20 March 2000
Reported, written and edited by David Duberman
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According to ODBiC's publisher, if you can create HTML Web pages, you can also create interactive, database-enabled Web applications by learning a few "script" commands.
Without the necessity of CGI or ASP programming, ODBiC provides an SQL interface to ODBC database on Windows NT/95/98/2000 platforms, as well as other functions and features for creating dynamic, interactive Web sites. ODBiC script commands are embedded directly in HTML "template" files, which lets Webmasters use their favorite HTML editor and to focus on presentation rather than programming.
New features in Release 2.0 include browser file uploading, and per-user and per-session "persistent" data. The user and session data features provide a means to overcome the "single request and response" HTTP protocol: You can associate data temporarily or permanently to site visitors, with optional logins and session "time-out", without worrying about "cookies" and passing data around in your forms and scripts.
ODBiC is a shareware program that runs under any standard Windows Web server. Registration fees are $39 for a single-copy license or $79 for a multiple-copy "corporate" license.
More information and a 30-day full-featured evaluation copy are available at: http://www.odbic.com
Headland Digital Media last week debuted KnowZone 2.0 for Math, an online tool that enables 3rd through 8th grade students, teachers, and parents to work together to prepare for state and standardized math tests. Students using Scott Foresman, Silver Burdett Ginn, and Prentice Hall math textbooks in the classroom can continue working on school assignments, practice exercises, and state standards tests on their home computer. Through an instantaneous reporting feature, parents and teachers can monitor a student's progress by reviewing the results of practice tests and interactive, educational games. Teachers have the additional option of viewing complete class summary reports for particular activities.
Located at www.kz.com, the KnowZone 2.0 for Math is also available in Spanish.
France Telecom's research and development unit has created a collaborative software application that lets remote users work together, create documents and interact in real time in a shared virtual environment. The interface, dubbed Spin-3D, was unveiled at the Cite des Sciences science museum in Paris.
Spin-3D, which was developed in partnership with the Lille Fundamental Information Technology Laboratory (LIFL), appears as a three-dimensional space on the user's PC. The avatars are controlled via standard interfaces such as a mouse or joystick, and can manipulate objects situated in the virtual world, or communicate verbally in real time. The representations are created either from photos of users or from sample avatars in an image bank.
France Telecom R&D says it will further enhance the Spin-3D interface with new developments this summer, including a function that mimics users' facial expressions and movements within the virtual environment. Such functions will improve interactivity by making each user's activity immediately visible to others in the virtual space.
Webforia last week launched Clickbar, a floating desktop toolbar that lets users add notes and highlights to Web pages, and then share those comments with others. Users can open a Web page, highlight key text and add notes to the page by clicking the Annotate button. Users can then email the page using the Send button. In addition, Clickbar is designed to provide access to Web-based content, products, services, financial information and popular search engines from the desktop.
Users can also enter search words into Clickbar and be immediately taken to the “search results” page of the user-selected search engine. Users can search using AltaVista, AOL, Ask Jeeves, Direct Hit, Dogpile, Excite, Go, Go2Net, GoTo, HotBot, LookSmart, Lycos, Mamma, MSN, Netscape, Northern Light, Snap, WebCrawler, Webforia Search or Yahoo! (what, no Google? -ed.).
Clickbar also provides a link to news and business services. By clicking on the News button, users can connect to headline news, world news, business news, small business news, industry news, health news, technology news or technology business news from CNN.
Janex International last week released the beta version of its new proprietary children’s Internet browser. The full version, (oKID Surfer 1.0) is scheduled for release on CD-ROM in Q2 and will include expanded capabilities such as full motion video, downloadable interactive educational sound tracks, and proprietary child safety features.
