Spectrum: Interactive Media & Online Developer News

31 January 2005
Reported, written and edited by David Duberman
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Today's Headlines (details below)

--Avid Updates Alienbrain Studio
--Coming Soon: Sound Forge 8
--Massive Updates Game Advertising Tech

--Access Updates Browser Engine

--Deloitte Identifies Top Tech Trends for 2005

--Multimedia Story "A Space of Time" Goes Online

--2005 GDC Hosts Deal Event

--Second Life Creator Builds 3D World for San Jose Tech Museum
--Activision Acquires Game Developer Vicarious Visions

--GameFly Announces the Top Video Game Rentals of 2004
--Chinese Government Recognizes Online Game Industry

--GDC 2005 to Dedicate Two-Day Summit to Mobile Games Sector
--Microsoft Exec Allard to Keynote 2005 Game Developers Conference

--About Spectrum



Avid Updates Alienbrain Studio

Just out from Avid Technology, Inc. is its Alienbrain Studio 7.1 asset-management software, offering increased support for creative teams developing CG games, 3D simulation programs, and animated film projects. With new and enhanced features, Alienbrain Studio 7.1 is designed to help CG professionals to work more productively by delivering faster previews, expanded help and search capabilities, and improvements for remote collaboration. Alienbrain Studio is part of the Avid Computer Graphics production pipeline, a CG content creation environment including 3D animation, digital asset management, and nonlinear editing tools.

Alienbrain Studio 7.1 software supports the digital content creation process by securely storing, versioning and tracking assets in a central location and offering plug-ins for 3D, 2D and programming pipeline tools. The new version speeds up the display, local caching, and server-side pre-generation of thumbnails and previews. Change set workflows have also been optimized and extended with support for changes as entire logical entities, so results of a complex merge operation can now be redirected to a change set for further pre-submit inspections. Alienbrain Studio 7.1 offers the option for content creators - working either remotely or locally - to access files simultaneously, checking out and merging assets based on previous versions in the history. Searching capabilities have also been refined to include a search across asset and change-set histories, as well as across local assets. The software also incorporates context-sensitive help options, making it easy for users to reference the subject matter that is of most interest to them.

Also new are Alienbrain plug-ins for Cinema 4D and 3ds max 7.



Coming Soon: Sound Forge 8

Sony Media Software plans to release Sound Forge 8 Professional Audio Editing Software, the latest version of its $400 digital audio editing product, at the end of February. New features include the addition of CD Architect 5.2 software for CD mastering, with direct track export functionality from Sound Forge software for Red Book audio CD creation. The new upgrade also provides application scripting functionality and batch processing, which allows users to automate processes for multiple file encodes; customizable keyboard commands for streamlining workflow; the addition of low-latency ASIO driver support; and VST plug-in support which expands the number of effect options users can now apply to their audio.

Sound Forge software is used for audio editing and production in recording studios, post production facilities, broadcast and media complexes, home studios, radio stations and training facilities. The application includes customizable processes, studio effects, and tools for manipulating audio, creating streaming media, and offers support for a wide range of file import and export options for most standard formats.

New features and enhancements include:



Massive Updates Game Advertising Tech

Massive Incorporated, the creator of the world's first video game advertising network, today announced the availability of version 2.0 of its AdClient SDK to enable developers and publishers to integrate their games into Massive's advertising network. Titles in the Massive Network can contribute $1.00 to $2.00 in incremental profit per unit sold. Titles in the network enjoy the benefit of cross-promotional marketing support from some of the largest advertisers, as well as play data that gives developers insight into gamer experience with their game, in real time.

Massive's network delivers advertiser messages seamlessly into premiere video games, played primarily by an 18-34 male audience. They appear in the game on billboards, posters, and other advertising elements that naturally fit the game environment. To date, 40 titles from eight publishers are committed to the Massive Network through 2005. Publishers and developers alike can enjoy revenues from 'lost sales', including piracy, pass along, pre-owned sales market, rentals, (assuming the "pirate" is online -ed.) as well as combat lower retail price pressures. Aside from the revenue potential, the company claims that in-game advertising enhances the realism of a game. Further, Massive says that for a developer, integrating the SDK can improve the chances of publisher interest, if they can now factor in-game advertising into their business model. By the end of 2005 the network will reportedly deliver an advertising reach of four million, as large as any TV affiliate reach numbers today.

