Spectrum: Interactive Media & Online Developer News 13 May 2002
Reported, written and edited by David Duberman
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Today's Headlines (details below)
--Coast Updates WebMaster Testing Software
--Butterfly, IBM Launch Computing Grid for Video Game Industry --PVI Demos ITV Platform
--Sony Debuts Free AIBO SDK
--Microsoft Releases .Net Speech SDK Beta --O'Reilly Mac OS X Announcements: New Conference, Web Site, Books
IN THE INFOGROOVE
--McAfee.com Unveils SpamKiller
--Essential Interactive Adopts Anark Studio
--Creative Releases Interactive Music/PC Keyboard
THE DIALS & LEVERS OF POWER
--Verdicts Reached in Adobe vs. Macromedia Case
--Xbox Escapees Form Video Game Biz Firm --WebWare, Right Hemisphere Sign Agreement --Algo Vision Takes Over LuraTech
GAMES PEOPLE PLAY
--Senntient Releases Cuboingo Puzzle Game --Sierra Releases NOLF for PS2
--Activision Signs Urban Athletes for Street Hoops --Interplay Announces E3 2002 Product Lineup
--PlayStation2 Worldwide Shipments Reach 30 Million Units
--Schoback, Zeschuk Voted to IGDA Board
Coast Updates WebMaster Testing Software
Coast Software recently launched WebMaster 6.0, the latest release of its automated Web quality-testing software. The company says its new release delivers improvements in testing and reporting flexibility along with support for Microsoft .Net/XML Web services testing.
WebMaster 6.0 supports the location and testing of XML Web services on a Web site. The tool allows users to discover, view and exercise Web services automatically as part of the normal scanning process. XML Web services are an integral component of the Microsoft .Net platform, and the ability to test them offers organizations the capabilities they need to construct and deploy quality Web applications.
Butterfly, IBM Launch Computing Grid for Video Game Industry
Butterfly.net, Inc. and IBM last week deployed a custom commercial grid for the online video gaming market. The Butterfly Grid could reportedly enable online video game providers to support a massive number of players within the same game by allocating computing resources to the most populated areas and most popular games.
Butterfly.net, a development studio and infrastructure provider to the online video game market, will demonstrate the Butterfly Grid system to members of the video gaming industry at the Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3) 2002 show beginning May 21 in Los Angeles.
The Grid was built by Butterfly.net over the last two years using IBM e-business infrastructure technology that distributes the processing of video game interaction across a network of server farms, enabling Butterfly.net to support a massive number of video gamers playing simultaneously over the Internet. The Grid is a secure system built on customized software operating on the private network of Butterfly.net.
Video game providers can access the Grid to support their online products by including the Butterfly Grid client software libraries in the games they distribute. These software libraries, along with sample code for connecting mobile devices, PCs and video game consoles to the Grid, are available for download from http://www.butterfly.net.
The Butterfly Grid is powered by rack-mounted Linux-based IBM eServer xSeries systems hosted by IBM and running on internal fiber-optic networks for optimal use of computing and communications resources. The grid design reportedly offers the potential to support over one million simultaneous players from each facility in a 24/7 environment with automatic fail-over capability.
Online video games have historically segmented players onto separate servers, limiting the number that could interact and creating reliability and support obstacles. In the first generation of games, when one server is down, or patches are being installed, game-play comes to a halt. Butterfly says its second-generation grid technology enables online video game providers to reliably deliver games to millions at the same time. The server interaction is said to be completely transparent and seamless to the user, delivering a resilient gaming infrastructure where servers can be added, or replaced, without interrupting game-play.
Butterfly.net also provides a "daemon controller" for advanced, AI-based interactions between players and non-player characters through a simple, standard Python interface.
