10 March 2003
Reported, written and edited by David Duberman
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Vividence says its new tool provides insight into the how Website visitors interact with Macromedia Flash content and applications. While Macromedia Flash Player is the leading rich client for Internet content and applications across a range of platforms and devices, sites have had limited ability to quantify the benefit of building rich content and experiences. Vividence's ability to track Macromedia Flash content now enables companies to measure customers' behavior, thoughts (!), and attitudes (!!) as they interact with Macromedia Flash applications.
Research shows that more and more sites use Macromedia Flash for key user interactions such as finding information, searching for products, or booking a hotel room. According to NPD, more than 497 million Internet users across all major platforms and devices have Macromedia Flash Player installed. As a result, there has been a growing need to understand exactly how these customers interact with Macromedia Flash applications.
Traditional Web tracking tools do not offer a detailed understanding of how users interact with Macromedia Flash, or reveal why users might abandon, become frustrated, or linger on the site. Vividence says it provides insight into key behaviors -- such as rollovers, clicks, or any other Macromedia Flash action -- in the context of real user goals. And it adds qualitative feedback to probe into user actions as well as the motivations and expectations behind them.
NDL released its 3D graphics toolkit and engine, Gamebryo (www.gamebryo.com), at last week's Game Developers Conference in San Jose, Calif. The cross-platform 3D graphics toolkit and engine, based on NDL's NetImmerse technology, lets developers create 3D environments, and adds new tool features including an expandable tools architecture, pixel and vertex shader editing, and new animation tools. The Gamebryo engine includes a new pixel and vertex shader system, as well as performance enhancements.
U.K.-based Criterion Software, a provider of game-development solutions, last week unveiled a new product portfolio, with two new products--RenderWare Physics and RenderWare AI--and updates to RenderWare Graphics and RenderWare Studio.
aJile Systems Inc., a company founded by the developers of the first direct-execution Java microprocessor, has created a game-development kit to bring Java MIDP technology to Nintendo's Game Boy Advance. aJile's JAMiD game development kit is also the first platform to use Sun's latest MIDP 2.0 technology, which offers advanced audio and graphics features to Java mobile game developers.
Hundreds of Java-based MIDP game titles are already available for tens of millions of Java-enabled mobile phones sold worldwide by leading handset vendors. With aJile's new JAMiD game development kit, hundreds of thousands of Java software developers can now create multimedia mobile games that will also play on millions of Game Boy Advance and Game Boy SP players worldwide.
The key component of the JAMiD kit is the Java game cartridge, which plugs into the external card slot on any Game Boy Advance or Game Boy Advance SP, bringing Java capabilities to the world's most popular mobile game player. The JAMiD cartridge will allow users to run MIDP games while listening to MP3 music, both of which can be downloaded from Internet sites.
The JAMiD cartridge includes aJile's direct-execution aJ-100 Java microprocessor, an MP3 audio player, and the memory and interface hardware necessary to download and run MIDP-compatible games and MP3 audio. aJile is selling the JAMiD as a complete development kit with software tools that enable game developers to create MIDP game titles for Game Boy handhelds. aJile is also negotiating with OEMs in Asia, Europe and North America to manufacture and merchandise consumer versions of the JAMiD game cartridge.
As part of its gaming initiative, aJile is also building an online game portal, where mobile game developers from around the world can distribute their MIDP games directly to users. The company will make it possible for game developers to offer both free and for-fee downloads to the global gaming community.
The aJile JAMiD Development Kit (JAM-ID100K) includes a JAMiD Java gaming cartridge (JAM-ID100C), J2ME/CLDC/MIDP Java Runtime, aJile development tool chain, JAMiD adapter boards and cables. The $199 JAMiD Development Kit is scheduled to ship the first week of April.
Nokia and Metrowerks, maker of CodeWarrior software and hardware development tools and services, last week released an all-in-one developer kit for the Series 60 Platform. Metrowerks will distribute the kit, which enables Series 60 application development in the CodeWarrior environment possible.
Included in the new CodeWarrior Wireless Development Kit for Symbian OS, Nokia 3650 Edition is the Metrowerks CodeWarrior Development Studio for Symbian OS v2, Personal Edition, and the newly released Series 60 SDK for Symbian OS, jointly developed by Metrowerks and Forum Nokia, Nokia's global developer program.
Also included in the bundle is a commercial-release version of Nokia's newest Series 60 mobile device, the Nokia 3650 tri-band phone. The specially priced bundle provides tools that let programmers write, debug, test, and deploy games and other applications.
Series 60 devices provide rich communications and enhanced applications consisting of telephony and personal information management applications, browser and messaging clients, and a modifiable user interface designed for one-handed operation. Series 60 is licensed to Nokia, Panasonic, Samsung, Sendo and Siemens, which together represent almost two-thirds of the global handset market. Running on top of the Symbian OS, an operating system for data-enabled mobile phones, Series 60 supports technologies such as MMS, Java, WAP/XHTML, and C++ / Symbian OS (native).
