4 October 1999
Reported, written and edited by David Duberman
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Virtue announced today its new Virtuoso suite of software tools for enabling network-based 3D graphic applications on e-commerce web sites. Virtuoso’s software technologies are optimizing and viewing components for 3D content in networked client/server environments.
Virtuoso is designed for e-commerce web site owners who want to attract virtual shoppers with an enhanced shopping experience. E-shoppers can rotate and interact with merchandise in 3D.
The Virtuoso tools perform the following functions:
Flowerfire last week released Sawmill 5.0, the latest version of its Web traffic and log file analysis tool. Sawmill runs either as a CGI program or as its own Web server on Windows 95/NT, MacOS, most variants of UNIX, and BeOS, and publishes a graphical user interface. Through this interface, users can view Web site statistics in pie charts, bar graphs, line graphs, and numerical tables. The HTML interface also allows Sawmill to be configured remotely from any Web browser.
A partial list of enhancements:
A 30-day trial version can be downloaded from www.Flowerfire.com
Cogix Corporation today released ViewsFlash 2.3, a poll- and survey-publishing system for Web sites. The toolkit allows site editors and producers to design, schedule and publish polls and surveys, and includes a vote-processing engine that tabulates and displays results in real time. The product is said to be suited for portals, media publishers, e-commerce sites, advertising agencies, and Intranets. The multi-threaded servlet runs on Java-capable Web server environments, and is available now as a downloadable server product and as an outsourced hosting service.
Israel-based startup Slangsoft Ltd. last week introduced VeloMail, a free email service that lets Internet users to write, send and receive emails in 41 languages.
To solve keyboard limitations, Slangsoft created pop-up virtual keyboards for non-Latin based tongues such as Japanese, Norwegian, Greek, Arabic, Slovak, and Korean. Users then choose from the appropriate symbols and letters.
Webroot Software, Inc. (www.Webroot.com), makers of Internet security and privacy utilities, announced a co-marketing agreement with Anonymizer.com, a provider of privacy services to Internet users. Through this agreement, Webroot Software will sell a co-branded version of its popular Internet privacy software, Window Washer, via the Anonymizer Web site.
The Window Washer utility "cleans" a variety of areas in Windows that log computer and Internet activity, including Internet browser cache, cookies and history, as well as the Windows document menus, temp directories and recycle bins.
Anonymizer enables users to surf the Web anonymously by acting as an intermediary between users and the sites they visit, thereby concealing their identity from third parties. The anonymous surfing service and other offerings do not, however, clean up a person's computer of evidence of Internet usage and that is where Window Washer steps in.
Anonymizer Window Washer is available now via the Anonymizer Web site (www.anonymizer.com), for $29.95. Those who purchase the product also will receive one free month of Anonymizer Surfing subscription service.
Founded in June 1999, Half.com announced last week it has secured $2.5 million in its second round of financing. Investors in this round include Venture Investment Management Company (VIMAC), Comcast Interactive Capital and Woodland Partners, along with angel investors Howard Morgan, General Partner of idealab!, and David Schlessinger, founder of Zany Brainy. This round follows an investment from Infonautics in June.
Half.com expects to unveil its Web site early next year which, it says vaguely, will represent the next generation of person-to-person ecommerce on the Internet. "Our business model is simple … We believe that there are better ways to connect buyers and sellers online," says founder Joshua Kopelman.
Just out for Mac and Wintel from MetaCreations Corporation is Painter 6, an upgrade to the company's natural-media image-creation software. New features include the ability to paint with depth using Impasto brushes, run text along a curve, and layer vector and bitmap images in one file.
Functionality enhancements include a more intuitive interface, speed improvements, industry-standard (i.e., Photoshop-compatible) layers implementation and CMYK TIFF support. Additionally, Painter 6 supports the Wacom Intuos tablet, pen and airbrush technology.
Future Fantastic of York, England has just released Genesis V2 PRO ($299) for LightWave and Inspire 3D. Genesis V2 PRO is a special FX plug-in that allows the creation of lens flares, glows, fire, smoke, explosions, particle effects and more. The new version, created by Anton Yemelyanov, is a rewrite of the Genesis VFX plug-in by Andrew Cross. It includes a new interface and new and improved features.
