15 November 1999
Reported, written and edited by David Duberman
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Expected to ship in December from Macromedia is Dreamweaver 3 Fireworks 3 Studio, with new versions of Dreamweaver, for Web authoring, and Fireworks, for Web graphics. Stand-alone versions of the products will also be available.
Dreamweaver 3 includes Roundtrip Server Markup with support for ASP, JSP, CFML and PHP formats, plus a Quick Tag Editor that brings code-level editing into the visual environment. It also contains enhanced collaboration and customization features. The user can import and format content from Microsoft Word and data from Excel and Access. New Design Notes let team members share information and status about a specific Web page in a dialog within the page itself.
Fireworks 3 features include live preview and optimization of rollover effects within the workspace. Its new Library feature enables storage of original artwork within the authoring environment for easy access. Files can originate, be imported or exported in any leading format. Graphics files originating in Adobe Photoshop retain their layers, editable text and effects layers in Fireworks, which in turn can output a wide range of standard Web graphics formats, including Macromedia Flash (.SWF). Fireworks 3 also outputs HTML code specific to Dreamweaver or other HTML editors. New Dreamweaver objects can also add Fireworks HTML, graphics and navigation elements in just one click.
For more information, visit http://www.macromedia.com/special/webessentials/ or call (800) 457-1774.
Blue World Communications' forthcoming Lasso Studio will operate exclusively with the recently announced Macromedia Dreamweaver 3. The product, currently in private beta testing, provides a Web application development environment for building database-driven Web applications.
Lasso Studio for Dreamweaver will introduce a visual, structured development environment for building database-driven Web applications. Beginners will be able to Web-enable databases. A wizard links database schema information for dynamic display throughout Lasso Studio for Dreamweaver. Lasso Developers will be able to create complex programming constructs using the Lasso Studio Property Inspectors, Tag Editor, Tag Selector, Sub-Tag Editor and more.
Combined with the new Blue World Lasso Studio Web Data Engine 3.5.5--previously referred to as Lasso Developer 3.5.5--, Lasso Studio for Dreamweaver will allow Web developers to Web-enable FileMaker Pro databases as well as any ODBC-compliant database--including Oracle, Microsoft SQL Server, Sybase, Informix and Microsoft Access--using a common, intuitive tag-based approach--without requiring SQL programming.
Multimate.net last week unveiled Instant Rendezvous 2.0, a new browser companion for Web sites that want to build an online community and brand their online efforts. The communications service lets Web surfers communicate live with other IR users surfing the same page by using instant messaging, chat on every Web page, group chat, buddy lists, and Web-based email.
Sound like an instant messaging application? Multimate says it's more: an all-inclusive, extensible desktop application that can be customized and its functions expanded to include a Web site's unique features and services.
Despite spending up to $20 million to establish differentiated Web presences, Fortune 100 Web sites are loaded with booboos, according to a Web audit conducted by ParaSoft Corporation, which, by an amazing coincidence, sells software designed to correct such errors.
ParaSoft's report reveals that corporate Web sites are riddled with flaws, such as coding, link, and HTML errors that seriously threaten corporate returns on Internet investments. For example, the audit reports that the 95 sites examined have an average of one Web site link error every 3.5 pages and over 12 HTML coding errors per page.
Web site errors can cost companies productivity, customers, and profits. According to a recent Zona Research report, $58 million per month in e-commerce sales are lost due to Web page loading failures. Typical Web users are inclined to click elsewhere if they encounter bad links or other time-consuming Web site errors. This online attrition can be especially painful, since it takes up to $200 to cultivate each new on-line customer, according to a recent Wall Street Journal report.
ParaSoft's new SiteRuler 1.1 is an Internet tool said to detect and repair Web site glitches, such as broken links and anchors, bad HTML, and orphaned files. It also automates Web site management, including editing, source control, and publishing.
