20 November 2000
Reported, written and edited by David Duberman
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Macromedia Inc last week announced the Macromedia Dreamweaver 4 Fireworks 4 Studio for Web site design and production. The package is intended to unify code and graphics workflow, giving production artists and designers an integrated development platform.
Dreamweaver 4's new Layout View lets developers draw table cells directly on a page and then specify how the layout changes as the page is resized. Users can also create editable Flash text and buttons directly in Dreamweaver.
Fireworks 4 includes a new pop-up menu creator designed to let users develop navigation with multilevel pop-up menus in a step-by-step visual environment. It also features enhanced graphics interactivity with live animations, drag-and-drop rollovers, object masks (both vector and bitmap) and a new batch-processing environment.
Just out from Macromedia is the Web Learning Studio for authoring online learning. The studio includes Authorware 5.2, a new version of the authoring product for online learning. New features in version 5.2 are support for Macromedia Flash 5, a new scripting editor, Windows controls, assessment Knowledge Objects and enhanced, standards-compliant data tracking capabilities. The studio also supports industry standards to ensure the learning content it creates can be easily tracked by learning management systems.
Macromedia is also providing learning extensions for Macromedia Flash 5 and Dreamweaver 4, including the now free CourseBuilder extension for Dreamweaver. These extensions and other learning resources will be available from the Learning Resource Center on the Macromedia Web site (http://www.macromedia.com/learning). "Getting Started with Online Learning," a how-to guide for developers written by online learning experts, is also available with the studio and as a free download from the Learning Resource Center. The learning extensions enable the development of online learning content with Macromedia Flash and Dreamweaver by providing pre-built navigational frameworks, learning interactions, quizzes and built-in data tracking.
Zero G, a provider of software deployment tools, last week released PowerUpdate, touted as the easiest way for software producers to add live updating to their applications. The product reportedly manages the downloading and installation of the latest version of an application automatically, eliminating the need to contact end-users whenever there is an update, patch, or new release. Through PowerUpdate's Web-based interface, software producers can specify pertinent information about their application updates -- such as where, when, and how the revision is to be accomplished -- and have those updates performed automatically.
Ereo, Inc. says its new technology lets Internet businesses and users search using pictures and other images as their basic search criteria. The company calls its search technology "More Like This." The user, after entering a text description of the information or products she seeks, like "chair," is presented with a series of pictures. When he finds an image similar to what he's looking for, he clicks on the "More Like This" button to get a display of images that resemble the look and features of the original search criteria. For instance, a person looking for a leather reclining chair may start his search by looking at a series of chairs -- one of which is a recliner made of leather. By selecting the leather recliner image, a series of similar leather recliners will appear -- allowing the shopper to narrow his search effort quickly based on visual cues and physical characteristics.
Ereo has developed a process that categorizes images so they can be compared and retrieved to provide the most relevant search results for end-users.
Following are key technology features:
Newly liberated from Corel and coming later this month from England's Xara is Xara X, an updated version of the company's $149 graphics-creation package formerly known as CorelXARA.
New features include:
Download the beta version
Expected out early next year from Autodesk division Discreet is 3ds max 4, the latest version of its 3D modeling, animation, and rendering software. Premiering on Discreet’s new Animation Zone, (http://www.discreet.com/animation), the software's major new features include a new and extensible Inverse Kinematics (IK) architecture for character animation, new subdivision surface and polygon geometries, and enhanced rendering productivity with ActiveShade and Render Elements.
The extensible IK architecture integrates blended FK\IK abilities, direct manipulation, weighted constraints, angle deformers, real-time shaded skin, and customizable, volumetrically shaded bones. Additional character-animation features include soft-body dynamics, spring controllers, and the powerful customization delivered by parameter wiring and interactive manipulators .
New features for game developers include an enhanced software developers kit (SDK) and continuing open source initiatives, support for new Direct 3D abilities including real-time display of multitextures, true transparency, opacity mapping, and the results of custom pixel and vertex shaders (for things like reflection and bump maps). New modeling tools include hierarchical subdivision surfaces, enhanced Bezier patch modeling, and a new polyobject modeling architecture .
For visual effects, the new Render Elements in allow a single render pass to deliver the components of 3D rendering (such as specular, diffuse, blend, shadow, atmosphere, etc.) and other elements into a set of images intended for postproduction manipulation or directly to a combustion workspace. The new ActiveShade reportedly delivers fast, interactive rendering without compromising on image quality.