PVI Demos ITV Platform
Princeton Video Image, Inc. recently demonstrated its iPoint interactive television platform on a set-top box. The demonstration, at the National Cable Television Association's annual conference (Cable 2002), was executed on set-top boxes powered by Broadcom's BCM7030 Set-Top-Box 3D graphics engine.
iPoint extends the capability of PVI's in-program enhancements and advertising to the world of targeting and interactivity. The system's key features, which include the selection and live rendering of targeted virtual ads, were displayed during a full-scale, real-time, hardware implementation. The PVI virtual-insertion technology had previously only been seen in traditional broadcast applications.
Sony Debuts Free AIBO SDK
Sony division Entertainment Robot America (ERA) will make its OPEN-R software development kit (SDK) available to programmers in the U.S. over the Internet beginning on June 3.
The SDK lets programmers create functionality for AIBO robots, which is exhibited through sensor input and joint movements. The tool kit will be available free for downloading on the Sony Web site. Frequently asked questions for the kit are available now.
The Cbased OPEN-R SDK includes an API (Application Programming Interface) and sample programs. Through the use of OPEN-R SDK in conjunction with GNU Development Tools (also downloadable at the OPEN-R site), programmers will be able to control their robot's basic behaviors.
Microsoft Releases .Net Speech SDK Beta
Microsoft last week released the beta of its .Net Speech Software Development Kit (SDK), based on the Speech Application Language Tags (SALT) specification. The SDK integrates into the Visual Studio .Net development environment, letting Web developers to incorporate speech functionality into Web applications.
The .Net Speech SDK is a set of SALT-based speech application development tools and speech controls that integrate with Visual Studio .Net. It integrates with Microsoft's ASP.Net Web server programming environment. The SALT specification, currently under development by software industry members including Microsoft, defines a lightweight set of extensions to familiar Web markup languages, in particular HTML and XHTML, that will enable multimodal and telephony access to information, applications and Web services from PCs, telephones, cellular phones, Tablet PCs and wireless personal digital assistants (PDAs). The specification is slated to be released to an international standards body by midyear 2002.
The .Net Speech SDK lets developers write combined speech and visual Web applications in a single code base and test those applications at their workstation. It includes tools for debugging and creating grammars and prompts, as well as sample applications and tutorials. It also includes a set of SALT-based ASP.Net controls that will allow developers to add speech capabilities into their HTML and XHTML Web applications. The .Net Speech SDK will ship with speech extensions for Microsoft Internet Explorer browser software, extending Internet Explorer to support both speech and visual input and output, as well as a desktop version of Microsoft's new speech recognition engine and a test-level version of the Microsoft Text-to-Speech (TTS) engine.
O'Reilly Mac OS X Announcements: New Conference, Web Site, Books
O'Reilly & Associates announced several new Mac OS X products at the recent Apple Worldwide Developers Conference:
O'Reilly Mac OS X Conference Call for Participation: The company invites the submission of tutorial and session proposals for the first O'Reilly Mac OS X Conference, taking place at the Westin Santa Clara in Santa Clara, CA from September 30 to October 3, 2002. They're looking for proposals that bring state-of-the-art Mac OS X content to programmers, developers, technical staff, and power users from Mac, Java, Web, and open source communities. Topics include migration issues, must-have tools, servers and networking, wireless, Project Builder, Apache, PHP, Perl, Terminal application, databases, languages, Development Frameworks, and iApps.
O'Reilly Network has launched macdevcenter.com, a new Web site for MacOS X professionals. The heart of macdevcenter.com is a collection of tutorials on Mac OS X, covering the OS and the key technologies that work with its BSD Unix core. Topics include the Terminal application, AppleScript, QuickTime, Cocoa, Java, Aqua, and Apache. The site also features news and regular columns from Mac experts such as David Pogue, Simson Garfinkel, James Duncan Davidson, and Kevin Hemenway. http://www.macdevcenter.com
The macdevcenter.com staff also produces a bi-weekly Mac OS X email newsletter. To subscribe, go to http://www.oreillynet.com/cs/user/home.