Those who order the Ifiles (a 1,200-page CD-ROM-based manual for 3D app Imagine) for $49.99 plus $5.00 shipping, will receive Imagine version 1.0 for Windows at no charge from publisher Impulse Inc.
Also, the next version of Imagine will offer these features:
Finally, coming soon from Impulse is Illusion, described as a real-time particle system, a 2D animation system, a compositing tool, and a design tool that works with all industry-standard file formats.
Just out from MetaCreations Corporation is KPT Vector Effects 1.5, available for the first time for the Windows platform (previously Mac-only), with special-effects plug-ins adobe Illustrator versions 7 and 8.&
Vector Effects plug-in descriptions:
Smells Like Almonds contains 42 procedural shader engines for Cinema 4D SE and XL with over 200 presets. Each shader offers up to 40 variable parameters. Effects include attenuated reflections, translucent objects, weathered surfaces, brushed and tooled metals, and volumetric wood.
KB Gear Interactive last week released SketchBoard Studio, a drawing and animation tablet that comes bundled with the new Disney's Magic Artist Studio CD-ROM from Disney Interactive.
SketchBoard Studio is the updated version of KB Gear's original SketchBoard product that was released in October 1997. The 7 x 5-inch drawing tablet now has more pressure sensitivity, an improved pen performance, a pen holder, a revised design with hand grips, and both USB and serial connectivity. In addition, SketchBoard Studio now comes bundled with Disney's Magic Artist Studio creativity software from Disney Interactive.
Mined Your Business announces the official launch of its resource to improve Websites - Webimprovement.com (http://www.Webimprovement.com). Topics covered include Web marketing, online advertising, Web design, Web hosting, CGI scripts, e-commerce and affiliate programs.
The newest edition to the directory features Website-related articles, gathered from news sources on the Internet.
Animation Artist Online magazine has added monthly columns, an artist image review area (Screening Room), reader forums, an animation postcard service, and an interactive area called Animation Artist Playland.
One new column, Early Disney (by David Johnson), focuses on the early days of Disney animation. Another column, Inside Animation (by Jeremy Falkowski), focuses on 2D animation techniques in the industry.
In the Screening Room, aspiring artists can have their work reviewed by other artists online. After the evaluation, the person who submitted an image applies changes based on reader suggestions. Finally, Animation Artist Magazine publishes the "before" and "after" shots in the Final Cut room. There's even a Junior screening room for young artists and future animators ages 7-14.
The Playland is divided into three areas: Activities, Games, and Fun Stuff. In the Activities area, visitors can try their luck at animation trivia, use an online paint program, and color in an online coloring book in real time. The Games area, with a new game added weekly, currently features Breakout, Wissetris, and Snake Pit. The Fun Stuff area contains Flozoids (little white firefly type creatures that chase your cursor), Ripples (using your cursor to create water ripples in an image) and the Cartoon Dance. The Cartoon Dance brings various cartoon-like characters together to "dance" to a different song every week.
Nintendo and S3 Incorporated will partner to employ S3's graphics technology on Nintendo's next home video game console, code-named 'Dolphin.'
Dolphin will embed S3's texture compression technology onto the graphics chip. The results will reportedly eliminate blurriness, blockiness and repetition of the same elements on screen. Using S3's texture compression technology allows Dolphin developers to compress texture data to one-sixth its normal size while maintaining or improving the image quality of the original artwork.
Coming this month from PC components manufacturer AOpen America is the $150 DVD-1040 Pro DVD-ROM drive. With DVD media, the 10X DVD-ROM drive reportedly has a sustained data transfer rate up to 33.3MB/second, and an average access time of 110ms. It's compatible with major CD-ROM and DVD media, including CD-R and CD-RW, and is available in E-IDE/ATAPI and Ultra-DMA bus models.
Miller Freeman's Digital Video Conference & Expo will hold a Web Video Boot Camp at the DV Conference & Expo in Long Beach on October 18, 1999. The $495, day-long event will cover digital video and streaming technologies, content acquisition, manipulation, editing, compression, and output.
