Spectrum: Interactive Media & Online Developer News 4 November 2002
Reported, written and edited by David Duberman
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Today's Headlines (details below)
--Xara Releases Menu Maker 1.0
--Fathammer Ships Mobile 3D Game Engine --NTI Introduces NTI CD-Maker 6 Platinum --Essential Reality Offers Free P5 SDK
--Softimage Updates XSI
--Linden Lab Announces Second Life, Beta Program
THE DIALS & LEVERS OF POWER
--O'Reilly Releases "HTTP: The Definitive Guide" --Reason Instructional CD Available
--Mental Images, ILM Reach Development Agreement --Activision Acquires Lemony Snicket Interactive Rights
GAMES PEOPLE PLAY
--Sony Releases Ratchet & Clank for PS2 --Midway's Haven to Feature FreeFormer Gameplay --Sony Announces PS2 Primal
--Baldur's Gate: Dark Alliance Coming for Gamecube
--Interplay Announces Management Changes
--Alias/Wavefront Announces Fourth 3December Event --O'Reilly Launches 2nd Bioinformatics Tech. Conference
Xara Releases Menu Maker 1.0
Just out from Xara is Menu Maker 1.0, a vector graphics, template-based program that lets users create navigation bars with DHTML menus with the click of a button.
Fathammer Ships Mobile 3D Game Engine
Helsinki, Finland-based Fathammer last week released its X-Forge 3D Game Engine, a development product for mobile devices. The engine is said to let game developers deliver high-frame-rate, console-quality 3D games with low memory footprint on a variety of wireless PDAs, Smartphones and handheld game devices.
The game engine is built with Fathammer's X-Forge technology, a cross-platform suite of APIs designed for the technology, form factor and configurations of current and future mobile devices. The game engine is a complete SDK and suite of development tools that allows for development of 3D games.
While X-Forge focuses on the game-development process, it also supports publisher-defined distribution and billing methods. This includes traditional retail distribution, OEM bundling (including embedded games) and distribution via wireless operators, portals and the Web. X-Forge Powered games can also be developed to contain features that let wireless operators to increase ARPU (average revenue per user) including incremental game content downloads, high score uploading, messaging, etc.
Two X-Forge powered games will be included with the retail launch of the Sony Ericsson P800 Smartphone. Stunt Run is an original racing title developed by Vasara Games, the games division of Fathammer. It features physics simulation, track design and a variety of gameplay options. Sony Pictures Digital Entertainment's Men in Black II: Alien Pursuit places the player in the role of MIB agent hunting down aliens in a 3D environment.
X-Forge is available for licensing by game developers. While it supports Symbian OS, Microsoft Pocket PC and Smartphone 2002, Mobile Linux and other popular mobile operating systems, the initial release focuses on Symbian OS support including Nokia Series 60 and the Sony Ericsson P800 Smartphone.
NTI Introduces NTI CD-Maker 6 Platinum
New from NewTech Infosystems, Inc. (NTI), a developer of CD/DVD-burning software, is NTI CD-Maker 6 Platinum. New Features include:
* DVD-Copy for DVD-R/-RW and +R/+RW
* Data DVDs for DVD-R/-RW and +R/+RW
* DVD-RW and DVD+RW support for FileCD packet writing * MP3 CD and WMA CD with autorun and playlist support * enhanced MP3 encoding/decoding performance and flexibility * on-the-fly multi-track volume balancing * Video CD (VCD)/Super Video CD (SVCD) SlideShow (with background audio) * VCD/SVCD Menus
* MPEG-1/2 encoder from AVI source files * encode DivX AVIs for VCD/SVCD creation * Audio Wave Editor
* enhanced JewelCase Maker 20
* live update for drive support database * lets users with non-admin rights on NT/2000/XP systems burn CDs * support for the newest drives on the market
Essential Reality Offers Free P5 SDK
Essential Reality, Inc., a developer and integrator of remote-tracking devices, says its P5 software development kit (SDK), which will provide developers the tools needed to "P5-enable" gaming and other software, is now available for download via the company's Website (www.essentialreality.com/developers.asp) free of charge.
