Spectrum: Interactive Media & Online Developer News

28 January 2002

Reported, written and edited by David Duberman

For editorial/subscription inquiries, send mailto:duberman@dnai.com

Search the Spectrum archives at http://www.3dlinks.com/spectrum

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Today's Headlines (details below)

WEBMEISTER

Xara Releases Web Modules

DEVELOPER’S TOOLBOX

Final Draft 6 Released

Ableton Offers OSX Update for Live

IN THE INFOGROOVE

Browse3D Releases New Browser

GRAPHICALLY SPEAKING

Kelseus Launches Cloth Engine for 3D Developers

Ulead Develops New MPEG Codec

NewTek Ships Video Toaster [2]

THE DIALS & LEVERS OF POWER

O'Reilly Publishes .NET Book

DEALS

Interplay, Bioware Come to Terms

The Collective to Develop New Indy Title for Lucas

Interplay, Grin Announce Distribution Agreement

GAMES PEOPLE PLAY

EA ships Sid Meier's SimGolf

LucasArts Releases Star Wars Starfighter For Windows PC

Eidos Launches New Japanese Brand

Malice Coming to PS2

DIGERATI ILLUMINATI

MILIA 2002 Announces Game Developer Village Winners

HAPPENINGS

Shneiderman to Keynote at Web3D Symposium

GDC 2002 Speakers Announced

INT Launches .NET Conference

F.Y.I.

About Spectrum

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WEBMEISTER

Xara Releases Web Modules

Xara Online last week released its new range of "connectable Web modules." Built on the new XML Web Service standards, Xara says the modules are among the first commercial applications for Web Services to reach the market. Each module is a hosted Web page add-on that users can embed and integrate into a Website to provide a range of database, form and mail functions. This release consists of four module types: Form, Database, Database Query, and Mailer.

http://www.xaraonline.com

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DEVELOPER’S TOOLBOX

Final Draft 6 Released

Final Draft, Inc. last week released Final Draft Version 6.0, an upgrade to its scriptwriting software, which is used to write scripts for movies, television and the theater. The new version is designed for Windows XP and is Carbonized and compatible with Mac OS X. New features include the interactive 'Ask the Expert' (with scriptwriting guru Syd Field), which guides the writer on story development, character, plot or structure questions, ScriptCompare, a Format Assistant, and a revamped interface.

http://www.finaldraft.com

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Ableton Offers OSX Update for Live

Ableton, a Berlin-based music software company, last week announced a free update of Live for Mac OSX. Live is a new audio sequencer designed specifically for live performance.

Live distinguishes itself in the way it handles loops and samples. Sound files are time-stretched and compressed in real time, while being read from the hard disk. Long recordings with unstable tempos are said to  play in sync with the current session tempo or an external clock source.

The user can record, loop, effect, resample, and launch sounds without stopping the music. Other features include:

http://www.ableton.com

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IN THE INFOGROOVE

Browse3D Releases New Browser

Browse3D Corporation (www.browse3d.com), a developer of products for finding, organizing, saving, and exchanging Web-based content, announces the availability of the Browse3D Browser.

Browse3D integrates with a standard browser to offer a three-walled display of any Web site. The center wall is the current active page. The right wall displays thumbnail images of forward links from the active page and the left wall shows thumbnail images of backward links. By providing these thumbnail views, users can see at a glance where they are, where they are going, and where they have been. The ability to "stick" these pages in a room and refer back to them saves endless searching and back clicks.

Users can:

 

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View up to 16 Web pages at one time and then 16 more with the click of the mouse

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View their entire back history visually

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Select a page from the back history and return there instantly (even if they were there 20 Web pages ago)

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Select links and fetch new Web pages without interrupting the current page view

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Speed up Web searches by pre-fetching user-selected Web pages from the search list

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Save multiple active and static pages by making them "sticky" to create rooms of current research

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Save rooms containing many Web pages into one compact file that can be shared with colleagues

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Eliminate pop-up windows

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Compare multiple items from different Web sites in one view while shopping

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Save and track multiple auction items as they progress through the sale process

 

Designed for Web users either at work or at home, the product facilitates finding, organizing, comparing, saving, and exchanging Web-based information. Specific examples of users who will benefit greatly from the Browse3D Browser include researchers, analysts, attorneys, and individuals doing corporate or educational data gathering via the Internet or intranets.