O'Reilly & Associates last week announced the publication of Java Enterprise in a Nutshell, which covers the APIs that are the building blocks of the Java 2 Platform Enterprise Edition (J2EE), Sun's recently announced new platform for enterprise computing. J2EE is the standard Java 2 platform with a number of extensions for enterprise development.
The book provides quick-reference material for all of the classes in the various packages that comprise the Enterprise APIs. This material includes the core Enterprise APIs that are part of Java 1.2, as well as standard extensions. It serves both as a companion to both upcoming books Java in a Nutshell, 3rd Edition, which covers the key non-graphical, non-enterprise APIs in Java 1.2, and Java Foundation Classes in a Nutshell, which describes the graphics- and GUI-related classes of Java 1.2.
It also provides tutorials on the following Java Enterprise APIs:
Chapter 4, on Java IDL, is available free on the O'Reilly Web site: http://www.oreilly.com/catalog/jentnut/chapter/ch04.html
For more information about the book, including table of contents, index, author bio, and samples, see:
Be Incorporated, developer of BeOS, an operating system designed for digital media applications and Internet appliances, last week announced a distribution agreement with Ingram Micro to distribute BeOS in August throughout North America. Be also announced that BeOS is available at major retail outlets, including Best Buy, Border's, Creative Computers/PC Mall, Fry's, J&R Music and Micro Center.
Be, Inc. recently began shipping BeOS Release 4.5 with new features such as Media Kit additions that manage and synchronize multiple streams of audio and video and other real-time data coming from various hardware inputs and outputs, plus an array of services including a Web browser, an email client, media player, TV viewer, 3D audio mixer, utilities, translators, and an integrated development environment.
Be offers free reseller kits to qualified resellers. The kits contain an evaluation package of BeOS as well as additional informational materials. Resellers can learn more by visiting Be's Reseller Program Web pages at http://be.com/resellers/programintro.html
Lionhead Studios announced last week that Activision, Inc. will publish at least the next two games from Lionhead, both of which are currently under development. Lionhead founder, veteran game designer Peter Molyneux, will serve as executive producer for the projects. These games are the first titles to be created under Lionhead's newly formed development model, under which the development teams, Big Blue Box and Intrepid, have full access to Lionhead's resources including technology, creative resources, testing, sound and administration. Lionhead's director Mark Webley, will oversee project management for the two games.
Announcing this arrangement, Peter Molyneux, managing director of Lionhead, said "Our objective when setting up our new business model was to create an environment where world-class talent could grow and develop the next generation of computer games."
Both titles are in the early stages of production. The games are being developed by Big Blue Box, based in Godalming, UK and led by brothers Dene and Simon Carter and the London based development team Intrepid, which is led by Joe Rider, Terry Cattrell and Matt Chilton. The two teams were selected by Lionhead from over 100 groups who applied to join Lionhead Studios.
Interplay Entertainment Corp. has agreed to distribute London, England-based Empire Interactive's computer game MiG Alley through their North American retail channel. Additionally, five back-catalog titles were added to an already existing agreement between the two companies. MiG Alley is expected to ship to retail outlets in the winter of 1999.
MiG Alley concentrates on the spring 1951 offensive of the Korean War, which introduced jet-vs.-jet air battles. MiG Alley is being developed by Rowan Interactive, developer of the World War One sim, Flying Corps Gold.
Also added to an existing distribution agreement are five back catalog titles from Empire; Flying Corps Gold, Pro Pinball: Timeshock!, Combat Chess, 101: The Airborne Invasion of Normandy, and Stars.
FamilyEducation.com, an online community for parents and educators, has purchased Information Please LLC (www.infoplease.com), a free reference site offering branded content and searches. Financial terms of the agreement were not disclosed.
The companies plan to expand FamilyEducation.com by providing additional educational resources, particularly by adding content components for school library media specialists.
Sybex's new Official Strategies & Secrets to Microsoft Age of Empires II: The Age of Kings ($19.99, 384 pages) was written by the game’s co-designer, Bruce Shelley, along with some of his colleagues and Age of Empires II players. The guide includes:
Although Cavedog's Total Annihilation: Kingdoms, released a couple of months ago, received a generally favorable critical response, it was universally panned for its slow performance. Cavedog claims that problem has been solved with its version 2.0 update, now available in beta on its Website.
