Spectrum: Interactive Media & Online Developer News

19 May 2003
Reported, written and edited by David Duberman
For editorial/subscription inquiries, send mailto: spectrum1@broadviewnet.net
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Editor's note: Spectrum will take a break next weekend for the Memorial Day holiday. We'll be back with more news and reviews the following week.

Today's Headlines (details below)

DEVELOPER'S TOOLBOX --Monster Studios Launches Reaction Engine on Windows

GRAPHICALLY SPEAKING --Fakespace Announces Hi-Res Stereo Projection

THE DIALS & LEVERS OF POWER --ExtremeTech Previews 3D Future
--Montréal Siggraph, Kaydara Host Animation Night
--Charles River Announces Books

GAMES PEOPLE PLAY --Sony Announces Handheld PlayStation, More
--EA Ships The Sims Superstar
--Midway Unveils New Game Lineup at E3
--Blizzard Shows StarCraft: Ghost at E3
--Konami Debuts PS2 Castlevania
--Logical Vice Announces Multi-Genre Game for PC, XBox
--Nokia Announces New N-Gage Titles
--Disney Interactive to Release Spy Kids Game
--Vivendi to Ship Bruce Lee: Return of the Legend
--Atari, Turbine to Develop Dungeons & Dragons Online

HAPPENINGS --GDC Europe 2003 Registration Open

F.Y.I. --About Spectrum


Monster Studios Launches Reaction Engine on Windows

Monster Studios last week released its Reaction Engine through independent publisher GarageGames. The Reaction Engine, used to build the game Chain Reaction, is a hobbyist game engine designed for beginner programmers making small, fun games, or prototyping game ideas quickly.

The Windows-based Reaction Engine's software development kit (SDK) is documented with over 100 cross-linked pages, and the code base is commented and integrated into the Microsoft Visual C++ environment. The Reaction Engine includes all source code, a 3ds max exporter that converts most 3D models for use in the game engine, and several example programs.

"After releasing Chain Reaction we realized there was a real demand for a hobbyist game engine. This is a simple game engine that has a low barrier to entry for those people willing to put in the effort to learn C++," said Chris Cole, head of Monster Studios.

The Reaction Engine is available at GarageGames for $59.95 for Windows and is sold with a no-royalty open license agreement. A demo of the engine is also available. For more information: http://www.garagegames.com/pg/product/view.php?id=14.



Fakespace Announces Hi-Res Stereo Projection

Coming in August from Fakespace Systems is its high-resolution, digital, active stereoscopic projection system. The new projection technology provides 1600 x 1200 Ultra XGA (UXGA) resolution for use in advanced visualization solutions.

Fakespace Systems acquired an exclusive worldwide license to manufacture and market this projection technology, which was developed by Dr. Karri Palovuori, professor at The Institute of Electronics at Tampere University of Technology.

Features include mirror-bounce configuration to reduce system footprint, gen-locking, and compatibility with edge-blending and distortion correction. The projection technology is also capable of resolutions higher than the stated 1600 x 1200. It will be available in Cave, Flex, Curv, and PowerWall visualization environments.



ExtremeTech Previews 3D Future

Thanks to Slashdot News for bringing this to our attention: An article by Nick Stam, posted last Friday on ExtremeTech, reports on a talk given at the recent WinHEC conference by Nvidia graphics guru David Kirk, who briefly discusses the future of 3D graphics. In it, Kirk predicts a continuation of the 2X-per-year performance growth rate of graphics silicon. He also points out that, despite recent advances, real-time photorealistic rendering is still a ways off.


Montréal Siggraph, Kaydara Host Animation Night

Montréal ACM Siggraph and Kaydara, a provider of 3D character-animation and motion-capture solutions, will hold an Animation Night event Tuesday, May 20, from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. at Salle du Gesù, in Montréal. The event will include presentations from Michel Besner, founder and president of Kaydara; Remi Brun, motion-capture director for Attitude Studio; and Myriam Côté, Consultant, Big Bang FX/Animation.

The evening commences with a presentation by Côté on rebuilding 3D trajectories from sequences of images specifically for inserting virtual elements in video sequences. Besner will follow with an overview on character animation and the state of the 3D industry. Brun will extend Besner's overview with a presentation on 3D character animation pipelines for film and game productions.

The Montréal ACM SIGGRAPH presentation will take place Tuesday, May 20, from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. at Salle du Gesù, located at 1200 Bleury (corner St. Laurent; metro Place Des Arts), Montréal. Admission is free. RSVP to montreal-chapter@siggraph.org.

