Spectrum: Interactive Media & Online Developer News 11 November 2002
Reported, written and edited by David Duberman
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Today's Headlines (details below)
--MindAvenue launches AXELpublisher for 3ds max
--Norpath Ships Elements Studio for Windows, Mac --Logitech, WildTangent Debut Force Feedback for Online Games
IN THE INFOGROOVE
--Amino Launches Set-Top Box
--Softimage Enables App for Nvidia Cg Language --Eovia Releases Carrara 3D Basics
--Viewpoint Unveils Platform Update
--LiquidPixels Offers Dynamic Imaging Products --Alias|Wavefront Announces SketchBook for Tablet PCs --Spid3r Tech Launches 3D Interactive Music Software
GAMES PEOPLE PLAY
--SCEA Releases Ratchet & Clank for PS2 --Online Game Offers Cash Prize
--Universal Ships Spyro: Enter the Dragonfly for PS2
MindAvenue launches AXELpublisher for 3ds max
Montreal-based MindAvenue, a developer of authoring tools for interactive media, has developed AXELpublisher for 3ds max ($69). The software lets 3ds max users publish interactive 3D content to the Web using either the QuickTime or AXEL player formats without the need for programming or publishing fees. This is the first in a series of publishing tools MindAvenue is developing for high-end 3D software programs.
Users can take content created in 3ds max, add basic interactions, hyperlinks and text, and publish directly to the Web. In addition, current users of AXELedge, MindAvenue's $950 authoring tool, can now import 3ds max content directly into the software.
Features of AXELpublisher include:
* Publish to the Web: Publish interactive 3D content as QuickTime movies or AXEL streaming files
* Interactivity: produce interactive scenes where surfers can zoom, orbit, and pan
* Estimate download time: Estimate surfers' download times by controlling streaming options for geometry and textures. Content can be altered according to the surfer's connection speed * Use hardware acceleration: Enhance the viewing of 3D graphics content for audiences with recent graphics cards
* Hyperlink objects: Link content to other pages * Text: Add copyright notices, directions or descriptive text that are overlaid on the content and publish to the Web
MindAvenue will also bundle AXELpublisher with AXELedge 2, the company's latest version of its authoring software, coming in December 2002.
Norpath Ships Elements Studio for Windows, Mac
Norpath Inc., last week released Norpath Elements Studio, its new multipurpose authoring software based on Java and XML. The $500 product is designed for creating interactive solutions including e-learning applications, rich media presentations, prototype designs, and interactive content for the desktop, Web and kiosk.
Norpath says its software's graphical object-based authoring environment allows new and experienced designers to create interactive applications without having to write code or learn a scripting language. Its suite of integrated tools includes graphics, animation, multimedia, knowledge, pre-built application logic, and interface components. In addition, it includes a full set of element libraries, templates, and publishing wizards.
The free Norpath Elements Player enables distribution of interactive applications on desktop, Web, and public kiosk environments. The player is a one-time install that can run standalone or as a Web browser plug-in. It includes a set of customization and management features, and is available for Windows, Mac OS X, Linux and Solaris.
Logitech, WildTangent Debut Force Feedback for Online Games
Logitech has teamed with WildTangent to deliver force feedback to mass-market online games. In addition, Logitech is now shipping the WildTangent GameChannel with its gaming devices, keyboards, mice and trackballs. The GameChannel provides access to a suite of seven WildTangent games, including two force feedback-enabled games: Blackhawk Striker and Space Rocks.
In Blackhawk Striker, players will feel the recoil of their helicopter as they pummel enemy tanks, aircraft and other ground vehicles. Players of the arcade game Space Rocks will feel their spacecraft dodge and blast space amoebas, aliens and kamikaze nukes.
In a related story, WildTangent says distribution of its Web Driver client has passed the 32 million mark and consumers have used it to play more than 30 million games in the past six months
IN THE INFOGROOVE
Macromedia, in association with Sony Corporation, announced last week that Flash Player is embedded into all of Sony's new CLIE NX-series devices. The devices are the first to feature Flash Player support on Palm OS.
The CLIE PEG-NX70V and PEG-NX60 models are the latest Sony entertainment handhelds powered by a 200MHz ARM-compliant processor and sporting the new Palm OS 5 operating system. These new devices enable users to take photos and record video clips, record voice memos, and wirelessly browse the Internet on a Wi-Fi (802.11b) network with an optional Sony wireless LAN card -- in addition to playing MP3 audio files and video games.
Also, Macromedia announced last week that more than 250,000 customers have adopted Macromedia Studio MX since its introduction in June, making it the most successful offering in Macromedia history. The $799 introductory price will end on December 31, 2002, at which time the cost will increase to $899.
Macromedia Studio MX (http://www.macromedia.com/go/studiomx/) includes Dreamweaver MX, Flash MX, Fireworks MX, FreeHand 10, and a developer edition of ColdFusion MX.
Amino Launches Set-Top Box
Cambridge, England-based Amino Communications last week announced what it claims is the industry's smallest and most integrated set-top box.