Based upon Essential Reality's propriety bend sensor and tracking technologies, the P5 controller is designed to give users intuitive interaction with 3D environments. While it will work with almost any PC application, its power is fully realized when used in concert with games that have been specially enabled for it.
The premier edition of the P5, compatible with PC-based computer games only, will have an MSRP of $149 and will come bundled with three key P5-enabled game titles including "Hitman 2," "Tiger Hunt" and a demo version of "Beach Head 2002." ___________________________________
Softimage Updates XSI
Softimage last week released version 3.0 of its XSI 3D software. New features include: * XSI Explorer & Object View: visualize and focus on a specific part of a scene.
* enhanced subdivision surfaces
* multiple-resolution reference models: Allow users to flip among several versions. All changes made are propagated automatically to the other models.
* next-generation animation mixer: Includes enhancements like "ghosting", which lets users see both animation clips simultaneously to get the correct blend.
* character designer and new character rigging tools * enhancements to hair simulation: Now includes deformations that can be animated, hair from curves, styles that can be copied, and additional rendering options.
* particle system: integrated with the Softimage|XSI software and mental ray and now available in the Essentials (basic) version as well as Advanced.
* new light rig tools for working with HDR images.
* interactive rendering with access to mental ray v.3.1 features: Includes geometry shaders, sub-pixel displacements, HDR support, and new motion blur mode.
* integrated compositor: includes animatable rotosplines, Cineon support, and an RGB, HSV and Luminance keyer.
* cloth: standard with Advanced.
* expanded DirectX and Nvidia Cg Real-Time Shader support: for Xbox games development.
* dotXSI v3.6 including support for RTS and FX Tree nodes: More enhancements to Softimage's scene-data file format.
* C++ API SDK: shares similar object model representation as scripting and ActiveX API's.
Pricing starts at $6,750. Additionally, until December 22, 2002, Softimage is offering trade-in credits for competing 3D software: Maya, 3ds max, Lightwave, and Houdini.
Linden Lab Announces Second Life, Beta Program
Linden Lab announced last week the name of its interactive service, Second Life. A new form of shared 3D entertainment, Second Life promises an immersive and self-expressive world to its online residents.
Linden Lab says its technology lets residents collaborate in real time and to create in ways not possible before. Second Life is a persistent simulation of a changing, growing world, with weather and objects that obey the laws of physics. Residing on a distributed network and using a new generation of streaming compression, Second Life residents experience interactions with the world such as conversing on park benches around a crackling fire pit, watching as the sun sets on the horizon over the ocean, going to a costume party, or deejaying tunes at a disco.
Upon registration in the beta version, residents receive a bank account, an avatar to customize, and an inventory with sounds, textures and the objects they need to get started. They then have the opportunity to build a house or begin with a pre-made starter home, explore the world, make new friends, begin to amass their fortune, or just watch the world turn, cycling through day and night, as the social brew and shape of this new world evolves.
A consumer version will be available in summer 2003. The pricing structure is yet to be announced.
THE DIALS & LEVERS OF POWER
O'Reilly Releases "HTTP: The Definitive Guide"
Behind every successful Web transaction lurks the Hypertext Transfer Protocol (HTTP), the language by which Web clients and servers exchange documents and information. While the average Web user can remain blissfully unaware of the dozens of HTTP transactions required to download a Web page, understanding HTTP is essential for practically all Web-based programming and administration. And now, with the increasing emphasis on Web services, which depend heavily on HTTP for interapplication communication, a firm understanding of HTTP is absolutely indispensable. To help those who need to understand this versatile and universal protocol, O'Reilly's latest release, "HTTP: The Definitive Guide" (Gourley, Totty, Sayer, Reddy, and Aggarwal, US $44.95), describes HTTP and how it shapes the landscape of the Web.
"The Web is no longer just for browsing," says coauthor David Gourley. "Web technology is a foundation for all sorts of critical networked applications. This book should be a ... guide to HTTP and the internals of Web systems for Internet professionals of all flavors--including engineering, marketing, technical support, technical writing--students, and hobbyists."
