Spectrum: Interactive Media & Online Developer News

9 May 2005
Reported, written and edited by David Duberman
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Today's Headlines (details below)

--Startup Offers Personal Avatars

--Turbo Squid Releases Flight Studio
--Dogwaffle Doings
--SensAble Ships ClayTools for Rhino
--Autodesk Delivers 3ds Max 7.5 to Subscription Customers

--O'Reilly Releases "Digital Audio Essentials"
--Diamond Modeling/Rendering Contest

--Sony Announces New Game Titles
--Squenix Announces E3 Lineup
--DreamCatcher Ships Dungeon Lords
--Namco, Flagship Announce RPG Hellgate: London
--Turner Enters Video Game Business

--Report: Worldwide Broadband Market to Exceed 200 Million

--About Spectrum



Startup Offers Personal Avatars

Bristol, England-based Cholo Consultancy Ltd. recently launched DudeFactory.com, a Website that lets users create a personal avatar "Dude" (male) or "Dudette" (female).

Users build digital representations of themselves from various components such as heads, noses, mouths, clothes, pets or backgrounds, and then download them to their computer for free. Once downloaded, they can then be used during instant messenger conversations, on a blog, or as a cell/mobile phone or desktop wallpaper.

Microsoft, which operates the popular MSN Messenger service, recently released version 7 of its client software, which charges users up to $3/3 pounds/3 euros to build their own personal avatar. When downloaded through the Microsoft service they are locked to a single computer and delivered in a format not compatible with competing services from Yahoo! and AOL.

The global personalization market of over 500 million instant messenger users and 1.1 billion cell phones represents an opportunity for Dudefactory.com, which generates revenue through Google's contextual AdSense system instead of charging the end-user.




Turbo Squid Releases Flight Studio

Turbo Squid last week released Flight Studio 1.5 from Bluerock Technologies. The new $1,495 3ds Max plug-in lets visual simulation users:
* import, edit, and export OpenFlight scene graphs and databases from within 3ds Max
* build accurate models and complex scenes
* leverage features such as an easy-to-use hierarchy browser, familiar user interface controls, and direct node attribute editing
* retain scene graph structure and attributes
* load and edit large scene graphs

Key features include:
* plug-in for 3ds Max to import/export OpenFlight data
* direct editing of scene graph attributes and elements from within 3ds Max
* ability to retain original scene graph information
* flexible workflows, enabling seamless transfer of files between OpenFlight and 3ds Max
* ability to write current and older version of OpenFlight file format
* edit control of LODs
* edit and maintain data in external file references

Suggested vertical applications include:
* military simulation
* training & development
* visual simulations and walkthroughs
* game development
* geographic information systems



Dogwaffle Doings

Dan Ritchie, author of PD Pro Digital Painter, recently announced the availability of the demo version for version 3.1. Also, a new plugin (Spherize) was made available to the users of the free version of Project Dogwaffle 1.2. The Spherize plug-in is useful for making planetary bodies with lighting effects for space art. A new tutorial was also announced, showing the use of the Spherize tool.

Dan Also announced an update to the online help files, PD Help. It contains tips and ideas for painting and animating with PD Pro.

The Demo version of PD Pro 3.1 is available for free download at http://www.thebest3d.com/dogwaffle/demozone

The Spherize plugin with doggybag #3 is available for free download at http://www.thebest3d.com/dogwaffle/whatsnew/doggybag3

The tutorial showing how to use Spherize for making planets and space art is at http://www.thebest3d.com/dogwaffle/tuts/spherize

The updated online help is available for free viewing or downloading here http://www.thebest3d.com/dogwaffle/help

Also, Ritchie and Enrique Nieloud, developer of Getrudis art effects software, jointly announced the availability of Gertrudis for Dogwaffle, a $34 plug-in that turns a photograph into what looks like hand-made drawings.

This marks the first time in the history of Project Dogwaffle that an external developer has ported and released his own software in the form of a commercially available plug-in for Project Dogwaffle. It shows off the free Dogwaffle SDK for programmers who want to make their software available in the form of plug-ins. Gertrudis was built with Delphi.

Using the Gertrudis for Dogwaffle plugin, artists can start with an existing picture from a digital camera or scanner, a 3D rendering, or a painting from another program or image editing application. Gertrudis first performs a topological analysis of the image's content and builds a matrix of flow-direction vectors. Users can then paint a few quick strokes across the desired features of their image. Gertrudis uses all that information to generate something that looks hand drawn.