Measuring 75 x 75 x 9 mm, the AmiNET100 is the first in a new series of set-top boxes specifically designed to meet the demands of markets with multimedia distribution requirements, such as interactive on-line audio, video and data services, and Internet access. In addition to the consumer market, the company is targeting hotels and hospitality, education, healthcare and retail.
The Ethernet-based set-top box is intended for use in networked environments, implementing Linux as the operating system. It provides a common starting point for other products in the AmiNET series that may have different network interfaces, user interfaces or service delivery mechanisms. The unit is available as a licensed design or volume product, and can be customized to meet the specific needs of customers. The AmiNET series has been in development for over a year and is designed to accelerate the implementation of networked digital video systems.
The new set-top box offers a range of Web and audio/video capabilities. It can be connected to existing networks, and it incorporates an industry-standard HTML 4-compliant browser that can be used to integrate shared files within the different environments. Its combination of networking with digital audio/video decoding enables on-line services to be accessed for training and learning or entertainment purposes.
Softimage Enables App for Nvidia Cg Language
Nvidia and Softimage, two companies inordinately enamored of upper-case names, announced last week that the Softimage|XSI v.3.0 software is the first DCC app to take advantage of Cg, a high-level programming language Nvidia developed with Microsoft. The XSI environment is now able to work seamlessly with the C-like language to provide users with a simplified process for authoring digital content.
Cg defines a standard high-level language shader format allowing programmers and artists to use Cg-based shaders directly from the Web in the XSI environment. Users can drag and drop shader nodes and material presets from NetView directly into their scene's Render Tree window, and use the same interface they're familiar with to fine-tune their shaders, controlling how much or how little of a shader variable is applied to an object being authored. Users can also visualize content from within the application as it will appear as a final rendering in a game or other 3D application.
For more information about Cg or to download user documentation, go to http://developer.nvidia.com/cg.
Eovia Releases Carrara 3D Basics
Eovia's new $99 Carrara 3D Basics software is aimed at the 3D beginner.
* all-in-one 3D image & movie toolbox
* over 1000 models & textures
* simple interface
* 900 ready-to-use 3D objects
* 100 materials and textures
* 8 interactive training lessons
* WebXport 2 - publish interactive 3D on the Web * compatible with Adobe Atmosphere
Viewpoint Unveils Platform Update
Viewpoint Corporation last week announced the newest capabilities of its scaleable rich-media platform. The company claims dozens of new features in the latest version of its Viewpoint Media Player platform, but highlights these:
* scalable vector graphics (SVG): the W3C standard XML-based vector format for the delivery and display of dynamic graphics.
* TalkNow: a narrowband-friendly voice and sound-effects technology that synchronizes with animations, at download sizes said to be a fourth the size of generic sound compression file formats like MP3 * ImageLayer: allows users to swap colors, textures, and materials in existing 2D images while retaining the original's form and lighting * morph targets: playback of 3D objects that permits user-driven organic animation changes into predetermined shapes.
* lens flares
* multi-texture: users can construct texture designs and patterns that can be visualized over designated surfaces in real-time.
The update is downloaded automatically upon surfing to a Web page containing content in the Viewpoint format.
Additionally, Viewpoint has launched its Infinite Possibilities Contest, in which entrants are asked to create and submit content in the Viewpoint format that takes advantage of two or more of the platform's newest capabilities. The contest ends December 15. Prizes are a copy of Deep Exploration with VMI, Poser 5 by Curious Labs, and Carrara Studio 2, with WebXport 2 by Eovia.
LiquidPixels Offers Dynamic Imaging Products
LiquidPixels, Inc., a supplier of dynamic imaging servers, recently began shipping its LiquiFire CS and LS dynamic imaging products.
The software is used for personalized, content-rich Web sites, providing just-in-time imaging - automatically resizing, combining, and creating graphics (and text) on the fly instantly, as requested by a Web site visitor. It eliminates the need for multiple sizes of the same graphic, allowing one master file to function for all uses. Previously, since 2000, LiquiFire was offered on an exclusive basis to proprietary customers only.
Alias|Wavefront Announces SketchBook for Tablet PCs
Alias|Wavefront says its new SketchBook Pro software transforms the Tablet PC into a digital sketchbook. Designed specifically for that platform, it lets users sketch and annotate images, switch brushes electronically, undo and redo, manipulate image layers and integrate digital sketches into the Windows XP world.
Intended for business users and graphics professionals, SketchBook Pro draws on graphics technology developed for Alias|Wavefront's Maya and StudioTools software. It's supported by a gesture-driven user interface that lets users change sketching tools and colors, and zoom in on, save and manipulate sketches.
* tools: pencils, markers, brushes and airbrushes respond to pen pressure.
Primary and secondary colors, via a color wheel, support a range of color hues, saturations and values.
* Instant annotation. Mark up an image, from digital photographs and screen captures to high-resolution technical drawings. Email annotations to colleagues.
* sketch management and presentation. Create collections of sketches that can be viewed, organized and distributed. Deliver impromptu and formal presentations of sketches and images, and record any feedback instantly on annotation layers.