Just out from Net.Dreams is Flex-able 1.0, a new extensibility toolset for WebSTAR Web servers. The product enables implementation of a variety of add-on capabilities such as file uploading, form processing, form-to-email processing, counters, rotation, redirection and string functions. Now available for any W*API-compatible Web server, such as WebSTAR, WebTen, and AppleShare IP, Flex-able is priced at $299 from http://www.netdreams.com/.
Microsoft last week shipped a new unified Windows Media Software Development Kit (SDK). The SDK enables independent software vendors (ISVs), hardware manufacturers and Web professionals to integrate audio, video and digital rights management technology into their solutions.
Microsoft also unveiled two new resources for developers using Windows Media. The MSDN Online Windows Media Developer Center Web site, located at http://msdn.microsoft.com/windowsmedia/, is a Web-based resource devoted to digital media developers as part of the MSDN developer program. In addition, a new eight-hour Windows Media Technical Training Seminar, presented by developers using Microsoft Windows Media, will be available on demand using Windows Media or via order on CD-ROM in December.
The Windows Media SDK includes the following:
The new MSDN Online Windows Media Developer Center (http://msdn.microsoft.com/windowsmedia/) provides tools and technical information plus articles, hints and tips for the development and deployment of streaming media, online training and code samples.
Microsoft is offering a one-day technical seminar for both content developers and application developers at Streaming Media West 99 in San Jose, Calif., on Dec. 6, 1999. This eight-hour seminar will be available in December as online technical training. More details can be found at http://msdn.microsoft.com/windowsmedia/.
At last week's QuickTime Live! conference Apple previewed new QuickTime 4.1 and QuickTime Streaming Server 2 technologies. Apple also announced that more than 20 million copies of its QuickTime 4 software and more than 50,000 copies of its Apple Open Source Streaming Server have been downloaded since April.
QuickTime 4.1 will feature seamless ad insertion; improved firewall navigation; AppleScript support for digital media creation and streaming; and support of synchronized multimedia integrated language (SMIL) for interactive media creation.
QuickTime Streaming Server 2 will feature password protection and a plug-in architecture that will let developers extend the functionality of the QuickTime Streaming Server. QuickTime Streaming Server 2 will also support third-party analysis tools that provide consolidated server reporting.
The QuickTime Streaming Server is an open-source, standards-based Internet streaming solution that does not charge a per-stream tax.
Now available from Terran Interactive for the Macintosh platform is Media Cleaner Power Suite for producing digital video for the Internet. A Windows NT version is expected to be available in Q1 2000.
The Power Suite includes accelerated versions of Media Cleaner Pro and Sorenson Video codec, Ultra BlueICE and the Professional Edition of the QDesign Music Codec. It reportedly encodes Sorenson video 4 to 7 times faster than other solutions through the use of acceleration technology from ICE (Integrated Computing Engines).
Available through Terran and Media 100 distribution channels and directly from Terran’s Web site at http://www.terran.com/powersuite for US$6,499.
Be Incorporated, developer of the BeOS operating system, is working with Sun Microsystems to incorporate the Java2 Platform, Standard Edition (J2SE) and PersonalJava technology into BeOS. Beta versions of the software are expected to be available before the end of the year. Shipping versions are scheduled to be available in the first quarter of 2000.
Blink last week launched Link Wizard, which lets members organize and share bookmarks on intranets or personal homepages. Members create folders of bookmarks in password-protected accounts. The Link Wizard automatically generates HTML that displays the contents of any of these folders on a personal or corporate Web page. Members then use their blink account to edit this link list and changes will be immediately reflected on the personal homepage or corporate intranet page.
Coming in March from Advanced Rendering Technology is RenderDrive RD5000 ($24,950), the new version of the company's "rendering appliance," designed to produce ray-traced 3D images. RD5000 is driven by ART's AR350 processors and reportedly provides a 300-500% performance increase over ART's current RD2000.