For more information about Series 60 development and the CodeWarrior Wireless Development Kit for Symbian OS, Nokia 3650 Edition, visit http://www.forum.nokia.com/tools.
To order the kit, sold exclusively online and priced at $1,150, visit http://www.metrowerks.com/4/nokia3650.
NewTech Infosystems has added support for Panasonic's DVD Multi OEM drive, Model SW-9571-CYY. In addition to Backup NOW 3.0 Deluxe, NTI DriveBackup, DragonBurn and FileCD, users can now use the drive to store data, video, audio, image, and multimedia files on CDs and DVDs. The drive supports all recordable DVD formats approved by the DVD Forum (DVD-RAM/R/RW) as well as CD-R/RW discs.
The DVD Multi drive writes to 4.7GB rewriteable DVD-RAM discs and write-once DVD-R discs' at 2x speed, which is equivalent to the 18x CD rate.
GarageGames recently announced its showcase of developer tools and related announcements for the Game Developer's Conference (GDC), including the new commercial license of the Torque Game Engine and partnership with Game Development Search Engine.
GarageGames has been selling the Torque Game Engine (TGE) to independent developers for $100 with no requirement to publish with GarageGames. The only criteria to be qualified as an indie developer is based on having less than $500,000 a year in annual income between the developer and publisher. GarageGames is now offering a full commercial license for those not meeting the indie requirement or for those who want to use TGE and publish with a larger publisher.
If $500,000 in annual revenue is exceeded by the developer's company or in combination with their publisher, then the commercial license is $10,000 upfront per title for the right to develop using the TGE. Up to five programmers are given access to the private SDK area, one representative will have access to a private corporate support forum, email support for one year (up 20 incidences), and phone support for 90 days (up to 10 calls).
GarageGames has reached an agreement with Game Development Search Engine (www.gdse.com) to partner in providing expanded resources to both corporate and independent game developers. GDSE provides developers with coverage on resource categories including 3D & graphics, articles & tutorials, beginner guide, career paths, creative development, demo scene, design & programming, game companies, hardware, Internet & Web, learning the language, multi-player, platform development, software and source code.
GameSpy Industries, a content and technology company serving the games industry, last week announced new upgrades to its Matchmaking Toolkit, part of the GameSpy.net suite of solutions for game developers and publishers.
The Matchmaking Toolkit provides a matchmaking solution in the form of a set of software development kits (SDKs) that developers can customize for use in their game, and access to the GameSpy.net master matching server/infrastructure.
GameSpy has added a new NAT Negotiation SDK to the Matchmaking Toolkit, said to help publishers ensure that their online games work for the growing number of gamers that have networks installed at home. The new technology lets games work with routers that utilize Network Address Translation (NAT) technology, allowing more gamers to play online and cutting expense associated with providing technical support to gamers on home networks.
In addition, GameSpy says it has upgraded the Query and Reporting SDK and server browsing SDK, part of the Matchmaking Toolkit, to provide faster socket code, significant bandwidth reduction and enhanced filtering and sorting functionality.
Creative Technology Ltd. last week announced new audio technologies for simultaneous rendering of multiple environments and creation of interactive multi-channel content for PC game development.
EAX 4.0 introduces the spatialization of multiple reverberant environments along with an extensible library of audio effects algorithms. The multi-environment feature of the EAX 4.0 API allows for the rendering of multiple, simultaneous audio environments and effects in real time. Developers can now create defined audio landscapes by placing different 3D environments around the listener. The EAX 4.0 API also offers new effects algorithms such as chorus, flanger, frequency shifter, echo and many more, within a mixing framework analogous to traditional studio production systems.
Creative is also introducing a new 3D audio format called the "Interactive Spatial Audio Composition Technology" (ISACT), accompanied by the ISACT Production Studio, an authoring tool for creating interactive, multi-channel, 3D spatialized music and sound effects for games and other multimedia applications.
Traditionally, a developer would have to create multiple versions of the same content for different speaker configurations -- one for 5.1 speaker set-up, one for 4.1, and yet another for 2.1. With ISACT, developers only need to deliver one set of multi-channel content, because ISACT will automatically scale to the number of speakers connected to a playback system. Unlike other formats, which assign audio tracks to a specific output, ISACT pans the audio tracks using 3D spatial coordinates. Playback systems such as the Sound Blaster Audigy 2 sound card then mix the audio tracks using these ISACT coordinates and deliver content according to the speaker set up.