 The tool also speeds Web browsing, even on slower modems, by pre-fetching Web pages selected by the user, creating a much more efficient way to use today's popular search engines. As a shopping tool, the Browse3D Browser lets users compare multiple items from different Web sites in one view, or save and track multiple auction items as they progress through the sale process.

 The Browse3D Browser is currently available for $29.95 at www.browse3d.com. A free trial version is also available at the site.

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GRAPHICALLY SPEAKING

Kelseus Launches Cloth Engine for 3D Developers

The UK-based software house Kelseus is offering its CLOTH animation technology to developers of 3D modeling, effects and CAD visualization applications.  Following the successful introduction of the CLOTH plug-in for 3ds max last year, Kelseus is launching its CLOTH Engine licensing program featuring SDK support and full consultancy services.

CLOTH applications reportedly let users create realistic animation of clothes and fabric.  The key bottleneck of cloth simulation is the time taken to compute high-quality, realistic interaction of the fabric layer with a character or object.  Kelseus says it has addressed this problem by designing a high-speed solver and a unique collision detection and rectification system that takes into account vertices, faces and edges.  The result is said to eliminate "show-thru."

http://www.kelseus.com

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Ulead Develops New MPEG Codec

Ulead Systems, a developer of video editing, image editing and Web graphics software, last week introduced a new encoding-decoding engine (codec) called Ulead MPEG.Now. The company says its new codec offers efficient rendering performance with excellent output video quality and will be incorporated into all future versions of Ulead's video editing and DVD authoring programs.

With the new MPEG.Now codec, Ulead gains independence from third-party developers of codec technology and provides a single point of contact for original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) seeking video editing and DVD authoring solutions to include with their products. Technology independence will also allow Ulead to gain tighter control of future feature sets in video editing and DVD authoring products.

The software codec provides MPEG-1 and MPEG-2 transcoding as well as real-time encoding. It reportedly provides real-time features such as direct MPEG capture from 1394 (FireWire) interfaces. MPEG.Now offers encoding flexibility and allows for high-end video features such as variable bit-rate (VBR) and field- and frame-based compression. It is also said to be optimized for reliable, long-play, real-time MPEG encoding from analog video sources.

http://www.ulead.com

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NewTek Ships Video Toaster [2]

NewTek's new Video Toaster [2] is a live video production environment for Windows 2000-based computer systems. The $2,995 product includes a real-time nonlinear editor, live Web streaming, character generation, 2D painting and compositing, 3D animation and effects, real time keying, video and audio processing, and production tools in an integrated package. An optional switcher expansion module ($1,995) adds component, composite and Y/C live switching, audio mixer and machine control. 

Features include:

http://www.videotoaster.com

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THE DIALS & LEVERS OF POWER

O'Reilly Publishes .NET Book

On the eve of the release of Visual Studio .NET, the full implementation of Microsoft's .NET strategy approaches with the inevitability of tax day. Dave Grundgeiger, author of "Programming Visual Basic .NET" (O'Reilly, US $39.95), claims, "In a year or two, .NET languages will be the only game in town on the Windows platform." Millions of Visual Basic programmers, comfortable until now in their mastery of the world's most popular programming language, anticipate the shift to Visual Basic .NET with mixed feelings. Although coming to grips with a new technology that is dramatically different from the old is not an easy feat, the new Visual Basic .NET promises to be a better language and, more importantly, an equal player in the .NET world.