Here are a few examples of artwork created with Project Dogwaffle and Gertrudis: http://www.thebest3d.com/dogwaffle/tuts/gertrudis/comparison.html

A basic tutorial can be found here: http://www.thebest3d.com/dogwaffle/tuts/gertrudis/


SensAble Ships ClayTools for Rhino

SensAble Technologies, Inc. says version 1.0 of the ClayTools system for Robert McNeel & Associates' Rhino software will ship this month. The system enables designers to use their sense of touch to create organic shapes and add sculptural details, handcrafted modifications, complex blends, and embossed textures to existing Rhino NURBS models.

The ClayTools system uses a virtual clay metaphor that removes the constraints of technical modeling, and offers unparalleled speed and creative expression. The system includes the Phantom Omni device--a 3D interface with force feedback.

The ClayTools system is complementary to Rhino software. Designers can create models in Rhino, and then import their models into the ClayTools system. Imported Rhino models can be used as reference or converted to virtual clay, in total or selected parts. Using the Phantom Omni device, designers can "feel" the virtual clay to create organic shapes and smudge, smooth, carve, and tug to add details, blends, and textures that are challenging to achieve with traditional modeling tools. Models can be output to RP and used for casting, or imported back into Rhino to finish the model and export for rendering, RP, or CAD/CAM.

The ClayTools system for Rhino is priced at $2,795 (Americas), €2,795 (EMEA), and ¥498,000 (Asia Pacific). SensAble customers who own a PHANTOM Omni device can purchase the software-only version of the ClayTools system for Rhino priced at $1,995 (Americas), €1,995 (EMEA), and ¥356,000 (Asia Pacific). For more information or to purchase the ClayTools system for Rhino, contact info@sensable.com or +1-781-937-8315 or contact an authorized ClayTools Reseller.



Autodesk Delivers 3ds Max 7.5 to Subscription Customers

Autodesk last week began deploying Autodesk 3ds Max 7.5 software to its base of subscription customers. The upgrade offers new features such as an integrated hair and fur system and the most current version of mental ray 3.4, with eight satellite render-node licenses, plus a new design toolset featuring improved interoperability with DWG-based 3D CAD applications such as Autodesk Revit and Autodesk VIZ. 3ds Max 7.5 files are compatible with the current 3ds Max version 7 software.




O'Reilly Releases "Digital Audio Essentials"

Digital music isn't just for techies anymore. Not so long ago, downloading music was slow and impractical for anyone but advanced users. But now, you don't need to have endless time, expensive equipment, and a technical degree to download music to a PC or portable player; rip tunes to digital format or burn CDs; organize, find, and create music; preserve LPs and tapes; stream music off the Web; or even create a Web-based radio station. With a personal computer, an Internet connection, and a copy of the new "Digital Audio Essentials" (O'Reilly, US $34.95) by Bruce Fries and Marty Fries, anyone can join the digital audio revolution.

Today's digital audio technology "gives you an amazing degree of flexibility, convenience, and control over your music experience," observe Fries and Fries. "Bits that were once tied to a plastic platter can now flow without restriction over cables and wireless connections to different media, such as a hard disk, a portable player, or even a cell phone. A new digital music industry has emerged, and the underlying technologies have matured greatly since the pioneering days of MP3.com and the original Napster."

Both Bruce Fries and Marty Fries have been involved in bringing digital music to the masses since the late 1990s. The two self-proclaimed MP3 missionaries set out to teach consumers about the benefits of online music and the MP3 encoding format. As Bruce recalls, "In 1999, I cashed in my life savings and went on a hundred-city tour (it actually turned out to be 170 cities) to teach people about computer audio and online music." One of their goals was to counter some of the misinformation being perpetuated at the time, such as the belief that MP3 was primarily a tool for music piracy.

Downloading and listening to digital music is much more common today, but it is still not enjoyed universally. "The online music industry is relatively new and still evolving. The flood of competing technologies and new products, along with the associated hype, makes it confusing for new users to take advantage of all the amazing resources," notes Bruce Fries. "With the introduction of the iTunes store and the iPod, online music has finally gone mainstream. But the 'late adopters' tend to have less computer experience and therefore need more handholding."

"Digital Audio Essentials" is a guide to the world of digital audio on computers and the Internet. The book explains how digital audio technology works and how to make it work for one's individual needs and goals. Users will learn about tools and tricks with the tutorials, hardware and software recommendations, resources, and real-world advice. The book balances history and theory for an understanding of digital audio with advice, tips, product information, and references for creating digital audio experiences.

