Spectrum: Interactive Media & Online Developer News 28 May 2002
Reported, written and edited by David Duberman
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Today's Headlines (details below)
--Cycling '74 Updates Pluggo
--Zero G Ships InstallAnywhere 5
--Kaydara Announces Motionbuilder 4.0
--Virtools Releases Mac Web Player
--Strata Updates DVpro for Macintosh
--ISU Unveils VR Environment
--Rhino Plug-ins Announced
--Discreet Ships cleaner streaming studio --Side Effects Updates Houdini
--Di-O-Matic to Support Kaydara FBX
--Caligari Announces rayPak
--Infogrames Introduces Wizmo's Workshop: Dragons of Frozzbokk --Obscura Introduces Surround Cinema
--Criterion to Acquire MathEngine
--Activision Acquires Z-Axis
GAMES PEOPLE PLAY
--Activision Set to Ship Soldier of Fortune Sequel --Blizzard Unveils Warcraft III Single-Player --Sony Online Entertainment Announces Lineup --LucasArts to Develop Console Galaxies, Full Throttle Sequel --The Sims Coming to PS2
--Sierra, Fox Interactive Announce Cameron's Dark Angel --Sony Announces PS2 Platform Game
--Eidos Announces 2002 Lineup
--Activision Announces Wolverine's Revenge, True Crime
--Siggraph 2002 Announces Animation Awards
Cycling '74 Updates Pluggo
Cycling '74 last week released pluggo 3.0, a new version of its native audio-processing plug-in software for VST, MAS, and RTAS audio applications.
Pluggo offers over 100 real-time audio effects and virtual instruments. In addition, users will be able to create their own custom plug-ins using Max/MSP, Cycling '74's companion authoring software. Pluggo 3 exploits the new Max4/MSP2 audio programming environment, and includes the Essential Instruments collection, initially developed by eowave, the developers of the iSynth.
Pluggo effects include filtering, delay effects, distortion, granular synthesis, audio routing, sampling and synthesis, reverb, and sound localization. In addition, pluggo offers modulation, synchronization, and audio and control routing capabilities between plug-ins. The 19+ synths and samplers in the Essential Instruments collection range from the of the Pretty Good Synth to additive synths, analog-modeling drum and percussion synths, sampling, granular synthesis, FM synthesis, wavetable synthesis, and waveshaping modules.
Zero G Ships InstallAnywhere 5
Zero G Software last week released InstallAnywhere 5 with enhanced XML support, suite installation capabilities, Merge Module support, new team-development features, Web services-based application deployment tools, drag-and-drop functionality, and Apache Ant integration. In addition, the company announced the availability of a Mac OS X-specific version of its installer tool.
Kaydara Announces Motionbuilder 4.0
Coming this August from Montreal-based Kaydara is Motionbuilder 4.0, at a base price of $USD 3,495. It runs on Microsoft Windows NT/2000, Apple OS X, and Red Hat Linux.
The new version of the real-time 3D character-animation software, previously named Filmbox animation, has a new, redesigned drag-and-drop user interface, a new drag-and-drop workflow, and: * Automatic character rigging saves time compared to manual rigging. Motion retargeting also allows animators to use diverse motion data in one, unified animation environment.
* Lip-Sync / Facial Animation uses Kaydara's Voice Reality phoneme-extraction technology to create lip-sync in real-time.
* Real-time display provides instant feedback.
* Drag-and-drop contextual interface - When objects or elements are selected, the tools and properties for that object or element become instantly available in the interface. Also, the tools that an animator would need to modify elements are automatically displayed.
Motionbuilder 4.0 also natively supports Kaydara's FBX file interchange format, supported by 3D content and streaming media vendors such as Alias|Wavefront, Autodesk/Discreet, DI-O-Matic, 2D3, Digimask, Expression Tools, InSpeck, Motek, NewTek, QEDsoft, Reflex3D, Softimage, Turbosquid, Vicon, Viewpoint and Zygote.
Virtools Releases Mac Web Player
New from Paris-based Virtools, a developer of interactive 3D development solutions, is the beta release of the Virtools Web Player for the Macintosh platform, for viewing interactive 3D applications created with Virtools Dev 2.1.
