3 March 2003
Reported, written and edited by David Duberman
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NXN Software will launch its alienbrain Engineer at the Game Developers Conference 2003 in San Jose. The new system for software-configuration management (SCM) is designed to make software development for media and entertainment projects more efficient, with such features special branching, merging and sharing functionality. For example, pre-configured branch types facilitate the creation and maintenance of new language or platform versions. alienbrain Engineer provides clients for Windows, Linux and Mac OS (9, X, Jaguar) as well as integrations for development environments (IDEs) such as Microsoft Visual Studio, .Net and Metrowerks CodeWarrior.
Claimed benefits for developers include:
Anark Corporation last week announced the formation of AnarkDigital, a design house and division of Anark specializing in the development of interactive media. Using multimedia tool, Anark Studio, and a team of designers and developers, AnarkDigital's multimedia projects are geared towards driving revenue and recognition for their clients through stunning interactive experiences. In addition to creating original content for clients, AnarkDigital will also provide consulting and training services for Anark Studio customers.
AnarkDigital provides a range of creative services ranging from motion graphics and 3D animation to video production and custom audio for applications such as corporate presentations, interactive training, tradeshow presentations, CD-ROMs and Web applications.
anacubis, a division of the i2 Group of Washington, D.C., an international company specializing in visual investigative analysis software for the most demanding intelligence professionals, last week released its Web-enabled visualization technology for online information portals.
Leveraging over a decade of research and development, anacubis extends the visualization and analysis technology used by intelligence and law enforcement agencies worldwide to online business information databases. The anacubis Viewer solution incorporates Java and XML-based technology to enable commercial information professionals to extract intelligence from complex data.
anacubis Viewer lets end users and information professionals navigate and explore online business information, uncovering hidden relationships and trends within the data. The software creates a visual representation of complex data in real-time, which can be manipulated and acted upon. It does this by automatically representing entities, such as people and organizations, pictorially as icons and shows the relationships between such entities as link types. As the user explores the online source, data is continually added to the visualization, providing a big picture overview of a particular organization, market or area of interest.
The company's first announced partners are: LexisNexis and Questel Orbit.
The anacubis Viewer is available now to interested parties for integration into their enterprise infrastructure. The anacubis View Manager will be available for free download from http://www.anacubis.com in mid-March.
Coming March 31 from Eovia Corporation is Amapi Designer 7 (US$499), 3D modeling software for Mac OS 9 and OS X and Windows platforms.
New features include:
Coming late this spring from Electric Rain is Swift 3D 3.0 for Mac OS X. Swift 3D is a standalone application for designers to build and export 3D animations to the Macromedia Flash (SWF) file format, as well as other vector and raster formats. Swift 3D for Mac OS X will be available late spring 2003 as a free upgrade to existing Swift 3D 3.0 users.
The Mac OS X version of Swift 3D will offer advantages over previous versions by utilizing Mac OS X's dynamic memory management and multi-tasking capabilities, reportedly providing faster rendering speeds and enhanced workflow.
Fakespace Systems, a supplier of immersive display solutions, and Xi Graphics, a supplier of graphics drivers for Linux and Unix-based systems, last week released a new software driver that enables stereoscopic immersive environments to run on the Linux platform. Now Fakespace visualization systems that incorporate digital projection technology, such as the CAVE, RAVE II, WorkWall, and ImmersaDesk, can run Linux-based applications using off-the-shelf graphics cards.
Xi Graphics, the first company to provide Linux drivers for OpenGL applications for CRT-based visualization, developed new Linux-based drivers for the 3Dlabs Wildcat III graphics card, which is used to drive advanced visualization environments based on stereoscopic digital projection.
Based on an open text customization solution using XiG’s Accelerated-X driver software, any stereoscopic capable Linux application can be used with supported Linux-based graphics cards to display both active and passive stereo modes with digital projection technology. Digital projectors provide brighter and sharper images that are easier to control and maintain compared to traditional CRT-based projectors.
Coming later this quarter from SolidWorks Corporation is PhotoWorks release 2, software that lets engineers create near photo-quality images of a finished product design. The software gives users more control over key computer-aided design (CAD) features such as light, shadow, material, and definition than previous versions. For example, a designer can use PhotoWorks release 2 to create a realistic image of a chrome-plated toaster in a kitchen with accurate lighting, shadows, and reflections off the toaster's sides.