Following is a list of the tweaks and additions that can be expected in the Total Annihilation: Kingdoms 2.0 update:
Set to ship October 19 from Electronic Arts is FIRAXIS Games' Sid Meier's Alien Crossfire, an expansion pack to Alpha Centauri. The expansion pack features seven new playable factions, several new technologies and secret projects, and a new plot that continues the story of humanity's struggle to colonize a hostile alien world. A demo of the expansion pack will be available before the title's release.
In Alien Crossfire, the original inhabitants of Planet have returned to reclaim their world. The aliens, though, are split in a brutal struggle over Planet, nearly destroying each other in the process. The survivors jettison to Planet's surface where humanity has been building a new home. Now the humans from Earth are caught in the crossfire.
Will they band together to defeat the aliens or will other alliances be formed?
Players can control and interact with seven new playable factions (five human, two alien) each offering new strategies, tactics and advantages. A new custom faction editor lets players create their own factions, with customized abilities and diplomatic dialogue.
Just out from Konami of America is Suikoden II, an role-playing adventure with extensive spell attack combinations, detailed tactical map battles and more than 108 new characters. The game centers around a friendship between two boys who survive a vicious war against the Scarlet Moon Empire and long to return to their beloved homeland, Kyaro. Players can utilize any of the l08 characters to create a fighting force of infantry, archers and spellcasters.
A new feature lets gamers save and utilize data from the previous version of the story to augment their military strategy, and unlock hidden story lines from the original saga. Characters can also fight in combination with one another's designated strengths.
Specific character combinations within a party can accomplish special attack maneuvers. Gamers can also command their unit to flee from an opponent without fighting, or bribe an enemy with money.
Also, coming this month from Konami is Soul of the Samurai. The game, which takes place in feudal Japan, lets gamers assume the role either of swordsman Hiba Kotaro or ninja Lin. Kotaro can utilize more than 40 of sword techniques based on real-life Samurai martial arts and learn special attack moves. Lin uses quickness and kicking techniques to defeat her enemies, and throws various deadly objects. Her special attacks include sword techniques Cherry Blossoms and Amaryllis, and throwing attacks Night Queen and Crimson Peacock.
WON.net - in conjunction with Sierra Studios, Relic and PC Connection - last week announced a contest where milestone online players (1,000th; 5,000th; 10,000th; 25,000th; 50,000th; or 100,000th) win prizes for playing Homeworld online. WON.net, developer of the online multiplayer technologies built into Homeworld, will use its CD key authentication technology to locate and log winners for prizes including a grand-prize AMD Athlon based gaming supercomputer from PC Outfitters.
"The goal for the contest is to encourage the early players to go online right away as well as get the people who haven't tried playing online yet to give it a go," said Scott Fasser, WON.net product manager.
Players are automatically entered into the contest when then they log on and play Homeworld online. WON.net will track log-ons using WON.net's CD key authentication technology. The 1,000th; 5,000th; 10,000th; 25,000th; 50,000th; or 100,000th unique CD key to play on WON.net will win prizes.
Prizes include a Homeworld bumper sticker, Homeworld shirt, copy of the game autographed by Relic's Alex Garden and a high-end 3D card. Each winner will be entered into a drawing for the grand prize of a new AMD Athlon-based gaming computer from PC Outfitters.
Professional Bull Rider, a new $20 bull riding simulation from Sierra Sports, features the Ty Murray, hall of fame bull rider Tuff Hedeman, 20 bulls and over 40 cowboys of the Professional Bull Riders Bud Light Cup Tour.
Other features include:
Interplay Entertainment Corp. last week began shipping the sequel to its space combat sim Descent FreeSpace. Developed by Volition, Inc. (http://www.volition-inc.com), the hardware-3D-only FreeSpace 2 continues in the year 2367, 32 years after the Great War, where the Shivans have surfaced again, threatening the survival of the Terrans and the Vasudans. In this post-war era, civil war jeopardizes the security of the colonies and the future of both the Terrans and Vasudans. While the rebellion rages on, players serve as part of the Galactic Terran Vasudan Alliance (GTVA), intervening in the interstellar skirmish.
