13 November 2000
Reported, written and edited by David Duberman
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Macromedia and Allaire Corporation plan to jointly develop a toolkit that will enable Allaire ColdFusion and Allaire JRun developers to use the rich user interface and media capabilities of the Macromedia Flash Player. The toolkit, code-named "Harpoon," will provide developers with a set of common user interface controls for Web applications built with Allaire ColdFusion and JRun servers. Harpoon is expected to be available through a free public beta in December 2000.
Harpoon will include Flash-based user interface elements and custom tags to access and control those components within an application. The user interface elements, such as hierarchical menus, drop down lists, grids and calendars, will be presented within dynamically generated Web pages based on CFML (ColdFusion Markup Language) or JSP (JavaServer Pages). Client-side interactions will be handled by the Macromedia Flash Player and passed back to the server seamlessly, without the need for a page refresh. ColdFusion and JRun developers can integrate these pre-built components into applications and control them via CFML tags (in ColdFusion) or custom JSP tags (using JRun). Designers can customise the visual look and feel of the components using Macromedia Flash 5.
According to some estimates, 75 percent of Web document viewing by the year 2002 will be through non-desktop devices, many using wireless technologies. Wireless Application Protocol (WAP) is an initiative created by Unwired Planet (Phone.com), Nokia, Motorola, and Ericsson to develop a standard for creating applications that run on cell phones, PDAs, and other wireless devices. WML (Wireless Markup Language) and WMLScript are languages used to write these applications.
O'Reilly's most recent release, "Learning WML & WMLScript" (Frost, $34.95), is intended to get developers up to speed on these technologies, mapping out in detail the Wireless Application Environment, and its two major components: WML and WMLScript. With these two technologies, developers can format information in almost all applications for display by mobile devices, such as cell phones, and enables the user to interact with the information.
Chapter 3, WML Tasks and Events, is available free online at: http://www.oreilly.com/catalog/learnwml/chapter/ch03.html
An article by the author, WML and WMLScript Tips & Tricks, is available online at: http://www.oreilly.com/news/wml_1000.html
For more information about the book, including Table of Contents, index, author bio, and samples, see http://www.oreilly.com/catalog/learnwml/
SoftQuad Software and IXIASOFT have integrated SoftQuad's XMetaL into IXIASOFT's TEXTML Server. The integration is designed to let customers develop an integrated environment for creating, managing and serving XML documents to the Web or other applications.
XMetaL is an XML content creation solution that provides a front end for XML content applications. Together, the two products allow users to open, create and save XML documents to a document base while simultaneously indexing the content. TEXTML Server is a Web-based server designed to store, index and search large volumes of XML documents. It features text search capabilities for content retrieval and a proprietary indexing method that takes a document-centric approach to XML document management.
XMetaL and TEXTML are integrated using a set of Macros, freely available at http://www.ixiasoft.com, which work with the evaluation versions of both products. The macros are based on open source coding, allowing developers to modify the macros to accommodate the specific needs of their applications.
Microsoft Corp. last week released the final version of DirectX 8.0. New features reportedly include near photo-realistic graphics, scalability for massively multiplayer games and improved audio experiences.
Other new features and feature improvements for multimedia application developers include:
The DirectX 8.0 Software Development Kit can be downloaded from the DirectX Developer Center at http://msdn.microsoft.com/directx/.
The latest version of DirectX is also available free from the DirectX Home User Web page at http://www.microsoft.com/directx/.
Indrema, a company working on a Linux-based set-top box for games and other multimedia applications, last week launched its Indrema Developer Network (IDN). The IDN (http://idn.indrema.com) is intended to support developers and facilitate Open Source game development.
In addition to launching the IDN site, Indrema also announced two new partnerships. The first, with Metro Link, will involve a collaboration on OpenStream and Xtrema, two core components of the Indrema Software Development Kit (IESDK). Indrema is also partnering with Metrowerks in order to produce an Indrema version of CodeWarrior, a very popular development tool which is used by 200,000 developers in 80 countries. This tool will be available on IDN to all developers for little or no cost-- an unprecedented feat in the console market.
Read about the IDN and its significance for the future of gaming at: http://indrema.com/servlet/story?item_id=1999100920&table_name=news_articles &page=story_display.html
For more information on the Metro Link partnership, visit: http://indrema.com/servlet/story?item_id=1999100922&table_name=news_articles &page=story_display.html
To find out more about CodeWarrior and Metrowerks, see: http://indrema.com/servlet/story?item_id=1999100921&table_name=news_articles &page=story_display.html
Hey, where'd they get that name?! Electronic Global Broadcasting System (EGBS) recently announces the creation of the Spectrum Technology Suite for transmitting interactive video. The suite comprises three components: the Spectrum Video Server, the Spectrum Interactive Video Applications, and the Spectrum Support Services.