"Digital Audio Essentials" shows how to:
* download and share music without breaking the law
* connect a PC or Mac to a home stereo system
* record and rip music from any source to a hard drive or CD
* pick the right online music service from downloadable music stores, music subscription services, file-sharing networks, and Internet radio stations
* get portable by taking music anywhere with an iPod, Rio, or other handheld player, and listen to downloaded music on a car stereo
* burn CDs and DVDs right the first time
* master MP3 and other audio formats
* organize music with jukebox programs and playlists
* create an Internet radio station
* digitize LPs and tapes
* edit audio: remove pops, skips, static, silence, and more
* understand copyright law as it applies to digital audio

Chapter 16, "Setting Up an Internet Radio Station," is available online at: http://www.oreilly.com/catalog/digaudio/chapter/index.html

For more information about the book, including table of contents, index, author bios, and samples, see: http://www.oreilly.com/catalog/digaudio/index.html


Diamond Modeling/Rendering Contest

SpaceTime3D is sponsoring an X3D modeling contest to produce high-fidelity models of actual diamonds. Contestants must use the basic 3D geometry of a round brilliant diamond and inspect a reasonable facsimile, and then model the diamond in full detail and render it using X3D (the XML-savvy successor to VRML) in a 3D browser of their choice.

First Prize for the most realistic and easy-to-manipulate diamond: $3,000 gift certificate.

Second Prize for the best representation of a diamond ring on a person using H-Anim: $1,500 gift certificate.

Deadline for submission is July 20, 2005.




Sony Announces New Game Titles

Sony Computer Entertainment America Inc. last week announced six new software titles to be available exclusively for PlayStation2 and PlayStation Portable. Upcoming PS2 titles include Shadow of the Colossus, Genji: Dawn of the Samurai, and Neopets: The Darkest Faerie. The three PSP titles are MediEvil Resurrection, The Con, and Neopets: Petpet Adventures -- The Wand of Wishing.

* Neopets: The Darkest Faerie, available August 2005 - Developed and created by Sony Computer Entertainment America, Santa Monica, and Neopets Inc., the action-adventure game extends the online entertainment of Neopets.com and provides an interactive offline experience. Players enter the land of Neopia in 3D and journey with Neopian characters on an adventure to rid the world from the evil Darkest Faerie.
* Genji: Dawn of the Samurai, available fall 2005 - Developed in conjunction with Game Republic and Sony Computer Entertainment Japan, the 3D action-adventure game was inspired by the 11th-century Japanese literary masterpiece, Tale of Genji. It provides a dramatic samurai plot fused with fantastical Japanese mythology. This historic samurai tale is set against the environments of feudal Japan, and delivers a story of two warriors engaged in a crusade against mythical forces controlling Japan. In addition, Genji: Dawn of the Samurai features authentic swordplay choreographed by Japan's leading swordsman, and production directed by industry veterans.
* Shadow of the Colossus, available fall 2005 - Developed in conjunction with the developers of the the classic PS2 game ICO, players take the role of a young man seeking the truth of an ancient tale of power hidden in a mystical land and journey through ancient lands to seek out and destroy gigantic mythical beasts. With a trusty horse at her side, the player explores the spacious lands and unearth each Colossus. The task of defeating a Colossus relies on puzzle solving and action-oriented gameplay.
* MediEvil Resurrection, available September 2005 - Developed in conjunction with Cambridge Studios, MediEvil Resurrection puts players in the role of Sir Daniel Fortesque to embark on a gothic journey of redemption to defeat the evil sorcerer Zarok. Inspired by the myths, characters, and environments of the PS one franchise, MediEvil Resurrection provides players with a storyline with various levels and gameplay locations, supported with characters, enemies, weapons, and mini-games that take place in the realm of Gallowmere. In addition, using Wi-Fi gameplay via Ad Hoc mode, players can compete head-to-head in various arcade-style mini games.
* The Con, available October 2005 - Developed by SCEA's Santa Monica Studios and Think & Feel, The Con is a 3D fighting game based on an underworld where illegal fighting tournaments exist and high-stakes gambling takes center stage. Players can train their fighter to fight solo or in a team of three in story mode where they can build up a team and implement match-up strategy. Players can learn re-programmable fighting combinations based on five different brawling disciplines -- Boxing, Wrestling, Kick Boxing, Tae Kwon Do and Jeet Kune Do.
* Neopets: Petpet Adventures -- The Wand of Wishing, available November 2005 - Developed and created by SCEA Santa Monica, and Neopets Inc., the action RPG game lets the player choose from a variety of petpet characters to play and, utilizing the wireless Ad-Hoc mode, they will also be able to compete head-to-head in the Battledome and buy, sell and trade special items in the search to recover the fabled wand of wishing.



