6 March 2000
Reported, written and edited by David Duberman
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German firm blaxxun interactive bills its new Instant Community as the first off-the-shelf 3D media-rich software that lets companies extend their Web sites into virtual communities.
Virtual worlds are 3D multi-user online environments that let business and individual users collaborate, communicate, shop, be entertained, gather and share information. Internet communities are said to promote greater online loyalty, longer user times (i.e., stickiness) and better branding through their immersive 3D features.
Instant Community integrates into existing Web sites, letting companies offer both 2D and 3D chat interfaces simultaneously.
Companies can run the client interface in a 3D environment using a blaxxun plug-in that downloads to the member's computer.
The basic Instant Community version, which includes 50 concurrent users and support for 5,000-50,000 members, will be available in late April. Standard pricing is $7,500 per 50 concurrent users and domain, and licenses for additional concurrent users and domain may be purchased separately.
Instant Community will be distributed through partners and authorized value-added resellers.
blaxxun also last week announced the launch of simsalagrimm.com, a German-language interactive cartoon TV series based on Grimm's Fairy Tales where kids can become actors in a unique parallel world on the Internet. blaxxun's Community Platform server software runs the 3D world, which is based on the SimsalaGrimm TV program from Greenlight Media (www.greenlightmedia.com) .
The new Release 1.6 of Fourelle Systems' Venturi Web accelerators now includes image compression. Venturi works with all types of Internet connection; the image compression feature lets network operators set the level of compression to compromise image quality for download performance. Venturi's image compression capability will load a standard Web page and analyze the page for GIF and JPEG graphic objects. Based on the network operator settings, the graphic objects in the Web pages will be reduced in size. Venturi Release 1.6 reduces the number of colors in GIF images and reduces the number of colors and pixels in JPEG images. For the end user, a reduction in image size will result in faster Web page download times over the wired or wireless Internet connection.
According to Fourelle, users of Venturi Release 1.6 will experience, on average, download times reduced by up to 60%, with as much as a 75 % reduction in bytes sent and/or received and a 65 % reduction in packet count.
New from Dart Communications is an alternative for Web application developers who want to work within proven application development environments like Visual Basic, Delphi, and Visual C++. The PowerTCP WebServer Tool, a software component that developers add to their preferred development environment, is said to turn any application into a stand-alone Web server.
The product lists for $999. All developed Web applications can be distributed royalty-free. HTTP and HTTPS version 1.1 is supported.
DigiScents, Inc., a developer of digital scent technology, will unveil its ScentWare SDK at the Game Developers Conference (GDC) in San Jose, California. The conference takes place March 6-12, 2000, at the San Jose Convention Center; DigiScents will be exhibiting from March 10-12 at booth no. 1046.
"Using the ScentWare SDK, a developer can scent enable a game within an hour," explains DigiScents director of scentstream technology, Cooksey Thomas, who previously developed the Sega Dreamcast's audio API. "The SDK contains all you need to create … games that allow gamers to smell environments, entities, and prizes."
Examples of scent associations that can be coded into game ScentTracks are:
The ScentWare SDK features:
Scheduled to ship early next year from The Motion Factory, developer of the Motivate 3D Development System, is the Motivate 2.0 Developers Toolkit,. The real-time animation and behavior-programming toolkit uses a redesigned core architecture, reportedly making it modular, portable, compact and extensible. In addition, the new version adds new real-time articulated-body dynamic simulation, and expanded cross-platform and Internet support.
Motivate’s real-time animation engines and scripting language are designed to let developers create "intelligent," interactive, real-time 3D characters and environments. The extensible development platform includes development tools, an SDK, server technology, and runtime engines for several platforms.
Available Motivate 2 modules include:
Each Motivate Runtime engine is available for a variety of deployment platforms, including Win32, PlayStation 2, Sega Dreamcast, and Macintosh.
The articulated body dynamic simulation simulates, from first principles of physics, articulated body reactions to an applied force, in real time, eliminating the need to hand-animate reactions. Developers register the force applied to a character, and Motivate’s Dynamics engine automatically creates the response of the entire kinematics chain, based on the principles of physics.
To facilitate Web browser-based interactive game development, Motivate 2 includes an embeddable ActiveX control and/or plug-in for Internet Explorer and Navigator 4 respectively, as well as multi-user servers, multi-user enabled client players, and runtimes for both PC and Macintosh systems.
Motivate 2 also provides streaming capability, enabling the downloading of large content, said to provide the end user with instant game play while contiguous parts of the environment stream and become available to the client machine in the background.