Also, new OS X books from O'Reilly include:
Learning Unix for Mac OS X by Dave Taylor & Jerry Peek http://oreilly.com/catalog/lunixmacosx/ "Learning Unix for Mac OS X" is an introduction to Unix on Mac OS X for Macintosh users. The book shows how to use the Terminal application, navigate the command line, and explore Unix applications.
Building Cocoa Applications: A Step-by-Step Guide by Simson Garfinkel & Michael K. Mahoney http://oreilly.com/catalog/buildcocoa/ "Building Cocoa Applications" takes a step-by-step approach to teaching developers how to build real graphics applications using Cocoa. The book starts by showing the basics of an application in one chapter and then layering additional functionality onto that application in subsequent chapters.
IN THE INFOGROOVE
McAfee.com Unveils SpamKiller
McAfee.com last week launched SpamKiller, a $30 managed service designed to help PC users block unsolicited messages ("spam") from entering their email inboxes.
SpamKiller connects directly to a user's POP3 or MAPI-compatible email account and scans all incoming messages for addresses of known spammers.
SpamKiller then employs advanced filtering protocols that examine the subject line, body of text, message header and country code for trigger words or phrases commonly found in spam. Once detected, the spam is automatically barred from the user's inbox.
In addition to the deletion of the mail, SpamKiller automatically returns a false "bounced" email message to the spam generator, signaling that the address is inactive. McAfee says spammers will often respond by "scrubbing" their lists of such addresses, helping to spare users from future mailings and saving them from the hassle of having to unsubscribe from multiple email lists.
SpamKiller also retraces the route of the spam message back to the mail server and can be configured to automatically send a complaint on the recipient's behalf to the spammer's service provider, system administrators, or any other address the user chooses.
As a safeguard against the deletion of legitimate email, users can create a "Friends" list that specifies addresses from which email should never be blocked. Furthermore, email that is blocked is archived for 30 days so that it may be referred to if necessary. SpamKiller's multiple methods of detecting spam combined with these built-in safeguards to prevent the deletion of legitimate email make it a highly accurate and effective tool to protect users' email boxes from spam pollution.
Essential Interactive Adopts Anark Studio
Anark Corporation, developer of an interactive multimedia platform for digital media applications, last week launched its Content Partner program, and the participation of Essential Interactive Studios as its inaugural content partner. Essential Interactive, a UK development studio, crafted a full version of its homepage using Anark Studio (http://www.essentialinteractive.com) and is currently showcasing additional content demos in the site's Partner section.
The Anark Content Partner Program provides multimedia development companies with additional services and support to help maximize the exposure and creation of presentations authored with Anark Studio. Program components include:
* Training - Custom program orientation, personalized product training and exclusive access to new Anark Media content, tutorials and project files * Technical Support - Free, enhanced technical support for the first year of Anark Studio usage
* Marketing and Sales Support - Marketing collateral and materials to help support partner sales efforts including ready-made demos, demo CD-ROMs and literature, as well as hands-on assistance co-selling Anark Media content creation services
* Corporate and Content Exposure - Inclusion on the Anark International Partner Locator database, allowing prospective customers to find content creators and contract for services
Creative Releases Interactive Music/PC Keyboard
Singapore-based Creative Technology recently unveiled Prodikeys, its music and PC keyboard. The $99 keyboard, which includes the standard QWERTY keyboard functions plus 37 MIDI keys, can be placed on a desk or hung over the shoulders with a guitar strap.
* Impress mode with the new Penta Tunes feature that plays a five-note scale with matching rhythms, effects and instrumental fill-ins * Intelligent Chord mode allows the user to play only the melody to the automatic chord accompaniment of the Prodikeys application software * Learn a song with the Tutor mode without having to learn music theory.
* One-touch Fun button to launch the Prodikeys application software * one-touch button for connecting and downloading music lessons and songs via the Internet
* connects to and work directly with Creative's Sound Blaster Live! And Audigy sound cards
* performance mode allows real-time performance with programmable voice setting presets.
