19 July 1999
Reported, written and edited by David Duberman
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- David Duberman
WebBoard 4.0 forums and chat software for Windows (SRP $1,199) is now shipping from publisher O'Reilly & Associates, Inc. A single WebBoard license provides 255 virtual boards, with unlimited users for each, plus live chat (IRC-based) for up to 1,000 simultaneous users.
New features include:
Further information is available at http://Webboard.oreilly.com, and you can see WebBoard in action at http://www.intel.com/drg, http://www.virtualscape.com, and http://www.tuck.dartmouth.edu.
The Icecast development team last week released version 1.3 of its Icecast audio streaming server. The team presented the release to the Open Source community under the GPL license. The new release is platform independent and runs on Linux, Solaris, Windows 95, Windows 98, Windows NT, and FreeBSD.
New features include the ability to support multiple streams from a single server, said to be unique among MP3 streaming servers. Also new are administration tools that let an administrator change data, set up access privileges, control routing of mount points, create aliases, proxies, and relays, save outgoing shows for archival purposes, and track listener statistics, without restarting the server. Icecast 1.3 also introduces meta-data streaming, an emerging standard developed in cooperation with the makers of the Sonique, K-Jofol, FreeAmp, MacAmp and XMMS MP3 players. Meta-data streaming is a new method for displaying information about a stream without corrupting or interfering with the actual music data. Current track information, links to Web pages, and e-commerce information can be sent directly to the players from the server. This extensible data channel will soon be supported by most MP3 players.
Icecast is available for download and is free of charge for all users from http://www.icecast.org.
Internet startup e-Adbook, Inc., NYC, last week launched an affiliate program offering Ukibi (www.ukibi.com), its free, Web-based, self-updating e-address book to Webmasters across Cyberspace. The Ukibi (U-kib-ee) engine, which maintains up-to-date contact information for its members, can be customized and added to any Web site.
At one swell foop, Actiontec Electronics obviates the need either for serial ports or two phone lines with its new 56K USB Call Waiting Modem. The product combines USB connectivity with Actiontec’s Call Waiting feature, which lets users screen incoming telephone calls without interrupting their on-line connection. Using the Call Waiting Service available on most telephone systems, the modem monitors the phone line for incoming voice calls while the user is online. The user is notified when a call comes in, and has the option of ignoring the incoming voice call or picking up the call to see who is calling. Depending in the ISP, the user has about seven seconds before being disconnected from the Internet.
Zone Labs' new Windows-based ZoneAlarm Internet security utility complements traditional security measures like anti-virus software programs and firewalls by alerting users to applications' attempts to access the Internet. Reportedly, it also prevents damage from Back Orifice, or other "Trojan Horses," immediately, without requiring virus-specific updates.
When an application attempts to access the Internet for the first time, ZoneAlarm prompts the user for permission to access the Internet on the application's behalf.
Another key feature is the Internet Lock, which controls whether data can travel between a PC and the Internet. Finally, the Automatic Lock feature provides automatic security if the user steps away from the PC.
Mitsubishi Electric Information Technology Center America (ITA) last week began distribution of Schmoozer, the beta version of a real-time authoring tool to be used with Mitsubishi Electric's Open Community. The virtual reality/distributed virtual environment application is real-time VRML compatible, allowing users to extend the environments they create either by themselves or with multiple users working in the same environment. ITA's Horizon Systems Laboratory (HSL), developed Schmoozer and is distributing the beta version to licensees for a one-month trial before its general release at SIGGRAPH '99 in Los Angeles, Calif.
Written in Java, Schmoozer was developed to rest on top of Mitsubishi Electric's Open Community and ISTP, a hybrid protocol for multi-user distributed virtual environments. The Schmoozer framework has several features that enhance virtual browsing including camera control, archiving, editing and navigation. The end result is a browser-like concept with a 3D effect. Although you don't have to be a programmer to build these virtual worlds, the framework allows programmed behaviors and special applications to be built and distributed.