The complete Motivate 2 package, including all tools and engines, will be licensed for $7,500 per seat, with a commercial runtime distribution license fee of $50,000-100,000 per title. Pricing for individual engine modules, including DLLs and SDK, ranges from $17,500 to $50,000.
Steinberg Soft-und Hardware GmbH last week launched the Cubase Network with its Internet recording studios. It's designed to let musicians and audio professionals meet online to collaborate and produce original audio from anywhere.
Users of Steinberg's flagship product, the digital audio sequencer Cubase VST (also VST Score and/or VST/24 -3.7 PC or 4.1 MacOS), can now download Cubase with RocketPower for no charge. This allows for multiple Cubase users to work together and share projects using the Internet as a live connection---all in the familiar Cubase VST environment. Entry to public studios is free and a limited number of private studios are available for free (the first 100 Cubase users who sign up). Additional entry level private studios are available for $29 (3 months) and $99 (12 months).
All members of the session can work in together hearing the same work-in-progress as it develops. Musicians can post one of their own projects and ask for creative contributions, or they can join a session and contribute to someone else's music. The Internet Recording Studio is used to update each project as it develops in real-time. All participants work on their own aspects of the same arrangement with control over how and when their contributions will be heard, because they can publish their changes whenever they like. As each of the session players post their changes, all the participating musicians hear the new work. Private Studios allow users to store their work securely online and control access and permissions for each session.
Cubase VST with RocketPower has applications for producers wanting to coordinate sessions to include musicians working at a distance, educators who need to bring together diverse groups of musicians, and all those musicians who wish to collaborate in real time without having to rely on being in a fixed location. It offers new possibilities for Cubase users to seek out other musicians and work together.
Microsoft last week released the second section of the Flight Simulator 2000 Software Development Kit (SDK), available for download.
The SDK contains information needed for flight sim enthusiasts to modify aircraft and write add-on products to take advantage of the title's built-in multiplayer functionality. The Flight Simulator 2000 APL SDK is intended for experienced software developers familiar with a high level programming language such as C++.
Future releases of the Flight Simulator 2000 Software Development Kit will provide information on topics such as Panels & Gauges and Scenery. The first section of the SDK, released last month, contains information needed for flight sim enthusiasts to create their own adventures and lessons for Flight Simulator 2000.
Digimation announced last week the immediate availability of Enlight, a 3D Studio Max R3 plug-in developed by Sitni Sati (http://www.afterworks.com/).
Enlight places virtual lights on mesh faces, effectively turning an object into a light-emitting source. The user can add lights based on the UV mapping coordinates applied to the object, letting Enlight completely disregard its physical structure.
Enlight is said to be suitable for game development because of its compatibility with standard 3D Studio MAX tools that store illumination information in vertex color channels, enabling easy exportation of the illumination solution directly to a game engine.
The new version 3.9 of Softimage|3D from Avid Technology subsidiary Softimage will be downloadable from the Web beginning March 9. It's said to be optimized for the game development community, addressing both functionality and workflow. Other new features include improved mesh editing tools, a refined user interface and greater stability and introduces support for next-generation game platform development.
Key features include:
The new version is free to all customers under a valid maintenance contract as of 9 March 2000. The CD-ROM version will be available early in Q2.
Just out from PuppetTime, Inc. are new characters, props, and stages for PuppetTime Producer 1.0.1, available for download from the company's Website. A new version of PuppetTime Producer allows for integration of new characters from the online catalog.
PuppetTime Producer is a 3D character-animation program that implements the concept of digital actors. Users can create 3D animations by selecting characters, typing dialog, recording sounds and voice-overs, and choosing actions. Puppets can have many animations, costumes, and emotional states to choose from.
PuppetTime Producer is intended to simplify the 3D animation process for non-animators. Puppets have a number of animated emotional states built in, chosen from a list. Puppets also automatically create their own mouth shapes (visemes) from dialog text, using a Text-To-Speech technology. The user can then overdub his or her own voice speaking the dialog. Soundtracks can be imported for use as sound effects and background music. Still images can be imported as backgrounds. The program also supports multiple puppets and cameras for true cinematic freedom.
The shareware version of PuppetTime Producer is available for US$89.00 from http://www.puppettime.com. Academic pricing is available at $495.00 for a 10-seat license, with additional seats at $49.00 each. Volume and site licenses are also available. Additional characters are currently available free of charge.
Ulead Systems last week released MediaStudio Pro 6.0 ($495), a new version of its video editor. This new version incorporates support for technologies such as DV IEEE-1394 (iLink/Firewire), MPEG-2 and MP3 audio.
Also: automatic audio cross-fade tool, an audio decibel display with fade nodes on the timeline, lock/unlock tracks, on/off tracks scissors, selection tools and access to most clip functions through right-click options.
