Spectrum: Interactive Media & Online Developer News 14 July 1997

Reported, written and edited by David Duberman for editorial/ subscription inquiries, send mailto:duberman@dnai.com


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Editor's note: Welcome to the first weekly edition of Spectrum, formerly Daily Spectrum. As we've been off for the past two weeks and have a bit of catching up to do, today's edition contains more stories than usual, at shorter-than-usual lengths.


Publisher's note: We are now accepting limited advertising. If you'd like to offer your company's products or services to Spectrum's elite audience of Internet and multimedia professionals, send an email query to mailto:duberman@dnai.com, or telephone 510-549-2894 during West Coast business hours.

- David Duberman



Today's Headlines (details below)

--Reader Feedback

--Symantec Offers Visual Page Web Authoring Tool

--mBED Software Ships Interactor 1.0 for Macintosh

--Harlequin Updates Frame-to-HTML Converter

--YAV Upgrades QT Tool

--Miramar Announces MACLAN for Windows NT

--DXStorm Offers Small-Business E-Commerce Solution

--Desktop News Launches Customized News Webcast to Desktops

--New Java Books Cover Beans, Database Programming

--Game of the Week: Bullfrog's Dungeon Keeper

--Interplay Releases Dragon Dice

--SegaSoft Space Bar Open for Business

--Psygnosis Ships Ecstatica II

--Sierra Offers Betrayal in Antara

--VRML Consortium Elects 3Dlabs' Trevett President

--IICS Digital Tech SIG Meeting to Analyze Games

--O'Reilly to Hold WebSite Conference

--Multi-Player Online Gaming Conference Set for SF

--About Spectrum


Daily Spectrum,

I'd like to respond to your coverage of "Luckman's Anonymous Cookie" in the June 27 edition of DS.

More than any other topic in recent memory, I have been distressed by reporting on cookies, cookie related products, dangers, and legislation.

There seems to be a widespread acceptance of the fallacy that cookies allow Web sites to access personal information about Web surfers. This kind of mythology is typical and to be expected from consumers, and even from the mainstream non-industry press, but it amazes me that the new media press, which has an obligation to be informed and informative on such topics, continues to perpetuate this misinformation.

A cursory examination of the technology reveals the fact that cookies can neither access nor disclose any personal information unless it was originally and intentionally provided by the Web user himself.

Furthermore, Web sites can access only information provided specifically to their cookie; they can not retrieve information saved by cookies of other Web sites.

I, as a Web developer, do not use cookies. That is largely due to the fact that many of my users feel threatened by them. I do hope, though, that one day the cloud of misinformation concerning this useful technology will clear and my users will benefit accordingly.

Rick Freeman

Editor, MarinWeb






Symantec Offers Visual Page Web Authoring Tool

Symantec Corporation announces the release of Visual Page for Windows, a new Web authoring program. Features include a library of professionally designed templates; drag-and-drop controls for creation and re-sizing of tables, frames and images; generation of clean, well-organized HTML code; a source code editor; a WYSIWYG environment; and the ability to run Java applets inside the HTML editor.

A free beta of Visual Page for Windows 95 and Windows NT 4.0 is available on Symantec Internet Tools Web site http://cafe.symantec.com . The shipping product will be available in August from most retail channels, by calling (800) 441-7234 or visiting the above site.



mBED Software Ships Interactor 1.0 for Macintosh

San Francisco-based mBED Software announces the immediate availability of mBED Interactor 1.0 for Macintosh, a new multimedia design tool for Web site developers and designers. The product, also available for Windows, offers drag-and-drop multimedia building blocks, called mBED Players, that allow developers to author mbedlets (mBED multimedia applets) with interactive buttons, slider controls, styled text, animation effects and RealAudio. mBED also provides client-server features, including server posting, JavaScript support, VBScript support and server-based dynamic authoring of mbedlets. A small playback engine and built-in streaming bring Web sites to life.

Supported graphics and audio formats include GIF, GIF89A, JPEG, WAV, AU, RA and TXT. Designers and developers can employ bezier curve animation paths, alpha-channel masks and anti-aliasing to produce effects such as scaling, blending, dissolves and wipes.