Turbo Squid last week licensed its software to Gamasutra.com, a portal site for professional game developers. The agreement will let Gamasutra.com offer a branded version of the online digital marketplace for buying and selling digital assets, including 3D models, textures, shaders and more.
The new product, entitled Gamasutra Exchange, facilitates the rapid location, purchase and download of all types of content using software technology developed by Turbo Squid. In addition, game developers can generate revenue by uploading assets, setting their price, and allowing others to purchase them, while retaining their copyrights. The new marketplace, which already boasts an inventory of over 70,000 items, will help game development teams save time, effort and money by repurposing their digital assets.
The Gamasutra Exchange client application is free and can be downloaded at www.gamasutra.com/exchange/
New from planetLingo Inc. is Conversation Master, a spoken English language e-learning application. Using speech recognition and natural language understanding technologies, Conversation Master provides a vehicle for building simulations that require spoken interaction. At the recent Comdex trade show, Conversation Master demonstrated an English conversational practice application for a Japanese speaking population. The demonstration displayed real-time 3D streaming animation where learners converse with onscreen characters. Conversation Master is designed to improve listening skills, comprehension, verbal fluency, and conversational proficiency.
Conversation Master is one component application of planetLingo's contextEngine system. Other component applications focus on concept acquisition, oral reading proficiency and fluency, comprehension, and accent reduction. All contextEngine systems provide:
The Fantasy Graphics League is now open for entries for its second season. The concept is simple: Given a limited budget and floorspace, select the best researchers for your own graphics lab. The labs are then scored by the number of papers and sketches their researchers have accepted by SIGGRAPH 2001. Last year's contest winner was a graduate student at Stanford, who cleverly picked many of his officemates.
This contest is free to enter, and is just for the fun of it. It has no affiliation with SIGGRAPH, the ACM, or the WTO for that matter. No ad banners, even. The deadline for entries is January 10th, 2001. Enter at http://www.realtimerendering.com/fgl. For more information, contact Eric Haines, mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org, 607-277-5445
This embedded reference material is designed to help beginning developers learn code by providing easily accessible information on any piece of code that the developer highlights in "code view" of the products. Developers can, for example, highlight a tag in their own code, click a button, and the reference material for that tag, including properties and browser compatibility, opens up in the O'Reilly window.
Experienced developers also benefit from being able to easily access code examples or track down browser compatibility issues, enabling them to increase productivity and time to market by shortening design and development cycles.
Can't wait for the movie? Play the game! Just out from Sony Computer Entertainment America in conjunction with Disney Interactive is The Emperor's New Groove for PlayStation.
Based on the upcoming animated feature film, features include:
Microsoft announced last week that MechWarrior 4: Vengeance, the sequel being developed by Microsoft's FASA Interactive group, has gone gold. This means that the product is completed and is expected to hit store shelves in the U.S. by early December. MechWarrior 4 combines BattleMech action with the continuing drama and unfolding storyline of the perpetual BattleTech universe.
In MechWarrior 4: Vengeance, gamers command a 40-foot tall, 100-ton war machine across the remote battlefields of a hostile world. Instead of desolate, sparsely populated battlefields, MechWarrior 4 takes place in a dynamic universe inhabited by armed allies, noncombatants and deadly antagonists.
Players can command 21 different 'Mechs, seven of which are new designs. 'Mechs can be customized with brand-new weapons, armor and sensors including the Long-Tom artillery piece. New multiplayer features let players host their own MechWarrior servers. MechWarrior 4 will also include full support for Internet play, with matchmaking available on Zone.com.
Sega Dreamcast and Game Boy Color owners can now tear up the asphalt with skateboarding's top talent in Activision's Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 2. The Dreamcast version features an advanced skatepark editor ever attempted in a video game that lets players see how their park will look in the game as they plot out a course using a variety of parts - ramps, rails, obstacles and quarterpipes. Once a level is laid out, it can be saved to a memory card and shared with friends. Additionally, a total character customization feature allows gamers to modify the pro skaters' clothing and trick sets, or build an entirely new character from scratch.
Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 2 for Dreamcast was developed by Treyarch LLC for Activision, and the Game Boy Color version was developed for Activision by Natsume Co. Ltd.
Sony Online Entertainment announced today that Infantry, a science-fiction, tactical combat game developed by Harmless Games, is now available on The Station (www.station.sony.com).
Infantry is a tactical combat role-playing game where hundreds of players fight battles across a futuristic landscape. The game is set within a crumbling empire, as a group known as the Collective struggles against a tide of independence movements. The Collective has been distracted by a series of civil wars on Earth, so now many of the outer colonies have declared independence. Those colonies have begun fighting among the dozens of different factions that have arisen. In this chaotic situation, mercenaries and warriors are in demand and players take part in the planetary wars.