The Virtools Web Player for Mac OS X will be followed up by a release for Mac OS 9.0.
Strata Updates DVpro for Macintosh
New from Strata, a provider of tools for 3D content creation and digital video editing, recently released Strata DVpro v 5.0 for Macintosh. The Windows version is scheduled to ship early this summer.
Users can capture, edit and enhance videos, and then share videos on tape, CD-ROM, or by streaming them over the Internet. With the integration of Sorenson's Spark codec, the software can compress digital media and display it to Internet users equipped with the Macromedia Flash player.
In addition, DVpro provides export options including Real Player, MP3, AVI and the ability to export to any QuickTime compatible codec.
ISU Unveils VR Environment
Iowa State University's Virtual Reality Applications Center has opened a new flexible system for use in researching virtual reality and collaboration. The "immersive projection" system can create a viewing area as large as 36 feet wide and nine feet tall, about equal to the display area of 380 standard 17-inch computer monitors. Called the C4, the facility replaces the center's C2 system built in 1996. Like its predecessor, the C4 can also be made into a 12-by-12 foot room with images projected onto three walls as well as the floor.
VRAC also houses the C6 VR facility, with six-sided projection and wireless interaction devices. A nearby auditorium is also equipped with 3D projection and display capabilities, enabling large audiences to interact with virtual worlds.
Located in the Black Engineering Building on the ISU campus, the C4 is driven by SGI computers. Because space is limited, images from the projectors are reflected off two mirrors before reaching the screens, a method known as "folded optics." To enable the walls to be swung in and out, projectors are mounted on supports connected to the wall framework.
The project also required extensive renovation of the facility, which formerly housed wind-tunnel equipment.
The C4, C6 and the auditorium systems all project stereoscopic images onto large screens. Using special glasses, these images appear three-dimensional to viewers. A tracking system keeps tabs on the user's position and orientation to maintain correct prospective as the user "moves" around a virtual space. Three-dimensional sound adds to the realism of the virtual environment.
Contacts: Carolina Cruz-Neira, VRAC, 515-294-5685; firstname.lastname@example.org Robert Mills, Public Affairs, (515) 294-1113; email@example.com
Rhino Plug-ins Announced
Robert McNeel & Associates would like you to know about a number of new plug-ins and companion products for its Rhino 2.0 NURBS modeling software.
* free modeling utilities
* marine design and analysis tools from Proteus, Baseline, and AlbacoreJewelry design tools from GemVision * CAM products including a new VisualMill Basic * LucidShape for optical design and analysisMold flow analysis from Moldex * Lightwave 6 and 7 import
* rendering and animation tools
* involute gear calculator
* reverse engineering tools from COPious and SMURFGiant * CNC parts from Synergy 3D
* free prototype part from Z Corp
For a complete list, visit http://www.rhino3d.com/plugins.htm.
Discreet Ships cleaner streaming studio
Just out from Autodesk division Discreet is cleaner streaming studio ($795), comprising three Internet streaming-media software applications: * cleaner live, cinestream, and cleaner. cleaner live software, a Web-casting application, allows delivery of live Web events through integrated stream and PowerPoint presentations that support real-time media capture for archiving projects
* cinestream software, a Windows DV-based non-linear editing and content capture and tool with interactive authoring capabilities, lets users produce visual experiences for the Web
* cleaner software, a content-mastering application, captures, authors, filters, compresses, formats, secures and publishes media for streamed delivery
Side Effects Updates Houdini
Coming in Q3 '02 from Toronto's Side Effects Software is version 5.5 release of its Houdini 3D software. New features include VOPs, an interactive, node-based shader and effects builder. Houdini 5.5 also features an expanded shader gallery, a new compositor, a drag-and-drop interface, simplified installation and keying, and enhanced character and animation tools.
VOPs provide a visual and interactive interface to the VEX scripting language, allowing artists to fully explore a library of over 250 pre-built nodes to create custom Shader Operators (SHOPs), Particle Operators (POPs), Composite Operators (COPs), Surface Operators (SOPs), and Channel Operators (CHOPs). VOPs technology will also be supported within Houdini Select, the $2K, scaled-down version.