PhotoWorks release 2 contains three enhancements:
PhotoWorks release 2 is based on mental images' mental ray software, used in digital film studios (for such recent films as Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, The Matrix, and Spider-Man), videogame manufacturers, scientific laboratories, and other industries that require high-quality images.
3Dconnexion, a developer of motion controllers, last week released SpaceBall 5000, the next generation of line of motion controllers. The SpaceBall 5000 features a new optical sensor, said to offer improved performance and control to the 3D CAD designer. The new sensor technology reportedly provides drift-free and calibration-free operation with its non-wearing measuring system.
The SpaceBall 5000 USB offers a new, modern silver-and-black design, with a soft coat palm rest, while the serial version retains the black design. The USB version offers a 6x higher data rate, providing greater precision and control. It also supports the recently introduced Microsoft Office Plug-In, which premiered on 3Dconnexion's SpaceNavigator.
Users of trueSpace 3D software might like to know about a new $10 product. The Charactermation Modeling kit contains over 100 royalty-free 3d models in trueSpace .scn and .cob format.
The models include low-poly mesh cages, plus realistic yet editable models that are ready to texture and animate. The kit includes starter head shapes, hand shapes, and body shapes, some in low-res mesh cage format, some hi-res and realistic to be used with trueSpace's native subdivision surfaces.
The kit also contains face-modeling tutorials and bones animations, including run and walkcycles.
Last week in New York, four children's cartridge-based computing platforms were announced. These, along with the Tablet PC, offer opportunities for children's publishers. They will be discussed at "Dust or Magic Bologna -- From Paper to Pixels" to be held next month prior to the Bologna Children's Book Fair (March 31 - April 1).
iSprout (The Original San Francisco Toymakers), $100, ages 4-up. Like the Leapster and the Pixter, this portable learning system has a color, backlit touch screen; with a library of cartridges that includes activities adapted from the JumpStart line of software. Children can store their work on the flash memory, (up to four pictures), or export them to a regular computer by way of a USB port. Runs on 4 AA batteries. Coming "summer 2003."
Leapster (LeapFrog) $80, ages 4-8. Cartridge-based system combines a backlit color touch screen with rechargable batteries -- the only device of the four with a rechargable battery option. Included software will teach "60 essential skills in reading, math and music" and every activity will have three levels that a child can select. Additional cartridges can be purchased for $25 each and include Leapster Kindergarten (ages 4-8), Leapster First Grade (ages 5-7), Dora the Explorer Animal Rescue (ages 4-6) and SpongeBob SquarePants Saves the Day (ages 5-8). Coming "November 2003."
Pixter Color (Fisher-Price, Inc.) $80, ages 4-up. Two years after the first Pixter, this new version features a color back-lit touch screen with better resolution. The drawing program has been upgraded from the Pixter Plus, with 16 colors, a paint bucket, and the ability to rotate graphics. Four new software cartridges are planned, based on Barbie and Rescue Heroes. Runs on 4 AA batteries that give it approximately four hours of operating time. "Coming September 2003."
PowerTouch Learning System, Fisher-Price, $50, ages 3-8. Fisher-Price's answer to the successful LeapPad. Lap-sized electronic book reader requires no stylus, just a finger, banana or anything else a child wants to use. The reader uses optical page codes to know what page it is on--there is no need to press a "go" button to tell the reader what page it's on.
Look for more details in the March/April 2003 issue of Children's Software Revue. Preview the cover at http://www.childrenssoftware.com.
To register for Dust or Magic Bologna: From Pixels to Paper, visit http://www.childrenssoftware.com/dustormagic.
Thanks to Slashdot for tipping us to this item: In an article posted on GameSpy.com last Saturday, based on a speech at the recent DICE conference, industry veteran and Microsoft Xbox evangelist Seamus Blackley sounds off on the current "broken" state of the game industry. "The number one problem we have … right now is that we're designing for publishers and not the audience. Designers are thinking about what will look good to a publisher, and this is just remarkably stupid, because designers have no idea of what publishers are actually looking for and why." He also disparages bloated design documents, saying "A 300-page design document is not a very good way to be creative. Design documents actually discourage quality." He goes on to criticize the royalty system, publishers, and focus testing.
Lastly, Blackley suggests that the industry focus on the mass market. Problem is, your editor has been hearing this suggestion for years at GDC, but little action is ever taken on that front. Let's hope that this time, the developers are listening.