"Visual Basic .NET is critically important," says Grundgeiger, who has used Visual Basic since Version 4. "It really is a beautiful, intuitive, and powerful language. Applications that in the past were difficult and cumbersome to write, such as Web services, are trivially easy using Visual Basic .NET."

At first glance, experienced Visual Basic 6 developers will feel comfortable with the Visual Basic .NET code and will recognize most of its constructs. But Grundgeiger explains that with its release for the .NET platform, the Visual Basic language has undergone significant changes. The language is now fully object-oriented. Applications and components written in Visual Basic .NET have full access to the .NET Framework, and extensive class library that provides system and application services. And finally, all applications developed using Visual Basic .NET run within a managed runtime environment, the .NET Common Language Runtime.

"Programming Visual Basic .NET" is a programmer's guide to the new VB. The book begins with a discussion of the two basic building blocks of any .NET application built with Visual Basic--the Visual Basic .NET programming language itself, and the .NET Framework.

Grundgeiger covers the Visual Basic language elements, its object-oriented features, programming with attributes, the Common Language Runtime, and programmatically reading from and writing to the .NET configuration files.

The remainder of the book focuses on the three major kinds of applications that can be developed with the .NET Framework: Windows forms applications, ASP.NET applications, and Web services. In each case, "Programming Visual Basic .NET" shows how to build an application using Visual Studio .NET as well as using a text editor and the Visual Basic command-line compiler.

Chapter 8, "ADO.NET: Developing Database Applications" is available free online at: http://www.oreilly.com/catalog/progvbdotnet/chapter/ch08.html

For more information about the book, including table of contents, index, author bio, and samples, see http://www.oreilly.com/catalog/progvbdotnet/

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DEALS

Interplay, Bioware Come to Terms

Interplay and BioWare Corp. have reached a settlement ending the dispute between the two companies. Per the agreement, Neverwinter Nights, developed by BioWare, will be published worldwide by Infogrames subject to certain pre-existing Interplay licenses. In addition, other matters have been resolved to both parties' mutual satisfaction.

BioWare Corp. is an electronic entertainment company that develops computer and console games. Published projects include Shattered Steel, the Baldur's Gate RPG series, MDK2 for Dreamcast and PC, and MDK2: Armageddon for Playstation2. BioWare's developers are currently at work on two titles to be released this year: Neverwinter Nights - a Dungeons & Dragons fantasy role playing game for single player and multiplayer (to be published by Infogrames), and Star Wars Knights of the Old Republic (to be published by LucasArts). As well, development is under way on a new, unannounced, third project.

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The Collective to Develop New Indy Title for Lucas

LucasArts Entertainment Company LLC has established a development relationship with The Collective, Inc. to create the next Indiana Jones game. The game, expected to release fall 2002, will be available on a variety of next generation console platforms and PC.

 The upcoming title will feature a new, "historically relevant" story set amidst exotic world locales. The game will utilize The Collective's proprietary engine technology, bringing to the series fighting action and puzzle elements.

Founded in 1997, The Collective, Inc. is a developer of interactive entertainment software and technology for console and computer platforms. In recent years, the Collective has created third-person action-adventure games, including Star Trek: Deep Space Nine - The Fallen, and the upcoming Xbox title Buffy the Vampire Slayer. In the process, the studio has developed content-creation tools and technology. The Collective is based in Newport Beach, California.

www.collectivestudios.com.

www.lucasarts.com

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Interplay, Grin Announce Distribution Agreement

Interplay subsidiary Interplay OEM, Inc. announced last week a worldwide Original Equipment Manufacturer (OEM) and Premium distribution agreement with Sweden based GRIN Inc. The agreement gives Interplay OEM, Inc. worldwide OEM and premium distribution rights on published titles from GRIN. Included is the GeForce3-enhanced racing game, Ballistics.

GRIN Inc, based in Stockholm, Sweden, is a game developer that specializes in pixel- and vertex-shader rendering based on Nvidia technology.