"Our book isn't just an HTTP header reference manual," adds coauthor Brian Totty. "It's a veritable bible of Web architecture. It illustrates common misconceptions, advises on 'tricks of the trade,' provides convenient reference material, and serves as a readable introduction to dry and confusing standards specifications. In a single book, we have detailed the essential and inter-related technologies that make the Web work."
In addition to HTTP, the book also covers other core internet technologies that HTTP depends on to work effectively. Although HTTP is at the center of the book, the essence of "HTTP: The Definitive Guide" is in understanding how the Web works and how to apply that knowledge to Web programming and administration. The book explains the technical workings, motivations, performance considerations, and objectives of the HTTP and the technologies around which it revolves.
Topics in the book include:
* HTTP methods, headers, and status code * optimizing proxies and caches
* strategies for designing Web robots and crawlers * cookies, authentication, and secure HTTP * internationalization and content negotiation * redirection and load-balancing strategies
Chapter 6, "Proxies," is available free online at: http://www.oreilly.com/catalog/httptdg/chapter/index.html
For more information about the book, including table of contents, index, author bios, and samples, see http://www.oreilly.com/catalog/httptdg/
Reason Instructional CD Available
Sweden's Propellerhead Software and M-Audio recently released Producing Music With Reason ($40), an interactive CD-ROM providing tutorials covering Propellerhead's Reason software. Jointly produced by the two companies, the product contains three hours of tutorials and resources for beginning through advanced users.
The lessons, delivered in audio-visual format for Mac and PC users, cover song structure, principles of synthesis, creating Redrum arrangements, using Dr. Rex percussion and loops, composing synth bass lines, tuning Redrum and Dr. Rex loops, advanced sampler techniques, creative arrangement and transition ideas, mixdown sessions, publishing songs online, and advanced concepts. Lessons on new Reason 2.0 features include expanded sequencer functionality, graintable synthesis with Malström, and advanced sampling with the NN-XT.
Mental Images, ILM Reach Development Agreement
mental images, a developer of 3D rendering software, has signed a software licensing and custom support and development agreement with Industrial Light & Magic (ILM), a division of Lucas Digital Ltd. LLC, to use mental images's mental ray rendering software for future ILM productions.
ILM has utilized mental ray rendering tools increasingly within its productions since 1995, and under the new terms of the agreement mental images will develop new functionality of the mental ray software specifically to meet ILM's most advanced production needs. mental images will also provide 24-hour turn-around support and on-site development support. In addition, ILM will have access to mental ray's developer versions of the mental ray rendering and mental matter modeling libraries for integration into ILM's proprietary, next-generation interactive modeling and rendering tools.
Activision Acquires Lemony Snicket Interactive Rights
Activision has been named master videogame licensee for Lemony Snicket's A Series of Unfortunate Events, the best-selling children's book series that is in development for a feature film by Paramount Pictures and Nickelodeon Movies. The license grants Activision the exclusive right to develop and publish products for all video game consoles, handheld platforms and the PC based on the franchise, A Series of Unfortunate Events.
A Series of Unfortunate Events chronicles the misadventures of the Baudelaires, three orphans in search of a home. From Chapter 1 of "The Bad Beginning" -- the first of 13 books in the Harper Collins Publisher series -- the kids find themselves abruptly orphaned, and taken in by the villainous Count Olaf, who has designs on their inheritance. While disaster lurks at every corner, the children are clever and enterprising enough to stay one step ahead of their comic nemesis.
GAMES PEOPLE PLAY
Sony Releases Ratchet & Clank for PS2
Coming this week from Sony Computer Entertainment America is Ratchet & Clank, an action-platform title for PlayStation 2. Set in a futuristic world filled with spaceships, robots and high-tech gadgets, the game progresses from planet to planet across a solar system.
