25 June 2001
Reported, written and edited by David Duberman
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Expected to ship in early fall of 2001 for Windows 2000 Server and Windows NT 4.0 Server from Macromedia is Sitespring, a new Web-based application for managing the Web site-production process. The $2,000 product reportedly offers an integrated, server-based approach to team collaboration, file management, and client communications.
Features include file management capabilities that use transparent file versioning and archiving, as well as the ability to manage interactions with contractors or freelance Web team members.
A public beta program will launch in July. To inquire about the beta program, visit http://www.macromedia.com/software/sitespring/early_reg/.
At Microsoft TechEd 2001 last week in Atlanta, Bill Gates announced the delivery of the final beta versions of Visual Studio .NET, which includes Visual Basic .NET and .NET Framework. In addition, Gates unveiled features and naming for Windows .NET Server. Here are the specifics:
The LithTech Development System Version 3.1, released to licensees last week, includes modifications and enhancements to a number of features and tools including:
Monolith Productions, developers of the PC game The Operative: No One Lives Forever (NOLF), last week released the source code for NOLF version 1.003. The company says it wants to support the fan base by offering the tools to create custom levels and keep them current with the code base Monolith is using to author its latest creations. The source code will be available for download at http://www.noonelivesforever.com along with instructions and requirements.
The downloadable file will be 5.46MB and will include:
To build the NOLF source v1.003, the following are the required:
Stockholm, Sweden-based Propellerhead Software recently released Recycle! 2.0, which apparently is software for producing looped samples for playing in MIDI-based samplers. New features:
Supported Samplers: Akai S1000/S1000PB/S1100/S1100PB, S2000/S3000 incl. "I" and "XL" versions - Akai S5000&S6000 via AKP files - Digidesign SampleCell 1&2 - Ensoniq EPS/EPS16+, ASR-10, ASR88 - E-mu ESI-32, EIV, e64, and all other modules running the EOS Operations system - Kurzweil K2000/K2500 incl. X, R & S models - Roland S-760.
Verbatim Corporation claims to have the industry's first CD-R discs certified for full-speed 24x recording. The new 80-minute DataLifePlus media features Verbatim's "Super Azo" recording dye, said to support data recordings at speeds of up to 3.5 MB/sec with the new 24x drives and 3.0MB/sec with the new 20x drives. Of course, the media can also be used with older CD drives at speeds ranging from 1X to 16X. The discs reportedly deliver an archival life of more than 100 years.
Nearly one-third (31 percent) of American Internet users have broadband access at home, work or school according to a new study by Arbitron Inc. and Coleman, a media research firm specializing in music, trends and branding.
Broadband Revolution 2: The Media World of Speedies found nearly two-thirds (64 percent) of Internet users who have broadband access ("speedies") are connected through their workplace and more than one-third (37 percent) have access at home.
There is little overlap between those with broadband at work and at home. Of consumers with access to broadband at home and/or work, 58 percent have access only at work and 27 percent have broadband access only at home. Only 15 percent have access at both locations.
The study also found that college speedies are likely to get residential broadband service in the future. More than one-third (38 percent) of college speedies say they are either "very likely" or "somewhat likely" to get broadband at home if they were no longer in school. More than one-fifth (22 percent) use broadband as a source of entertainment.
In contrast, work speedies are even more likely to think of the Internet as a source of information (82 percent) versus entertainment (8 percent). Overall, three-quarters of all speedies view the Internet as a source of information.
Speedies spend as much time online as they do with radio or TV. On average, speedies report using the Internet for two hours and 16 minutes in a typical day. Radio is the most heavily used traditional broadcast medium among speedies, with an average two hours and 28 minutes daily listening, followed by television viewing with two hours and 11 minutes daily and pre-recorded music listening with one hour and 25 minutes.
Overall, nearly half (45 percent) of all speedies report at least some instances of media multi-tasking - consuming more than one media at the same time. One of five (20 percent) media multi-taskers frequently listen to pre-recorded music on CDs, tapes or record when at a computer. Among home speedies, nearly two-thirds (63 percent) have a TV in the same room as their broadband connection, with 40 percent of them frequently watching while using the Internet.
Arbitron and Coleman conducted 20-minute telephone interviews with a national sample of 800 speedies aged 12 or older in May 2001.
Electric Rain, Inc. last week released plug-in versions of its Swift 3D standalone product that lets 3ds max and LightWave 3D users render 3D scenes directly to a variety of vector-based file formats, including Macromedia Flash (SWF) AI, EPS, and the XML-based vector format SVG.
