Storm, Nihilistic, Pandemic, People Can Fly, Red Storm, Remedy, Sammy, Sega, Shiny, Sony Cambridge, Turbine, VUG and Z-Axis have licensed Havok 2 for their titles.




Baldur's Gate: Dark Alliance II Ships to Retail

Interplay Entertainment Corp. and Vivendi Universal Games last week released Baldur's Gate: Dark Alliance II, an action/role-playing game created under license from Atari and Hasbro, Inc., for PlayStation2 and Xbox.

Set in the Dungeons & Dragons campaign setting Forgotten Realms, the title uses the 3rd Edition Dungeons & Dragons rules set developed by Wizards of the Coast. Features include more monsters, 80 levels of game play, detailed environments, five new customizable player characters to choose from, hidden areas to explore, and an item-creation system that lets players to create their own magical items.

http://bgda2.blackisle.com/ http://www.interplay.com http://www.vugames.com


Eidos, Ion Storm Announce Thief Sequel

Coming this spring from Eidos plc is Thief: Deadly Shadows, the third installment in the action stealth series originally created by Looking Glass Studios, currently in development for Xbox and PC.

In Thief: Deadly Shadows, gamers will be able to play in either third-person or first-person perspectives, and shift seamlessly between each on the fly. In the game, characters and objects cast real shadows that affect stealth gameplay, requiring the player to manipulate darkness and light to create shadows to hide in.

In Thief: Deadly Shadows, gamers once again take on the role of Garrett, a master thief. Garrett is rarely seen, never caught and capable of breaking into secure places. Garrett steals from the wealthy and gives to himself, making his living in the dark and foreboding city. Preferring to be left alone to ply his trade, prophecies of an impending Dark Age dictate a different plan for the thief. In Garrett's efforts to prevent this approaching Dark Age, he has inadvertently roused an ancient hidden evil. Without allies, Garrett finds himself standing alone between the city and the forces that would crush it.



New Dev Studio Announced

Ex-members of game developers Naughty Dog and Blizzard Entertainment announced last week the formation of their new console game development company, Ready At Dawn Studios, in Tustin, California.

Ready At Dawn Studios was founded by Didier Malenfant, former senior programmer at Naughty Dog, and Andrea Pessino and Ru Weerasuriya, respectively former senior software engineer and senior artist at Blizzard Entertainment.

The co-founders worked on such games as Crash Team Racing, Jak&Daxter: The Precursor Legacy, JakII, Diablo II, Warcraft III: Reign of Chaos, Warcraft III: The Frozen Throne, World of WarCraft, Starcraft: BroodWar and Starcraft: Ghost.

Ready At Dawn Studios is now at work on its first, currently unannounced title, and is hiring for the few remaining spots on its small team.



Final Fantasy X-2 Hits Million-Unit N.A. Sales Mark

Square Enix U.S.A. announced last week that its PlayStation2 title Final Fantasy X-2 has sold more than one million units in North America.

Released last November 18, the title is the sequel to Final Fantasy X, one of the best-selling PlayStation 2 titles with a total of 6.6 million units shipped worldwide. In Japan, Final Fantasy X-2 was released in March 2003 and has shipped over two million units to date. The life-to-date units shipped for both titles combined have reached 10 million units worldwide.

Final Fantasy X-2 is the first sequel in the long-running series. While keeping the series' traditions, the sequel stays fresh with several new elements. Among them, the reintroduction of the ATB (active time battle) system accelerates the pace of battles. Final Fantasy X-2 is also the first mission-based Final Fantasy, allowing for non-linear gameplay, and features new and unique job classes, which provide diverse looks for the leading female characters and an enhanced character-development system. The first female-led Final Fantasy hails the return of a free-spirited Yuna plus her enthusiastic cousin Rikku, and introduces Paine, their sarcastic, hardnosed friend. The game tells a tragic story of unrequited love and ominous secrets that threaten the peac e of their world, Spira.




AIAS Announces Speakers for 2004 DICE Summit

The Academy of Interactive Arts & Sciences (AIAS), a professional organization of the interactive entertainment industry, last week announced the featured speakers for the 2004 DICE Summit, including individuals from Electronic Arts, Flagship Games, Lionh ead Studios, Nickelodeon, Nintendo, Sony Computer Entertainment America, THQ, and Ubisoft, among others. The Academy has also invited Electronic Arts founder Bing Gordon and Activision president Kathy Vrabeck to give co-opening speeches. The 2004 DICE Sum mit will be held at the Palms Casino Resort in Las Vegas March 3-5.

The DICE Summit is a two-day seminar featuring discussions with games-industry members. In conjunction with the summit, the Academy will also present its 7th Annual Interactive Achievement Awards on March 4.

The 2004 DICE Summit will feature eight individual presentations from creators and decision makers in the interactive entertainment industry. The speakers include:
* Kathy Vrabeck, president, Activision
* Bing Gordon, CCO and founder, Electronic Arts
* Peter Molyneux, managing director, Lionhead Studios
* Bill Roper, CEO, Flagship Games
* Jason Rubin, president and co-founder, Naughty Dog
* Jordan Weisman, CEO and founder, WizKids Games
* Chris Anderson, editor in chief, Wired Magazine
* Jordan Mechner, creator and designer, original "Prince of Persia"
* Patrice Desilets, creative director, "Prince of Persia"



DEMO 2004 to Focus on Enterprise, Blogging

The 14th annual DEMO conference will host two expert panels that delve into technology's hottest topics: the rise of blogging and the best new enterprise technologies of 2004. DEMO will take place February 15-17, 2004 at the Westin Kierland resort in Scot tsdale, AZ.

Blogging is the most significant transformation in communications since the arrival of the Web. Web logs have the potential to fundamentally change the face of publishing, corporate communications, customer marketing, workgroup collaboration, and more. Panelists John Patrick of Attitude, LLC; Buzz Bruggeman of ActiveWords, Inc.; Robert Scoble of Microsoft; and Mena Trott of Six Apart Ltd. will detail how blogging will emerge from its humble beginnings as an online journal to a primary information channel.

Cautious enterprise buyers, burned by the big promises of the past, are at last coming back to the table. Today's IT organization is looking for clean solutions to the real problems of managing and securing resources while becoming increasingly responsive to enterprise business requirements. A panel of NetworkWorld Test Alliance Members will handicap the enterprise companies launching at DEMO, measuring how their products and services stack up to the tough demands of today's buyer.

In addition to the panels, DEMO will launch 70+ new technologies into the marketplace. These technologies, many of which will still be in development, represent innovations from a broad spectrum of the tech industry and will include such categories as consumer digital media, ad hoc collaboration, next generation desktop computing and applications, enterprise application manageability, and security and access control.



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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