Ratchet, a young, self-taught mechanic, lives on an abandoned backwater planet and dreams of someday striking out on a magnificent space quest. Closer to the center of the galaxy, Chairman Drek rules a polluted planet, Orxon, inhabited by an ugly race called the Blarg. He too has dreams, but his concern conquest and domination. Tired of his polluted world, Chairman Drek comes up with the ultimate solution -- to build a new planet using the best parts from the other worlds in the galaxy. In one of the factories creating Chairman Drek's evil armies, a computer glitch creates a small but smart robot -- Clank. Learning about Chairman Drek's plans, Clank flees the factory seeking help, but his ship is shot down over Ratchet's homeworld. Forced together by circumstance, Ratchet and Clank blast off from planet to planet through a sci-fi universe.
The game was developed by Insomniac Games, which created the Spyro the Dragon series.
Midway's Haven to Feature FreeFormer Gameplay
Midway Games Inc. is promoting its FreeFormer gameplay as featured in Haven: Call Of The King, an action and fantasy videogame scheduled to ship Nov.18 for PlayStation2, and next year for Xbox and GameCube. U.K.-based Traveller's Tales is developing the game, for which fantasy and science fiction illustrator Rodney Matthews created artwork and concepts.
Midway describes FreeFormer gameplay as letting the player experience multiple gameplay mechanics blended together in the game world. Players can move anywhere in the world on foot or by vehicle with smooth transitions between turret-based shooting, boat racing, bike battles, plane fighting, gladiator arena combat and space exploration. The technology also lets players travel from the earth, through the atmosphere, into outer space, and back again, all reportedly without noticeable breaks.
In the game, players embark on a quest as Haven, a young man haunted by dreams that awaken him to the legend of the "Golden Voice." A bell that can be rung in times of need, the "Golden Voice" is the only way Haven can free his people from slavery and imminent death at the hands of the evil Lord Vetch.
Sony Announces PS2 Primal
Coming this February from Sony Computer Entertainment America is Primal, a PS2 action-adventure game developed by Sony Computer Entertainment Europe, Cambridge Studios, creators of the MediEvil series for PlayStation.
The game's story involves the unusual and evolving relationship between playable characters: Jen, the girl, and her companion, Scree, a gargoyle. Players can switch between Jen and Scree at any time, and will be required to assess and utilize each character's strengths to succeed in various areas of the game -- Jen has better combat skills, whereas Scree can climb and explore areas more freely. Taking on the role of Jen allows players to transform into four different demonic forms, each with a unique fighting weapon and technique; as Scree, players can possess all kinds of statues.
Primal is set within a large environment featuring four realms surrounding a central hub. A dynamic loading system allows for uninterrupted gameplay between levels, and magical portals act as links and "windows" into other worlds. Additional technological features include character morphing between Jen's human and demon forms, particle effects, and environmental effects such as fog and mist.
Baldur's Gate: Dark Alliance Coming for Gamecube
Coming this month from Black Isle Studios, the RPG (role-playing game) division of Interplay Entertainment Corp., console developer High Voltage Software, and the Games division of Vivendi Universal Publishing is Baldur's Gate: Dark Alliance for GameCube. The PS2 version, developed by Snowblind Studios, has shipped more than 600,000 copies worldwide.
The action-adventure game is set in the popular D & D campaign setting The Forgotten Realms. Features include adaptation of the new 3rd Edition D & D rules set, customizable player and character development, and spell effects and powerful abilities.
From a third-person perspective, players explore the port town of Baldur's Gate. Darkness has fallen upon the town and rumors of a Thieves' Guild civil war brew beneath the streets of the city. Entering this desperate situation, new to the world of adventuring, the players soon learn that they stand in the way of one of the greatest threats ever to strike the town of Baldur's Gate and the entire region of The Sword Coast.
Interplay Announces Management Changes
Interplay chairman and CEO Herve Caen last week announced a series of management changes. Phillip G. Adam, a 12-year employee of Interplay, was named president. Adam joined the company as vice president of sales and marketing in December 1990 and has served as vice president of business development since October 1994. From 1984 to 1990, Mr. Adam served as president of Spectrum Holobyte, an interactive entertainment software publisher he co-founded. From 1990 to 1996, he served as chairman or a member of the board of directors of the Software Publishers Association and during part of that period as president of the Software Publishers Association. Mr. Adam has also served as the chairman of the Public Policy Committee of the Interactive Digital Software Association.