Features include a variety of interchangeable desktop appearances corresponding to the oKID characters. oKID Surfer 1.0 will include three distinct parent-controlled Internet access modes: child safe, child sensitive, and unrestricted. The browser incorporates a proprietary URL targeting system in the child-safe mode to secure the integrity of the surfing environment, and an enhanced URL filtering system in the child-sensitive mode for broader, yet controlled Internet access. The oKID browser functions in unrestricted mode similar to that of any traditional Web browser providing unlimited access to the Internet. The settings for all three access modes are password protected to ensure parental control.
Janex will also offer interactive advertising opportunities to content partners, manufacturing partners, and distributors of children’s products in the areas of entertainment, education, games, and toys with oKID Surfer 1.0. Its advertising delivery system combines interactivity between the Internet, CD-ROM, and DVD formats.
No, VRML isn't dead! Not, at least, according to Dublin, Ireland-based ParallelGraphics, which last week released Internet Scene Assembler Pro 1.0 (ISA Pro), the professional companion to its VRML authoring tool, Internet Scene Assembler.
Targeted at the professional 3D developer, ISA Pro's new features include visual supports, which assist a step-by-step creative process, and an advanced key frame animator tool. Users can create custom objects and add them to the built-in galleries with advanced VRML-import and many other features now also standard.
According to the designers from ParallelGraphics’ ArtStudio, ISA Pro is especially useful in the creation of 3D scenes that involve complicated logic and behavior, such as virtual manuals, online 3D games and ecommerce presentations. With ISA Pro, the professional developer can create a custom gallery of reusable 3D objects and use a module-based approach in creating 3D presentations.
Both ISA and ISA Pro were developed with the help of Cortona SDK and they exploit the ParallelGraphics’ VRML Cortona engine.
Just out from Alias|Wavefront is its Maya Batch Renderer for the Linux platform. The application can render all elements of a scene created in Maya at film quality with optimized tile-based rendering and selective ray-tracing.
"Using the Maya Batch Renderer on Linux, I can render or read scenes and textures across the network," said Geoffrey Hancock, lead 3D artist for Vancouver-based GVFX. "The Linux operating system interface is very fast, and seems very stable, even beyond Unix and NT," he maintained.
Maya Batch Renderer for Red Hat Linux V6 or above on Intel IA-32 processors is now shipping and can be purchased through Alias|Wavefront or its authorized resellers for $1,295 USD.
Avid Technology subsidiary Softimage last week unveiled the new name for its next-generation 3D animation solution, code-named "Sumatra." From now on Sumatra will be called Softimage|XSI.
The new name comes from the .xsi format, used by the software to integrate disparate elements of the animation pipeline.
BeOS 5 Personal Edition, a free downloadable version of the next release of Be Inc.'s digital-media operating system, will be made available on March 28. The public can download BeOS 5 Personal Edition, at no charge, via the Web at http://free.be.com. Additionally, BeOS 5 Pro Edition, a full-featured version, will be made available shortly thereafter via a third-party publisher in North, Central and South America. Be also plans to establish similar publishing relationships in Europe and Asia.
BeOS is the company's desktop operating system for PCs that excels in the areas of audio and video manipulation. Since Be announced in January that it would make a version of BeOS available at no charge via the Web, nearly 100,000 users have pre-registered for the download.
BeOS 5 Personal Edition is aimed at first-time or casual users who want to try out the operating system. This version is stored as a file within users' existing Windows-based operating systems, without repartitioning their hard drives (as required by previous versions). Launching BeOS 5 Personal Edition involves double-clicking an icon. BeOS 5 Pro Edition will be bundled with additional applications and services for individuals involved in audio and video production.
NeMo's new Arena Game Design competition challenges game developers to take advantage of the potential of real-time physics simulation. This functionality, to be available with the next release of NeMo's eponymous game authoring system, is the result of NeMo’s collaboration with Ipion Virtual Physics GmbH and the creation of the new library of physics behaviors.