New from Intrinsic Graphics, Inc., developer of the Intrinsic Alchemy game development platform, is Alchemy 3.0, currently in beta, with new "Ether" shader architecture and integrated Lua scripting. Supported devices include PlayStation2, Xbox, Gamecube, and PC hardware. The system lets game code and art assets be ported to multiple systems. Also new is morph target animation acceleration and improved asynchronous I/O and streaming audio support, plus robust content handling and documentation.
The Internet delivers a wealth of information to your fingertips, and all you need to know is how to find it...which is not always as easy as it sounds. In that enormous, shifting mass of data that makes up the Web, some information will be useful and credible, and much of it will miss the mark entirely. Google, with its deceptively simple search form, is a search engine that indexes more than 2.4 billion Web pages, in more than 30 languages, conducting more than 150 million searches a day.
"Google Hacks," by Tara Calishain and Rael Dornfest (O'Reilly, US $24.95), is a collection of one hundred tips and tools gathered from users of Google, as well as developers who are excited about Google's new API. The book offers a variety of ways for power users to mine the enormous amount of information that Google has access to. Each hack can be read in just a few minutes, but can save hours of searching for the right answers.
Readers will learn methods for using the advanced search interface and the new Google API, including how to build and modify scripts that can become custom business applications based on Google. Topics covered include:
Several sample Google hacks, including "Using Full-Word Wild Cards" and "Scraping Google News," are available free online at: http://www.oreilly.com/catalog/googlehks/chapter/index.html.
Additional Google Hacks can be found on Tara Calishain's ResearchBuzz site at: http://www.buzztoolbox.com/google/.
For more information about the book, including Table of Contents, index, author bios, and samples, see http://www.oreilly.com/catalog/googlehks/.
Just out from Discreet is cleaner XL for Windows. Based on the Microsoft .NET technology, cleaner XL is the next-generation successor to the cleaner 5 streaming and encoding software. The new release features performance improvements, improved user interface, and enhanced workflow capabilities. The software is used to master and encode video content for output to digital media formats such as Web streaming, DVD-to wireless, PDA, and mobile distribution.
cleaner XL encompasses more than 180 presets and filters with control over encoding parameters. Additionally, the new workflow reportedly eases management of large volumes of work. Watch Folders automate the entire process of encoding multiple jobs.
cleaner XL features a document-based interface that lets users prepare one job while processing others. Watch Folders, drag-and-drop capabilities, and job templates are said to streamline the workflow. The software supports multiple processors and Intel's new Hyper-Threading technology, as well as 60 media codec (compress/decompress) formats including new HD video and multi-channel audio capabilities of Windows Media 9 Series, QuickTime 6, MPEG-4 w/ AAC audio, MPEG-2 and Kinoma for PalmOS PDAs.
face2face animation inc., a provider of facial animation, has upgraded its facial-animation process, AlterEgo. The new AlterEgo engine, which enables game developers to incorporate facial animation into a variety of game platforms, will support the NDL Gamebryo 3D graphics toolkit and engine (see separate story, above).
The AlterEgo facial animation process is based on video-analysis software that automatically converts digital video into animation-motion instructions, or Facial Animation Parameter (FAP) data, as specified by the MPEG-4 standard. One reported advantage of the process for game developers is the software’s ability to produce multilingual tracks for international distribution. face2face also provides plug-ins for 3ds max.
FAPs, as specified by the MPEG-4 standard, are transferred to any appropriately prepared computer-graphics face model to convey facial expressions, gaze and lip movements and head motion information. This process enables automatic capture of speech or singing, in any language, as well as human emotion.
New from Ulead Systems is MediaStudio Pro 7.0 is now available. The modular package includes video capture, editing, audio editing, video painting and CG graphics, as well as DVD/VCD authoring tools. New features include automatic editing to audio cues, with transitions, and 16:9 native widescreen support. Users can analyze DV tapes at up to 10x speed to log chapter thumbnails as a DV album for use as selective batch capture logs or as reference to categorize tapes.
MediaStudio Pro outputs in real time to a second display device using a graphics display card such as the Matrox Parhelia 128MB AGP graphics card. Ulead says the software is unique in its ability to output both video fields for full-resolution output to a monitor, TV or tape deck.
New from Kaydara is its FBX-XSI plug-in, which provides XSI users with a pathway for the acquisition and exchange of 3D data between Softimage|XSI, Kaydara Motionbuilder, and other Kaydara FBX partners. The free plug-in lets artists access content from Kaydara's FBX partners.
Kaydara FBX is a powerful platform-independent 3D authoring and interchange format that provides access to 3D content from different applications and source material providers. The binary file format supports most 3D data elements, as well as 2D, audio, and video media elements.
Also, Turbo Squid has added a new Kaydara FBX Community has been added to its Web site. The site now offers over 700 FBX models, scenes, and motion-capture files.
The new resource will allow users to search by model type, artist, or keyword while staying within the FBX community.