The expanded shader gallery features COPs, a new compositor said to be optimized for film, and with support for deep rasters and multi-threading.
Other improvements include drag-and-drop support throughout the interface, simplified installation and keying with automated Web-based license generation, new video-based training materials, and enhanced character and animation tools.
Di-O-Matic to Support Kaydara FBX
Di-O-Matic Inc. will support Kaydara's FBX file-interchange format in the next version of Di-O-Matic's Facial Studio, the facial modeling and animation package, and in Morph-O-Matic, the morphing solution for discreet 3ds max. The FBX file format allows the interchange of 3D data among major 3D content-creation packages.
Caligari Announces rayPak
New from Caligari Corporation is rayPak, a $99 collection of plug-ins, libraries, and standalone programs for trueSpace users. Features include: * VirtuaLight - rendering engine with distributed ray tracing with area lights, depth of field, adaptive spatial anti-aliasing, stochastic reflection and refraction models, global illumination for Monte Carlo irradiance, photon mapping, caustics, sunlight simulation, volumetric rendering capabilities and programmable surface shaders, including multi-layer shaders, composite shaders, and indexed shaders. It also provides texture mapping and true displacement mapping, as well as 22 different geometric primitives including NURBS, blobby and implicit/polynomial/parametric surfaces.
* SimbiontTS - shader engine for creating textures and materials with photo-realistic procedural shaders and more than 100 materials.
* ShaderLab - extendable, scriptable shader system with editor, debugger, and interface builder, comes with over 200 shaders and preset variations.
* Enhance:TS Shaders - 42 procedural shaders for textures, patterns and surfaces.
* SL 2.0 Shaders offer a new planetary shader for control over the surface of oceans, polar caps and clouds. Other shaders are for making stone, dried mud, marble, clouds, ocean, wood, tile and many other textures.
* RayCatcher includes its own rendering engine for shading and global illumination. It also allows users to simulate caustic effects when focusing a magnifying glass.
* vcRad is a modeling plug-in that automatically applies trueSpace boolean and glue features.
* vcSex(ion) creates sectioned and cutaway versions of complex trueSpace scenes.
* VcTNT, for realistic explosion simulation, allows for interaction of individual shrapnel objects, randomness for chaotic effects, multiple explosions, moving targets, and support of doppelganger target objects.
Infogrames Introduces Wizmo's Workshop: Dragons of Frozzbokk
Wizmo and his friends discover the joy of learning in Wizmo's Workshop, scheduled to ship this fall from Infogrames, Inc.. Children join Wizmo the friendly wizard and his friends in an interactive adventure through Frozzbokk.
Kids interact with Wizmo and his friends as they journey through colorful environments with activities that stimulate development of skills such as shape identification, color and shape matching, and basic reading. Each environment, from the Workshop and the Great Tree, to Mousinni's Mouse Hole and the Meadow, rewards children with fun and whimsical prizes upon the completion of each activity. The difficulty of the games increases with each completed game allowing kids to see the progress they've made.
Throughout the game, players help Wizmo build various machines in his workshop and receive a special magic tour of his castle when they're done.
Along the way, Mousinni and the dragons Sparkey, LuLu, Flower, Archie, J.J.
and Ozzie will help the children.
Developed by Screaming Games and Professor Fog's Workshop, Wizmo's Workshop for the PC is appropriate for ages 3 and up and will be available fall 2002 for a suggested retail price of $19.99.
Obscura Introduces Surround Cinema
San Francisco-based Obscura Digital last week unveiled a new presentation system it claims will let game enthusiasts step into and inhabit the worlds of their favorite video games. The company's Surround Cinema system presents audiences of 30 to 500 with full-motion, 360 degree X 220 degree field-of-view game cinematics and gameplay in custom-designed mobile theaters.