Designers can choose from among 12 mBED Players when creating mbedlets: Picture, Button, Sound, Control, Box, Audiostream, Path, Score, Sprite, Score, Effect and Sublet.

For example, the mBED Players allow users to create buttons with mouse actions that start an animation, play a RealAudio stream or go to another Web site, without learning a complex programming language such as Lingo or JavaScript.

RealAudio streams can include specific mBED commands that control timed mBED elements, such as synchronized character animation.

The mBED Language and mBED file format enable developers to author mbedlets directly with other applications such as databases, Common Gateway Interfaces (CGI), or any text editor.

mBED Interactor 1.0 for Macintosh is available electronically at the introductory price of $99 from several online retailers, including BUYDIRECT ( http://www.buydirect.com ); Software.Net (http://www.software.net); and America Online (Keyword: AtOnce). A 30-day trial version of mBED Interactor 1.0 for Macintosh is also available from http://www.mbed.com




Harlequin Updates Frame-to-HTML Converter

Software developer Harlequin has made available WebMaker 3.0, the latest version of its $99 FrameMaker-to-HTML conversion tool. WebMaker automatically converts FrameMaker documents into HTML, allowing authors to simultaneously publish both printed versions and online versions of their FrameMaker documents.

The new Cascading Style Sheet (CSS) capability, recommended as a standard by the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C), lets authors customize the fonts, colors, margins, and other layout aspects of their HTML documents. WebMaker 3.0 automatically generates CSS style sheets from FrameMaker formats.

In addition to a redesigned user interface and CSS capability, WebMaker 3.0 also includes:

· HTML 3.2 support

· Improved table conversion

· Conversion of FrameMaker hypertext markers

· Conversion of character format overrides

· Enhanced batch mode

WebMaker can downloaded and purchased from the Harlequin Web site at http://www.harlequin.com/




YAV Upgrades QT Tool

The Netherlands-based YAV Interactive Media ( http://www.yav.com ) has just released version 1.2.5 of Spike, its first batch-processing data-spike detection and analysis tool for QuickTime movies. Spike reportedly solves the stutter and glitch playback problems of CD-ROM and Web-based QuickTime files. Given a batch of QuickTime movies, Spike is designed to determine which among them will provide optimal playability from a range of deployment platforms and media. Spike is compatible with QuickTime 2.5 and beyond.

YAV says that nearly every aspect of the program has been upgraded, enhanced, or accelerated, starting with the fact that Spike can now handle any movie a user might want to apply it to: flattened, cross-platformed, data-fork-only, movies with strange resource ids, movies created by much earlier versions of QuickTime (back to QuickTime 1.0), and any combination thereof.

An evaluation version is available at http://www.yav.com/docs/SpikeDL.html




Miramar Announces MACLAN for Windows NT

The demand for corporations to manage mixed platform networks has contributed to the growth of Microsoft's Windows NT. While Windows NT Server provides unidirectional connectivity between Windows NT and Mac OS, NT Workstation users are demanding a cross-platform solution as well.

Miramar Systems will offer a file and print client with its upcoming PC MACLAN for Windows NT.

PC MACLAN for Windows NT installs on a Windows NT Workstation 4.0 or NT Server, integrating an AppleShare client/server interface into the Windows NT network environment.

Slated for an October release, PC MACLAN for Windows NT supports most existing LAN software, most cross-platform email packages and many database, fax, tape back-up and Groupware applications.

For more information, phone (800) 862-2526 or (805) 966-2432; send mailto:sales@miramarsys.com ; or visit http://www.miramarsys.com




DXStorm Offers Small-Business E-Commerce Solution

DXStorm Inc. recently launched DXShop, an online retail solution aimed at small business. The system lets merchants build and maintain commerce Web sites that include a dynamic product database and presentation system, optional product search facility, integrated shopping cart, shipping calculator and a variety of secure order processing systems including real-time processing provided by InternetSecure Inc.

The Shops are hosted by selected resellers who accommodate the Web space needs as part of the system. All database management, site design, content manipulation, image uploads and administration functions are facilitated by an online administration system accessed with a standard Netscape Web browser. The suggested monthly rate is $180-$220 (USD), and there is no minimum duration.