* record feature enables record, playback and saving in MP3 or WAV formats.
Recording of multi-track performance is possible via multiple wave recordings * pitch bend wheel is assignable to an octave up or down * volume wheel
* quick access keys for octave change to virtually extend the 37 keys to 109 keys
THE DIALS & LEVERS OF POWER
Verdicts Reached in Adobe vs. Macromedia Case
In August 2000, Adobe filed suit against Macromedia in the U.S. District Court of Delaware. Macromedia filed counterclaims of patent infringement in response to Adobe's lawsuit in the U.S. District Court of Delaware in September 2000. In October 2001, Macromedia brought a patent infringement suit against Adobe in the Northern District of California relating to additional patents that Macromedia believes that Adobe infringes.
On May 2, a jury ruled in favor of Adobe Systems, Inc. in its patent infringement suit against Macromedia. The verdict included a damage award of $2.8 million. Macromedia said it expects no material impact from the judgment on its financial condition.
"It is unfortunate, and we believe wrong, that Adobe has chosen this field to compete. Ultimately, it is our customers, and particularly our mutual customers, that will be harmed," said Macromedia chairman and CEO Rob Burgess at the time. "Nonetheless, we have no choice but to protect our right to innovate and must defend ourselves on this playing ground."
Then, on May 10, a jury ruled in Macromedia's favor in its counterclaims suit against Adobe Systems. The verdict included a damage award of $4.9 million. Macromedia intends to ask the court to issue an injunction to stop Adobe's infringement, and also intends to appeal the verdict in the initial Adobe case.
"The score is now Adobe one, Macromedia one, customers zero," said Burgess.
Adobe was found to infringe all three Macromedia patents. U.S. Patent No.
5,467,443 relates to changing blended elements and automatic re-blending of elements and is infringed by its Adobe Illustrator product. U.S. Patents Nos. 5,151,998 and 5,204,969 relate to visually displaying and editing sound waveforms and are infringed by its Adobe Premiere product. The jury also found U.S. Patent No. 5,151,998 to be invalid.
Xbox Escapees Form Video Game Biz Firm
Capital Entertainment Group, Inc. (CEG) launched last week as the computer and video game industry's first independently funded production company.
Headed by Eugene Mauro, J. Mark Hood, Kevin Bachus, and Seamus Blackley (formerly of Microsoft's Xbox development team), CEG says it will introduce professional methods of production management while reducing the financial risk of game production to both developers and publishers.
"This company was founded on a desire to create groundbreaking games -- the sort of original but risky projects that otherwise would never get made," said CEO Mauro. "Beyond financing game development, CEG brings support and discipline to the production process, freeing both developers and publishers to focus on what they do best. With our unique business model and funding, CEG has the patience and resources to develop innovative hit titles, and generate robust returns for our partners and investors."
To fund the development of its first several games, CEG has partnered with several groups to raise a production fund of between $40 and $50 million.
Durlacher, Ltd., a leading London-based investment house is advising CEG on its European fundraising.
CEG also announced that Sega of America, Inc. plans to be the company's first publishing partner. Sega plans to market and distribute CEG's first two products.
WebWare, Right Hemisphere Sign Agreement
WebWare Corporation, a media asset and brand resource management (BRM) technology company, recently signed an agreement with Right Hemisphere, a developer of 3D translation, texturing and publishing technology, to make its 3D and 2D viewing graphics and video capabilities available to clients of WebWare Mambo BRM software.
Artists and engineers can access and manage 3D imagery via an Internet browser -- graphics, wire frames, texture mapping, etc. -- and manipulate them in 3D space. The combination will enable teams from differing disciplines to collaborate on various technical or brand asset projects, use media to develop faster product launches, and enable new lines of business.