Coming next year from Sierra Studios and Gearbox Software is Valve's Half-Life for the PlayStation 2. The title is in development by Gearbox Software, developers of the Half-Life PC expansion Opposing Force.
The PS2 version will offer an upgrade of the original title as well as new multiplayer cooperative and competitive bonus games set within the Half-Life universe. Other features include enhanced characters and weapons, upgraded environments and new levels.
Newly available from Activision is Sky Odyssey for the PlayStation 2. The action-adventure flying game lets players earn their wings as they undertake over 40 missions, braving ever-changing environments and weather conditions. From the cockpit of over 10 different aircraft, gamers attempt to acquire the missing pieces of an ancient map that will allow them to locate their secret final destination.
Reportedly based on realistic aerodynamics, physics and gravity, Sky Odyssey challenges players to control their speed and altitude as they execute varied mission objectives such as landing on a moving train, flying through underground caverns and touching down on an aircraft carrier at sea. Players take control of a variety of aircraft, including the Swordfish Mark I biplane, the stealth fighter and the F4U Corsair, as they fly across massive 3D maps from tropical islands to perilous mountain peaks. The game rewards players for improving their flying skills by allowing them to fully customize the appearance of any aircraft and giving performance-enhancing upgrades to the three basic planes.
Five different gameplay modes let virtual pilots perfect their navigational skills - Adventure Mode, Free Flight, Sky Canvas, Target Mode and Training Mode. In Sky Canvas Mode, players use a smoke generator to draw pictures in the sky, while in Target Mode they practice their accuracy by flying through targets suspended in the air.
Game-design veteran Brian Moriarty has joined Skotos Tech as director of game development. He will oversee the production of all future titles, beginning with the release of Skotos Stages in early 2001, and will also coordinate with external game authors.
Moriarty authored three of the original Infocom prose adventures: Wishbringer, Trinity, and Beyond Zork. His first graphic adventure, Loom, was published by Lucasfilm Games. He also served as senior game designer at Rocket Science. In 1995, he co-founded Mpath Interactive, an online games portal, where he acted as creative director for the production of Mplayer's suite of voice-enabled multiplayer parlor games.
By bringing his interactive fiction expertise to Skotos, Brian will help to create the next generation of Skotos products. He will be coordinating game developers Michael Blum and Lisa Disterheft in the creation of the initial Skotos Stages -- short online role-playing games with distinctive beginnings, middles, and ends -- as well as Golden Gate: 1849 and Alvatia, two Skotos flagships planned for debut in 2002. He will also be the key contact for external developers, who will be creating stages and full-scale games for release throughout 2001.
Skotos Tech is an online game company planning to create a community of story-builders and players. Skotos offers tools that allow its game designers to concentrate on the plot, character, and detail of the worlds they create. Skotos provides an environment that allows players to explore these worlds, share their accomplishments, and possibly become story-builders themselves. Skotos Tech is located in Berkeley, California. Its first game, Castle Marrach, is now open for beta testing at www.skotos.net/games/marrach/.
Latimes.com, the Web site of the Los Angeles Times, was awarded the Best Newspaper Web Site in the 2000 WebAward competition sponsored by the Web Marketing Association (WMA).
The WebAward competition recognizes the individual and team achievements of Web professionals who create and maintain outstanding corporate Web sites. An independent panel of experts – representing all Web-related disciplines – selected the winners based on site design, innovation, content, technology, interactivity, navigation and ease of use.
When: Tuesday November 28, 2000
Where: Fort Mason, Landmark building A, Marina Blvd. at Buchanan St., San Francisco
6:30 pm Social Hour (Eat, drink and talk...)
7:30 pm Dinosaur Presentations
Sean Phillips will discuss how Walt Disney Feature Animation's proprietary muscle and skin system was created and used in the making of Dinosaur. His presentation will include a brief history of the development of the system followed by several shot breakdowns from the film that show how the muscle and skin system was employed.
Jim Hillin will present the animated effects for Dinosaur. The focus will be on methodology, department interaction, software written, the influence of Digital Review and animation tools created.
Mike Belzer will highlight portions of the animation process for the film Dinosaur. He will show pre-production reference as well as demonstrations for both the body and facial animation programs.
Jay Sloat will address the creation of digital fur and fur dynamics.He'll also talk about how he and his 14 person software crew collaborated with other departments to create special software plugins and systems for this film.
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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