The Spectrum Video Server is a software infrastructure and distribution engine for the delivery of rich interactive media. Since the server is software infrastructure, it can be installed at other facilities for both global and corporate intranet applications. It can reportedly and offers customized Public/Private key encryption, a multimedia catalog in which the video server creates an index of videos that can be searched within a multimedia data set, and Metrics and Reporting Tools contained within the video server that are used as tools for recording data usage for e-commerce purposes.
The Spectrum Interactive Video Applications make use of the proprietary TSVP (Time Sensitive Video Protocol), which allows events to be linked to particular instances in time and/or space within a video. Some of the functionality afforded by TSVP includes the ability to generate video bookmarks (either at instance or across a range), clickable video "HotSpots" (links embedded into a video), video illustration (drawing on the video), associate information at particular times (text, images, other videos), activate local and/or server events (launch another program or video), multi-lingual toggle, and picture-in-picture streaming video.
Microsoft recently announced details of the Xbox Independent Developer Program and the Xbox Incubator Program, both of which will enable game designers to create prototypes of Xbox games.
"Changes in the video game industry and the rising cost of production have made it more difficult for independent developers to access major publishers and their distribution channels," said Kevin Bachus, director of third-party relations at Microsoft. "History has proven that great games can come from anywhere, and we want to establish an environment in which gifted game designers, regardless of their resources, have the opportunity to realize their creative visions through Xbox."
Game developers or potential game developers can participate in the Xbox Independent Developer Program by applying to receive the Xbox Prototype Kit (XPK). Available free of charge, the XPK offers software and detailed information designed to help creative individuals and game development companies create prototype Xbox games using familiar programming tools on standard PCs. Developers can use these prototypes to secure distribution deals with licensed Xbox publishers.
The Xbox Incubator Program is available to video game developers who want to commit resources to developing an Xbox game using an official Xbox Development Kit (XDK) before securing relationships with major publishers. Only games created with the XDK and distributed by licensed publishers will be available as commercial products.
To participate in the Xbox Incubator Program, independent developers must submit complete written descriptions of their game concepts for evaluation by Microsoft's Xbox team. If invited to join the program, developers must license an XDK that contains the hardware, software and tools necessary to build Xbox games. As official XDK licensees, these developers also will have full access to Microsoft's technical support programs.
Developers will take part in the Xbox Incubator Program for six months, during which time they should be able to create a prototype of their game concept and secure publishing and distribution deals with licensed Xbox game publishers.
More information about the Xbox Independent Developer Program and Xbox Incubator Program can be obtained by sending email to mailto:email@example.com.
Coming in January from British developer Criterion Software Ltd. the company's 3D game development toolkit, RenderWare3, for Xbox, Microsoft's future-generation games console which is scheduled for release in Autumn 2001.
RenderWare3 is currently available on PlayStation 2, PC and Dreamcast. It uses an open plug-in architecture and is priced from $1,000 per developer seat per year for unlimited royalty-free titles. RenderWare3 is used by more than 220 development studios including Konami [Japan]; Interplay, Sierra-Online, Activision [US] Cryo Interactive and Ubisoft [EU].
Due out this month on Wintel and Mac is Maxon Computer's BodyPaint 3D, a $595 3D-painting program.
An artist can load the objects to texture, then paint on as many as 10 material channels concurrently. For example, the rust preset adds a reddish color to the color channel, roughness to the bump and diffusion channels, and dampening to the specular reflections channel, all in one brush stroke. Other features:
A demo version will be available from:
Just out from Cycore is a free Cult3D Exporter for Alias|Wavefront software. The software lets users export models created in the Maya 3D animation and visual effects software directly to Cycore Cult3D, from which artists can create interactive 3D objects for the Web, Microsoft Office, and Adobe Acrobat. It is said to be the first 3D exporter software available for Maya from a third-party developer.
Alias|Wavefront and Cycore are currently holding a Cult3D Exporter for Maya competition open to Maya software users. Modelers wishing to participate in the competition can download the guidelines from http://www.3december.com and the Maya exporter from http://www.cycore.com, export a Maya project into Cult3D and submit the project for the competition. Projects must be submitted by midnight PST December 3, 2000. Winners will be announced on December 10, 2000.
Ulead Systems recently released Photo Explorer 7.0 Pro, a $30 tool for acquiring, organizing, converting and sharing image, video and other media files. New features include cross-media support as well as improved batch editing and sharing.