Schmoozer features include:
ITA will present Schmoozer to general audiences at SIGGRAPH '99 in Los Angeles. It also will announce a design contest to promote the development of new virtual worlds. Entries will be judged on their artistic quality, interactivity and entertainment value. In addition, ITA will present technical papers on texturing, voice puppetry and sharing virtual environments.
Autodesk division Discreet last week shipped version 5.0 of edit*, its $8,000 (baseline version) Windows NT editing system. New features include:
A number of these enhancements are available only with the $12,000 version: edit* plus.
Activeworlds.com, Inc., a developer of 3D community-based environments on the Internet, last week released Active Worlds software version 2.2. The upgrade includes several features such as:
Videonics Ships Effetto 2.0 Compositing/Digital Effects System
Videonics, Inc.'s 2.0 software upgrade for its $5,500 Effetto Pronto (EP) Compositing and Digital Effects system began shipping last week. New features include the ability to animate point-of-view in 3D space with an animatable-camera function, dynamic effects caching to accelerate production speed, and a real-time chroma-keyer with edge control and spill supression.
Additional enhancements in the 2.0 EP toolset include an audio playback dialog, crop regions greater than the object's original size, nested compositions, RAM preview, enhanced transfer modes, bezier splines with velocity control, titler paths and enhanced plug-in support including Ultimatte.
Scheduled to ship in October from Evans & Sutherland Computer Corp. is a new visual simulation product, simFUSION, touted as a low-cost, OpenGL-compliant, PC-based image-generation system with true simulation features.
Designed specifically to address the needs of simulation content developers, part-task training providers, computer-based training providers, and arcade game developers, simFUSION is said to offer high performance under real simulation conditions and image quality not previously available in the $15,000 to $20,000 price range.
The scalable system works with most third-party software applications, such as Multigen-Paradigm Vega, SAIC SIMTools, Sense8 WorldToolKit, and SoftReality SoftVR. Key features include 1280x1024 resolution, full OpenGL compliance, order-independent, full-scene antialiasing with one rendering pass, true-color rendering, genlock/swap lock, and 16MB of texture memory. In addition, full-speed hardware acceleration of sensor effects, ownship lighting, edge blending, and other simulation features are available as options.
Baseball fans watching last Tuesday night's Major League Baseball All-Star Game on the All-Star Game Web site at http://www.majorleaguebaseball.com saw the debut of its
newest feature, 3D Pitch Tracker. It combined "data-capture" technology with Shells' 3D Dreams technology to create and distribute interactive 3D over the Internet. The result was available to users in real time on Baseball Live, a multimedia application designed by SportsLine USA. The new feature allowed Baseball Live users to see the speed, trajectory, movement and ultimate location of each of the game's pitchers, in 3D.
C4.com (http://www.C4.com) is Cyber Networks' new parallel search technology, with time-defined simultaneous searches of AltaVista, Excite, HotBot, InfoSeek, Lycos, Magellan, Snap.com, WebCrawler and Yahoo!, plus simultaneous searches of eight news search engines: ABC News, CBS MarketWatch, CNN, CNNfn, Fox News, MSNBC and Reuters … Everythinghandyman.net (http://www.Everythinghandyman.net/) is an advisory site for home-improvement do-it-yourselfers, but it's not a referral service ... Infinite Technologies has added toll-free and advertisement-free telephone access to any Internet accessible email account through its electronic mail service at http://www.MailandNews.com.
X:drive's Internet-based file-storage service (25 MB free) "brings Internet hard drive technology to the desktop" via its special desktop application for Windows 95/98 users that adds and X: drive to the normal hard drive and operating system … WritersLine.com (http://www.writersline.com) is a new Web site that connects writers with agents, publishers, producers and studio executives. The site is an on-demand electronic clearinghouse designed to assist both writers in selling their work and agents and publishers in seeking out new material.
Death to MP3! (Yeah, right.) The Secure Digital Music Initiative (SDMI) last week published its first specification, a voluntary, open standard that manufacturers can use to develop new portable devices, expected for the 1999 holiday season. With these new SDMI-compliant devices consumers will be able to play all legacy content, including copies of existing CDs and digital music files, as well as electronically distributed music in protected and unprotected formats. In the future, these devices will also play new music released in emerging, SDMI-compliant formats.