Currently available with software plug-ins for 3D Studio MAX R3 and VIZ R3.
Sweden's Cycore last week unveiled Cult3D for Acrobat 1.0, a plug-in to Adobe Acrobat that enables the integration of interactive 3D animations into Acrobat (.pdf) documents. Cult3D is a real-time, multi-platform 3D rendering engine that enables companies to build and display low-bandwidth, sound-enhanced, interactive 3D objects on Websites.
The Cult3D development tool is automatically installed in Acrobat with the Cult3D for Acrobat 1.0 plug-in.. After manipulating the cursor to create a rectangle where the 3D object should appear, a double-click of the mouse automatically integrates the Cult3D objects into the .pdf file where users can then interact with them or "contort" the objects any way they wish.
The Cult3D development tool and plug-in for Acrobat will be available free beginning in January of 2000.
“eBay the Smart Way” (ISBN: 0-8144-7064-5, $17.95), a new book by Joseph T. Sinclair, published by AMACOM, covers all aspects of using eBay. Originally entitled “How to Make a Million on eBay,” the book provides information about retail techniques on eBay and gives an outline of how to use one database three ways to implement retail efficiencies (i.e., to keep track of inventory and to upload large amounts of data for multiple eBay auctions and online catalogs).
New from Masters of Visual Effects is Series 2, covering 2D compositing concepts. The training videos cover image processing, image combination, rotoscoping, 2D painting, tracking & keying and matte creation. The tapes in this series are hosted by visual effects masters Stu Maschwitz, visual effects artist and independent filmmaker; Scott Stewart, founder of production and effects company The Orphanage; and Ron Brinkmann, effects artist and author of "The Art and Science of Digital Compositing".
Coming next week from Origin Systems is Ultima IX: Ascension, the final episode in the popular, long-running role-playing series. The game's 3D world offers thousands of items to interact with. Play the role of the virtuous Avatar, hero of Britannia, as you fight to save Britannia from final destruction. Meet hundreds of characters, all with full speech and animation. Discover new weapons and fantastic spells to use in the fight, as well as challenging puzzles to solve. From the skeleton-infested mines of Covetous to the underwater depths of Ambrosia, you'll find both familiar and unfamiliar territory.
Coming to the Nintendo 64 video game system in January from Activision and Disney Interactive is Disney's Tarzan, based on the animated feature film. Set in the African jungle, players embark on an adventure packed with intrigue and danger where they must master the art of vine swinging and tree-surfing through 13 levels of 3D action to save a family of apes from the hands of evil hunters.
As Tarzan, players will grow from a boy to a man, developing skills and abilities that allow them to confront and overcome snakes, alligators, rhinos and elephants to protect the family of apes from the jungle's most dangerous perils -- Sabor the leopard and Clayton the hunter. In addition to the lead character, Disney's Tarzan for the Nintendo 64 also allows players to control other characters from the movie, including Jane, Terk and Tantor.
Vivid Group Inc.'s new Meteor Storm is a multi-participant, "full-body immersion" virtual reality simulation. The game takes up to six participants and puts their live, real-time video images onto a large video screen where they see themselves within the same computer-generated 3D virtual world. Once they are a part of the virtual environment, they use their live video image to interactively control the elements that surround them on the adventure. Watching themselves on the screen, each participant maneuvers independently to outrun and blast away the meteors that are storming in from outer space.
To begin the experience, the six visitors take their places in front of a large video projection screen and find themselves in a Moon-based space station to undergo training in the use of their hover-sleds, a futuristic form of space navigation. After a race across the Lunar surface, they are suddenly overwhelmed by an incoming meteor storm. They must race back to home base, where they are then sent into outer-space to protect first an orbiting space station, then ultimately Earth itself from a gigantic rogue meteor. At some points they participate competitively, then they must work cooperatively as a team.