The competition will allow game developers to demonstrate their creativity using NeMo and the physics behavior libraries, and win copies of NeMo Dev, NeMo Creation, 3Dfx Voodoo 5 graphics cards, other prizes to be announced. Participation in the competition is free, including the software (the free trial version of NeMo can be used to create the game files, though NeMo Dev or NeMo Creation can be used as well).
Submissions are due midnight PST, April 23, and the judges will post the top 10 entries for popular votes May 2. The voting ends May 31 and the winners will be announced on June 1.
Interactive entertainment's game creators, business executives, and industry types will gather in Los Angeles May 10-12 to present a new series of educational sessions at the Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3Expo). The workshops and conferences will focus on trends and issues facing the industry. In addition to the sessions, the E3Expo 2000 show floor will be open to industry professionals May 11-13 at the Los Angeles Convention Center.
E3Expo 2000 offers six three-hour workshops examining issues that affect interactive entertainment. These sessions hosted by industry authorities will reportedly provide new approaches to creating and sustaining a profitable and marketable game business.
E3Expo 2000 workshops include:
E3Expo 2000 conferences include:
Online/Digital Home Track:
Current Issues Track:
Consumer Marketing Track:
Registration for E3Expo 2000 is now available online for industry professionals at http://www.e3expo.com or by calling 1-800-315-1133.
ACM SIGGRAPH last week announced the content of the Educators Program for SIGGRAPH 2000, the 27th International Conference on Computer Graphics and Interactive Techniques, being held 23 - 28 July 2000 at the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center, New Orleans, Louisiana. This year's content offers techniques for teaching and for using computer graphics to facilitate learning. The presentations include 11 papers, five panels, and two tutorials.
The Educators Program includes content for college-level faculty, department chairs, administrators, instructional technology, and media professionals as well as K-12 educators, administrators, and technology personnel. Content highlights include:
Starting tonight (if you're reading this Sunday night), hardcore gamers in North America have the opportunity to register for their chance to be one of 1,000 players to have the first public look at the Diablo II.
The beta signup is scheduled for a 24-hour period on http://www.blizzard.com beginning on Sunday, Mar. 19 at 11:00 p.m. and ending Monday, Mar. 20 at 11:00 p.m. Following the registration period, Blizzard will randomly select 1,000 testers based on a variety of system configurations and locations.
Only one submission per person will be accepted. Selected testers will be notified within a week of registration, and a complete list of testers will be posted on http://www.battle.net.
This initial phase of beta testing is being limited to the United States and Canada. During a second phase of beta testing, gamers from around the world will be able to play Diablo II on their region's local servers.
The beta, which will be playable only over Battle.net, will include all five character classes - Amazon, Barbarian, Necromancer, Paladin and Sorceress - and will include Act I of the game. The purpose of the beta test is to ensure Battle.net stability, check system compatibility and balance game play.
In Diablo II, players return to a dark world plagued by evil forces. After possessing the body of the hero who defeated him, Diablo resumes his nefarious scheme to shackle humanity into unholy slavery by joining forces with the other Prime Evils, Mephisto and Baal. Players face a new series of quests to rid the world of Diablo and his vile brethren forever.
Diablo II is being developed by the Blizzard North design team and is expected to release during the first half of this year in Windows95/98/2000/NT. A Mac version will follow shortly thereafter.
Newly available from LucasArts Entertainment is the real-time strategy game Star Wars: Force Commander. We spent a bit of time with the title over the weekend, and found it most enjoyable.
The game features more than 50 individual Star Wars personnel, vehicle and building units that players amass while fighting for the Rebel Alliance or Galactic Empire. Players direct all major strategic aspects of a mission, including the requisition and command of combat units, the gaining of experience while engaging the enemy, and exploration of a 3D world, all while participating in a growing dynamic Star Wars story. Ground troops range from squadrons of Imperial stormtroopers and Rebel soldiers to various classes of droids. Vehicles abound for both the Rebel Alliance and Galactic Empire, including never-before-seen tanks, missile launchers and troop transports. Forces are rounded out with familiar Star Wars vehicles such as AT-AT and AT-ST walkers, Y-wings and TIE bombers.
