Spectrum: Interactive Media & Online Developer News

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

--Electric Rain Launches Swift 3D 4
--nPower Updates Power Solids/Booleans for Rhino
--WorldBuilder 4 to Ship August 1
--New Free Dogwaffle Version Announced
--@Last Software Releases SketchUp 4.0

--Paraglyph Announces Machinima Book

--Allegorithmic, Turbo Squid Announce Distro/Pub Agreement
--Interplay Announces Fallout 3 Licensing Deal with Bethesda
--Activision Signs Agreement for American Chopper Games

--Namco Ships Tales of Symphonia for Gamecube
--Doom 3 Invasion Begins August 2
--Extreme AI Releases Orbz for Tapwave Zodiac
--Snoozleberg Episodes Available for Download
--989 Sports Ships Athens 2004 for PS2
--PS2 Star Ocean RPG Set to Ship in August
--Majesco Delays Release of Sci-Fi Adventure

--New Siggraph Panels Announced

--About Spectrum



Electric Rain Launches Swift 3D 4

Just out from Electric Rain, Inc. is Swift 3D version 4.0, a $189 standalone Windows-based (Mac coming soon) application for building and exporting vector and raster-based 3D animations to the Macromedia Flash (SWF) file format, as well as other formats.

New features include:

Key benefits of Swift 3D: http://www.erain.com


nPower Updates Power Solids/Booleans for Rhino

New from nPower Software is release 3.0 of Power Solids and Power Booleans for Rhino. Power Solids facilitates design creation and editing with the additions of filleting, shelling, and Booleans. Power Booleans provides polygonal and NURBS Boolean operations. Because Power tools maintain their operator history, they facilitate design revisions through the editing process. Power Solids 3.0 adds two new commands: Power Surface Fillet and Power Face Edit. Power Surface Fillet adds new surface to surface filleting, with variable radius fillets, high-order G3 continuity fillets, and fillet previews. The new Power Face Edit command is a sculpting tool for editing the faces of solid objects.

Rhino Power Solids introduces a CAD geometric-modeling kernel into Rhino. Power Solids and Power Booleans are powered by SOLIDS++, a NURBS-based solids, surface, and polygonal modeling kernel from IntegrityWare.

New features in Power Solids / Power Booleans 3.0 include:



WorldBuilder 4 to Ship August 1

The latest version of Digital Element's 3D world-creation/animation software, WorldBuilder 4, is scheduled to be released August 1. New features include:

* new interface - Everything on the interface is customizable and the user can select one of three interfaces. The button sizes are also customizable with a slider to choose button sizes. All of the menus can be floating menus.

* new grayscale editor lets the user create new elevation maps and import, save, modify, and load new maps. Almost any elevation map can be converted by the grayscale editor into a height map from a traditional elevation map to overhead photos. The grayscale editor is a new window that lets the user paint an elevation map in grayscale.

* Materials Editor - add, preview, modify and alter object materials. The user can preview new materials with different render options.

* import plants from Digital Element's new Verdant plant format - Verdant plants are algorithmically generated and can be varied automatically. Create an entire forest from a single tree or an entire lawn from a single blade of grass.

Also, WorldBuilder Genesis, which ships August 15, is a lower-cost version with the same new interface that focuses more on building fixed-camera, animating scenes than on import and export from the other major packages or network rendering.



New Free Dogwaffle Version Announced

Dan Ritchie recently released a new free version of his paint and animation software Project Dogwaffle. Version 1.2 is a new product based on the architecture of version 2 of the commercial version, released in January 2004.

Ritchie says Dogwaffle 1.2 is not a stripped-down demo: It's a fully functional version with some additional new features. It is not save-disabled, there is no time-limit, and no registration is needed.

"We felt that our aging free version (1.11b) was in need of an update, since it was written for earlier operating systems and we wanted our users to have the speed and power of our newest version," said Ritchie of http://www.squirreldome.com, the developer of the project since 1997. "We've chopped out some of the fat for this release, like help files. Don't worry, those can still be found online."


The $67 commercial version is 2.1, and can be found on the sales page at http://www.squirreldome.com/cyberop.htm . It offers more natural-media settings and animation capabilities such as onion skin and an exposure sheet. The commercial version is priced very affordably at only US.


@Last Software Releases SketchUp 4.0

New from @Last Software is the tenth release of its 3D design software: SketchUp 4.0. New features include:

For an overview of new features, watch the "What's New in 4.0" video tutorial. Go to: http://www.sketchup.com/training.php , 'More movies' (choose your platform) Scroll halfway down the page to 'What's New?'