Butterfly, a network and server technology provider for online games, has signed a tools and middleware agreement with Sony Computer Entertainment Inc. to provide technology and networking services for the PlayStation2 computer entertainment system.
As part of the agreement, IBM and Butterfly activated a computing grid said to let online game developers take advantage of the advanced capabilities of PlayStation2 by more efficiently provisioning resources to meet the demands of console gamers.
According to Butterfly, PlayStation2 game developers can ensure that their games are always available online, and operating at peak performance, by engineering their games directly on a live computing grid. Registered developers will receive a software development kit with sample games, client libraries, server software, documentation and technical support. Developers can access the Grid by registering on the company's Website.
The Butterfly Grid takes advantage of the Open Grid Services Architecture (OGSA), an new standard. OGSA supports several of the most critical functions of successful online games: availability, security and performance. The Grid's OGSA-compliant software monitors the processing load on Linux-based IBM BladeCenters populated with 14 Blades, each with two Intel Xeon processors. When the Grid determines there are too many players connected to any particular server, the Grid automatically reconfigures underutilized Blades to support the most popular game-play and seamlessly transfers players to these Blades.
Butterfly.net is working with the Global Grid Forum to ensure that any video game developed according to publicly available specifications and Internet open standards can draw resources-on-demand from the Butterfly Grid. The Globus Toolkit, available by download from http://www.globus.org, provides authorization and accounting functions, allocates hardware resources, configures game-specific logic and monitors performance on the Butterfly Grid.
Zona, Inc., a network solution provider for online games, will release Terazona 1.1 at the Game Developers Conference (GDC) in San Jose, California on Thursday, March 6. The complete Terazona product suite will support small to medium to massive-scale MMOGs.
Feature highlights of 1.1 include:
Zona's Terazona Community Edition (TCE) delivers a network online game engine for up to 500 players. Today’s peer-to-peer (P2P) games can support from 8 to 32 players, and most MMOGs are over 1,000 concurrent players.
TCE focuses on bridging the gap between P2P games and MMOGs. These games are likely to be short-term and focus on winners of the match or race. Developers of this nature tend to focus on two types of games including:
TCE product operates at one game server for up to 500 players. Also included is additional license for one game server to provide for fail-over (fault-tolerant) support.
Zona's Terazona Standard Edition (TSE) delivers a network online game engine for lower-budget and smaller-scale online games with a few thousand players.
Zona's Terazona MMOG Edition (TME) delivers a network online game engine for large-scale online games capable of supporting up to 32,000 players per server cluster.
At this week's Game Developers Conference (GDC), GarageGames plans to premiere ThinkTanks, a cartoon-style tank game from BraveTree Productions, preview a new release of Orbz with a single-player mode, from 21-6 Productions, and display Marble Blast from GarageGames and Monster Studios.
The titles that GarageGames will show at GDC are built on the Torque Game Engine. GarageGames will have all these games showing in their booth (#940) along with tech demos of Tennis Critters from Nerd Riot Games, Realm Wars, the massively multi-player GarageGames community project, and Idryonis Studios' Cyberfuge: Second Battalion.
GarageGames will be demonstrating a custom version of Marble Blast in the nVIDIA booth (#1108), designed to show off dot3 bumpmapping, per pixel specular lighting, and translucent refraction with dynamic cubic environment mapping.
ThinkTanks is a single- and multi-player, cartoon-styled, power up-based tank-combat game with a simplified play mechanic meant to appeal to the casual gamer. It captures the simple fun of Atari "Combat" (in a 3D environment).
Since its launch in December, 21-6 Productions is developing an upgrade version of Orbz with requested features including single-player challenges, Botz (computer opponents), new courses, and Macintosh and Linux support.
Tennis Critters, a computer tennis game with chipmunks from Nerd Riot Games, can be played with up to four players on a single computer or over the Internet.
The Academy of Interactive Arts and Sciences presented Interactive Achievement Awards in 30 craft, console, and online categories, last week at the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas. Electronic Arts was the big winner with a record 13 awards.
Battlefield 1942, published by Electronic Arts and developed by Digital Illusions, took home the most awards, a total of four, including Game of the Year, Computer Game of the Year, Innovation in Computer Gaming, and Online Gameplay of the Year. Animal Crossing, published by Nintendo of America and developed by Nintendo Co. Ltd., received the next highest number of awards, a total of three, including Innovation in Console Gaming, Console Role-Playing Game of the Year, and Outstanding Achievement in Game Design. Overall, Nintendo received seven awards.