Charles River Announces Books Here's a quick rundown of the latest books of interest from Charles River Media: http://www.charlesriver.com/


Sony Announces Handheld PlayStation, More

Sony Computer Entertainment Inc. (SCEI) last week announced plans to sell a new portable entertainment platform, "PSP." Scheduled for release in the fourth quarter of 2004, the company's goal is to extend the reach of PlayStation to a broader audience.

The foundation of the new platform is Universal Media Disc (UMD), which comprises a 60mm optical disc (1.8 GB) in a cartridge, developed by the Sony Group.

"PSP" will be equipped with a 480 x 272 pixel (16 x 9) TFT LCD monitor with a backlight, and powered by chipsets utilizing 90 nm semiconductor technology. For graphics, 3D rendering will be enhanced by the employment of curved surfaces (NURBS) along with conventional polygons. Video quality will also be enhanced with MPEG4, said to deliver quality equivalent to DVD video at a low data rate.

"PSP" will have an USB 2.0 port for further expandability and connectivity to other devices, such as "PSP," PlayStation 2 and many other systems, along with a Memory Stick slot for network applications and data transportability in a wireless environment.

SCEI will offer PC-based development tools starting from fall 2003 for the preparation of a new range of computer entertainment content. A new license scheme for "PSP" software development will be announced in summer 2003.

Sony also plans to introduce EyeToy, a USB camera for PlayStation 2 that uses motion-tracking technology to project player images on-screen. It will also capture the player's body movements and transform them into on-screen interaction. Scheduled to release in October at SRP $39, EyeToy will include 12 mini-games based on music, puzzles, sports, and other original genres.

The company also announced plans to launch a USB Headset (for PlayStation2) that utilizes Voice Over Internet Protocol (VoIP) and voice-recognition technologies for use with online and offline games for PlayStation 2. First-party online titles that utilize USB Headset technology include: SOCOM II: U.S. Navy SEALs, Syphon Filter: The Omega Strain, NFL GameDay 2004, NBA ShootOut 2004, and NCAA GameBreaker 2004. The headset will be released in September at SRP $30.


EA Ships The Sims Superstar

Just out from Electronic Arts is The Sims Superstar, the newest expansion pack to the top-selling PC game. Players can pursue their fantasies of fame and fortune as a rock star, movie star, or a supermodel, live the life of a celebrity, and mingle among the rich and famous.

Players can follow their Sims to work and witness their pursuit of fame and fortune firsthand. Fledgling Sims start by signing with an agent and shuttling to Studio Town, a new and customizable destination that offers television and movie lots, spa locations, recording studios, and fashion facilities. Once there, Sims can schmooze, network, and name-drop their way to stardom in the movies, music, or fashion.

The game features the likenesses of Christina Aguilera, Marilyn Monroe, and Andy Warhol, plus a new cast of comical characters including a fashion designer, a mega-hit record producer and a maniacal movie director, available for career critique. A capable butler, a savvy sushi chef, and a soothing masseuse will be on call to administer to the every whim of a celebrity Sim. Life in the spotlight would not be complete without the glare of the paparazzi, the adoration of groupies, and the annoyance of an obsessed fan.


Midway Unveils New Game Lineup at E3

Publisher and developer Midway Games announced its videogame lineup at the Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3) at the Los Angeles Convention Center, May 14-16, 2003.

ESPionage challenges players to use their most powerful weapon - their mind - as they try to master the action/stealth game to integrate traditional weapons combat with psychic mind powers. Combating a terrorist movement set to overthrow world order, gamers take on the persona of an elite American Psi-Operative who fights using telekinesis (lifting and throwing objects), pyrokinesis (controlling fire), remote viewing (going "out-of-body" to plan attacks), mind drain (draining Psi energy from enemies), aura view ("seeing" elements that aren't visible in the real world) and mind control (taking control of enemies) to fight against an army of programmed terrorist super soldiers that will stop at nothing to reach their goal. As players navigate eight levels in four compounds, they discover multiple ways to solve missions. Scheduled to ship in fall 2003 for PlayStation2, Xbox, and GameCube.

The Suffering (http://www.thesuffering.midway.com) is a third-person action/adventure game set in a maximum-security prison. In nine dynamically lit levels, players encounter a cast of hardened criminals, prison guards and grotesque apparitions. Depending on how they play the game, players will arrive at three distinct endings. Creature designer Stan Winston created the game's character artwork. Scheduled to ship Halloween 2003 for PlayStation2, Xbox, and GameCube.