The specification, adopted in draft by SDMI at its June 23-25 meeting, underwent a final technical review and was adopted at a meeting in Los Angeles on July 7-8. SDMI's members include more than 110 representatives of the music, consumer electronics and information technology industries.
SDMI-compliant portable devices will be introduced in two phases. Phase I begins now, with the adoption of the open standard. During Phase I, SDMI-compliant devices may accept music in all current formats, whether protected or unprotected. Phase II commences when a new screening technology is adopted to filter out pirated music. As Phase II begins, consumers will be able to upgrade Phase I systems to use newly released music in SDMI-compliant formats (as well as in existing unprotected formats). Throughout both phases consumers will be able to transfer music from CD collections and online sources.
The first three titles in Scholastic's Curriculum Connections CD-ROM Learning Series are based on books by Jean Fritz. Her books introduce students to figures and events that have shaped our nation. Fritz also served as co-developer and narrator of the titles:
Students can choose between animated video and sound and/or text-based presentations that help develop reading and comprehension skills. Each title uses a Learning Cube, a "magic cube" that spins, expands, and breaks into smaller cubes, allowing users to select from a multimedia menu.
Tech-entrepreneur expert Hillary Rettig, host of Microsoft's "Value Added" site (http://www.microsoft.com/directaccess/valueadded) and editor of Home Automation Times (http://www.homeautomationtimes.com), pinpoints five key steps as crucial for success as an Internet-based business.
1. Don't skimp on design. "You wouldn't (or shouldn't) show up for a date or a job interview wearing torn, stained jeans...so don't make the equivalent mistake on the Web," she says. "Professional design work is essential to getting people to take your site seriously, and a professionally-designed site is also easier to maintain. If you're serious about your Internet effort, this is one area you need to invest in."
2. Don't skimp on an Internet Service Provider (ISP). "You might think you're saving money by using a second-tier or third-tier ISP when your business starts, but as it grows you will need to switch to a better ISP and you will lose time, money and possibly business from the switch. Go first-class from the start."
3. Partner for content. "The best Web sites feature constantly-changing content. Some content providers will allow reprints of editorial material for reasonable rates, while others offer it for free in exchange for publicity via a link back to their site."
4. Tap your staff for creative input.
5. Compensate creatively. "If you run a start-up company you probably can't pay as much as a larger firm, but if you put together creative compensation packages that will help. Think … about … flex-time, employer-paid sports tickets and health club memberships, and a pet-friendly workplace."
Macromedia, Inc. plans to acquire Elemental Software for $24 million in a stock for stock transaction. Elemental, which specializes in dynamic Web application development with products like Drumbeat 2000 and eStore Builder, will join its product line with Macromedia's Web publishing products like Dreamweaver and Generator. The stated goal is to create software for creating, producing and maintaining dynamic Web sites that automate the process of linking database information to Web applications with reusable code.
With the acquisition, Macromedia now claims to offer Web developers the only complete HTML, ASP and JSP solution for visually developing Web content and dynamically generated Web sites and applications. The company says it will begin selling Drumbeat for Wintel under the Macromedia name by September, and will subsequently offer a new product that combines Drumbeat and Dreamweaver functionality for both Wintel and Mac. Eventually, the combined product will include groupware functionality for site development by teams. There will be no Drumbeat for Mac.
Electronic Arts and Wizards of the Coast Inc., publisher of the Magic: The Gathering trading card game, plan to jointly develop a new online computer game. The game, which is in the early development stage, will be an Internet-based strategy title. The software will employ the use of digital trading cards that are played throughout a game session. The digital trading cards are similar to the paper cards used in Magic: The Gathering in that each is unique. This will allow the digital objects to be sold, tracked and traded over the Internet.
Richard Garfield, designer of the Magic: The Gathering card games, will be involved in the creation of the new title. Production and programming of the game will be handled at Electronic Arts' Walnut Creek-based Maxis studio, best known for developing simulation and strategy games such as its SimCity titles. Electronic Arts vice president of online product development, Keith McCurdy, will oversee development.