Squenix Announces E3 Lineup

Square Enix, Inc. (Square Enix) the publisher of Square Enix interactive entertainment products in North America, last week announced its Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3) lineup, with products for a range of platforms including consoles, handheld devices and visual entertainment. Square Enix will be featuring these titles at the Los Angeles Convention Center in the South Hall, booth #746.

The company will show the following entertainment products:

* Dirge of Cerberus -Final Fantasy VII (PS2): The third installment in the Compilation Of Final Fantasy VII takes place three years after the original PS one game console title. Gamers follow Vincent Valentine's journey as he uncovers shocking truths never revealed in Midgar. Vincent is connected to recent attacks, and he may be the only one who can save this shattered world. When the world is engulfed in darkness, his gun will toll a dreadful dirge.

* Dragon Quest VIII: Journey of the Cursed King: Characters designed by Akira Toriyama are brought to life by "cel-shading," bringing gamers of all ages into a world out of Japanese anime.

* Final Fantasy XII (PS2): The story of a world called Ivalice begins in the royal city of Rabanastre, against a backdrop of impending war. Rabanastre is the heart and capital of Dalmasca, a kingdom recently conquered by the neighboring Archadian Empire. The appointment of a new imperial consul gives the main character Vaan the chance he's been waiting for, but an unexpected turn of events puts Vaan and his friend Penelo alongside the sky pirate Balthier and his partner, Fran. Meanwhile, Princess Ashe, the sole surviving heir to the Dalmascan throne, struggles to restore freedom to her people.

* Fullmetal Alchemist 2: Curse of the Crimson Elixir (PS2): Action RPG prequel to Fullmetal Alchemist and the Broken Angel. The second installment in the series brings an enhanced battle system, cel-shaded graphics and 30 minutes of original animation following the continuing journey of two brothers on their life-changing quest. Slated for release in July 2005.

* Kingdom Hearts II (PS2): Follows Sora, Donald, and Goofy on their continuing quest to find their friends and King Mickey. Haley Joel Osment reprises his role as the main character Sora and is joined by Ming-Na (ER, Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within) who voices Mulan and James Woods who returns as the villain Hades, along with a slew of soon to be announced celebrity voices. It has been a year since the events of Kingdom Hearts Chain of Memories. The story begins in Twilight Town, a quiet burg nestled between night and day. Sora and friends are joined by a new cast of characters, including the king. In the effort to help Mulan and stop the villain Hades' devious plots, they will encounter countless dangers both familiar and brand-new.

* Radiata Stories (PS2): Fantasy RPG by tri-Ace, developer of Valkyrie Profile and the Star Ocean series, tells an emotional story about the conflict between humans and fairy creatures, complemented by a new gameplay system. The player's choices determine which of over 150 individuals will lend a hand. Slated for release in fall 2005.

* Romancing SaGa (PS2): The latest in the SaGa series blends technology and creative vision to produce a world of wonder. A thousand years ago, Saruin was imprisoned. But the barriers that contain him are weakening, and his foreboding shadow threatens to swallow the world of Mardias once again. Who will rid the world of Saruin's scourge? A mysterious minstrel sometimes guides your party to adventure and at other times protects it from shadow. Occasionally he forces upon you grave choices that will change the world in which you travel and twist the plots you encounter. The free-roaming scenario system provides a choice of eight playable main characters, each with its own adventures and goals.

* Front Mission Online: The Front Mission series goes online for the first time in its history with Front Mission Online for the PlayStation2 and Windows (Japan only, North America platforms TBD). Join the O.C.U. or the U.C.S. and battle for control of Huffman Island. Fight alone with NPC backup or create a battle group with other players and experience team-play combat. Actions in battle directly influence the chosen nation's domination of Huffman, and with a high enough rank, you can issue missions to other players and shape the outcome of the war.

* Before Crisis -Final Fantasy VII (mobile): Takes place six years before the events of Final Fantasy VII. Shinra, Inc. has increased its power and profitability, its influence extending even to the government. Hidden from the public, the Turks, an elite squad of Shinra operatives, take care of Shinra's dirty work. Civil unrest grows as people become concerned about Shinra drawing mako energy directly from the planet. The rebel group Avalanche is formed to stop the corporation. This real-time action game allows gamers to enter the world of Final Fantasy VII through a mobile phone. Play with multiple players over the network, recruit new team members to Soldier, and carry out classified operations to stop the Avalanche menace. North American compatible phones and launch date TBA.