Visit http://www.dxstorm.com/files/dxshop/demo.mhtml for an online demonstration of the DXShop system or send mailto:info@dxstorm.com



Desktop News Launches Customized News Webcast to Desktops

Desktop News Corporation, a company spun off from system integrator REALTECH Systems Corporation, has launched Desktop News 1.0, an ad-driven, push-technology news application. Desktop News broadcasts to a low memory, low bandwidth desktop accessory that occupies minimal screen real estate.

It intersperses ad banners (with animation and sound if desired) between scrolling news headlines in its toolbar ticker. Among the national marketers who have sponsorship agreements with Desktop News are InfoSpace, Forbes, NECX, Cybermax, Salon, Digital Equipment Corp., Yahoo! Internet Life, and PC Importers.

Buttons in the Desktop News toolbar hot-link users to:

· Branded Resources: Toolbar icons linked to branded Web resources.

· Resource Indexes: Dictionaries, encyclopedias, phone books, maps, etc.

· Personal Bookmarks: Imports Netscape and Microsoft bookmarks on the fly.

· Search Engines: Enables a specific search engine.

Desktop News' client software and publishing tools are distributed free from the Desktop News World Wide Web site and from partner companies. As an alternative to using the Desktop News publishing specification, Web content publishers can also use Microsoft's Channel Definition Format (CDF) or Netscape's Netcaster specification to identify Web content for broadcast to Desktop News. Desktop News runs on versions of the Windows operating system. It interacts with Netscape Navigator 3.0, Microsoft Explorer 3.0 or any compatible Internet browser, and requires less than 4 megabytes of storage space for the client software plus content updates. Its open architecture accommodates Java, C++ and ActiveX.

Find more info at http://www.desktopnews.com





New Java Books Cover Beans, Database Programming

Developing Java Beans and Database Programming with JDBC and Java are the newest titles in O'Reilly & Associates' Java series.

A "component architecture" for Java, Beans can be used in graphical programming environments like Borland's JBuilder, or IBM's VisualAge for Java. Using such a graphical took, developers can connect several beans together and make an application, without actually writing any Java code--in fact, without doing any programming at all.

Developing Java Beans (316 pages, ISBN: 1-56592-289-1, $29.95) by Robert Englander explains how to write classes that are serializable, use events for communication between classes, know when and how to provide BeanInfo classes that give graphical environments more information about components, and provide property editors and customizers that let graphical tools work with more complex Beans. In short,

Java and databases make a powerful combination. Getting the two sides to work together, however, takes some effort-largely because Java deals in objects while most databases do not. Database Programming with JDBC and Java (240 pages, ISBN: 1-56592-270-0, $29.95) by George Reese describes the standard Java interfaces that make portable, object-oriented access to relational databases possible, and offers a model for writing applications that are easy to maintain. The book includes reference listings for JDBC and the most important RMI classes, contains many working examples, and covers Java 1.1.

The book's key contribution is a set of patterns that separate the various functions of the Java application and facilitate the growth and maintenance of an application. Patterns let a developer isolate critical tasks like object creation, information storage and retrieval, and the committing or aborting of transactions.




Game of the Week: Bullfrog's Dungeon Keeper

Are you sick and tired of being the good guy? Does the thought of invading one more demon-laden dungeon make you want to hang up your +20 helm and just sit in front of a nice warm fire with a goblet of grog? If so, Electronic Arts has got just the thing to renew your enthusiasm for gaming.

In a unique twist on the traditional role-playing genre, esteemed EA-owned Brit game developer Bullfrog has just released, after many delays, its DOS/Win95 title Dungeon Keeper. It's actually more of a God game, the genre invented by Bullfrog a decade ago with its landmark title Populous. If you're not familiar with the latter title, of which version 3 has just been announced, think Sim City in Hell, but with characters you can see and manipulate instead of just invisible stats-cum-citizens.

As the big cheese demon, you progress through a nauseatingly goody-goody land of happy, contented innocents, laying waste to town after peaceful town by building single-level dungeons and slaughtering not only the heroes who come to vanquish your minions, but rival dungeon keepers. You begin each level with a sort of dungeon starter kit, which consists of a power center called the Dungeon Heart, plus a few imps. The latter, at your direction, dig through rock to create passageways, establish areas and rooms, and mine gold and gems to finance your dungeon development. When not doing your bidding, the imps autonomously perform such useful tasks as reinforcing the dungeon walls against the incursions of your enemies, who are ultimately out to destroy your Dungeon Heart.