The optional Right Hemisphere plug-in lets WebWare users open 3D model files, generate thumbnail proxies, and generate 3D enlargements that can be rotated in three-dimensional space. In addition, the Right Hemisphere component allows the integration of new format support for thumbnail viewing and translation of a variety of 2D still and video formats such as YUV, Avid's OMF and Kodak Cineon formats. Integration of the Right Hemisphere technology with WebWare MAMBO will be available in Q3, 2002.
Algo Vision Takes Over LuraTech
Berlin-based Algo Vision Mediatec GmbH, a software developer and system integrator, recently took over the business of longtime rival LuraTech GmbH, a specialist in data compression. LuraTech products and projects of the will in future be dealt with by the Algo Vision subsidiary.
At the same time, Algo Vision PLC will continue to concentrate activities in its Berlin-based subsidiary; thus the business of Algo Vision Technology GmbH, who until now has carried out work on the development of the JPEG2000 standard, will be carried out by Algo Vision Mediatec GmbH as well. Algo Vision Systems GmbH, whose registered office is in Bremen, will contribute in addition to the implementation of further standards for the compression and transmission of audio and video data to the new company.
In a related story, LuraTech recently announced its new IrfanView JPEG2000 plug-in. Users of IrfanView, a freeware image viewer, can use it for image compression with LuraWave .jp2 technology. Features include lossless compression/decompression, compression to a given file size and quality, and compression of unlimited image size. The plug-in is available for Windows 95/98/NT/2000.
GAMES PEOPLE PLAY
Senntient Releases Cuboingo Puzzle Game
Brand new from independent, L.A.-based developer Senntient is Cuboingo, a Tetris-inspired (but quite original!) puzzle game for PC, two years in the making. The free demo version provides one basic game, while the $15 commercial version lets users play an unlimited variety of games controlled by game scripts. Scripts control over twenty-five functions ranging from the colors, to speeds, to timing, to number of levels, to cube configurations, and script-author information.
Gameplay is simple and straightforward: Rotate the cube to fill its empty sides with matching color patterns. Control the cube with the numeric keypad, use the Shift key to speed up gameplay, and the space bar to pause/unpause.
Senntient.com has also unveiled the Cuboingo Colony, a community forum where Cuboingo players can ask questions, post high scores, submit scripts, enter contests and get updates directly from the game creators. The forum includes a tour of the game, a FAQ, and game instructions.
Sierra Releases NOLF for PS2
Just out from Sierra/Vivendi is the PlayStation 2 version of The Operative: No One Lives Forever. The title, originally for PC and quite popular on that platform, stars Cate Archer, a take-no-prisoners, jumpsuit-wearing, modern-day equivalent of supersleuth James Bond. Built with the LithTech Cobalt system, the PS2 version features four new levels featuring the young Cate Archer.
Game control takes a bit of getting used to, with one controller joystick used for motion and the other for looking around. Because you don't have a mouse, as in the PS2 version, the designers considerately added an optional aiming assist, where the cursor jumps to a target if you move it to the general vicinity. The need to use stealth in certain areas makes the game a bit more interesting (not to mention challenging) than the typical FPS.
Activision Signs Urban Athletes for Street Hoops
Real-world street-basketball heroes--Half Man Half Amazing, Hot Sauce, Speedy Williams, The Future, Booger Smith, Main Event, AO, and Headache--are taking their moves from the playground to PlayStation 2 and Xbox in Activision's Street Hoops. The players, who gained fame through their appearances in AND 1 Mix Tapes and Nike's Freestyle commercials, will showcase their skills in the gritty, street-style basketball game, slated for release this summer.
Street Hoops encompasses the look, speed, energy and attitude of park/playground blacktop competition. Players compete in a nationwide tournament representing their hometown on notorious street courts in nine U.S. cites, as well as four fantasy courts that can be unlocked during gameplay.