SpyHunter 2 (www.spyhunter2.midway.com) will combine combat, espionage, and mission-based gameplay. Gamers take the helm of the redesigned G-8155 Interceptor combat vehicle with new transformations including snowmobile and 4-wheel drive off-road vehicle. Scheduled to ship in fall 2003 for the PlayStation2, Xbox, and GameCube.

Freaky Flyers lets players explore, adventure, stunt-fly and dogfight in the videogame skies. Multiplayer action lets gamers battle head-to-head in aerial racing combat. Humorous storyline includes 13 characters and a soundtrack featuring eight original songs. Scheduled to ship in August 2003 for PlayStation2, Xbox, and GameCube.

RoadKill lets players fight for survival in a post-apocalyptic world destroyed by a plague and ruled by gangs, unleashing havoc in more than 30 vehicles with weapons such as machine guns, guided missiles and grenade launchers. Assuming the role of the mercenary, players must build a gang following as they battle rival gangs, city guards and anyone else that gets in the way. 30 core missions and numerous side missions in the three cities of Hell County: Lava Falls, Blister Canyon and Paradise City. Scheduled to ship in fall 2003 for PlayStation2, Xbox, and GameCube. For more information visit www.roadkill.midway.com.

Blizzard Shows StarCraft: Ghost at E3

Attendees at last week's E3 show got a closer look at StarCraft: Ghost, Blizzard Entertainment's upcoming tactical-action console game. Players take the role of Nova, a lethal Ghost operative trained in the arts of espionage and tactical combat. As she progresses through a series of story-driven missions, Nova is required to engage in a number of dangerous infiltration operations and deadly planetary battles. To complete Nova's mission objectives, players must execute tactical decisions while mastering an arsenal of weaponry and psionic abilities.

In addition to utilizing Nova's special abilities to carry out covert operations, players can call in offsite support ranging from comsat sensor sweeps to all-out tactical nuclear strikes. As they advance through the game, players will have the ability to operate a number of vehicles including Vulture hovercycles and Arclite siege tanks. Also, to aid them in combat, players can go into a zoomed-in sniper mode using Nova's modified C-20A canister rifle.


Konami Debuts PS2 Castlevania

Konami's Castlevania franchise will make a next-generation console debut with the November 2003 release of Castlevania: Lament of Innocence for PlayStation2. The title will be the first 3D Castlevania game to be developed by series "father" Koji Igarashi.

Set in the 11th century, Castlevania: Lament of Innocence casts players in the role of Leon Belmont, a nobleman about to be engaged to his beloved Sara. When his young lover disappears one fateful evening, Leon sets out to rescue her. Armed with only a dagger, it is not until an unexpected ally, an alchemist, offers him a protective whip that Leon is ready to begin his hunt. The story of Castlevania: Lament of Innocence follows Leon through the perilous forest and into Dracula's foreboding gothic Castle.

Upon entering the castle, players will step into an ethereal world that is guarded by bloodthirsty guards and ruled by Dracula's wicked whimsy. Players will face five doors, each one leading into a dark area of the castle: the Cathedral, the Theatre, the Garden, the Alchemist Laboratory, and the Dungeon. Trekking through hundreds of rooms, players will battle over 35 different kinds of enemies before facing the final boss. Leon must combine his whip and five sub-weapons (Holy Water, Dagger, Cross, Axe and Crystal) to defeat the monsters. Additionally, seven orbs can be combined with 10 action relics in order to create attacks and special effects.


Logical Vice Announces Multi-Genre Game for PC, XBox Orlando-based independent developer LogicalVice plans to release a multi-genre video game for the PC and XBox. The game, BoomTown, is based on a loose interpretation of the American wild west frontier and witchcraft, and is scheduled release in Q3 '04. Features include single-player campaigns and multiplayer online scenarios in a third-person (default) or first-person perspective. Running on Epic Games' Unreal Warfare and the Karma Physics Math Engine, scenarios and gaming modes include Last Man Standing, Dueling, Siege, and 25 Card Draw. http://www.logicalvice.com

Nokia Announces New N-Gage Titles

Nokia announced new game titles for its N-Gage game deck at last week's E3 (Electronic Entertainment Expo) in Los Angeles, California. The Nokia N-Gage is a mobile game device that allows for online, mobile, multiplayer play plus a digital music player (MP3/AAC), stereo FM radio, and a tri-band GSM 900/1800/1900 mobile phone.