Paraglyph Announces Machinima Book

Paraglyph Press recently published "3D Game-Based Filmmaking: The Art of Machinima" (U.S. $39.99, 496 pages with CD-ROM, ISBN 1-932111-85-9). Machinima, defined as animated filmmaking in a real-time virtual 3D world, is an emerging technology that uses game engines, such as the ones provided with games like Quake and Unreal Tournament 2004, to create animation films on the desktop. Machinima is reportedly being adopted by animators, designers, filmmakers, and technology enthusiasts who can now create their own animated films. The book features a foreword written by John Gaeta, the senior visual effects supervisor for the Matrix trilogy.

The book includes hands-on tutorials and projects that help readers create their own animations. Starting with an introduction to Machinima and the technology platforms included on the CD-ROM, it then shows how to create characters, set up virtual cameras for live-action filming, design sets, and produce a finished film that can be distributed on DVD and online. The book also covers set design, video capture, visual effects, and character development.




Allegorithmic, Turbo Squid Announce Distro/Pub Agreement

Allegorithmic, a young French firm specializing in media-modeling technology last week announced a worldwide non-exclusive distribution and publishing agreement with Turbo Squid, a publisher of royalty-free 3D assets.

Artists can now purchase and download Allegorithmic products from the Turbo Squid Website, including:

The three titles are based on Allegorithmic's FX Maps technology, a patent-pending set of algorithms that allow hand modification of procedural maps.



Interplay Announces Fallout 3 Licensing Deal with Bethesda

Interplay Entertainment Corp., down but not yet out, last week entered into a licensing agreement that will allow Bethesda Softworks to develop and publish Fallout 3, a sequel to the Fallout role-playing game franchise. The deal gives Bethesda exclusive worldwide rights to publish the title for PC, console, and handhelds with the rights to develop and publish future sequels. Interplay retains all online gaming rights for the Fallout franchise, as well as ownership of the Fallout intellectual property. The company announced last month its intent to enter into Massively Multiplayer Online Gaming with titles including Fallout.


Activision Signs Agreement for American Chopper Games

Activision Value Publishing, a division of Activision, Inc., last week signed a multi-year alliance with Discovery Consumer Products to develop and distribute video games based on the television series American Chopper. The agreement grants Activision Value interactive rights to publish American Chopper games for the PC, console and handheld platforms in North America. The first video games based on the American Chopper license are expected to be available this holiday season.

Since its debut on the Discovery Channel in 2003, American Chopper is the highest-rated series on the channel, averaging more than four million viewers each week. The show follows the real-life experiences of the father and son team, Paul Teutul, Sr. and Paul Teutul, Jr. who fabricate choppers out of their Orange County Choppers garage.




Namco Ships Tales of Symphonia for Gamecube

Video games developer and publisher Namco Hometek Inc. last week released role-playing game Tales of Symphonia for Nintendo Gamecube. Developed by Namco Tales Studio Ltd. in Japan, the latest addition to Namco's "Tales" series of games lets players control characters by way of its real-time battle system, which allows for the execution and combination of multiple special attacks and magic spells. Offering more than a dozen side quests and mini-games, "Tales of Symphonia" delivers a storyline spanning more than 80 hours of game play in its 3D worlds. Additionally, the game features characters designed in anime style cel-shaded graphics by Japanese artist Kosuke Fujishima.



Doom 3 Invasion Begins August 2

id Software and Activision, Inc. confirmed last week that id Software's Doom 3 for the PC has entered manufacturing and will begin shipping to retail stores worldwide the week of August 2. The sci-fi horror game features "cinema-quality visuals" and the 5.1 sound.

Built on id's new 3D technology, Doom 3 is a battle with the forces of Hell. The player's recent assignment to the Union Aerospace Corporation's Mars research facility seemed simple enough, until their discoveries and experiments unlocked the gates to Hell itself. Now, in an epic clash against pure evil, the player must fight to understand who is with or against him, and what must be done to stop this nightmare from reaching Earth.



Extreme AI Releases Orbz for Tapwave Zodiac

Extreme AI, Inc. last week launched Orbz for Tapwave Zodiac, its newest entry into the mobile video game market. Orbz is a port of the 21-6 Productions title.