With over 70 ships of varying class and size, FreeSpace 2 will feature squadrons of bombers and fighters equipped with an array of advanced weaponry for players to use in dogfights or to engage in combat with massive ships and destroyers. An in-game messaging system allows players to command squad-mates and request reinforcements.
New features include the addition of beam weapons and flak cannons to the capital ships, plus nebula effects that make players' ships are susceptible to such hazards as electromagnetic effects that hamper the craft's sensors and provide a hiding place for players and opponents. Gamers can design custom missions using the FreeSpace Mission Editor 2 (FRED 2). Multiplayer support for up to 12 players via LAN, TCP/IP and Internet will be included.
Also newly released from Interplay is casino title Poker Night With David Sklansky. Players can participate in and customize five different poker games: 7 Card Stud, Hold'em, 5 Card Draw, Omaha and Dealers Choice.
The title also gives players a choice of five varied gambling environments, with sounds and characteristics unique to each. Play in the Vegas style casino, Dodge City's wild west saloon, the military bunker "Liberty", Tuesday night with the guys or the galaxy space room of "Galactic." A setup wizard lets players to set up and analyze hands and combination of hands for themselves and opponents.
Purchasers of the CD-ROM version of the November issue of Computer Games magazine will be able to play an exclusive beta version of Microsoft's Asheron's Call. The beta program will run for the weeks prior to Asheron's Call commercial release later this holiday season.
Players will be able to explore the complete, 500-square-mile isle of Dereth and interact with thousands of other players.
Developed by Turbine Entertainment, Asheron's Call is a massively multiplayer role-playing game that draws together thousands of players within a dynamic, 3D online world. Players can create unique characters by choosing between combinations of visual appearance, attributes and skill sets. In the game, players compete or cooperate with thousands of other online players. An extensive system of allegiance and influence greatly enhances social interaction.
EA-owned Jane's USAF has gone gold and is off to manufacturing. Players will be flying eight jets of the United States Air Force when the product ships on October 19. Developed in cooperation with the United States Air Force, Jane's USAF features historic campaigns based on Desert Storm and the Vietnam War and a futuristic campaign based in Germany.
Players can also fly combat missions over the United States, including Nellis Air Force Base and the Las Vegas strip. The sim also offers interactive training missions, a mission editor and online support.
A demo version with a sample single-player mission that includes both air-to-air and air-to-ground action in an F-15E Strike Eagle is available at CNET's Gamecenter site.
Also, Jane's F/A-18 is on time for its winter launch and will ship in late January, 2000. The simulator will put pilots in the cockpit of the Navy's to-be-commissioned carrier strike fighter.
Sierra-owned Impressions Games last week released a free demonstration version of Pharaoh, a city-building game set in ancient Egypt, that lets players manage cities and construct giant monuments. The game will be available on PC this November.
The demo eases players into the world of ancient Egypt, teaching them to hunt, farm between floods of the river Nile, build homes, and distribute food to their population. The final demo mission challenges players to construct a mastaba, a brick pyramid, while mining for gold and balancing a burgeoning city.
CNET, Inc. last week announced that it generated more than $270 million in revenue to its 103 participating merchants in the third quarter of 1999. CNET's shopping services are information resources for buyers of computers, consumer electronics and technology products, with reviews, recommendations, comparison pricing and one-click access to retail sources.
In the fourth quarter of 1998, CNET announced that it generated $80 million in revenue to its online merchants, which numbered 70 at the time. CNET's merchant program allows merchants to purchase placements in CNET Shopper.com's price listings and make their brands top of mind for users at the point of purchase.
The latest developments in emerging streaming technology, which lets Internet users see TV-quality video and hear audio on their computers, will be a major focus of the TeleCon West '99 Conference & Expo, which will be held November 2-5, 1999 at the Anaheim Convention Center.
The four-day event will include these streaming media-related highlights:
TeleCon West '99 is an exposition and conference for video-, audio- and data conferencing, real-time multimedia communications, distance learning, corporate e-training and related emerging technologies.
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