Mission objectives include establishing a base of operations, capturing strategic buildings and units, and the destruction of enemy forces. Additional missions may involve the devastation of a key target or taking a defensive stance by holding off an enemy's attack long enough to allow allied forces to retreat, similar to tactics employed by the Rebel Alliance in the Battle of Hoth.
Skirmishes take place on such diverse Star Wars worlds as the dense tropical forests of Yavin 4, the searing deserts of Tatooine, and Corellia's grassy plains. New locales include the computer complex on Ruul and Coruscant's forbidding polar icecap.
Unlike most RTS games, FC uses 3D hardware (required) to provide, for instance, a floating camera with multiple perspectives, while an attached camera mode thrusts the player into the midst of the battlefield.
The game can be played in single or multiplayer mode with up to 4 players via the Internet or local area network.
Activision has acquired the North American publishing rights to Sony Computer Entertainment Inc.'s action-adventure game, Chase the Express. The game, which will carry the title of Covert Ops: Nuclear Dawn in North America, is expected to be released for PlayStation this summer.
The military-based real-time action-adventure game, produced by Sugar and Rockets, lets players assume the role of a NATO soldier traveling on a new high-speed military train from Russia to Paris. As the lone survivor of a terrorist attack, players must rescue an ambassador and his family from a group of terrorists and defuse multiple nuclear weapons before the train reaches Paris.
As the train travels through 30 cities in 12 different countries, players master new skills as they jump, roll, sneak, climb and shoot their way inside and outside more than 18 multi-level train cars.Additionally, the game features 10 military weapons, multiple puzzles, three mini-games tied to the storyline, seven different endings plus a bonus mode and over 50 minutes of cinematic cut scenes.
Microsoft last week announced a Scenario Design Contest for its real-time strategy game, Age of Empires II: The Age of Kings. Participants are invited to submit a custom game scenario based on the Charlemagne era. The contest will take place on 10 Age of Empires fan sites, and the deadline for submissions is April 7, 2000. The ten winners (one from each site) will be announced on April 17, and the grand prize winner will be chosen in the first week of May.
The Grand Prize Winner will get his/her scenario included on the Age of Empires II: The Conquerors Expansion pack CD and will also receive a series of Age of Kings prints signed by the game's senior designer, Bruce Shelley. The 10 individual winners will receive a selection of Microsoft games and gaming devices.
New from Montreal-based Wrebbit is its Puzz-3D/CD Orient Express, $25 for Mac and PC. Tasks range from constructing the renowned luxury train in 3D out of hundreds of virtual pieces to a series of riddles and mysteries. The title also includes 70+ multimedia clips on the train’s history and the fictitious 1922 trip that forms the story line.
Among the challenges: reassembling a marquetry bird found on the original Orient Express, restoring a musical score, and tracking down a series of Mah Jong tiles that hold the key to the celebrity enigma.
The four difficulty levels vary not only by the number of puzzle pieces at the start of the game but according to whether pieces are already sorted by color, overlapping, displayed in the proper orientation or accompanied by 3D outlines to assist in assembly. The more difficult the level, the greater access the user has to the train once construction is complete.
LucasArts Entertainment Company LLC plans to partner with Verant Interactive Inc. and Sony Online Entertainment to create the first massively multiplayer Star Wars online role-playing game. Expected to release in 2001, gameplay will combine combat, specialized missions, and quests.
The Star Wars online game will be developed by EverQuest creator Verant, distributed and sold at retail by LucasArts, and available for play exclusively online at The Station@sony.com (http://www.station.sony.com). Sony's EverQuest currently boasts more than 200,000 customers, 120,000 of whom play daily.
Just out from Sony-owned 989 Studios is Syphon Filter 2 for PlayStation. The 3D action-adventure videogame adds new features, weapons, levels, and a two-player mode.