Additionally, Gary Dawson was appointed chief operating officer. Dawson has more than 30 years of management experience in consumer products and retail/wholesale operations. Most recently he held the position of vice president sales and marketing at Interplay. Prior to joining Interplay, Mr. Dawson was vice president of manufacturing and production for Vernon, Calif.- based apparel maker Chorus Line. He also served as vice president and general manager, Lee Jeans-wear for Lee Apparel and executive vice president of Ocean Pacific Sportswear.
Caen also announced that chief financial officer Jeff Gonzalez has left the company. Caen will serve as interim CFO until a replacement is named.
Commented Caen, "Coupled with the fact that North American sales, distribution, and marketing are now handled by our distribution partner, Vivendi, this reorganization clears away the final remnants of the pure publisher model at Interplay. Going forward, Interplay ... will leverage its intellectual property and develop ... profitable content, a development model that is in contrast to larger, more far-reaching publisher players in our sector that handle their own sales, marketing and distribution activities."
Alias/Wavefront Announces Fourth 3December Event
Alias/Wavefront says its annual industry event, 3December, will be held for the fourth consecutive year with seven cities participating in the computer graphics and industrial design community event. 3December draws 3D professionals and students, who gather to celebrate the industry's achievements, learn from others in their field and see first hand the innovation of leading software and hardware companies.
The seven host cities for this year's event are New York and Los Angeles, Sydney, London, Paris, Seoul, and Tokyo. Each city will create a unique atmosphere for the event that will allow local attendees to experience event exclusives such as expert industry guest speakers, the latest technology demonstrations, Maya Master classes, a 3D Pub, and more.
O'Reilly Launches 2nd Bioinformatics Tech. Conference
From February 3-6, 2003, biologists, computer scientists, software engineers, mathematicians, and other related practitioners take up the challenge of integrating science and powerful computational tools at the 2003 O'Reilly Bioinformatics Technology Conference. This year's conference moves to the Westin Horton Plaza in San Diego, CA.
Designed to bridge the gaps between communities, the conference also targets what may be the most important issue in bioinformatics: how to get the job done. "In spite of a year of economic uncertainty, biotechnology and bioinformatics continue to experience strong growth, and scientific computing continues to be where the action is," points out conference chair and O'Reilly & Associates editor Lorrie LeJeune. Elaborates O'Reilly founder and president Tim O'Reilly, "The fields of genomics, proteomics, and evolutionary biology are surging forward; clustering technology and grid computing for applied sciences are being refined and expanded; and more biologists than ever are programming in Perl, Python, and Java, and are building their own tools of the trade."
This year's conference strikes a balance between open source and proprietary tools for munging biological data. After a full day of tutorials, including an encore presentation of Damian Conway's all-day Perl tutorial, come three days of conference sessions and events. Among the many experts scheduled to make presentations at the conference are: Alvis Brazma, Microarray Informatics Group Leader, European Bioinformatics Institute; James Gosling, co-inventor of Java, and VP and Fellow, Sun Microsystems; Jim Kent, research scientist at UC Santa Cruz; Suzanna Lewis, Informatics Group Leader, Berkeley Drosophila Genome Project; Francis Ouellette, Director, University of British Columbia Bioinformatics Centre; Lincoln Stein, Researcher, Cold Spring Harbor Lab; and Stephen Wolfram, creator of "Mathematica" and author of "A New Kind of Science."
Sessions at the conference explore topics such as Web services, grid computation, visualization, genomics, algorithms, pipelining and automation of data, and building open source applications, divided into the following tracks: * Toolkits: The latest tools, methods, and techniques to structure, visualize, and mine microbiological data.
* Techniques: New applications that deliver methods and strategies for high-throughput analysis and visualization.
* Bioinformatics Overview: Solutions and lessons learned through real-world clinical development.
* End-User Applications: Solid grounding in essential methods for enhancing the researchers experience and results.
* System Administration and Infrastructure: Creative methods, techniques, and best practices for collaborative systems and environments.
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