The first room you'll usually build is for treasure storage, where the imps bring gold and gems they've mined or found. Next, you need other creatures to populate your dungeon, so you must open a pathway to a nearby Portal.

When that's done, you'll automatically start recruiting minions that range from the lowly beetle to the exalted dragon, plus orcs, skeletons, demon spawn, hellhounds and trolls. You must develop lairs where your creatures can rest, but take care to keep the spiders separate, lest they eat your flies.

Among the 12 other types of room you can build are the library, where your warlocks can research new spells; training rooms, where the troops advance their battle skills; and workshops, where trolls build traps and doors. And what would a good dungeon be without a torture chamber or prison? Actually, the torture chamber is useful not only for taming recalcitrant creatures, but also for keeping the kinky Dark Mistresses happy.

Among the 16 potentially available spells are Heal, Lightning Strike so you can directly attack enemies (fighting is usually done by your minions), and Protect Creature to add defensive capabilities. A couple you may remember from Populous are the useful Call to Arms, which summons nearby creatures to a specific location, and the make-or-break Armageddon, which invokes the ultimate battle among all creatures on the level. Perhaps the most interesting spell is Possess Creature, which brings you down into the dungeon from your default overhead view, and lets you move through the 3D rooms and hallways using a DOOM-style first-person perspective. It's a very nice touch, although not particularly useful, since you can accomplish much more in your role as a big-picture demon.

A tremendous amount of thought seems to have gone into the ingenious user interface; I'd guess that its development was one of the major causes of the delayed release. It was well worth the wait. For example, you can "pick up" a creature from the table that shows you how many of each type you have, without having to physically locate the critter, and you can jump to a specific room type from the Rooms panel. Also, the sound effects and animations are wonderful, particularly those that play when you pick up one of your creatures to move it elsewhere, whereupon it mewls and dangles like a puppy or kitten. You can also slap a creature to get it to work faster, or simply to satisfy a sadistic impulse. Multiplayer gamers can compete against up to three other Keepers over an IPX LAN, or against a single competitor via serial or modem connection.

The game reeks of atmosphere, from its gloomily attractive visuals to the impressive, dynamic soundtrack. After a few rounds of Dungeon Keeper, you'll undoubtedly agree with the game's subtitle: "Evil is Good." It's the most playable God game yet, and a helluva lot of fun to boot. Memo to Bullfrog: Kudos for a job well done, and don't let (designer) Peter Molyneux go if you can possibly avoid it; buy him all the booze he wants.

Find more at http://www.bullfrog.ea.com



Interplay Releases Dragon Dice

Interplay Productions announces the release of its computer game based on the Dragon Dice strategy game. This Windows 95 native title with multiplayer capabilities, developed jointly by Indigo Moon and Interplay, features animated dice, characters and detailed environments that were inspired by the table-top game developed by TSR Inc. As an added bonus, each Dragon Dice package contains one of five collectable Dragon Master Dice produced for Interplay.

The game allows the player to participate in an epic struggle between Nature and Death. Created by Nature, the Selumari and the Vagha worked together to nurture their infant world into something glorious and beautiful. Death, Nature's dark nemesis, was enraged by these benevolent races and out of envy and hate created the evil Morehl and Trogs. The players choose from these four races, assemble powerful dice armies into mighty Battle Legions and then use their Battle Legions to outmaneuver and destroy their foes as they capture uniquely powerful fantasy lands.

This computerized version of the Dragon Dice game gives players free rein to create their own armies and types of games. When the player chooses to engage in strategic battle, one of four unique animated characters from Dragon Dice will fight onscreen battles.

Players choose from four campaign storylines in standard or special tournament mode games. Up to four players can compete on one to four machines via modem, null modem, LAN or even the Internet. Beautiful artwork, including special dice-to-character morph animations and 3D rolling dice, brings the popular dice game to life.