Obscura Digital customizes temporary, touring, and permanent Surround Cinema installations for corporate clients looking to make an impression with their exhibition-based marketing campaigns at trade shows, conventions, live events, and product launches. The company's team of 3D CGI animators, video editors, and sound artists customize surround experiences for clients.
Criterion to Acquire MathEngine
Criterion Software, a provider of game-development solutions, is in advanced negotiations to acquire the middleware business of MathEngine plc, a developer of physics-technology solutions within the interactive game-developer market, including Karma physics.
Activision Acquires Z-Axis
Activision has acquired Z-Axis Ltd., the creative studio behind the Dave Mirra Freestyle BMX franchise. The transaction marks the company's fourth acquisition in seven months.
Under the terms of the agreement, Z-Axis has become a wholly owned subsidiary of Activision. Z-Axis management team and key employees have signed long-term employment contracts with Activision. Activision does not expect this transaction to affect its previously announced revenue and earnings per share guidance for the fiscal year ending March 31, 2003 or for fiscal year 2004.
Z-Axis is currently developing Dave Mirra Freestyle BMX 3 and the upcoming Aggressive Inline. The company's previous games include Dave Mirra Freestyle BMX 2, Dave Mirra Freestyle BMX: Maximum Remix, Dave Mirra Freestyle BMX and Thrasher: Skate and Destroy.
Founded in 1994 by David Luntz, Z-Axis Ltd. is headquartered in Hayward, CA and currently maintains two development teams. The company has proprietary technology that can be used to create titles across multiple console platforms.
GAMES PEOPLE PLAY
Activision Set to Ship Soldier of Fortune Sequel
New from Activision and its Raven Software subsidiary is Soldier of Fortune II: Double Helix, in which players once again assume the role of John Mullins, a military consultant working for the top-secret agency known as The Shop. Players use stealth and firepower to tackle missions including hostage rescue, intelligence gathering, and search-and-destroy. Features include skeletally animated characters and per-pixel hit locations.
The game also introduces a new random-mission generator technology for both single and multiplayer. Multiplayer also offers nine maps, more than 100 unique model/skin combinations and four game modes including and deathmatch, team deathmatch, elimination and infiltration.
Blizzard Unveils Warcraft III Single-Player
Thanks to the recent large-scale beta test, we've heard a lot about Warcraft III in multiplayer mode, but what about the single-player game? At last week's 2002 E3 Expo, Blizzard Entertainment unveiled the Warcraft III: Reign of Chaos single-player campaign.
With the game near completion, this summer will mark the first time in years that players will be able to return to the Warcraft universe, where Blizzard made its PC debut. For the first time, a Blizzard real-time-strategy game will be rendered in full 3D. The game will be focused on groups of warriors supporting heroes, each of whom can advance and become more powerful as the game progresses.
These heroes are the central focus of the single-player game. Four linked campaigns - featuring the Humans, Undead, Orcs and Night Elves - together form the story of the day the sky rained fire and war once again swept the battered lands of Azeroth. Players first take the role of Arthas, Paladin and crown prince of Lordaeron, as he investigates an uprising of Orcs and rumors of a plague sweeping the northern end of the kingdom. As the single-player game advances, the story moves on to other races, with each campaign picking up where the previous one left off. Heroes of other races appear throughout the campaigns, many times as allies, yet other times as enemies.
The game includes a campaign editor for creating 3D maps and missions, with scripts for units, spells, and action-packed events.
Warcraft III: Reign of Chaos will be available this summer for Windows 95/98/2000/NT and Macintosh formats. The game will sell for approximately $55 - $60.
Also at E3, Blizzard unveiled design enhancements for World of Warcraft, its upcoming massively multiplayer online role-playing game. The E3 presentation featured advancements to the Warcraft universe including two new uncharted regions - the Deadmines and the Monastery. Additionally, three of the game's character classes -Warriors, Mages, and Shamans - were seen for the first time at the show.
Sony Online Entertainment Announces Lineup
Sony Online Entertainment last week announced its upcoming multiplayer online games, with lots and lots of EverQuest, and a bit more: * EverQuest Online Adventures for PS2 is completely new, and will feature character development, continuous player interaction and a sense of community. Spring 2003.