DreamCatcher Ships Dungeon Lords

Last week saw Toronto-based publisher DreamCatcher Games ship Dungeon Lords, created by Brain Zoo Studios. The PC game reportedly blends a fantasy RPG with an FPS-style control system. Gamers journey through a land of ancient castles and dungeon lairs to engage in real-time tactical combat with a variety of deadly foes. Magic spells and hundreds of weapons and artifacts also play roles in the game.

The game features personal missions and quests along with characters to interact with. Players can customize a variety of skills and special abilities for the hero, including race and class specializations. The RPG also supports cooperative multiplayer for up to eight players.

Features include:
* real-time player control of combat tactics, including weaponry, magic spells, and artifacts
* character hero development that includes personal attributes, skills, and special abilities
* four different schools of magic
* multiple class specializations - each with unique abilities and attributes
* inventory that features common, rare, and unique items
* designed, written and developed by award-winning computer game author, D.W. Bradley

* support for multi-player group game sessions for up to 8 players
* multiplayer adjusts to the number of players. The more players, the more difficult the monsters they encounter



Namco, Flagship Announce RPG Hellgate: London

Games publisher and developer Namco Hometek Inc. today announced Hellgate: London, the first original PC title from developer Flagship Studios. The role-playing game, set in the first-person perspective, takes place a demon-ridden world where the last survivors of the human race must meld science and magic to survive and features randomized levels.

Set twenty-five years in the future, Hellgate: London introduces a world devastated by a demon invasion and a desolate city scorched by hellfire where mankind has gone underground to survive. Among them are the Templar, an archaic and secret society that foresaw this demonic apocalypse centuries ago. Followers of arcane rites, the Templar combine futuristic technology with ancient artifacts to forge powerful weapons and armor. The mystic sanctuary of the Underground system provides players safe conduct throughout the sprawling metropolis of London as they seek to preserve the bloodline of man and gain a foothold against the minions of darkness.

Flagship Studios was formed in 2003 by former executives and developers from Blizzard North and represents the creators of the Diablo franchise.



Turner Enters Video Game Business

Turner Broadcasting System, Inc. last week unveiled GameTap, a broadband entertainment network that offers games on demand plus original programming via a broadband-connected PC. GameTap launches fall 2005.

For GameTap, Turner has licensed nearly 1,000 games from 17 publishers. The service will launch with 300, and then roll out new titles and programming each week. Programming is created expressly for GameTap: coming attractions and behind-the-scenes peeks that introduce the games and provide background information.

GameTap provides subscribers an "all-you-can-play" gaming service accessible from up to two household computers. To access GameTap, players securely download and install Turner-developed client software from http://www.gametap.com/ that acts as a gateway to the GameTap library. Because games reside securely on the PC, not across a network, they reportedly respond as if they're on the console or at the arcade. GameTap supports navigation and game play using both keyboard and mouse, as well as most USB peripherals.



Report: Worldwide Broadband Market to Exceed 200 Million

A new report from Ireland's Research and Markets, Broadband Technology: Worldwide Assessment and Market Forecast, presents an overview of IC products on the market for cable, xDSL, wireless broadband, and satellite technologies. Data include chip architectures, features, applications, prices, and availability. The report covers technical, business, and political features of the marketplace, and presents a market forecast of the technology.

The worldwide base for broadband technology is expected to reach more than 200 million subscribers by 2006, up from about 100 million at the end of 2003. Of this 200 million, more that half the subscribers will be using DSL (digital subscriber line) service, up significantly from the 65 million people expected to be using that technology by the end of 2005.

DSL growth will largely be fuelled by the Asia-Pacific region. DSL is expected to add between 25 million and 30 million subscribers per year, while rival cable modem technology will account for around 8 million new subscribers annually.

The competition between cable and DSL is getting fiercer as the market grows, competing with steeper year-over-year growth for satellite, broadband wireless and other technologies as well.

In North America, though, cable service will maintain its lead but satellite is expected to experience strong growth.

Cable operators in the United States have optimized their networks and are offering speeds twice as fast as DSL. This is prompting DSL players to slash prices to counter a superior product and make up for lagging market share.

The contents of the report are as follows:
* XDSL Technology
* Cable Technology
* Wireless Broadband Technology
* Broadband Satellite Technology
* IC Chipsets
* Market Forecast 2001 - 2006
* Key User-Vendor Issues




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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/online-development tools and end product for review.

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