Players must use both cunning and stealth in order to combat new challenges and threats and solve mission objectives. To help gamers accomplish their missions, Syphon Filter 2 features third-person gunplay.
Playing as either Gabriel Logan or Lian Xing (depending on the level) players must fight their way through more than 20 intense, international levels, using weapons such as night-vision rifles, automatic shotguns, machine pistols, grenade launcher, crossbow, tear gas launcher, combat knife and more. Gabe and Lian Xing keep enemies in target while they run, crouch, roll, climb, walk and jump on moving vehicles. A new scripting technology is said to greatly increase enemy AI. The new two-player mode with 20 split-screen gameplay arenas for head-to-head combat action.
Microsoft's Allegiance, an online space-action game, is completed and is expected to start showing up on store shelves in the U.S. in early April. Allegiance will be playable on the MSN Gaming Zone (http://www.zone.com) as well as via independent game servers worldwide. The game combines space combat with the social challenge of squadron-based combat in a 3D universe.
In Allegiance, players can pilot and customize different classes of ships; from scouts and fighters to battle cruisers. They also have the ability to switch among a variety of combat roles, including pilot, turret gunner or base commander. Hundreds of players can engage each other in death-match style arenas or in cooperative play. Gamers will be able to represent their identity, through recorded accomplishments and medals. The game also features strategic elements such as controllable assets, researchable technology and command features.
The new Street Sk8er 2 skateboarding game for PlayStation from Electronic Arts, developed by Micro Cabin, lets players create their own skate park, in addition to offering skating arenas in five international cities as well as 10 new customizable characters.
Players can place quarter pipes, half pipes, bowls, rails and ramps in any manner within the abandoned warehouse that serves as the skate parks' home. Combinations can be created such as a long rail grind straight into a bowl, or ramp up into a quarter pipe. The parks can be saved onto memory cards for trading or competing with friends.
WildTangent, Inc. announced last week that new investors Greylock (http://www.greylock.com), Madrona Venture Group (http://www.madrona.com), and existing investors including New Millennium Partners (http://www.nmpartners.com) and previous individual investors invested $17 million dollars of new funds in WildTangent.
WildTangent is a developer of streaming interactive media, enabling Web developers to create and deliver multimedia content over the Internet via Web page. The company says the new financing will enable it to evolve its technology, expand content development efforts, reach a broader community of Web content developers, and establish itself as a leading platform for online multimedia content delivery.
WildTangent was founded in June of 1998 by former Microsoft executive Alex St. John, with Cambridge mathematician Jeremy Kenyon as the company's CTO. St. John is known for his early work at Microsoft as the creator of DirectX, the family of Windows-based multimedia technologies used by almost all Windows multimedia applications and games on the market today. "DirectX was a very effective technology for enabling developers to create leading-edge multimedia content for Windows in 1995," stated St. John. "Now it's time for Web developers to have access to the same kind of power from the browser."
WildTangent's current product offerings include: the WildTangent Web Driver, a 300K download that allows IE and Netscape Web browsers to stream and play hardware accelerated 2D/3D content, including light games, mapping, greeting cards and advertising; and the WildTangent Audio Driver, a product that allows Web developers to create real-time 3D animations that respond to music streamed from any leading MP3 player including Winamp, Sonique and UltraPlayer. WildTangent's recently announced Game Driver, released to beta during the recent Game Developers Conference in San Jose, is a technology that allows game developers to create game content and deliver it as a streamed application in a Web page.
3D entertainment portal Worlds.com announced last week that revenues for 1999 were up significantly from the previous year and revenue in the fourth quarter of 1999 exceeded revenues reported for the first nine months of 1999 combined.
The firm reported that revenues for the year ending December 31, 1999 were $507,499 versus $29,110 for the year ending December 31, 1998, an increase of 1,643 percent. The Company lost $3,339,500 for the year, or $0.19 per share, compared to a loss of $2,648,681 (which included an extraordinary gain of $810,140), or $0.15 per share, in 1998.