ATI Technologies, Inc. and 3Dlabs announced last week a cooperative initiative to accelerate the development of the RenderMonkey shader-development tool suite, which is available free of charge from both firms. Under the terms of this agreement, ATI will continue to evolve the core RenderMonkey framework, and both companies will develop plug-in modules that support the industry standard Microsoft DirectX HLSL and OpenGL 2.0 GLslang high-level shading languages.
The latest generation of programmable graphics devices, called Visual Processing Units (VPUs), can be programmed to undertake cinematic-quality graphics rendering as well as general-purpose imaging, graphics and vector processing. High-level shading languages will be the preferred way for ISVs to program these powerful devices, but this will require a new generation of tools to enable programmers to code, visualize, debug and manage shader programs.
RenderMonkey is a hardware-independent tool suite created to advance the development and use of shader programs in 3D applications. It is currently being used by game developers and content creators to speed their shader development. ATI and 3Dlabs will work together to further develop RenderMonkey, and work with tool vendors to integrate RenderMonkey functionality into digital content creation applications.
Coming March 22 from Oregon3D Inc., The Center for Visualization Technologies, is Animation Masters Seminar, a one-day class that will explore the world of animation from a general overview to the current state of animation as a career. The $150 class will be taught by Andrew Gordon, Pixar animator, and Mike Wellins, a former director from Will Vinton Studios.
Using examples from films and television, Gordon and Wellins will discuss animation fundamentals and principles, animation directing, the basics of performance staging, blocking and story telling, editing for emotion, and classic character animation.
London-based Digital Bridges recently created dbi distribution, a new distribution service for Java mobile games developers.
dbi distribution aims to provide a route to market for developers of J2ME or “Java” games on mobile phones. The company plans to expose product to such distribution channels as mobile network operators, interactive TV, bricks & mortar phone and entertainment retailers, Web portals, e-commerce outlets, and print and online media channels.
Java games submitted to dbi distribution will have to clear two value assessments, including quality checks and compatibility tests, and, upon passing these, will be included in Digital Bridges' dbi Games Catalog, which is pushed through Digital Bridges' distribution channels in Europe and North America.
The program will also act as an optional gateway to a formal publishing relationship with Digital Bridges, wherein selected games that meet the company's quality and portfolio requirements will be invited to progress from Games Catalogue listing to full published title status.
Sony Computer Entertainment America says five additional major recording artists will provide music and video content for the upcoming PlayStation2 rhythm-action game, Amplitude.
Newly signed acts include Herbie Hancock, Papa Roach, Baldwin Brothers, Production Club, and Manchild. These artists will join other major recording artists on the Amplitude roster that include blink 182, David Bowie, Dieselboy, Freezepop, Garbage, Logan 7, Mekon, Quarashi, and Weezer.
Developed by Harmonix Music Systems, Amplitude allows the player to become a rhythmical DJ and jam with more than 25 diverse songs in interactive musical environments while mixing and remixing hit songs during offline and online gameplay.
Top honor for the 5th Annual Independent Games Festival (IGF) went to Super X Studios last Thursday night, at the Game Developers Choice Awards ceremony, held during the Game Developers Conference in San Jose.
The $15,000 Seumas McNally Grand Prize for Independent Game of the Year was awarded to the development team Super X Studios for “Wild Earth,” a game that sends players of all ages on safari through the plains of Africa to explore the wild and take photos of animals in their natural habitats for a nature magazine.
The IGF also recognized:
All winners received Microsoft Visual Studio .net Professional. The Technical Excellence winners received an Intel Pentium 4 workstation and a complete set of Intel development tools.
The IGF was established in 1998 to encourage and reward innovation in independent games and to provide a forum for independent game developers to exhibit their work and receive recognition.
The International Game Developers Association (IGDA) named recipients of the Game Developers Choice Awards last week at the third annual ceremony during the 2003 Game Developers Conference (GDC).
The award recipients were:
Three special honors, selected by the Game Developers Choice Awards advisory board, were also presented at the ceremony:
How do you keep a large group of the most creative Imaging, Design, and Business Techno-geeks nailed to their seats for three days? If you are Steve Broback, founder of the i3Forum, you invite top imaging and design professionals to speak about their work and the things that move them.
Some of the speakers include: digital photographer Greg Gorman; Harry Marks, co-creator of TED, Apple Master and former VP and creative director at both ABC and CBS; Jeffrey Zeldman, Web designer and co-founder of The Web Standards Project; John McIntosh, the chair of the Computer Arts department at the School of Visual Arts in New York City and chair of the 2002 SIGGRAPH Electronic Theater; and Jeff Schewe, an advertising photographer based in Chicago.
i3Forum is a party being thrown by Steve Broback, co-founder of Avondale Media LLC, for 100 imaging, design, and business techno-geeks. It will be held in Laguna, California on April 6, 7, and 8 at the Surf & Sand Resort.
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