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GAMES PEOPLE PLAY

EA ships Sid Meier's SimGolf

Electronic Arts last week released Sid Meier's SimGolf. From veteran game designer Meier and his team at Firaxis Games, and Maxis, the creators of The Sims and SimCity, SimGolf puts players in charge of their very own golf resorts. As course designer, CEO and resident pro, players are challenged to grow a business from a small, public pitch-and-putt to a global network of five-star resorts.

Create custom golf courses in environments that include sunny desert, lush tropics, scenic woodlands, and historic Scottish links. Players can add rolling fairways, challenging greens, strategically placed water hazards and annoying sand traps.

Everything from ball washers and pro shops to luxury hotels and casinos are available for resort development. Players can choose from over a dozen different landmarks to further personalize the grounds. As the resort facilities are upgraded and enhanced, guests are happier on the course and celebrities are enticed to buy homes at the resort.

Once the course is designed, players can create their own SimGolf pro and play a round. All SimGolfers are fully customizable, with an array of outfits and a variety of personality types to choose from. Players also have the ability to dabble in the personal lives of their members with fully customizable dialogue. Listen to their sagas unfold as they birdie, par and bogey over eighteen holes. The outcome of the guests' individual stories depends greatly on the success of the individual hole and course.

The ability to share courses and stories of great golf moments with other SimGolf players from around the world is available at http://simgolf.ea.com.

http://www.ea.com

http://www.firaxis.com

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LucasArts Releases Star Wars Starfighter For Windows PC

LucasArts Entertainment Company LLC last week released the flight action game Star Wars Starfighter for Windows PC. The title, originally developed for PlayStation 2, engages players in a series of missions to save Naboo from the powerful Trade Federation.

Star Wars Starfighter takes players on a journey that begins on Naboo and continues through the climactic assault on a Droid Control Ship. The single-player game offers the same features and scope as the original PlayStation 2 title. It takes advantage of the graphic capabilities of the PC and features more than 20 rendered 3D starships in 14 environments set in air and space. The game requires a 3D accelerator card.

http://www.lucasarts.com

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Eidos Launches New Japanese Brand

Eidos Interactive's new brand aims to bring Japanese video game titles to the worldwide market. "Fresh Games," as the brand is called, will kick off its lineup with Mister Mosquito, Mad Maestro!, and Legaia 2: Duel Saga, sequel to the 300,000-plus unit selling Legend of Legaia. All three games were developed by SCEI for PlayStation2 and will be available this spring.

Mister Mosquito, originally released as "KA" in Japan, is an action title in which the gamer plays the role of a mosquito, with the objective to continually torment a Japanese family every summer by sucking as much blood as possible in order to survive the cold winter. The gamer faces daily life-and-death battles with the Japanese family that is determined to get rid of the mosquito.

Mad Maestro!, originally released as "Bravo Music" in Japan, is a music/action title in which the gamer takes the role of an orchestra conductor tasked with saving the town's concert hall from being destroyed by showing the city the orchestra's great performances. Players must accurately press buttons as indicated on the game screen in a rhythmical pattern in order to pass each stage.

Legaia 2: Duel Saga is the follow-up to Legend of Legaia, a martial arts-centered, 3D role-playing game featuring an original battle system. Players create attacks by linking together different styles of hits directed at their enemies. When players link together certain combinations of attacks, they form powerful, magic-based attacks.

http://www.eidos.com

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Malice Coming to PS2

Coming this fall from Sierra Entertainment and Argonaut Games PLC (AGT.L) is Malice, a Sierra-branded platform-adventure game featuring an unexpected heroine.

In development by UK-based Argonaut, the title will feature levels and gaming options developed specifically for the PlayStation 2 version. It will also have a unique shadow system and a rendering system that allows for enhanced environments, dynamic audio and character detail.