More information is available at http://www.interplay.com




SegaSoft Space Bar Open for Business

Just out from SegaSoft for Windows '95 and Mac CD-ROM is The Space Bar, a science-fiction murder mystery developed by Rocket Science Games, Boffo Games and entertainment software veteran Steve Meretzky.

As detective Alias Node, players must hunt through the Thirsty Tentacle spaceport bar on the Planet Armpit VI to uncover the identity of a shape-shifting alien killer who has purloined top-secret company technology. Despite the obvious challenges that accompany a stranger traveling throughout a foreign land, gamers must solve this humorous and suspenseful murder mystery by interacting with 40-odd characters. With some tenacity and initial reluctance, Alias will discover even more clues for his case by using special mind meld powers which allow him to flash back into the eccentric lives of eight aliens scattered throughout the bar's many rooms.

The graphic adventure takes place within the context of a first-person perspective. The art direction was led by Ron Cobb, the Hollywood production designer responsible for the fanciful aliens in the famous Star Wars cantina scene.

The Space Bar features 75 in-depth puzzles, smooth-motion, 360-degree panoramic views, and multiple non-linear game paths. For an additional challenge, there is a time limit to the game, which is measured in mouse clicks.

For more information, visit http://www.segasoft.com




Psygnosis Ships Ecstatica II

The sequel to Ecstatica, one of the inappropriately named games in recent memory, is now out from Psygnosis in the form of Ecstatica II for Win95/DOS PCs. In the original, you wandered through a small, deserted medieval town rendered in three dimensions with a third-person ground-level (or slightly above-ground) view, defending yourself from frequent violent attacks by a variety of monsters while attempting to solve a series of puzzles, mostly of the non-verbal sort. The follow-up title offers more of the same in a significantly larger milieu with enhanced graphics. The latter are noteworthy mainly for the use of "ellipsoid" characters, built from elongated egg-shaped primitives which give them a more natural look than conventional "polygon" characters. Also new is a greatly expanded combat system, with the set of available moves changing depending on whether your character is carrying a weapon, has magic available and so on. Also, this time around the monsters are randomly generated, offering greater challenge and variety of gameplay.

Ecstatica II is not for everyone, but if you like to combine real-time hand-to-hand combat with adventuring, or are a fan of the warped mind of designer Andrew Spencer, check this one out. Find Psygnosis online at http://www.psygnosis.com




Sierra Offers Betrayal in Antara

Betrayal at Krondor, a role-playing game co-developed by sci-fi author Raymond Feist, was a big hit for game publisher Sierra in 1993. Newly released by the publisher for Windows 3.1/95 is the long-awaited sequel, Betrayal in Antara. Feist had nothing to do with this one, but it doesn't seem to have suffered from his non-participation.

We'll have a full review in an upcoming edition of Spectrum, but for now we'll tell you about game features as a nicely developed story with an intricate plot and memorable characters. There's also an intuitive and consistent user interface, improved AI in the turn-based 3D combat system, a magic system that lets players learn from spells cast against them, map annotation and conversation flashbacks to simplify record keeping, and attractive high-res graphics.




VRML Consortium Elects 3Dlabs' Trevett President

The VRML Consortium has elected its new president and has begun an aggressive marketing campaign to promote the benefits of VRML as a platform-independent standard for 3D graphics on the Internet. Neil Trevett, vice president of marketing at 3Dlabs, Inc. and a 15-year veteran of the 3D industry, has been elected by the board of directors to lead the VRML Consortium during its first year. Trevett continues in his current position at 3Dlabs and will act as Consortium President on a consultative, volunteer basis.

The VRML Consortium, Inc. is a non-profit corporation with a mandate to establish VRML (the Virtual Reality Modeling Language) as an open, ubiquitous standard for the encapsulation, delivery and playback of interactive 3D graphics on the net. Comprised of over 60 leading companies--including Apple, IBM, Intel, Microsoft, Netscape, Oracle, Silicon Graphics and Sony--the VRML Consortium is the official governing body responsible for the development, evolution and promotion of the VRML standard.

Membership information on joining the VRML Consortium is available at http://www.vrml.org




IICS Digital Tech SIG Meeting to Analyze Games

Learn about the gaming world from the inside out at Anatomy of a Game, this month's meeting of the IICS Digital Technologies SIG. Find out about the process of creating games for CD and online and how to make a living at it from two independent game developers, Rusel DeMaria and Alex Utterman.