Sega's Yu Suzuki, known as a forefather of console video gaming, won the academy's Hall of Fame Award.
The winners, in alphabetical order:
The awards ceremony, held during the annual D.I.C.E. Summit (Design, Innovate, Communicate, Entertain), were hosted by Dave Foley of Kids In The Hall. Among the presenters were Tony Hawk, Blue Man Group, Kelly Hu, Kristen Dalton, Kristina Anapau, and Mike Metzger.
The International Game Developers Association (IGDA) will give two awards to honor industry contributions at the Game Developer Choice Awards, Thursday, March 6, in San Jose, Calif.
The founders of Activision will receive the First Penguin Award and developer Doug Church will be honored with the IGDA Award for Community Contribution at the ceremony held during the Game Developers Conference.
The First Penguin Award acknowledges developers who have taken risks to break new ground in the game industry. This year's recipients--David Crane, Larry Kaplan, Jim Levy, Alan Miller and Bob Whitehead--will be honored for establishing the first third-party developer of video game software. In an industry challenged by consolidations, buyouts and complex relationships between publishers and developers, the Activision pioneers were the first to model a solution which has become a business standard - the independent development house.
Activision was founded when Crane, Kaplan, Miller and Whitehead left Atari and joined former music industry executive Levy to form a new company in Mountain View, California. The startup's first game was Dragster, the first game independently released for the Atari VCS, in 1980. Between 1980 and 1988, the company launched 52 games with the designers' identities prominently featured in all packaging and advertising.
The IGDA Award for Community Contribution is presented to a developer who has made significant efforts in building community, sharing knowledge and advancing the art form of interactive entertainment. Doug Church, technical director, Eidos, will be acknowledged for his team focus, his efforts to build community and to improve the industry over the past 12 years. An inspiration for both veteran and aspiring developers, Church has been instrumental in developing relationships between industry and academia by serving as co-chair of the IGDA Education Committee and helping develop curricula to train the next generation of game developers. He has been an advocate of developing a common language of game design and improving design methods.
A veteran of Looking Glass Studios, Church is emblematic of the Game Developers Choice Awards' call this year to honor the talent "behind the game." The widely respected video game creator is credited with programming, production and design on such games as Deus Ex, Flight Unlimited, Flight Unlimited II, Frequency, System Shock, Thief: The Dark Project, Thief II, Ultima Underworld, and Ultima Underworld 2.
Alias|Wavefront was awarded an Oscar at the Scientific and Technical Awards ceremony of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences on March 1, 2003 for its development of Maya 3D animation and effects software.
Since its launch five years ago, Maya has been used in almost every film nominated by the Academy in its Visual Effects category. Most recently, it was employed in this year's Oscar-nominated films in the Visual Effects category: "Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers," "Spider-Man," and "Star Wars Episode II: Attack Of The Clones." Maya was also part of the production pipelines for the nominees for best animated short: The ChubbChubbs! and Mike's New Car and four of the five best animated feature film nominees: Ice Age, Lilo & Stitch, Treasure Planet and Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron.
Online games are fast becoming the focus of the global game industry. Tack Jin Kim, CEO and president of NCsoft Corp., will deliver a keynote address on March 7 at the Game Developers Conference (GDC), where he is to introduce the Korean and Asian online game business, outline future prospects for the online game industry, and present NCsoft's strategies.
In his business and legal keynote, President Tack Jin Kim of NCsoft Corp. will reveal the story behind the rapid growth of online games in Asia and the company's strategies for the future.
In South Korea, where online computer games are quickly becoming a national sport, there are more than 26,000 Internet Game Rooms, or PC Baangs. Lineage, NCsoft's flagship product, has more than 2.5 million active subscriptions and 120,000 concurrent users in a country of nearly 50 million people.
In addition, Robert Garriott, CEO of NCsoft's North American subsidiary in Austin, Texas, will moderate a panel at GDC on the Korean gaming industry. The panel will include representatives from Sony Online Entertainment, Korean game publisher Nexon and the Korean Game Industry Alliance. "Korea, Where Multiplayer Gaming is King" will take place Thursday, March 6.
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