Players guide the tough, feisty teenage heroine through time in order to undo the terror of a nuclear Dog God gone mad. The game features 22 levels, an original story, and a cast of quirky characters.

http://www.argonaut.com

http://www.sierra.com

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DIGERATI ILLUMINATI

MILIA 2002 Announces Game Developer Village Winners

Reed Midem Organisation, organizer of MILIA, the World's Interactive Content Marketplace for interactive entertainment, broadband Internet, wireless media and interactive television, which will take place in Cannes, France February 4-8, 2002, last week announced the 30 winning projects of The Game Developer Village. Each year unpublished developers are given the opportunity to demonstrate their work and expertise in front of companies and potential commercial partner organizations, looking to discover untapped creative talent.

Now in its third year, The Game Developer Village received 83 project entries from 21 countries--an increase of 26% compared to last year. Entries were received from countries around the globe including Germany, Australia, Austria, Belgium, Canada, Denmark, Spain, Finland, France, India, Italy, the Netherlands, Poland, United Kingdom, Russia, Singapore, Sweden, Switzerland, Turkey and the USA.

A jury of international experts, headed by Mike Gamble from MathEngine, as president, headed to London in January in order to select the 30 winning projects. Gamble said, "Not only was the overall standard of entry higher than in previous years, but it was also nice to see the entrants move away from the over-reliance on existing genres (first-person shooter and real-time strategy games) that we have seen previously. It was also encouraging that a number of the entrants were on new platforms...consoles and online."

The 2002 Game Developer Village winners:

http://www.milia.com

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HAPPENINGS

Shneiderman to Keynote at Web3D Symposium

Below is the abstract of the Ben Shneiderman's keynote speech at the Web3d Symposium 2002 in Tempe, AZ, scheduled for February 27. The conference runs from 24 to 28 February, 2002.

3D or Not 3D: When and Why Does it Work?; Keynote by Ben Shneiderman

Wishful thinking about the widespread adoption of three-dimensional interfaces has not helped spawn winning applications. Success stories with three-dimensional games do not translate into broad acceptance of head-tracking immersive virtual reality. To accelerate adoption of advanced interfaces, designers must understand their appeal and performance benefits as well as honestly identify their deficits. We need to separate out the features that make 3D useful and understand how they help overcome the challenges of disorientation during navigation and distraction from occlusion. Does spatial memory improve with 3D layouts? Is it true that 3D is more natural and easier to learn? Careful empirical studies clarify why modest aspects of 3D, such as shading for buttons and overlapping of windows are helpful, but 3D bar charts and directory structures are not. 3D sometimes pays off for medical imagery, chemical molecules, and architecture, but has yet to prove beneficial for performance measures in shopping or operating systems. This talk offers a taxonomy of 3D features and applications, and advocates systematic empirical studies.

http://www.Web3dsymposium.org

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GDC 2002 Speakers Announced

Some of the 300 speakers at GDC 2002, coming to Santa Clara, Calif. in March, include:

http://www.gdconf.com

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INT Launches .NET Conference

INT Media Group's .NET Developer Conference & Expo will take place March 25-26, 2002 at the DoubleTree Hotel in San Jose, California. The new trade show is aimed at professionals looking to build, develop or maintain dynamic Web sites and Web applications and services on the Microsoft .NET platform.

The event is designed for both the experienced ASP programmer who must stay on top of the newest capabilities of ASP.NET, as well as for newcomers to this architecture who need an introduction to ASP.NET. The conference is a technical information conference and no sales presentations will be allowed. Attendees will learn how to capitalize on the opportunity of providing distributed applications; find out how their organization can cut down on costly development cycles for Web applications; learn the necessary skills to stay ahead of development trends; and network with their peers and find out what is working for them.

http://events.internet.com/netdev/spring02

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F.Y.I.

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 and online development tools and CD-ROMs for review.

Send your interactive multimedia business, product, people, event, or technology news to: duberman@dnai.com. We prefer to receive news by email but if you must, telephone breaking news to 510-549-2894. Send review product and press kits by mail to David Duberman, 2233 Jefferson Ave., Berkeley, CA 94703.

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