Launch titles will include Tomb Raider Starring Lara Croft from Eidos, Tom Clancy's Splinter Cell from Gameloft, where two players can join together in co-operative mode to solve situations, and other titles from Gameloft such as Tom Clancy's Ghost Recon, Rayman 3 and Marcel Desailly Pro Soccer.

Nokia is also acting as a game publisher to create branded Nokia N-Gage game titles as part of the evolving games portfolio. Pathway to Glory, an online warfare community and original Nokia title, is due to be released in spring 2004.

The Nokia N-Gage game deck devices and games (sold separately on game cards using the MultiMediaCard standard) will be available to consumers in volumes across five continents in early October 2003. 20 game titles will be available for the holiday shopping season.

The Nokia N-Gage game deck features a color display with backlight plus eight-way direction controller (called the 'Rocker').

Game developers interested in learning more about the Nokia N-Gage game deck, including submitting information about applications for the Nokia N-Gage and other Nokia devices and platforms, can find more information at http://www.forum.nokia.com/games.

Disney Interactive to Release Spy Kids Game

Disney Interactive, the children's software label of Buena Vista Games, Inc., will release two Spy Kids 3-D: Game Over games, based on the upcoming summer movie of the same name, for Game Boy Advance and PC. Both titles are slated for release in July 2003 for players ages six and up.

Spy Kids 3-D: Game Over for Game Boy Advance is an action adventure in which players journey inside a video game on a quest through four unique worlds, including Platform World, Robocon World, Lava World and Mega Racer World, each with 12 levels, and thre e high speed Mega Cycle races, as they match wits with the evil Toy Maker's best beta testers. Moves include combo attacks, rocket boosters, triple kicks and energy stealers.

Spy Kids 3-D: Game Over for PC lets players join Carmen and Juni as they battle to save the world in 3-D. Entering what appear to be inescapable, virtual worlds of video games, created by an evil inventor, players face three challenges. In Battle Sticks, Carmen and Juni must work together to get through a maze of platforms that move unexpectedly. In Cycle Race, players race through tracks of jumps and banking turns. In the third game, Lava Surfing, players can challenge friends to partake in rescues within evolving, lava-drenched landscapes.


Vivendi to Ship Bruce Lee: Return of the Legend

Vivendi Universal Games (VU Games) last week released Bruce Lee: Return of the Legend for Game Boy Advance. The game combines stealth and platform elements with Bruce Lee fighting action in a movie-like storyline.

Vicarious Visions, known for its work on the Tony Hawk's Pro Skater and Crash Bandicoot series of handheld games, has developed a 2D action-adventure with Bruce Lee fighting styles and mission-based levels. Players take the role of Hai Feng, a skilled martial arts student who must defeat a new set of adversaries to find the assassin of his master.

Players must perfect a variety of martial arts moves including the fists of fury and become experts in the use of knockout darts, the bo staff and nunchakus.


Atari, Turbine to Develop Dungeons & Dragons Online

At the Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3), Atari (formerly Infogrames) and Turbine announced plans to bring Wizards of the Coast's gaming universe, Dungeons & Dragons (D&D), to the world of massively multiplayer games with Dungeons & Dragons Online. Turbine Entertainment also created Asheron's Call and Asheron's Call 2.

Slated for release in 2005, Dungeons & Dragons Online is centered on character advancement, dungeon combat, guild politics, and territorial control over portions of the game world. Players choose and develop a character based on some of the iconic races associated with D&D, including humans, elves and halflings, as well as classes such as fighters, clerics, rogues, and wizards -- after which they can socialize, find quests, group together and equip themselves for future battles.

Players will be able to travel alone or in parties as they explore the dungeon complexes found beneath the world. Through the dungeons, players will engage in physical and magical combat with foes from the pages of the "Monster Manual" rulebook.



GDC Europe 2003 Registration Open

The game industry is comfortably in the middle of a console lifecycle, PC graphics technologies continue to advance at a rapid rate, and new opportunities including mobile gaming continue to offer developers an array of options.

Yet significant challenges face developers today:

Moving forward, the time to prepare for the next generation systems is now, before business plans are written, and well before development kits arrive. How will the next generation affect game development and what unforeseen issues will arise?

GDC Europe, 26-29 August 2003 at the Earls Court Conference Centre, in London, UK, plans to address the issues facing game developers with four days of keynotes, lectures, tutorials, panels and roundtables on technical, artistic, and business aspects of game development.



About Spectrum

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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