The action/arcade game lets players explore colorful 3D worlds while strategically shooting an orb at star-shaped targets in a race to score the most points. Real-world physics affect shots, accelerators and teleporters let the player travel great distances, and eight power-ups add to the strategy. The game features solo play and multiplayer action in 14 worlds.



Snoozleberg Episodes Available for Download

Sarbakan, a Quebec-based developer, says its two “Good Night Mr. Snoozleberg” games are now available for download on a try-before-you-buy basis on trygames.com, Trymedia System's downloadable game distribution network.

Both games put the player in charge of Mr. Snoozleberg, a diplomat who has an unfortunate tendency to wander off into all kinds of dangers during his sleepwalking bouts. The goal of the puzzle-based games is to click on different objects to keep the Mr. Snoozleberg sound and safe as he roams from one wacky environment to the next.

The two interactive adventures feature 21 complete levels spoofing scenes and characters from well-known Hollywood classics.



989 Sports Ships Athens 2004 for PS2

New from Sony sports division 989 Sports is Athens 2004, The Official Video Game of the Olympic Games for PlayStation2. Players will be able to choose one of 64 countries and 800 different athletes while attempting to break an Olympic or world record in 25 events.

The game features four arcade and eight competition game modes ranging from practice to the official decathlon and heptathlon combined events. Events include Athletics (Track & Field), Aquatics (Swimming), Gymnastics, Shooting, Archery, Weightlifting and Equestrian.

Also, the game is Dance Mat compatible. By utilizing the Dance Mat for (PlayStation 2), sold separately, gamers can attempt to run faster, swim stronger and jump higher, all while competing on the dance mat.

Developed by Eurocom, in cooperation with International Sports Multimedia (ISM) and the Organizing Committee of the Athens 2004 Olympic Games, the game features Athletics (Track & Field) events such as high jump, long jump, triple jump, discus throw, javelin throw, pole vault, shot put, 100m, 200m, 400m, 800m, 1500m, 100m hurdles and 110m hurdles events, as well as the decathlon and heptathlon. The Aquatics events include swimming disciplines featuring 100m backstroke, 100m breaststroke, 100m butterfly and 100m freestyle events. Gymnastics events feature the artistic discipline including floor exercises, rings and vault events. Additional sports Include archery (individual 70m event); equestrian (individual mixed event for jumping); shooting (skeet event); and weightlifting (clean & jerk event).

Additionally, Athens 2004 features seven venues that were re-created using architectural plans and photography, including the Olympic Stadium for Athletics, the Markopoulo Olympic Shooting Centre, the Olympic Aquatic Centre, the Nikaia Olympic Weightlifting Hall, the Olympic Indoor Hall for Gymnastics, the Markopoulo Olympic Equestrian Centre and the historic Panathinaiko Stadium for Archery.



PS2 Star Ocean RPG Set to Ship in August

Square Enix, Inc. announced last week that Star Ocean Till the End of Time, the sci-fi role playing game fashioned in an anime style, will ship to North American retailers on August 31, 2004. The North American release of Star Ocean includes extras as well as all of the features of the Japanese "Director's Cut" version. The development time was extended to implement what is considered to be the developers' true vision for the stateside release. Multiple added features allowed by the additional capacity include extended high-resolution cinematic sequences, two new areas with varied gameplay such as elemental-based puzzles, new playable characters that expand the story and several VS. modes in which players can also choose from a variety of looks for the characters.

Star Ocean features action, exploration, fast-paced combat and an intricate plot. Character development is open-ended, allowing for freedom in character growth through battle. The 3D battlefields allow players to move freely and control a party of three simultaneously with the real-time battle system. Players can execute synchronized attacks and collaborate. The story is presented in CG movies and event sequences. The game is also enhanced with Dolby Pro LogicII sound.

Set in SD 772, four hundred years since the climactic battle with the "Ten Wise Men," humans and aliens now co-exist together in both advanced and less-developed societies, as the Galaxy Federation continues to research the cosmos to gain more influence in Space. The story begins as protagonist Fayt Leingod brings his family and childhood friend Sophia Esteed to the Federation-managed resort planet Hyda for a vacation, but the dreamy holiday is abruptly ended when Hyda is attacked by an unknown space military. In the heat of the attack, Fayt is separated from his family and Sophia, and he begins an emotional quest into the unknown to find his loved ones. Along his journey, he gets caught up in the war of an uncharted planet, but in the end, he learns the terrible secret about the world and himself.