The Massive AdClient SDK integrates into video game engines at the development stage and handles all connections and communications with Massive's AdServer, allowing the game to dynamically download advertising into the game. The technology works across all platforms. Using texture replacement, the game engine blends the advertising into 2D or 3D game environments as part of the normal rendering and display process. With minimal memory impact, Massive's AdClient software library keeps track of ad views and reports aggregate view data back to the server. The technology provides accurate reporting to advertisers, while at the same time preserving the privacy and security of the players. All data is reported in an aggregated format-no individual information is gathered and Massive does not store cookies or other persistent information on individuals' computers

Massive allows developers to work with their native media formats. The Massive AdServer will recognize each ad request by game title and deliver the format appropriate to that title. For the developer who wants to retain complete control over the execution environment, the Massive AdClient uses the game engine's own system resource routines including memory management and timing, and uploads and downloads can be completely scheduled by the game engine or left to the discretion of the library.

The AdClient, written in C/C++, reportedly integrates into any 2D or 3D game engine, up through a Beta release. The entire process takes several days, followed by QA testing for each and every level of the game. Massive provides development teams with an engineer who can integrate on their behalf, or assist them in any manner.

Massive works with the pre-existing game design, working with the development team to place ad units in the game, to ensure that there is a complete fit with the environment and their creative vision.

Massive claims the security of its advertising network and the privacy of all gamers are priorities. Authenticity of the server is verified through public-private key pairs and all messages are coded with secure session IDs. Massive's ad servers are housed in a secured datacenter with firewall and access controls.




Access Updates Browser Engine

Tokyo-based Access, a provider of mobile content delivery and Internet access technologies, recently released NetFront v3.3 browser engine, a new version of its browser for the beyond-PC market which includes mobile phones, PDAs, set-top boxes, digital television, automobile telematics, and other Internet devices.

New features include enhanced support for Dynamic HTML, intelligent frame handling, pop-up blocking and support for Really Simple Syndication (RSS). Additional key features include Atom Feed, a file format for content distribution via XML used to access popular Weblogs, support for international domains, encryption and saving of Web data with a specified URL, and management of Web data and passwords.

Existing features include support for WAP 2.0, WML, HTML 4.01, and cHTML as well as technologies like Rapid-Render, an incremental rendering technology said to accelerate the presentation of Web pages, and Smart-Fit Rendering, which renders Web pages to fit the screen width of mobile devices, eliminating the need for horizontal scrolling. NetFront also provides integrated support for Adobe Reader and Adobe's portable document format (PDF).

NetFront browser most recently surpassed over 150 million deployments globally that include 342 unique devices ranging from mobile phones and PDAs to digital televisions, gaming consoles, and automobile telematics systems from 90 major Internet device manufacturers. NetFront supports a range of operating systems including solutions for Palm OS, Symbian OS, Linux OS, Windows Mobile/PocketPC and mobile handset environments like BREW.




Deloitte Identifies Top Tech Trends for 2005

Deloitte's Technology, Media and Telecommunications (TMT) industry group recently announced its predictions for the global technology industry in 2005, forecasting a number of advances in technology, along with some serious challenges.

Eric Openshaw, a Principal with Deloitte Consulting LLP and Americas Group Leader, TMT industry group, commented, "In 2005 Internet use will continue to proliferate, with the Web browser playing an increasingly important part in our lives. Nanotechnology will become increasingly mainstream, enabling a wide range of new and improved products. And ethanol-based fuel cells will hit the market, providing portable power that lasts for days, weeks or even months.

"Robots will move into our homes to help us with household chores and other mundane tasks. Space exploration will shift toward the private sector. Wireless 'mesh' networks will appear, helping authorities in major cities track the status of equipment and assets over a wide area. And quantum computers, which will be exponentially faster than today's fastest supercomputers, will take a few important steps closer to reality.

"Yet there will also be significant challenges. Electronic forms of personal identification will proliferate as a way to improve security, yet identify theft and other digital crimes will continue to run rampant. Meanwhile, viruses, worms and other malware will multiply and spread to connected mobile devices, frustrating the public and costing companies billions in lost data and downtime."