Dosch Design, a German publisher of add-ons for 3D animation and visualization applications, has released two new products in its Dosch Textures series:
Both sets include a sample 3D model, and are available for LightWave3D, 3D Studio MAX, Cinema4D and as a multi-application version that can be used with Maya, Softimage, and other 3D graphics applications.
Each product costs US$59 and is available directly through Dosch Design.
For samples and more information, visit http://www.doschdesign.de.
JobOptions, LLC announces a network partnership with Adobe Systems as part of the launch of Adobe's new online career resource for creative professionals, Adobe Job Connection. From the Adobe Job Connection site visitors can use the JobOptions service to search available jobs.
Adobe Job Connection provides human resource professionals and recruiters with access to graphic arts talent needed to fill Web, print, and video positions. Creative professionals and employers who access the service will find a database of individuals, as well as employment and career-related services.
Using the new Adobe ePortfolio technology, publishing professionals who visit Adobe Job Connection can post their portfolios online, display resumes and creative work samples, and expand their reach to prospective employers and businesses via the Web.
The cable vs. DSL rivalry has escalated to a new level, where markets with early broadband service deployment are seeing heated, head-to-head competition for the same customers. New research from Cahners In-Stat group indicates that DSL subscribers will surpass cable subscribers worldwide in 2001. However, cable will lead in the hotly contested North American residential market until 2002.
The In-Stat research also showed:
To purchase the report or for more information about the service, call Matt Woods at 617.630.2139, send mailto:email@example.com, or visit
http://www.instat.com/catalog/cat-tx.htm#tx0002sp to purchase online. The report price is $2,995 USD.
Web media sites that have yet to achieve a dominant position in their categories must change strategies and deliver more focused content while joining "invisible networks,"--those that allow them to aggregate multiple audiences for advertisers and retailers--according to new research from Jupiter Communications. The research showed that almost half of US online consumers prefer more targeted affinity/genre sites over general-purpose portals, while 39 percent of those consumers gravitate towards familiar off-line brands.
Of approximately 1,500 online consumers who were surveyed on the way they selected their online media source, 46 percent indicated a preference for more specialized sites. Twenty-six percent liked sites focused on a single topic or genre, such as sports or health, whereas 11 percent favored affinity sites that cater to a given audience, such as young families or boomers.
"Even in the limitless arena of the Internet, consumers spend most of the time on 20 or fewer sites," explained David Card, director of Jupiter's Content and Programming services. "The leading general portals--America Online, Yahoo!, and MSN--have opened a sizable gap between themselves and their competitors, each averaging above 50 percent reach of the online audience. Sites that hope to capture a meaningful relationship with the rest of the audience must create invisible networks that cross media and audience."
Invisible networks allow sites to deliver critical mass to their advertising and commerce partners by pooling large shares of smaller audiences while at the same time retaining the higher revenues associated with specialized audiences.
Scheduled for release in July by Impressions Games and Sierra Studios is the Pharaoh Official Expansion: Cleopatra, 4 It is being developed for Impressions Games by Maryland-based Breakaway Games, who most recently developed Sid Meier's Antietam!
The expansion picks up at the end of the New Kingdom, where Pharaoh left off. Players will be able to play four campaigns with 15 new missions, with challenges varying from building the Lighthouse at Alexandria, to battling grave robbers, to joining Mark Antony in his battle against Octavian. Players will sometimes be able to carry over military troops and personal wealth from one scenario to the next. The expansion includes new buildings, industries, animals, enemies, decorations and monuments.
Also, Impressions Games will make available as a free download the Pharaoh enhancement pack, offering gamers an editor and new missions and features. The enhancement pack, not to be confused with the expansion pack, can be downloaded localized for each language version at (http://www.pharaoh1.com). It includes a scenario editor, allowing gamers to create and customize their own missions, a version update, and 20 new missions from Impressions Games.
Vicarious Visions, a developer of games for Nintendo Game Boy Color, N64, PSX, DreamCast, PC, and Mac, recently previewed a new single- and multiple-player game called Terminus, which it says the first commercial game developed on Linux. Terminus is a persistent-world space combat simulation game that combines the persistent world with a real-time economy and a dynamically evolving storyline. The game, published by Vatical Entertainment, will ship this spring.
Terminus was simultaneously built for Linux, PC, and Macintosh platforms and is interoperable among operating systems. Terminus is in one box with a single SKU. The game supports GameSpy to locate Terminus servers on the net so there are no subscription fees as with other persistent online world games previously released.