* EverQuest II - new world, new 3D engine, character customization (faces, hair, body types), player-owned real estate, player-controlled mounts, new quest system, enhanced combat systems, and continued Norrathian storyline with new regions. Fall 2003.
* EverQuest: The Planes of Power - fourth installment, new items, quests and encounters. Visit http://www.planesofpower.com/. Fall 2002.
* PlanetSide - battle involving infantry, ground vehicles, and aircraft; new 3D engine designed for indoor and outdoor locations; changing weather effects; ambient environmental sounds. Spring 2003.
* Star Wars Galaxies - Star Wars universe, role-playing and ground-based adventures across multiple planets. Gameplay combines combat, exploration, social interaction, specialized missions, and quests. Published by LucasArts, developed by SOE, expected December 2002.
LucasArts to Develop Console Galaxies, Full Throttle Sequel
LucasArts Entertainment Company says it will develop versions of its Star Wars Galaxies online game for Xbox Live and PlayStation 2 at a future, unspecified time. This December, LucasArts will release a Windows PC version of the game, developed by Sony Online Entertainment, titled Star Wars Galaxies: An Empire Divided.
The Star Wars Galaxies online game series is designed to involve thousands of players in role-playing adventures across multiple planets during the Star Wars timeframe. Gameplay will combine combat, exploration, social interaction, specialized missions, and quests.
Also, Full Throttle, the classic LucasArts adventure, will return in a sequel for next-generation consoles and PC in 2003. The follow-up to the 1995 game will once again feature the swaggering outlaw biker Ben, leader of a renegade motorcycle gang called the Polecats. The action-adventure will offer a humorous original story, bare-knuckle fighting, and high-speed biking.
The Sims Coming to PS2
In development by Electronic Arts is The Sims for PlayStation 2, at the company's Walnut Creek-based Maxis studio in conjunction with Austin-based, Edge of Reality, Ltd. The console version, set to ship this fall, will feature new level-based game play, two-player mode, and 3D graphics.
In an all new level-based neighborhood, players can start with one Sim and move him or her on up while advancing through life's big moments. As they progress through new challenges, your Sims can move into bigger and better homes and unlock new PlayStation 2-exclusive objects, including a teppanyaki table, bug zapper, and a strip poker game.
Two players can play with or against each other for popularity points and bragging rights. Players can save houses and Sims on a memory card and play them on a friend's system. Also exclusive to this version are a new 3D world and a cast of wacky neighbors to interact with, using a new controller-based interface.
Sierra, Fox Interactive Announce Cameron's Dark Angel
The saga of Max and Logan continues as Sierra Entertainment and Fox Interactive are currently developing of James Cameron's Dark Angel for PlayStation 2 and Xbox. The third-person action-adventure game, based on the television series, features both fighting and stealth tactics, as well as the likenesses of and voice-overs by Jessica Alba (Max) and Michael Weatherly (Logan).
As a child, Max escapes from her military creators, Manticore, along with a handful of her "siblings," and makes a life for herself on the edgy streets of 21st century Post Pulse Seattle. Haunted by dark memories of her victimization at the hands of the Manticore personnel, Max is on a quest to reclaim her past and locate her missing siblings. This, she hopes, will let her overcome the battle that rages inside her.
Sony Announces PS2 Platform Game
Set for a September '02 release from Sony Computer Entertainment America on PS2 is the cumbersomely named Sly Cooper and the Thievius Raccoonus.
Developed by Seattle-based developer, Sucker Punch, the action-adventure platform game features a "conceptually new type of character" and toon-shading technology.
The game blends realistic physics in detailed, toon-shaded worlds. As one of the world's greatest thieves, players choose from a variety of gameplay options including stealth, platform, vehicle, boss and mini-games. The adventure takes place across numerous worlds with diverse landscapes and environments, with mini-games, hideouts and vehicles all waiting to be experienced by gamers.
Eidos Announces 2002 Lineup
Eidos Interactive recently announced its upcoming console and PC game lineup. The highlighted title marks the return of Lara Croft, as Eidos prepares for a winter 2002 release of The Angel of Darkness. Lara now has the ability to interact with characters (rather than just killing them) and players can affect her route through the game by the choices they make in conversation with these characters.