If you're just getting started in 3D graphics, an excellent resource is the book 3D Animation: From Models to Movies, just published by Charles River Media. Author Adam Watkins concentrates on the applications Cinema4D, LightWave 3D, and Strata 3D (the latter comes free on the CD), but the principles apply to most other apps as well. He gets right into the nuts and bolts in Chapter 1: The 3D Workflow, and then backs off for the second chapter's overview of the digital 3D world. From there he proceeds to basic and advanced modeling, texturing, lighting, rendering, and animation. There's a fair amount of info on character animation that could conceivably be of value to intermediate users as well. He closes with chapters on special effects and getting work in 3D. Even at $55, this book is a heckuva cheaper than a course at the local art academy, and if you work hard, you could beat its graduates to a satisfying job in 3D.
Vianet Technologies last week announced its latest video codec software, which uses a new wavelet algorithm technology said to deliver improved quality Internet video for a wider range of bandwidth speeds. The codec compresses and decompresses video files to deliver reportedly broadcast-quality video at lower transmission speeds.
Vianet's new wavelet codec is optimized for a wide range of data bit-rate deliverables -- from 56 kilobytes per second (KBps) to 5.5 megabytes per second (MBps) -- and integrates with the most current video-on-demand production standard and real-time production applications. In addition, Vianet's wavelet technology is compatible with all of today's popular media players, including Windows Media Player and Real Player.
The Michigan State University Department of Telecommunication is looking to hire an Assistant Professor of Digital Media Arts to teach introductory and advanced courses, to gain national visibility through juried multimedia designs and/or published research, and to establish relationships with the digital media arts industry. PhD, MFA, MS, or MA in Telecommunication, Communication, Computer Science, Art, or related fields with professional experience and portfolio of creative work preferred.
WildTangent has entered into content licensing agreements with an online game publication and two entertainment sites. theglobe.com's Happy Puppy (www.happypuppy.com), Eruptor Entertainment and freeloader.com will be using WildTangent's 3D, multimedia creations to generate additional site traffic and provide an incentive for return visitors.
HappyPuppy is a gaming lifestyle publication and the first commercial game site on the Web. Eruptor.com offers entertainment for the Gen-Y digital lifestyle, providing a community built around common interests including comic books, video games, action figures, movies, music, and fashion. Pure Entertainment Games PLC is the parent company of freeloader.com, a Web site that provides free access to videogames in return for detailed information about users' life style, buying habits and opinions, particularly the 18-35 age group.
Sierra On-Line and Jellyvision, Inc. last week released You Don't Know Jack Mock 2 for the PlayStation game console. The $30 quiz show game introduces a new 3D environment and new questions plus a new episodic structure, a new question type and new 3D art and music. Up to three players can compete head-to-head using Multi-tap or shared controllers. There are 750 questions and 50 game show episodes to play in a new 3D-art environment.
Just out from Sega for Dreamcast is the cinematic game Shenmue, a title the company hopes will sell a lot of hardware.. Created by videogame developer Yu Suzuki, the game featuring hundreds of speaking characters, an interactive 3D world, and an online component.
Players assume the role of Ryo Hazuki, a young man who must unravel the mysterious death of his father by exploring the sprawling lifelike world of Yokosuka, Japan in 1986. Using geographical data as reference to plan and calculate the ideal cityscape for Shenmue, buildings were designed by diagrams provided by architects to recreate a realistic environment.
Players can open drawers, make phone calls and store food in their refrigerator. Additionally, weather and landscapes change according to the season and time unfolds throughout each day.
Using the online component, called Shenmue Passport, players can gain tips and information including real-time weather predictions that will effect game play. It also lets players trade items obtained during gameplay for unique items found only online or exchange items for character data.
Did you just send a battalion of veteran troops to usurp the king of another nation but you have to run to an appointment and can't stay to watch your enemy retaliate? You can now use your wireless device to watch the battle unfold from anywhere you go.
Zhanshen.com (http://www.zhanshen.com), an interactive online game based on China's Warring States Period (475-221 BCE), opened its wireless site to users last week. The site, located at http://wap.zhanshen.com, provides daily reports of players' attacks, alliances, defenses, and money situations as well as updated news of site upgrades and users' feedback. Users will soon be able to alter their game profiles on the wireless site as well. All information is available in both Chinese and English languages on any WAP-enabled device.
The object of the game is to build a strong nation using philosophies of Confucius, Modi, Sun Tzu and other Chinese scholars. Current game features let players arrange marketplaces, view current rankings, search through war news, create alliances, and share instant messages with each other. They can also lead revolutions and usurp power when they destroy other players' armies. The player at the end of each month with the most wealth is crowned Zhanshen, which means "War God" in Chinese.
3Q inc., a developer of 3D human form capture technology for the electronic gaming industry, last week launched its "Q Clone Generator" in Babbage's stores in San Jose, Seattle and Dallas. The tech lets PC gamers capture their 3D image (a.k.a. virtual clone), customize their clone and upload it into games such as Quake III Arena and Half-Life Opposing Force.