The plug-ins ($295 each) reportedly export 3D accurately, while staying true to colors, lighting schemes, camera views and animations. They're said to render up to 10 times faster than other 3D-to-vector rendering products, thanks to Electric Rain's proprietary rendering technology, RAViX II, which converts 3D models into vector-based 2D files. Rendering options include three levels of outlines, five levels of cartoon shading, two levels of gradient shading, plus shadows, specular highlights, and a new preview window that allows users to see the results of each rendered frame.
Both versions can reportedly handle models and objects containing over 200,000 polygons, including complex intersecting and self-intersecting objects. The resulting files are optimized so users need not rely on outside applications such as Macromedia Flash to perform optimization.
Just out from publisher/developer Eovia is Carrara Studio ($149), which includes:
Carrara 1.1, an enhanced revision of the original release
Amapi 3D v.5, full version of the NURBS modeler
Smart Pack, 25 Carrara plug-ins
QuickTour, eight interactive orientation tours of Carrara Studio
Alias|Wavefront last week shipped Maya 4, the sixth release of its 3D animation and visual effects software. The company says the new version improves overall ease of use and efficiency, particularly in the areas of rendering, character animation, brush and paint tools and games-related functionality, such as per-pixel shading. Maya 4 is out for the IRIX and Windows NT platforms, and the Linux version arrives in July 2001.
Usability enhancements include: Managing the workspace is now accomplished in one click using the customizable panel layouts and toolbar controls. Object placement is faster using the new lasso select, and incremental rotate, snapping and alignment tool. Also: quick access to the expanded Maya Paint Effects brushes and the new shader library and beyond UI, enhanced-context sensitive help and Instant Maya books with examples.
Rendering improvements include selective use of the Intel Optimizing Compiler, said to have resulted in an average performance gain of between 5% and 10% on Pentium III platforms. For ray tracing, subdivision surfaces and particles in heavier scenes, improvements reportedly average 15%. On the Pentium 4, the average performance gain for rendering reportedly increases to 15-20%. Workflow enhancements include an improved hypershade, pre-render optimization and automatic alpha for transparency on file and layered textures. Enhancements to bump mapping, texture filtering, and tessellation provide notable advances in image quality. Render passes have also been expanded for improved compositing integration.
Enhancements to the Trax non-linear motion editing technology include time warping, character merging, drag and drop and character set editing. New character animation features include FK/IK switching, quaternion-based IK, motion trails and ghosting along with a new Jiggle Deformer which automatically creates secondary "character fat/muscle wobble" animation without dynamics.
The Maya Paint Effects technology offers multi-processor support for painting and rendering, new auto-paint functionality for filling large areas, and 35 new preset brushes to complement the existing 400. Moreover, Alias|Wavefront's true 3D paint technology has now been incorporated into Maya and integrated with Maya Paint Effects so that any Paint Effects brush can be used for 3D Paint.
Maya's Artisan brush-based interface offers a new architecture, no longer dependent on hardware overlays, thereby allowing users to choose from a broader selection of graphics cards. This new architecture also allows for attribute and 3D painting of subdivision surfaces, world-space reflection and image-based brush profiles.
Game development-related advances include improvements in the area of polygon texture mapping and editing, as well as independently animatable color per vertex, Straighten UV Border, and UV Snapshot, along with overall UV texture editor improvements.
Viewpoint Corporation recently announced a new ZoomView component for its Media Player (an 800K download), as well as the ability to play back Macromedia Flash content. The company's newly developed proprietary engine allows for playback of Flash content, and integration with 3D animation and other media types.
The ZoomView component downloads detailed information on demand, as the user requests it. At first, only a low-resolution image is downloaded, but as the user zooms in, the player fetches the parts of the high- resolution image (in a tile-by-tile format) that it needs to display a finer degree of detail.
Web3D firm ParallelGraphics recently launched Outline 3D (http://www.Outline3d.com), an online interior design application that enables users to customize a virtual environment specific to their design needs. It reportedly turns any 2D floor plan layout into realistic 3D interactive rooms where products and colors can be selected and viewed in a virtual environment. Users can design, create and furnish their 3D room, add windows and doors, navigate through the selected space, and then drag-and-drop products into the room to see how they fit. Other materials such as carpets, wall finishes, fabrics and colours can be added and changed with a click of the mouse. Customers can also access pricing and related product details with Outline 3D.
Alias|Wavefront and mental images will work together to develop a mental ray rendering option for Alias|Wavefront's 3D animation and effects software, Maya.
mental ray is high-end rendering software that combines the physically correct simulation of the behavior of light (caustics, quasi-radiosity) with programmability for the creation of photorealistic imagery. Its scalable parallel rendering capabilities support both multiprocessor platforms and networks of machines.
GameSpy Industries last week announced the completion of its acquisition and integration of the Mplayer online games service. The company acquired Mplayer in January of 2001, and has now fully merged staff as well as their respective online games services, Mplayer.com and GameSpy Arcade. The new service operates under the GameSpy Arcade name.