The Angel of Darkness employs a new engine from Core Design for PlayStation 2 and the latest PC graphics cards. Lara is now made up of over 5,000 polygons as opposed to 500, as in previous Tomb Raider games. Players travel from the back streets of Paris to the hellish depths of Prague.
Other games include:
* Hitman 2: Silent Assassin (PlayStation 2, PC and Xbox) - 1st/3rd-person stealth shooter
* TimeSplitters 2 (PlayStation 2, Xbox and GameCube) - first-person shooter from members of the original GoldenEye team * Praetorians (PC) - 3D troop-based strategy game set in an emerging Roman Empire
* Legaia 2: Duel Saga (PlayStation 2) - Japanese turn-based RPG, with real-time backgrounds and voice acting
* Spring Break (PC) - Set on a chain of exotic tropical islands, players compete to create the most successful vacation experience.
* Republic (PC) - Places gamers in the role of a faction leader intent on becoming the president ... build up a nationwide party powerful enough to oust the president and rule the Republic of Novistrana.
Activision Announces Wolverine's Revenge, True Crime
Scheduled to ship in spring '03 from Activision is X-Men: Wolverine's Revenge for PlayStation 2, Xbox, and GameCube. The third-person action-adventure game features an original storyline written for Activision by Larry Hama and the voices of Mark Hamill and Patrick Stewart, X.
With only 48 hours to live, Wolverine returns to the clandestine Department H facility to uncover the terrible secrets behind the Weapon X laboratory and the experiments that turned the mutant hero into a killing machine. As with all mutants, Wolverine has unique abilities: deadly claws, animal-like super senses to assist in tracking enemies, an enhanced mutant healing factor, unbreakable bones, and superior strength and reflexes.
Also coming in 2003 from Activision is True Crime: Streets of L.A. for PlayStation2, Xbox, and GameCube. Inspired by Hong Kong action films, the game lets players assume the role of tough detective Nick Kang, bent on settling a personal vendetta with the L.A. underworld. As Kang, players will be able to dispense their own personal brand of justice through automotive combat, martial-arts moves, and the business end of dual 45s.
Developed by Luxoflux, of the Vigilante 8 series, the game combines car chases, shootouts, foot pursuits and hand-to-hand combat in over 20 branching missions and 100 sub-missions. The game's 3D lets players move freely through a 400-square-mile virtual city, visit popular L.A.
landmarks, or buy services from local gun merchants, mechanics or doughnut shops and improve Kang's abilities by visiting auto simulators, dojo's and gun ranges around town.
Siggraph 2002 Announces Animation Awards
ACM Siggraph last week announced the Computer Animation Festival's Best Animated Short and Jury Award winners for Siggraph 2002, the 29th International Conference on Computer Graphics and Interactive Techniques, being held 21-26 July, 2002 at the Henry B. Gonzalez Convention Center, San Antonio, Texas. The Computer Animation Festival jury selected these two award winners from 640 entries for their animation and storytelling. John McIntosh, School of Visual Arts, is the Siggraph 2002 Computer Animation Festival Chair.
The winners are:
* The Cathedral (Best Animated Short, SIGGRAPH 2002), Tomek Baginski, Platige Image, Warsaw - Based on the novel "The Cathedral" by author Jacek Dukaj, this is the story of a pilgrim who arrives at the edge of the known world at the end of a long journey. Here he finds the Cathedral, a place full of secrets. The Cathedral is not only a building, and the pilgrim is not only a man. Animated and rendered in 3D Studio Max, painted in Photoshop, composited with AfterEffects, and edited with Softimage DS. The artist made the piece over a period of 14 months with the support of Platige Image, a studio that supports independent projects by its artists.
* The Deserter (Jury Award, SIGGRAPH 2002), Olivier Coulon, Supinfocom, Paris - In a prostitute's room where WWI deserters have found refuge, one of them thinks he is a bird who can finally, in one leap, rise above the events around him.
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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