Majesco Delays Release of Sci-Fi Adventure

Majesco Holdings Inc., a publisher and distributor of interactive entertainment products, last week shifted the release date of its sci-fi video game, Advent Rising, to the first calendar quarter of 2005.

Advent Rising is the first in a trilogy of sci-fi action games for the Xbox video game system from Microsoft and PC. Working with science fiction author Orson Scott Card, developer GlyphX Games' adventure thrusts gamers into a continuously evolving series of sequences and events that unfold in an intergalactic saga. In Advent Rising, players make decisions that effect not only what they experience in the first game, but the entire Advent trilogy.




New Siggraph Panels Announced

ACM Siggraph last week announced the return of the Panels program for Siggraph 2004, the 31st International Conference on Computer Graphics & Interactive Techniques, being held 8-12 August 2004 in Los Angeles, California.

The Panels program is a blend of debate, argument, and discussion on important topics in computer graphics and interactive techniques, and related fields. Experts and skeptics deliver opinions, insights, speculation, and summaries of recent work. The audience follows up with questions, comments, and criticism. The result is new perspective on key questions and current controversies.

Panels include:

3D Animation: Difficult or Impossible to Teach and Learn?
Teaching skills needed to animate in current 3D software is difficult. Learning the process may be even more challenging. As the only totally digital art form, 3D animation does not fall neatly into computer science or art. However, it does share an abundance of the complexities and consternations of both fields. Panelists examine these challenges from three viewpoints - user, creator, and educator - and search for a consensus on what works well, what needs improvement, and future possibilities.

Building a Bridge to the Aesthetic Experience: Artistic Virtual
Most artists, curators, and museum educators share an important common goal: to create or curate art that viewers can appreciate and enjoy. Ideally, they also want viewers to enter an experience that is immersive and builds a connection with the work beyond the media's surface. This discussion is an open debate on the effectiveness of using virtual environments and interactive digital works to help the viewer experience art in a richer way. Panelists discuss theory, individual artist experiences, and studies that connect the quality of the aesthetic experience to digital interactivity.

Careers in Computer Graphics Entertainment
This discussion serves as a forum for information exchange between people interested in computer graphics entertainment as a profession. Panelists are from large, mid-sized, and small companies spanning a variety of industries including digital features, games, visual effects, commercials, and more. Topics include: required production skills, production support, entry-level positions, internships, reel and resume preparation, employment application techniques, and typical employment shortages/surpluses. Whether you are a student, an educator, or just plain curious - this panel delivers the inside angle on industry employment information.

Cultural Heritage and Computer Graphics: What Are the Issues?
Throughout the world, governments are allocating more financial support for projects that use technology to preserve and communicate cultural heritage. This panel considers several key related topics including the role of computer graphics in these projects as well as discussing if basic tools and techniques developed in graphics are adequate for use in cultural heritage. A primary panel goal is to discuss what we need to do to move past the current "yet-another-project" phase and build a formal body of knowledge in computer graphics and cultural heritage.

Custom Software Development in Post-Production
Most post-production and digital effects work employs custom software to varying degrees. Typically, this software is imperative for high-end work and is capable of producing stunning results. However, digital artists and many others find the software difficult to use and too fragile. The panel discusses these deficiencies, why they occur, and how to improve the custom software experience.

Games Development: How Will You Feed the Next Generation of Hardware?
It seems that every new high-end platform release results in more and more complex development techniques and expanded resources. For instance, videogame development teams have grown from one- or two-person operations to teams of 30+ employees. Plus, production times have grown from six months to three years (or longer). Thus, the main panel focus is to explore how we can approach the challenge of making the games that the next generation of hardware will demand. While many possible solutions exist, the challenge is finding one that allows teams to output quantity and quality while maintaining financial viability and manageable staff numbers.

Next-Generation User Interface Technology for Consumer Electronics
As the power and complexity of consumer electronic devices continues to increase, the potential for a more enthralling, visually exciting, and compelling user experience also increases. The purpose of this panel is to investigate application of existing tools and techniques from various disciplines within the ACM Siggraph community to the next generation of consumer devices. This panel is a follow-up to the ACM Siggraph Campfire (Workshop) on the same subject held in May 2004 in Snowbird, Utah.




About Spectrum

Spectrum is an independent news service published every Monday for the interactive media professional community by Motion Blur Media. Spectrum covers the tools and technologies used to create interactive multimedia applications and infrastructure for business, education, and entertainment; and the interactive media industry scene. We love to receive interactive media/online-development tools and end product for review.

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