The combined team also launched GameSpy.net, a suite of tools and infrastructure that for game developers address common online and multiplayer game development issues.
Fans of vehicular combat stayed home last weekend because Sony Computer Entertainment America just released Twisted Metal: Black for the PlayStation2 computer entertainment system. Based on the Twisted Metal franchise, Twisted Metal:Black provides a deeper and darker gameplay environment than previous versions. The title was designed by SCEA Santa Monica and developed by Incog Inc. Entertainment.
Just out from Sierra On-Line and Gearbox Software is Half-Life: Blue Shift, a new single-player episode surrounding the Black Mesa security guard introduced in Valve's action thriller, Half-Life. Developed by Gearbox Software, creators of Half-Life: Opposing Force, Blue Shift also contains the Half-Life HD Pack, which automatically upgrades the weapons and characters of all the games in the Half-Life saga with new high definition content.
Half-Life: Blue Shift allows gamers to explore areas of the Black Mesa Research Facility where even Gordon Freeman never gained access.
Newly available from LucasArts Entertainment is Escape from Monkey Island, the fourth chapter of the comical game series, for PlayStation 2. The graphic adventure, which debuted on PC last fall, brings to PlayStation 2 the salty humor, engaging game play, and fresh puns (not to mention a ship-load of monkeys!). Escape from Monkey Island was developed by the team that created LucasArts' irreverent classic Sam and Max Hit the Road.
The game is highlighted by hundreds of challenging puzzles amidst dozens of rendered backgrounds. It finds Guybrush Threepwood and his new bride, Governor Elaine Marley-Threepwood, returning to Melee Island from their honeymoon. They quickly discover Elaine has been declared dead, the Governor's mansion is scheduled for demolition, and the slick, yet hauntingly familiar politician, Charles L. Charles, is gunning for her job. While Elaine scrambles to launch a reelection campaign, Guybrush is dispatched on a seemingly trivial legal errand that catapults him into a maelstrom of thievery, voodoo, and experimental prosthetic devices. Armed only with his sharp wit and an uncanny ability to hold his breath for ten whole minutes, our hero navigates ever deeper into a villainous scheme to wipe out the Tri-Island Area using the fearsome power of the Ultimate Insult. Can Guybrush make the Caribbean safe for fun-loving, grog-swilling pirates, or will the twin forces of heckfire and unbridled capitalism bring an end to the swashbuckling merriment?
Sony Computer Entertainment America Inc. just released "Disney's Atlantis: The Lost Empire" for the PS one console and the PlayStation game console. The 3D action-platform game features:
Scheduled to ship for the PC in spring of 2002 from Eidos Interactive is Praetorians, a new troop-based strategy game based on the bodyguards of the ancient Roman Emperors. Created by Spain-based Pyro Studios, the 3D troop-based strategy game is set amidst the political machinations of an emerging Roman Empire. Gamers will attempt to defeat thousands of different troop types and war machines, all with special skills and individual strengths.
Set to ship this Friday, June 29, from Blizzard Entertainment is Diablo II: Lord of Destruction. The new expansion set to the company's number-one selling Diablo II series has initial orders of 2 million copies.
In Diablo II: Lord of Destruction, players travel to the Barbarian Highlands of the North in pursuit of Baal, the last surviving Prime Evil. Traveling with a horrific army of demonic minions, Baal plots to corrupt the powerful Worldstone that protects the whole of the mortal plane from the forces of Hell, thus damning the world for all eternity.
Key features of the expansion include two new character classes, the Assassin and the Druid, each equipped with 30 unique skills and spells. Players can also take their favorite Diablo II characters on the new quests found in Diablo II: Lord of Destruction. A new act set in the Barbarian Highlands, complete with 6 new quests and hours of further challenges, unfolds as players strive to stop Baal and his followers from destroying the world. Diablo II: Lord of Destruction also features support for 800x600 resolution, giving the player a larger field of view and superlative graphic detail.
The expansion also features thousands of new weapons, armor and magical items, including class-specific, crafted items, Rune Words and Elite Unique items have also been included. The amount of storage space in the player's private stash has also been doubled. Also new are over 50 new monster classes, with seven new boss monsters. Single-player, multiplayer TCP/IP and Battle.net Realm games are supported.
New from Sierra Division Impressions Games is Zeus Official Expansion: Poseidon, the add-on for the city-building title Zeus: Master of Olympus. The game takes place in the world of Atlantis, ruled by Poseidon, brother to mighty Zeus.