Vivid Group's GX technology lets users participate in the virtual world through a combination of artificial intelligence and video gesture-control analysis of the user's video image. This gives participants the ability to perform intricate manipulation of both virtual objects and 3D navigation of the VR landscape.
Bungie's new single-player Myth scenario, Chimera, is available for download free of charge. Chimera is also available as part of the new, $20 Myth compilation, Myth: The Total Codex, now shipping as a hybrid title for PC and Macintosh.
Chimera tells the story of three heroes, veterans of the wars against the Fallen, who set out to confront a vengeful sorceress and the evil she has awakened. Developed by Badlands, Chimera features new units, characters and maps, and spins a new tale in the Myth universe.
Myth: The Total Codex features the Myth titles, Myth: The Fallen Lords and Myth II: Soulblighter, Chimera, hint books for Myth and Myth II, a collection of plug-ins and fan-created multiplayer levels and the level editors "Fear" and "Loathing."
Electronic Arts last week released Medal of Honor, a WWII-themed action adventure title from DreamWorks Interactive. Created by Steven Spielberg, the game has players take on the role of an agent in the Office of Strategic Services (OSS), the United States' wartime spy and covert operations agency, to aid the Allied Forces through a variety of challenging missions to thwart the German take over of Europe.
Medal of Honor begins on June 5, 1944, the night before D-day when the Alliance launched a massive aerial assault behind German lines. Assuming the role of Lieutenant Jimmy Patterson, a young C-47 pilot shot down during the operation, the player is recruited into the OSS and begins a new career as a field agent, participating in various covert operations, search and rescue assignments, and commando raids through seven missions and 24 levels. Each mission is drawn from historical events that helped shape the Allied crusade in Europe, including stories involving the development, capture, and destruction of secret war-making technologies. Players can utilize a total of 12 authentic WWII era weapons, including an American Colt 45, American M-1 Garand Rifle and Browning Automatic Rifle.
Sony Computer Entertainment America announced last week its software lineup for the first quarter, year 2000:
Ya gotta respect a company that tells it like it is without throwing in shipload of hype. Following is a slightly edited release from Blizzard Entertainment:
The release date of Diablo II has been the subject of great speculation in recent weeks as the result of delays in starting the beta test. After discussing the time needed to fully play-balance, polish, beta test and debug the game, we feel that it is important to let the gaming community know that we do not expect to release Diablo II before the end of the year.
Diablo II is the most ambitious project we have undertaken to date. The game is many times larger than the original with a much more complex system of character development. Additionally, we have redesigned the Battle.net architecture using a client-server network to prevent cheating and to expand the multiplayer component. With the release of Diablo II, Battle.net will be a true global network with servers in Europe and Asia to support players around the world.
The game is now slated for a worldwide release in early 2000. We plan to start beta testing before the year's end with a limited beta test of 1,000 players. We then will conduct an open beta program to stress test our new Battle.net servers. We will keep you updated on the game's progress once the beta test gets underway.
Due to ship in 2000 for Windows 95/98 is Baldur's Gate II: Shadows of Amn, which will utilize the enhanced version of the BioWare Infinity Engine. "In setting out to do a sequel, we want to give people the feeling that they are returning to a place they remember fondly," stated Feargus Urquhart, Black Isle Studios Division Director. "We have a whole new set of tricks up our sleeves ..."
The Forgotten Realms adventure ensues along the southern portion of the Sword Coast in the merchant kingdom known as Amn. The borders of this region include such diverse environments as the Elven forests of Tethir, the Cloudpeak Mountains, The Drow cities of the Underdark, and the Capitol City of Amn, Athkatla.
Fifteen new NPC characters are available to join players in their quest, along with hundreds of completely new creatures and access to over 130 new spells. Hundreds of new items also add flavor to the game including the legendary Holy Avenger and the venerated Staff of the Magi. Higher-level character development and the diverse combat proficiency system will allow for an expanded skill set including dual wielding or single weapon mastery. Over 20 new kits and classes have been added to the class list from Baldur's Gate.