The non-laser image capture technique, called Digital Surface Photogrammetry (DSP), reportedly reduces the chance of slight movements by the subject during the capture process of impacting the accuracy and quality of the final image by achieving capture times as low as 8 milliseconds.
Once captured, gamers can manipulate and customize their 3D image as desired in the store by distorting the face with aging techniques, adding scars, choosing body types, etc., thus allowing a person to have multiple game personalities, and then upload their 3D image into supported computer games and compete in multiplayer gaming environments
Recycling the name of a venerable text-only Infocom game, Sony Online Entertainment Inc. last week announced the development of PlanetSide, a massively multiplayer first-person action game. The game, created by Everquest developer Verant, is due to ship the third quarter of 2001 for the PC platform.
In the game, players assume the roles of mercenaries and reside in a distant galaxy where little semblance of law exists. These mercenaries rise within the ranks of one of four specialized corporations that offer both character development and professional growth. The game is designed to appeal to both lone wolves and team players.
And speaking of online multiplayer gaming, Spectrum reader Nicole Kidd forwarded an interesting article on the subject, originally published in the Wall Street Journal. Apparently it's making a whole lotta bucks for some companies, including Sony and EA. Check it out at http://interactive.wsj.com/archive/retrieve.cgi?id=SB973730952948219433.djm.
Loki Software, Inc., a publisher of commercial games for the Linux operating system, recently inked a deal with Sierra Studios to bring Tribes 2 to Linux. Loki is porting the first-person action game alongside the Windows development, and is now accepting beta tester applications for the Linux version. Interested participants should visit http://www.lokigames.com and complete an online registration form.
Building upon Starsiege Tribes, Tribes 2 is said to bring innovations to team-based play and in-game communications. In large worlds, players can fight alongside more than 60 others with new weapons and vehicles. Single-player and multiplayer game modes include capture the flag, siege, deathmatch and bounty. Other features include a new graphics engine and the ability for players to generate their own maps on the fly using a terrain editor embedded within the game.
Electronic Arts and its Austin, Texas subsidiary, Origin Systems, plan to launch Ultima Online: Third Dawn early next year. Third Dawn is a new upgrade to the Ultima Online (UO) game. In the update, Ultima Online will feature animated, motion-captured 3D characters, each with enhanced gesturing and animations. In all, Third Dawn will feature more than 700 motion-captured animations on nearly 200 different character models. Other features include an enhanced lighting and shading system, a new land to explore, more than a dozen new monsters, a particle system for spell and magic effects and improved music and sound effects.
The emergence of enabling technology to interconnect devices in the home to distribute data, voice, and video traffic will translate into a booming market for home networking semiconductors according to Cahners In-Stat Group. The high-tech market research firm projects that the home networking chipset market will grow from $116 million in 2000 to $669 by 2004.
"In the future, a multitude of devices will be enabled for inter-communication," says Mike Wolf, manager of In-Stat's Voice and Data Service. "From basic broadband Internet sharing to the need to distribute digital audio such as MP3 files, there will be exciting and extremely viable end user applications that will drive the addition of networking connectivity into all corners of the home." While all the different technologies will have a place in the connected home of the future, In-Stat believes that over time wireless networking connections will occupy the greatest percentage of connections. The RF portion of the home networking IC market will represent 10% of total units shipped. This will increase to 37% by 2004.
In-Stat has also found that:
The report, "Pass the Chips: A Home Network Chipset Market Analysis", #NT0006MS, includes a discussion of technologies, market forecasts and vendors in the home networking IC market. It includes five-year forecasts by physical media. This report is part of Cahners In-Stat Group's Residential Connectivity Service covering all aspects of the digitally connected home. To purchase this report or for more information call Courtney McEuen at 480.609.4533; firstname.lastname@example.org. or visit http://www.instat.com/catalog/cat-nt.htm#nt0006ms. The report price is $3,495 USD.
Mia 2: Romaine's New Hat, a 3D learning adventure from Kutoka Interactive that offers animation and science activities blended into an entertaining storyline, recently received a series of awards. The honors include the National Parenting Center Seal of Approval, inclusion in Dr. Toy's 100 Best Children's Products for 2000, and a spot in Creativity Inc.'s Creativity Annual.
Mia 2 also received an Award of Excellence from The Review Corner online e-zine, a four-star review in MacHome, and a 4-1/2 star-rating in GameWeek Kids.
Designed for children 5 to 11 and compatible with both PC and Macintosh platforms, Mia 2 features a spirited female mouse who is bent on rescuing her mother's brand new hat from an accidental journey down the sewer. As they chase the hat through a series of adventures, players must be on the lookout for Sparklies, the currency that Mia may need to buy her mother a new hat in the event she is unsuccessful in retrieving the lost one from the clutches of the evil rat Romaine and his cousins.
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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