Three key trends identified in the report are:

1. Nanotechnology becomes mainstream: Nanotechnology -- one of the most talked about, yet least-understood technologies of the 21st century -- will become increasingly mainstream in 2005. Nanotechnology is already quietly revolutionizing a wide range of products -- from computer hard drives and sunblock cream to car tires -- and will soon become a cornerstone of every manufacturing industry. Advances will increasingly be driven by the world's largest companies and nanotech companies will generate substantial revenue for the very first time. Potential uses will include using nano-spheres to deliver a drug directly to its intended target; employing nano-scale manufacturing processes to make smaller and faster processors and storage devices; and using nano-scale properties to make stain resistant, crease-free fabrics, and garments that resist bacteria.

2. Electronic viruses run rampant: Massive growth in connected technologies -- from PCs and mobile phones to PDAs and gaming consoles -- will cause a corresponding leap in electronic viruses and other malicious attacks. Nuisances such as unsolicited e-mail (SPAM) and unsolicited instant messages (SPIM) will continue to proliferate. More harmful intrusions, such as viruses, worms and malware (malicious software), blue-jacking (attacks on Bluetooth-enabled devices) and VoIP SPAM will become common, and increased use of mobile phones, remote working and WiFi will give hackers more access to private, corporate and government networks. The trend will cost businesses worldwide billions of dollars in lost data and downtime; at the same time, it will reveal vast opportunities for companies that sell IT security, and new lines of business will spring up from mobile operators, handset makers, service providers, and systems integrators.

3. Electronic identification vs. Digital crime: Governments around the world will move to replace paper-based IDs with digital products. These new forms of electronic identification will be used in passports, ID cards, bank cards and credit cards, and will include information such as the individual's name, address, nationality, digital photo and even biometric data. Electronic identification will be principally designed to curb fraud and identity theft, but will also speed up the process of identification and authentication. In spite of these measures, identity theft will continue to rise dramatically -- particularly for people and organizations that do business online. It will be imperative for all companies doing business online to spend the money to create more secure methodologies to protect themselves and their customers.




Multimedia Story "A Space of Time" Goes Online

A multimedia story initially conceived for CD-ROM has migrated to the Web, thanks to the adoption of broadband. The virtual tour, video streams, audio streams and Flash animations can be fully experienced in the online "Limbo" version of "A Space of Time" (http://www.aspaceoftime.net/).

"It is exciting to see how the adoption of high-speed access has allowed us to find new audiences. Even though the Stream of Consciousness version of the experience is still too demanding for network delivery, the Limbo version seems ideal for current broadband speed," said Diego Bonilla (http://www.hypergraphia.com/), the story's creator.

The "Limbo" version entails the exploration of a photographic-quality virtual environment that unveils the story as the user moves inside a century-old structure. Originally, the video streams were planned to average about 60 to 80 KB per second, keeping in mind that about two hours of video were to be fit in a 700 MB CD-ROM. Now, a regular broadband connection can host video streams of that size, enabling the entire hypermedia story to find a fitting place online.

"The story sequence is determined by how you move inside the building. Definitely it's not a passive experience; the more you see, the more you're able to discover the intricate interweaving of the plots. I see the story by itself as a big accomplishment, but most often the technological side gets the attention," said Bonilla.

The CD-ROM version of "A Space of Time" earned first prize in the new Multimedia Category of the XXVI Moscow International Film Festival in 2004. The Russian event is among the 11 festivals accredited by the International Federation of Film Producers Associations (the same accreditation as the Cannes Film Festival). "A Space of Time" also received the Best Art Direction Award in the 2004 Philadelphia Documentary and Fiction Festival and has been included in festivals in Europe and other parts of the world. It is Bonilla's first production of its kind: "From all my previous work, this is the closest I've done to film and I think I've found a comfort zone and a challenge in non-linear multimedia storytelling." Bonilla, a Ph.D. in Mass Communication, currently teaches digital media production courses at California State University, Sacramento.

The story of "A Space of Time" concerns David, the main narrator, who is a homeless person who has found shelter in a century-old abandoned building. Once settled, he starts suffering temporal lobe epileptic attacks and having visual and auditory hallucinations. Through a series of interviews, David cleverly intertwines his life and the stories he believes are held inside "the container." Foremost among these stories is the life of a young woman named Pandora who has a serious grudge against the advertising industry.