* marking menus. Created for the pen, the user interface accommodates natural hand movements to select command options - without the need to hunt through traditional menus.
Alias SketchBook Pro will be made commercially available in early 2003.
Spid3r Tech Launches 3D Interactive Music Software
Louisville, Ky.-based Spid3r Technologies, LLC (Spid3rTech), in partnership with Distillery Music Group, LLC (DMG), last week launched technology designed to let music fans freely roam and interact over the Internet in unique 3D environments that can be launched from audio CDs. Spid3rTech's software will first be bundled along with the debut "Entropy Boy" CD from DMG artist, Ethan.
Patterned after first-person virtual reality games, Spid3rTech has created software that lets music fans control a personalized 3D character, or "avatar," and maneuver the character through a 3D world. The world is made up of "smart" environments, which integrate Ethan music with content about the band.
Also, the software is equipped with 3D chat technology, giving the fans access to other fans, as well as to the artist.
GAMES PEOPLE PLAY
SCEA Releases Ratchet & Clank for PS2
Sony Computer Entertainment America last week released Ratchet & Clank, its new action-platform game for PlayStation2. Developed by Insomniac Games, the creators of the Spyro the Dragon series, Ratchet & Clank combines the exploration, adventure, role-playing, puzzle-solving, strategy and racing genres into an original sci-fi fantasy.
The game features Ratchet -- a young, self-taught mechanic who has a knack for building and repairing things -- and Clank, a diminutive but brainy robot. Insomniac's team of more than 40 designers, programmers, artists, animators, including Mark Cerny of Cerny Games, have created gameplay elements such as an economic system that lets the player purchase more than 35 different gadgets and weapons.
Set in a futuristic world filled with spaceships, robots and high-tech gadgets, Ratchet & Clank takes gamers from planet to planet across a solar system. Ratchet lives on an abandoned backwater planet and dreams of someday striking out on a magnificent space adventure. 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 is 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 many of the other worlds in the galaxy. If he can't convince the inhabitants to part with a few thousand hectares of their worlds, the army of robots and Blarg warriors can eliminate any resistance.
In one of the factories creating Chairman Drek's evil armies, a computer glitch creates a small but smart robot -- Clank. Learning about the 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 an extraordinary sci-fi universe. The unlikely pals encounter imaginative characters, acquire a plethora of weapons and gadgets, and blow up everything in their path, as they uncover more of the Chairman Drek's plan.
Online Game Offers Cash Prize
MindQuest Entertainment, an online interactive entertainment company, last week announced its flagship game, TerraQuest, a strategic online game that blends mystery, intrigue and the chance to win a cash prize.
A cross between a mystery and a scavenger hunt, the game blends elements of reality entertainment with the Internet. Using a Laboratory Assisted Research System (LARS), players navigate and view rooms panoramically, listen to audio clues, and submit clues to the Research Lab. At the lab, clues can be examined, magnified, fingerprinted and unlocked. Requested analysis will be sent back to players within 48 hours. Using a clue manager, players can keep track of all their detective work to submit their proposed answer at the end of a game period.
TerraQuest will comprise six game periods, each lasting approximately one month. The object of the game is to obtain the number for a bank account that contains the grand prize -- the first player to do so will win half of the money in the bank account. During the first five game periods, players will be looking for the first part of the bank account number and the identity of the person possessing a safe deposit box key. The first 10 players to correctly identify that information will then compete against each other to be the first to locate, at a specific date, location, and time, the holder of the safe deposit box key, who will give that player the key. Inside the safe deposit box will be numbers comprising the second part of the bank account. The players will be able to follow the clues by using only their computers, their minds, and readily available research within the game.
The first finalist to locate the holder of the key will be deemed the winner. The winner will receive the key to the safe deposit box, which contains the second part of the bank account number. The winning player will receive half of the money in the bank account (the grand prize). Each of the other nine finalists will receive five percent of the money in the bank account. The first player who is not a finalist to locate the holder of the key will also receive five percent of the money in the bank account.
TANSTAAFL. Players who register in the first month pay a $25.00 registration fee. As the game periods progress, the registration fee increases.
Universal Ships Spyro: Enter the Dragonfly for PS2
About the same time that the originator of the Spyro the Dragon series shipped its new title (see above story), Universal Interactive, Inc., a studio of the Games division of Vivendi Universal Publishing (VU Games), shipped "Spyro: Enter the Dragonfly" for PlayStation2.
Spyro's debut on a next-generation console returns the purple powerhouse to the Dragon Realms for a platform adventure gaming experience that launches him and his sidekick, Sparx, on their toughest exploit yet. The evil Ripto has hatched his latest dastardly plot and Spyro must step in to save the dragonflies -- the source of all dragon magic -- before it's too late.
Equipped with new weapons including ice, electricity and bubble breath, Spyro navigates through eight detailed environments with real-time lighting and fog effects, dynamic water and textured architecture. The game also includes 16 new mini games and new vehicles including a tank, a UFO and a WWII Spitfire.
"Spyro: Enter the Dragonfly" was developed by Equinoxe Digital Entertainment.
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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- David Duberman
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