MetaCreations Corporation and Computer Associates International, Inc. last week formed MetaStream.com, a joint venture company to develop MetaStream solutions and services for e-commerce.
MetaStream is the streaming, scalable open file format co-developed by MetaCreations and Intel for the delivery of 3D on the Internet. It is now being distributed by Microsoft in Windows 98 SE, or available via download from www.metastream.com/plugins.html.
MetaStream.com is owned 80 percent by MetaCreations Corporation and 20 percent by CA. MetaStream.com will initially focus on two initiatives: the licensing of MetaStream technologies for specific e-commerce visualization solutions and fee-based professional services for implementing these 3D solutions.
MetaCreations is devoting research, development and service personnel and expertise related to 3D Web technologies to this new venture, including the recently announced Web Services Group. CA is contributing expertise related to the management of rich media through its Jasmine TND software. CA will also assist with the integration of data from legacy systems for Internet delivery and will promote MetaStream.com technologies, services and products to CA enterprise customers worldwide.
MetaStream.com will be headquartered in New York City and Robert E. Rice will serve as president. Rice was formerly vice president of strategic affairs at MetaCreations and the co-founder of Real Time Geometry. As part of the venture agreement, CA will maintain a board seat on MetaStream.com.
Another goal of the joint venture is to develop new Internet applications that integrate MetaCreations' 3D content capture creation software editing tools and technologies with CA's intelligent database and enterprise management solutions. CA's Jasmine TND provides MetaStream.com an infrastructure to manage options and variables, now available in a 3D geometry format with MetaStream-related technologies.
The graphic adventure is down but not out: Witness last week's release of Ring, a new title from Red Orb Entertainment, formerly of Broderbund, now owned by The Learning Company. It's the 40th century AD and you find yourself wandering the ruins of Earth, which was destroyed long ago by space aliens.
Based on no less a property than Richard Wagner's Ring Cycle, the 3D adventure lets the user play up to four characters in six "immersive" environments. Other features include an hour of full-screen animation, a multi-path, non-linear storyline with multiple possible endings, 22 characters, and a soundtrack performed by the Vienna Symphony Orchestra. Ring was developed by Cryo Interactive Entertainment and Arxel Tribe for Windows 95/98.
The Version 1.3 updater for Myth II: Soulblighter is now available. Along with a number of technical tweaks that are described in the Readme, this updater introduces two new features to the game:
Deathmatch is not strictly a game type but a map option, and can be used with the many game types such as Territories, King of the Hill and Assassin. In Myth II Deathmatch, each unit that is lost respawns at its start location, for an endless supply of fodder.
For mapmakers, a new Unit Control parameter allows building maps that change with different game situations. For example, mapmakers can now detect the number of people playing a cooperative game, and adjust the map's scripts to an appropriate level of difficulty.
Also available at bungie.net is a brand new single-player map, Boil and Bubble, which features a new unit, the fearsome Changeling. This seemingly harmless forest creature packs a nasty surprise for unwary travelers.
LucasArts and Nintendo hand over the controls of Anakin Skywalker's Naboo starfighter to owners of PC and Nintendo 64 versions of Star Wars: Rogue Squadron, Friday, July 16. Information about how to access the starfighter, seen in the motion picture Star Wars: Episode I The Phantom Menace, is available to PC players via a patch at http://www.lucasarts.com/products/rogue, and Nintendo has cheat code for N64 owners at www.nintendo.com.
The agile Naboo starfighter is armed with rapid-fire twin laser cannons, homing missiles, and other upgradable weaponry, and its hyperdrive engine and superior handling will let players outmaneuver foes.
Terra Soft Solutions and Loki Entertainment Software announce a strategic alliance to bring PC games to Linux on PowerPC computers -- in some cases before those same games are available for the MacOS.
Loki plans to bring a variety of games to Linux, including the most popular action, adventure, and educational titles. Loki's current product line includes Civilization: Call to Power, Myth II: Soulblighter, Railroad Tycoon II Gold Edition, and Eric's Ultimate Solitaire. A total of eight titles are planned for release in 1999.