Players can bet cash on competitions, buy real-world gear including Sean John, Ecko Unlimited, Southpole, Pure Playaz, and AND 1 with their earnings, talk trash, shout and push other players around. Multiple modes of play include World Tournament, King of the Court, and multiplayer full court and half-court games. Additionally, the game offers a variety of real freestyle basketball moves, dunking, and a hip-hop music soundtrack.
Creating the game is developer Black Ops Entertainment of Santa Monica, known for its traditional sports titles including Knockout Kings and the March Madness series.
Interplay Announces E3 2002 Product Lineup
Interplay recently announced its lineup of game titles to be shown at this year's Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3) taking place May 22 - 24 at the Los Angeles Convention Center. Interplay will be showing Hunter: The Reckoning, Run Like Hell, Baldur's Gate: Dark Alliance and Galleon. Black Isle Studios, Interplay's RPG division, will be showing Icewind Dale II and a new RPG title to be announced soon.
* Hunter: The Reckoning for Xbox is an action-adventure game based on the characters and fiction found in the role-playing game Hunter: The Reckoning and its World of Darkness universe. Developed by High Voltage Software, Inc. for Digital Mayhem using the AtlasTech Game Engine technology, the game is scheduled to next week.
* Icewind Dale II for the PC, in development internally at Black Isle Studios, offers a classic dungeon crawl experience using the new Third Edition Dungeons & Dragons license from Wizards of the Coast. Based in part on the series of books by R.A. Salvatore, the title will offer new monsters, spells, and areas to explore within the Forgotten Realms campaign setting.
* Run Like Hell (RLH) aims to scare the crap out of PlayStation2 gamers in its setting of an ordinary mining space station, the Forsetti, which soon becomes anything but ordinary after a terrifying species of aliens invade the outpost. The goal is to eliminate as many of the nasty creatures as you can, grab your loved ones and get off the station. The game features the voice talents of Lance Henriksen, Kate Mulgrew and Michael Ironside.
* From the creator and lead designer of Lara Croft and the original Tomb Raider comes a new breed of hero in Galleon: Islands of Mystery, an action-adventure for Xbox. Set across six islands, it takes Rhama Sabrier, the captain of the Endeavor, from the bustling port of Akbah to islands populated with giant monsters, evil slave lords and, of course, damsels in distress in a story of intrigue, suspense, romance, obsession and revenge.
* Baldur's Gate: Dark Alliance for Xbox (previously released for PS2).
PlayStation2 Worldwide Shipments Reach 30 Million Units
Sony Computer Entertainment Inc., the Tokyo-based parent company of its North American division Sony Computer Entertainment America Inc., announced that as of May 5, 2002, cumulative worldwide shipments of its PlayStation2 computer entertainment system reached 30 million units. Sales break down by region as follows:
* North America, (Sony Computer Entertainment America Inc.) 11.3 million units * Japan/Asia, (Sony Computer Entertainment Japan) 9.9 million units * Europe/PAL, (Sony Computer Entertainment Europe Limited) 8.8 million units
The company is preparing to announce new business developments related to hardware, software, and broadband at the industry's annual trade show, Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3), May 22-24, 2002, in Los Angeles.
Schoback, Zeschuk Voted to IGDA Board
The International Game Developers Association (IGDA) last week announced the new members of its board of directors. Kathy Schoback, director of external development & publishing, Sega (USA) and Greg Zeschuk, joint-CEO, BioWare Corp. (Canada) were elected to the two open board seats, and David Weinstein, senior software engineer, Red Storm Entertainment (USA), was appointed to the board per the terms of last year's merger agreement with the International Game Developers Network, of which Weinstein was chair.
All three began their two-year board terms on May 1, 2002.
Stated Schoback, "My main areas of focus will be outreach to the publishing and business community, 'newbie' mentoring, and attracting women to the field of game development."
New officers chosen by the board are chairperson: Graeme Devine - designer/project manager, id Software; secretary: Kathy Schoback; and treasurer: Robert Huebner - technical director, Nihilistic Software.
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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