For the fourth quarter of 1999, revenue for Worlds.com was $265,892 compared to $12,978 in the comparable quarter in 1998. Loss for the quarter was $495,414, or $0.03 per share, for 1999 compared to a gain of $60,118, resulting from the reversal of certain predecessor liabilities ($810,140) in 1998.
The company derives revenue three areas: advertising, membership and e-commerce.
A family-owned and operated independent software development and 3D animation company located in the wilderness of Northern Ontario stole the show by taking home the Grand Prize, Best Game Design and the Technical Excellence awards for its videogame project Tread Marks at the second annual Game Developers Conference Independent Games Festival (IGF).
The company, Longbow Digital Arts, is headed by president and lead programmer Seumas McNally. A family affair, McNally works alongside his parents, Jim, vice-president, game and level designer and Wendy, art director and modeler, as well as brother, Philippe, artist and 3D modeler. Tread Marks is an off-road tank racing and combat game, which features 20 different tank models, a destroyable landscape and 23 different weapons.
StationBlix.com took home the award for Best Audio for Blix, while Best Visual Art went to A-Sharp, LLC for King of Dragon Pass, a saga of colonizing a magical land. A special honor was granted by popular vote from the industry audience attending this week’s Game Developers Conference to Thrushwave for The Rift, a 3D real-time strategy PC game.
Two of last year’s winning projects recently landed publishing deals as a result of the exposure they received in last year’s GDC Independent Games Festival.
Internet privacy, voting online, broadband, constitutional law in cyberspace, and hackers are a few of the topics at the tenth annual Computers, Freedom & Privacy, set for Tuesday, April 4 to Friday, April 7, in Toronto, Canada.
Speakers include Tim O'Reilly, Stephen Talbott, Austin Hill, Whitfield Diffie, Jessica Litman, Duncan Campbell, and Neal Stephenson.
ZD Studios last week launched the Broadband Media Conference to address the new converged broadband media market that it claims is fundamentally transforming the media, marketing and advertising industries by providing a new way to deliver dynamic digital content. The event, part of ZD Studios' New World Networks series, will be held May 16-17, 2000 at the Argent Hotel in San Francisco.
The conference will examine the entire gamut of broadband technology, and will explore how businesses can implement key technologies to achieve business goals. It will consider both the content process and revenue model, in addition to evaluating the enabling technology.
In this three-track conference, speakers will address executive-level attendees from new and traditional media companies, advertising and the service provider arenas about how to transform, create and deliver new digital media.
The conference will address current strategies, enabling technologies and business dimensions. Keynotes will include presentations by Cameron Chell, founder and CEO of C Me Run, as well as other industry types who will offer in-depth case studies, revenue models and content strategies.
Bob Ayres' series of high-tech exhibition/conferences, called The Next 20 Years (TNTY), will take place in a variety of venues this year. Schedule so far:
(All TNTY-Technology shows Moderated by Dan Farber , editor in chief ZDNet)
San Francisco - Thursday, June 29 at The Palace of Fine Arts
Expected speakers include:
New York - Thursday, August 3
Los Angeles - Wednesday, Aug 30 at the Wiltern Theater
(This show will include a debate and showcase of the amazing new digital entertainment technologies)
Expected speakers include
London - Tuesday October 3 at Queen Elizabeth hall
Expected speakers include
TNTY-Medicine - Wed, June 28 at the Palace of Fine Arts in San Francisco
will include at least one speaker on The Human Genome Project.
Ayres is seeking additional innovative companies and market leaders to represent specific industry sectors at the private demo/showcase at each event. All series exhibitors/sponsors (logos) are included on this summers print and online campaign. All (one night only) shows will host 1,000+ industry executives in attendance to view the demos.
Call 510-540-8689 and speak with Bob (mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org) if interested in discussing demoing.
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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