The session will include topics such as creating game concepts and strategies, pitching and working as an independent developer with a gaming company, forming a production team, creating a production plan, legal aspects of game development and more.

As a game designer, Rusel DeMaria has been involved with three major projects since 1993: an original game concept and design with Alex Uttermann called Of Light and Darkness (Interplay, October 1997 release), scenario contributions to a NDA'd game for Bullet Proof Software in Japan, and game design work for Meru (Simulations Interactive Media, 1998 release).

Author and game designer Alex Uttermann has also been a professional journalist and writer since 1991 for diverse publications such as the Beirut Times, the Porter Gulch Review, Electronic Entertainment magazine, 3-2-1 Contact and Computer Gaming World.

A long-time commentator on the subject of women in gaming, she's currently keeping an eye on girl game issues, contributing periodically to Computer Gaming World's Web site, Happy Puppy, the Cursor, and other publications.

The meeting takes place at 7 p.m. Monday, July 21, at San Francisco's Cyberworld Cafe (http://www.cyberworldsf.com), 528 Folsom Street (near the corner of 1st Street, it's slightly recessed from the street. Handicap access to lower level only). For more information, call Lynn Macias at (415) 583-4923 evenings or (415) 852-3830.




O'Reilly to Hold WebSite Conference

O'Reilly & Associates' first WebSite Conference, to be held from August 20-21, 1997, is touted as a forum for exploring new Web developments in WebSite server software, electronic commerce, Web cryptography, and other products and topics. The conference will be held at The Fairmont Hotel in San Jose, California, in conjunction with the company's first Perl Conference, which takes place in the same location from August 19-21.

Keynote presentations will be:

* "The Web-Centric Development Model," Dale Dougherty, president & CEO, Songline Studios

* "The Future of Win-CGI," Robert Denny, lead developer, WebSite and WebSite Professional.

Additional speakers include:

* Tim O'Reilly, president, O'Reilly & Associates, speaking with Robert Denny, "Predictions about the Web in '97 and Beyond" * AT&T and Union Pacific representatives, discussing their large-company installations of WebSite Professional; * Mark Bracewell, developer, WebSite Professional; lead developer, PolyForm, a Web authoring tool for forms.

* Kimberly Simoni, WebSite product manager * others to be announced

Information about and online registration for the WebSite conference is available online (https://Website.ora.com/wscon/). Members of the press can register online for both the Perl and WebSite conferences (https://Website.ora.com/wscon/wscon_regpress_frames.html)




Multi-Player Online Gaming Conference Set for SF

TIG2000 is holding its multi-player online gaming conference entitled MPG '97, scheduled for September 15-17 at the Pan Pacific Hotel in San Francisco.

The conference agenda is available at http://www.tig2000.com/0997mpg.htm

According to the promoters, the conference is an opportunity to network with the movers and shakers of the online gaming industry and learn how to: * take advantage of the growth rates and direction of online gaming * create strategic partnerships and alliances by networking with industry leaders

* leverage innovative methods of marketing multi-player gaming * make it easier for your customers to get online and experience your games

There will be presentations from the following industry leaders: * John Taylor, president, Kesmai Corporation * Paul Matteucci, president, MPATH Interactive * Jeff Leibowitz, president, Engage Games Online * Mike Moniz, president, VR-1

* Mike Wilson, CEO, ION Storm

* Jon Grande, executive producer, Internet Gaming Zone, Microsoft * Steve Klett, editor, PC Games

* Alex Dunne, editor, Game Developer Magazine

To register or inquire about sponsorship opportunities for this event, call Michael J. Siciliano at 212 885-2768 or send mailto:miketech@worldnet.att.net





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; mailto:75166.2224@compuserve.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, 1609 Addison St. #6, Berkeley, CA 94703.

If you contact companies or organizations mentioned here, please tell them you saw the news in Spectrum. Thanks.


(c)Copyright 1997 Motion Blur Media. All rights reserved. No reproduction in any for-profit or revenue-generating venue in any form without written permission from the publisher