Electronic Arts last week appointed LucasArts industry veteran Steve Dauterman as general manager of Studio Asia Pacific to head a new development studio located in Australia. Dauterman, formerly director of development for LucasArts in San Rafael, Calif., had been with the Lucas group for 10 years, initially as financial analyst for Lucasfilm before moving across to LucasArts in 1992.
Since working at LucasArts he has overseen the development of titles such as "X-Wing," "Rebel Assault," "Dark Forces/Jedi Knight," "Shadows of the Empire," "Rogue Squadron," Monkey Island," "Grim Fandango," "Full Throttle" and the newly completed PC and console versions of the "Star Wars Episode 1: The Phantom Menace".
Dauterman will relocate to the Gold Coast in Australia in mid September to manage the formation of EA's newest studio, named Studio Asia-Pacific, which will focus on developing games for the Australian, Asian and world markets.
Intellivision Productions, Inc. has gained the rights to games made by Activision, Inc. and has begun work on a second CD-ROM, entitled Intellivision Lives! Volume 2. Scheduled for release in fall 1999, volume 2 will include games produced by Activision, Imagic and Mattel Electronics, including Beamrider, Dreadnaught Factor, Happy Trails, Microsurgeon, Truckin', Dracula, B-17 Bomber and Mind Strike.
In addition to supplying Activision games for Intellivision Lives! Volume 2, the licensing agreement between the two companies provides Activision with use of all Intellivision games for its Intellivision Classics for the Playstation game console, slated to be released in fall 1999. Intellivision Classics will feature 30 games, including Football, Star Strike, Space Battle, Astrosmash and Baseball.
THQ Inc. has partnered with game developer Volition Inc., of the "Descent" franchise, to bring "Summoner" to PC gamers. Boasting 3D environments and an RPG (role-playing game) storyline, the title is scheduled for release in fall 2000.
Players will adventure as Joseph, a young farmer who has inherited the power of summoning. With magical rings, a Summoner calls forth powerful demons, dragons and elementals to aid him on his quest.
"Our goal for Summoner is to broaden the audience of the RPG category beyond the hardcore role-playing gamers to the casual gaming audience without diluting the core RPG gaming experience," stated Mike Kulas, president, Volition and one of the creators of Descent I and II.
Age of Empires creator Ensemble Studios has hired Joe Ybarra. A 17-year veteran of the games industry, Ybarra brings knowledge of both management and design to the team. His credits include being employee number five and one of the chief architects of Electronic Arts; vice president and executive producer at The 3DO Company; and head of Microprose's design studios in Austin, Texas. He has also produced more than 30 computer and video game titles, including such classics as "M.U.L.E," "Bard's Tale I and II," "Julius Irving and Larry Bird Go One on One," and "Starflight."
Ybarra will join Dallas-based Ensemble Studios as a producer, where will be involved in the daily management and direction of Ensemble's current and future projects, which include the upcoming "Age of Empires II: The Age of Kings," scheduled for release in October by Microsoft.
Half-Life Mod Expo '99 is an event designed to showcase a variety of user-made mods for popular first-person shooter Half-Life. The inaugural event is open to the public and will be held at San Francisco cyber café Club-i. Seven Half-Life mods will be shown at the event, including:
WHEN: Thursday, July 29 10:00 p.m. - 12:00 a.m.
WHERE: Club-i, 850 Folsom Street, San Francisco, California. 415-777-CLUB
Xtreme Games LLC of San Jose, Calif. is hosting its first Xtreme Games Developers Conference (XGDC). The company claims to give entry-level developers a way into the business while at the same time creating a worldwide network of companies (over 250 to date) that not only creates games that Xtreme publishes, but share and exchange technology, ideas, and source code.
Xtreme Games is hosting its own Xtreme Games Developers Conference. Code-named "Armageddon 99," the conference will be held October 2-3, 1999 at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, California. The conference is targeted toward game developers only; "no business, no marketing, no fluff, just hard-core game programming, design, and technology lectures." The $100 conference is open to the public.
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.
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