2005 GDC Hosts Deal Event

The Game Developers Conference (GDC) and Lyon Game have teamed up to bring publishers and developers together to preview new game concepts at Game Connection, held at the 2005 GDC, Mar. 7-11, in San Francisco.

Inspired by the success of Game Connection at last year's conference, the event is a tool for developers to show off their talents to publishers who are looking to find the right studio to develop games based on intellectual property rights or licenses they own. It also enables publishers to discover innovative original content from development studios they may not even be aware of.

Game Connection provides publishers the opportunity to maximize their time by examining more projects in one location and at one time. Game Connection@GDC meetings are confidential and take place in private rooms. Publishers and developers can efficiently manage their time and investment before the event via an online scheduling system, which allows companies to conveniently arrange up to 36 developer presentations in two days.

During the 2004 Game Connection, held in Lyon, France, 86 independent game developers and 73 publishers met 2,800 meetings in three days.

Created in March 2000, an initiative of the Grand Lyon and the association Lyon Infocite, Lyon Game is a professional club, which federates more than thirty companies in the video game industry from the Rhone-Alps region. The objective of the club is to promote Rhone-Alpine know-how in the field and to support companies in their development and foreign radiations. Within this framework, Lyon Game sets up mutual services and tools for promotion, including the organization business convention between the professionals of the sector, Game Connection and training and recruitment. Lyon Game is working on the project for the creation of a European university of video games. The Web site lyongame.com is also a gate dedicated to employment in the sector.




Second Life Creator Builds 3D World for San Jose Tech Museum

Linden Lab, creator of the 3D digital world Second Life, recently opened a digital world designed for NetPl@net, a new permanent gallery at The Tech Museum of Innovation in San Jose. Through a variety of different hands-on exhibits, NetPl@net's goal is to encourage young visitors to use the Internet in unique new ways, and reflect on how it is changing their lives by connecting them with people and technology from all over the world.

Linden Lab's contribution to the exhibit is a unique scaled-down version of Second Life designed for kids. They access a 32-acre virtual island from eight different computer stations in the Museum. Once on the island, kids can create and customize their avatar, explore the world, chat and hang out with other exhibit users, construct 3D buildings and objects in a giant "sandbox" area, jetski, get thrown from a giant catapult and create special visual effects with the "Mesmerizer."

"Second Life was my boyhood dream. I wanted to create a world that would constantly evolve and that I could change," says Philip Rosedale, CEO and Founder of Linden Lab. "When you're a child, you can take a blanket draped over a chair and pretend it's a fort. In Second Life, you can build the fort, add turrets and cannons and even run around inside. I think the popularity of the exhibit shows the enormous appeal that imaginative creativity has for children."

"Our primary focus with NetPl@net is for visitors to engage with the Internet in exciting new ways and dream up future possibilities or applications," says Michelle Woods, Senior Exhibit Developer at the Tech Museum. "In the gallery, you can customize you own Webpage, see global Webcams, or virtually arm wrestle someone miles away. The 3D world Linden Lab created for NetPl@net is such a great fit because it demonstrates how the internet can be entertaining, and at the same time, a great educational tool."

Linden Lab was founded in 1999 by Philip Rosedale to create a new form of shared 3D experience. The former CTO of RealNetworks, Rosedale pioneered the development of many of today's streaming media technologies, including RealVideo. In April 2003, noted software pioneer Mitch Kapor, founder of Lotus Development Corporation, was named chairman.



Activision Acquires Game Developer Vicarious Vision


Activision, Inc. recently acquired game developer Vicarious Visions, the studio behind the #1 best-selling third-party Nintendo DS title, Spider-Man 2. Vicarious Visions' proprietary Alchemy middleware technology and tools will be combined with Activision's tools and libraries to further enhance the company's overall development efforts.

The acquisition underscores Activision's strategy to continue building its technical infrastructure in order to take full advantage of the high-growth potential of the next-generation hardware platforms by acquiring technical and design talent with a history of product creation, while over time enhancing the company's financial operating model.