The company offers these examples of its real-time economy feature: If the owner of a commercial space station has a load of torpedoes hijacked, the supply is diminished, and the prices go up in real time. Or, players can plan to buy weaponry from a far-distant merchant, and hope the prices don’t change while en route.
Another feature in Terminus is the ability of computer-controlled characters to express human emotions as they interact with other characters and react to events using AI technology. Characters can become angry and impatient, or they can fall in love. These emotions affect their judgments, actions, and reactions to an ever-changing world.
Three Axis Interactive, Inc. will port its Mac-based 3D action game Nanosaur to Linux. Originally developed for the Macintosh by Austin-based Pangea Software (www.pangeasoft.net) and released in 1998, the title uses Apple's QuickDraw 3D technology. Three Axis will work with Quesa (www.quesa.org) to produce the port.
Quesa, a high-level 3D graphics library, is an open-source multi-platform tool designed to offer complete compatibility with Apple's QuickDraw 3D software.
Three Axis Interactive was founded in 1999 to develop original games for Linux, and to port popular games from other computer platforms. With a team of long-time Linux proponents and programmers, Three Axis hopes to help grow the Linux community by bringing a wide range of entertainment products to the operating system.
When Sierra Studios first released its first-person tactical simulation, SWAT 3: Close Quarters Battle, gamers liked the title but complained about the lack of multiplayer capability. The company aims to fix that in SWAT 3: Special Edition, scheduled to ship in August.
The new version will contain the original 16 missions found in SWAT 3: CQB, plus six new missions and the multiplayer capability. SE will support up to 10 players on a LAN or over the Internet. The multiplayer game will offer several choices: create an alliance with the opposing team and attempt to complete overall objectives during a co-op game, play death match, or play a tournament-style game in competitive mode. Also included in will be a proprietary level editor and skin editor, which will allow players to create levels and customize their character and weapons. For those who already own a copy of the original, Sierra will publish a multiplayer add-on, SWAT 3: Battle Plan.
The game, based on real-life L.A.P.D. special weapons and tactics, employs motion-capture technology, computer intelligence, a physics engine, and the cooperation of actual L.A.P.D. SWAT officers in development. Other features include photographic resources for faces and clothing in the 3D models, plus dynamic lighting coupled with environments built to scale with photographic resources.
SegaSoft Networks' Heat.Net online gaming community last week released 10SIX, a massively multiplayer action-strategy game. The title, a combination of the first-person shooter and real time strategy genres, operates 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. It's a world where weapons and equipment are bought, sold and traded. A massive war effort is officially launched between four competing corporations and everyone will struggle to survive even when players are not signed on.
A seven-day free-trial period is available at www.10six.com.
GT Interactive Announces Duke Nukem: Planet of the Babes
Coming in May from GT Interactive Software is Duke Nukem: Planet of the Babes for PlayStation. Developed by Florida's n-Space, the decidedly non-PC title features:
Slated for release in 2001, Dungeon Siege is an action fantasy role-playing game said to combine the immersive elements of a role-playing game with the intensity of a real-time strategy game. Beginning with a single character, players can travel through the world and gather a party of up to 10 characters or choose to face the challenge alone.
The title is being developed by Chris Taylor's Gas Powered Games.
iEntertainment Network, a provider of online games and communities, last week launched its debut wireless game. Pocket Trivia, developed internally, is the first in a series of new products to be created by iEntertainment Network's new wireless subsidiary - iWireless Games, Inc. The recently announced subsidiary will focus on the wireless industry and develop entertainment content for WAP-enabled cellular phones and hand-held devices like the Palm VII from Palm Computing and the Rim Pager from Research in Motion.
Ousted Sega honcho Bernard Stolar has joined the board of directors of Intrinsic Graphics Inc., developer of next-generation graphics software environments.. In this role, Stolar guides and advises the board on its initiatives in the interactive entertainment industry. Mr. Stollar joins current Board members John Johnston, co-founder and partner of August Capital and Naval Ravikant, co-founder and CEO of Epinions.com.
"Producing games for different platforms today is extremely time-intensive, which drives up production time and cost," said Stolar. "Intrinsic Graphics' solution meets a critical need in the industry – a fast portable software platform that lets developers concentrate on delivering great content, and not spend valuable time and resource on reinventing every line of code for the different consoles and PCs. "
John Warnock, CEO of Adobe Systems, will keynote flashforward2000, the first-ever Flash solutions conference, exposition and film festival, March 27-29 at the Nob Hill Masonic Center in San Francisco, CA.
The three-day event features creative and technical presentations plus hands-on workshops and the Flash Film Festival, a celebration of Web animation.
http://adobe.0mm.com/cg/rd.cgi?i=ADB031001 (check out the Gallery section)
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