In Poseidon, players build and rule the fabled cities of Atlantis, a kingdom of science and technology. They mine the mysterious mineral "orichalc," establish colonies in ancient Americas, Africa, Europe, and Asia, and trade with ancient civilizations. New industries, monuments, and characters unique to Atlantis expand the city-building experience. New gods, monsters, and heroes help tell the tale as players build Atlantis into a mighty kingdom. Players can also create their own adventures in Greece or Atlantis with an adventure editor.
Eidos Interactive's new title Anachronox has gone gold and will ship June 26.
A·nach·ro·nox (uh-NACK-ruh-nox). Poison from the Past [From anachronism: a thing chronologically out of place, esp. one from a former era in current setting + nox, from L. noxa, nocere harm; 187 A.C.: an abandoned alien city-planet floating inside the hollow sphere of Sender One -- so named after a strange electric virus killed the first explorers to land on its surface.]
The 3D sci-fi role-playing game features protagonist Sylvester "Sly" Boots, a down-on-his-luck detective with a big debt hanging over his head, who gets a quick protection job that leads him on a mysterious quest across the galaxy.
Along the way, Boots meets up with characters such as Grumpos, the master of MysTech; Rho, the scientist who discovers time is folding in on itself; Paco, the superhero who lost his confidence; and PAL, the personal android with an attitude. Control up to three characters at a time (from an eventual cast of seven) as you explore six strange and different planets. Investigate bizarre, futuristic environments, battle with galactic foes, and discover unique weapons and objects that aid you on your quest to find out who is driving the collapse of the entire universe.
Lucas Learning Ltd. announced last week it will cease production of Star Wars Super Bombad Racing for Windows and Macintosh. This decision reflects the new direction that will shift the company's focus away from consumer entertainment products to direct-to-school educational products. Lucas Learning will create, produce and market a suite of curriculum-based products targeted directly to schools, grades K-12.
Lucas Learning has focused on the consumer marketplace since its inception in 1996. The company created eight award-winning edutainment CD-ROM titles based on the popular Star Wars license. The Star Wars software library includes topics such as math, early learning skills, ecology and logic and offers a range of products suitable to children ages four and up.
In April 2001, Lucas Learning also launched its first console title, Star Wars Super Bombad Racing for the PlayStation 2 computer entertainment system. The company will continue to market their existing titles, but will no longer produce new titles for the consumer marketplace.
By 2003, wireless Web users are expected to outnumber wired users. But developers building wireless applications to serve those millions of customers face formidable challenges. Foremost among them is how to solve the problem of too many proprietary devices and too many protocols. In this article on ONJava.com, Keith Bigelow makes the case that Java, XML, Open Source and open standards will fuel the convergence of the wireless and wireline Internet. The ultimate goal? A single open and interoperable protocol.
Are Device-Independent Wireless Internet Applications Possible? by Keith Bigelow * 06/11/2001 at http://www.onjava.com/pub/a/onjava/2001/06/11/device_ind.html
Also check out Steve Anglin's introduction to O'Reilly's wireless Java package of six additional articles and an extensive Java API map : Wireless ONJava Week by Steve Anglin, Managing Editor, ONJava.com * June 12, 2001 at http://www.onjava.com/pub/a/onjava/2001/06/12/wirelessonjava.html
This year, the WEB2001 Conference & Exposition will be co-located with the newly launched Internet+Mobile Conference & Exposition at the Moscone Center in San Francisco from September 4-8, 2001. Produced by the CMP Media Internet & Mobile Group, WEB2001 is an educational conference designed to provide Web professionals with technical skills insight.
Recent market conditions have resulted in the reduction of IT staff in small, medium, and large size companies nationwide. Yet according to a recent report from IDC Research, the percentage of IT budgets allocated to Internet projects will increase across the board from 2000 to 2001.
WEB2001 will offer over 125 classes in three tracks: Strategy, User Experience and Technology. The five-day conference will consist of two days of all-day intensive classes, and three days of the exposition, technical sessions and core conference classes. The conference curriculum will cover Web site project management, design and development issues.
Stewart Brand, author of “How Buildings Learn” and “The Clock of the Long Now,” will deliver the opening keynote, “How Web Sites Learn: What Happens to Them After They’re Built.” Brand will examine why all technology should be adaptable, functional and built to last. Jeffrey Veen, founder/partner of Adaptive Path, and Michael Sippey, vice president of Quiris, will moderate Brand’s keynote. WEB2001 also offers over 100 speakers including, Molly Holzschlag, Jeffrey Zeldman, Simon St. Laurent, Derek Powazek and Lynda Weinman.
Networking events include Birds of a Feather sessions where industry leaders will facilitate discussions on technology; the Cool Site in a Day competition to redesign a non-profit’s Web site in a day; Webpardy, a web trivia gameshow; Five Minutes of Fame, a sort of open mic for geeks; and daily happy hours on the exposition floor.
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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