Vicarious Visions has developed five games that have sold more than one million units each and is currently co-developing Doom 3 for the Xbox with id Software, as well as Spider-Man 2, which will be a launch title for the upcoming PSP platform. In addition, it developed Game Boy Advance titles such as Shrek 2, Shrek 2: Beg for Mercy, DreamWorks' Shark Tale and Tony Hawk's Underground 2 and Spider-Man 2: Enter Electro for PlayStation.

Under the terms of the agreement, Vicarious Visions' 100-person studio, headquartered in Troy, NY, with offices in Mountain View, CA, has become a wholly owned subsidiary of Activision. As part of the transaction, Vicarious Visions' management team and key employees have signed long-term employment contracts with Activision.




GameFly Announces the Top Video Game Rentals of 2004

GameFly recently announced the top video game rentals of 2004, based on the rental choices of the company's subscriber base. The complete GameFly Top 10 for 2004 is:
Rank Title Platform Publisher
1 Ninja Gaiden Xbox Tecmo
2 Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas PlayStation 2 Take Two
3 Fable Xbox Microsoft
4 Halo 2 Xbox Microsoft
5 Tom Clancy's Splinter Cell: Xbox Ubisoft Pandora Tomorrow
6 The Chronicles of Riddick: Xbox Vivendi Escape from Butcher Bay Universal
7 Spider-man 2 Xbox Activision
8 Star Wars Battlefront Xbox LucasArts
9 X-Men Legends Xbox Activision
10 Burnout 3: Takedown Xbox Electronic Arts



Chinese Government Recognizes Online Game Industry

Shanda Interactive Entertainment Limited, reportedly the largest operator of online games in China, says that its online games, The Legend of Mir II and World of Legend, were recognized as the most popular online game and the best domestic game in China, respectively, in the 2004 Chinese Game Annual Forums, sponsored by China Press and Publication Administration (or CPPA).

Meanwhile, Shanda's position in online game industry has also been further recognized by Chinese government -- the Ministry of Information Industry (or MII) and the CPPA with support for game development.

The MII sets aside a total of RMB500 million (approximately US $60 million) each year to support the development of the country's IT industries. Recently the MII announced the list of enterprises that won government funding this year and Shanda became the key enterprise to be given special support for online game software development.

The CPPA also launched the National Online Game Publication Project to boost development of domestic online games in 2004. Recently the CPPA announced that three internally developed online games of Shanda, including The Age and two other new titles, Three Kingdom and Magical Land, along with 18 other domestic titles, have been selected for the project.

Shanda offers a portfolio of massively multi-player and casual online games that users play over the Internet, including several of the most popular online games in China.




GDC 2005 to Dedicate Two-Day Summit to Mobile Games Sector

To address the growth of the mobile market, the 19th annual Game Developers Conference (GDC) will focus two days of lectures and panels at the 2005 conference, March 7 - 11, San Francisco, on the mobile gaming industry.

GDC Mobile 2005 will bring together more than 500 members of the game development community with representatives from mobile game developers, publishers, traditional platform game developers, handset manufacturers, aggregators and operators to discuss opportunities, challenges and viability in the space.

Planned sessions for the 2005 GDC Mobile include:



Microsoft Exec Allard to Keynote 2005 Game Developers Conference

J Allard, a Microsoft corporate vice president, will deliver a keynote address at the 19th annual Game Developers Conference (GDC), which will take place Monday through Friday, March 7-11 in San Francisco.

In the Microsoft keynote, entitled "The Future of Games: Unlocking the Opportunity," Allard will discuss the importance of pushing the industry forward; taking advantage of new technology to not only revolutionize the game experience, but also the development of the games themselves. Allard will set the stage for how consumer and technology trends will converge to create an unprecedented growth opportunity for the industry.

In 2003, Allard was recognized by The Hollywood Reporter as being one of the most promising executives to lead the entertainment industry. He currently drives games platform initiatives for Microsoft, overseeing hardware, software and online services strategies specifically aimed at unleashing game creativity.

The Future of Games: Unlocking the Opportunity keynote is scheduled for Wednesday, March 9 from 10:30 to 11:30 a.m. in the Grand Ballroom of Moscone West. The keynote will anchor GDC's new Vision Track, which is designed to empower developers to anticipate the future of interactive entertainment.

The GDC will feature more than 300 lectures, panels, tutorials, and roundtable discussions across seven content tracks. For a complete list of GDC 2005 event information visit www.gdconf.com .



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