The enhanced version of the BioWare Infinity engine will support resolutions of up to 800x600, plus 3D acceleration support via OpenGL and the ability to abandon the graphical user interface panels.
Mindmaker's new version of Game Commander, 1.1, adds voice chat compatibility to the voice command recognition, which allows PC gamers to say commands instead of using keystrokes. Users need not choose between controlling their game with voice commands and chatting with friends during game play using software such as Roger Wilco or BattleCom. The two systems can now run simultaneously.
Sierra On-Line last week released Mad Gab, a new CD-ROM gameshow based on a board game. In the family title, a random group of words sound like a famous person, place, phrase or thing. To solve the puzzle, players must slur their words, talk to themselves, and engage in other zany behaviors to beat the clock. For example, "Inn Awe Gorilla Dress" becomes "Inaugural Address".
Players may need to change their rate of speech or the accent points of each scrambled phrase. For instance: "Fate Ed Voter Graph" when repeated out loud over and over becomes "Faded Photograph." The game provides 1,500 puzzles in eight different categories. Players engage in three rounds, with three unique games each round.
According to a new report from the Yankee Group's Media & Entertainment practice, the number of homes in the United States with a video game console will grow from 35.9 million in 1998 to 43.5 million by the end of 2003.
Next-generation consoles will account for 85% of this installed base, as existing console household's upgrade, and non-console households are enticed by new product features.
By adding new networked functions like Web browsing, email, chat, e-commerce, and multi-player gaming, next-generation consoles are evolving from dedicated game platforms into home entertainment systems. At the same time, most new systems also offer the ability to play audio CDs and DVD movies all in the same box. As Sega, Sony, Nintendo, and others release these next-generation consoles they will challenge other interactive platforms such as PCs and digital cable and satellite set-top boxes for a key position in the evolving market of networked digital entertainment.
"Nearly 37 million homes already have a video game console today," notes Michael Goodman, senior analyst for the Yankee Group's Media & Entertainment Strategies practice. "As these users rapidly upgrade to next-generation consoles they will automatically have advanced digital capabilities that will compete with other networked devices in the home."
This transition has already begun. The report finds that 65% of U.S. households with a video game console also have a PC, a 25% increase over last year. The Yankee Group projects that by 2003 the percentage of console households with PCs will have increased to 86%.
Other key findings from the Report, titled "Let the Games Begin: The Changing Video Game Market," include:
Interplay Entertainment Corp. last week reported operating results for the third quarter ended September 30, 1999, including net revenues of $23.6 million, and a net loss of $17.0 million, or $(0.75) per share, compared to net revenues of $24.5 million, and net loss of $15.1 million, or $(0.83) per share, for the same period in the prior year.
Brian Fargo, Interplay’s chairman and chief executive officer, commented, “It has taken us longer than we anticipated to complete a thorough distribution channel inventory campaign of product returns and price concessions and we have taken some large and painful charges against operating results this year. Having completed the distribution channel campaign, and the previously announced $25 million equity investment by Titus, which helped re-capitalize Interplay, positions us well for the year 2000, as we increase our focus on the console market.”
Interplay’s newly appointed president, Herve Caen, mentioned that, “Interplay will continue to develop high quality PC games, as well as increase its emphasis on higher unit volume console games going forward, and more emphasis will be placed on product line and project profitability, as well as on high volume international distribution.”
Net revenues by platform for the quarter were 55.9 percent PC, 15.7 percent console, and 28.4 percent OEM, royalties and licensing. On a geographic basis, third quarter net revenues for 1999 in North America represented 46.1 percent of total net revenues, international represented 25.5 percent, and OEM, royalty and licensing accounted for 28.4 percent.
The annual NewMedia INVISION 99 Awards were announced last week at the W Hotel in San Francisco.
The Awards of Excellence include:
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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