Spectrum: Interactive Media & Online Developer News 14 October 2002
Reported, written and edited by David Duberman
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- David Duberman
Today's Headlines (details below)
--Marlin Studios Releases Fabrics Texture Library --Dazzle Offers USB 2 Video Editing System
--New Interactive Curriculum Teaches Nutrition Skills
THE DIALS & LEVERS OF POWER
--O'Reilly Releases "Creating Applications with Mozilla" --Report: Linux-based ITV to Grow through '06 --Firms Release MMOG Study
--Activision Acquires Game Developer Luxoflux
GAMES PEOPLE PLAY
--iBlast Launches Wireless Game Service
--Industry Pioneers to Be Honored by Computer History Museum
--Siggraph Loves L.A.
Marlin Studios Releases Fabrics Texture Library
Graphics studio and publisher Marlin Studios last week released Seamless Textures 9 - Fabulous Fabrics. The $159 library, created by texture artist Geoff Holman, includes 320 seamlessly tileable fabric textures in three sizes: large (2048x 2048 pixels), medium (1024x1024) and small (512x512). The library also includes a thumbnail browser for searching the textures, which are categorized as solids, patterns, plaids, stripes, weaves, carpets, florals, seams, handwork and miscellaneous. The textures are presented in high-quality JPEG format.
Free sample textures can be downloaded and sample thumbnail images and artwork created with the textures can be viewed at http://www.marlinstudios.com/samples/sampst9.htm.
Dazzle Offers USB 2 Video Editing System
SCM Microsystems last week announced its USB 2.0 video editing system, the Dazzle Digital Video Creator 150 (DVC 150). Bundled software includes MovieStar 5 for video editing, DVD Complete to design and burn interactive DVDs, and OnDVD to make photo slideshows for DVD players. Users can output edited video to a VCR tape, burn a video CD, make a DVD, or stream the video across the Internet via the Dazzle Webcast Theater.
* real-time DVD-quality video capture using the USB 2.0 interface * one-cable hardware installation
* MovieStar 5.0 video editing package lets users capture video, eliminate unwanted scenes, add titles, 3D transitions and special effects and add background audio or voice over narrations. It also lets users output video to videotape, Video CD, S-VCD, DVD, video email or stream video over the Internet.
* DVD Complete software for designing and burning DVDs lets the user take edited video, add interactive menus, chapters and titles, choose from professionally developed graphic themes and burn directly to a CD or DVD disc. Matching disc labels and jewel covers can also be automatically generated.
* OnDVD digital photography application lets users import digital pictures, touch up the images, organize a slideshow on a timeline, add background music and burn a video CD, which plays back on a DVD player
New Interactive Curriculum Teaches Nutrition Skills
Health Media Lab, Inc., last week introduced a new, computer-based curriculum to build nutrition skills in children aged 9-15. Titled Hungry Red Planet, the new curriculum combines an interactive computer program with classroom materials to help schools meet federal and state standards for teaching nutrition.
Developed and tested under a grant from the National Institutes for Health, the program communicates health and nutrition basics through an interactive space adventure. Studies have shown that interactive, multimedia programs with authoritative content can be effective for teaching subjects that require cognitive and behavioral changes.
Said Health Media Lab's D. Michael Anderson, "The interactive scenarios and challenges presented in Hungry Red Planet help students learn, through cause-and-effect simulations, the health consequences and risks associated with their food choices."
Similar to strategy games like Sim City, Hungry Red Planet presents a simulated environment that requires students to make decisions and allocate resources over several turns--in this case, to meet the nutrition needs of a colony of space explorers. Participants are tasked with growing food items and creating balanced meals for the colony. The ultimate success of each student depends on applying knowledge of nutrition basics, as well as reading, math, data analysis and problem-solving skills.
Parents interested in the home-use version can download a free Home User Guide that supports nutrition awareness and better eating habits from http://www.healthmedialab.com.
THE DIALS & LEVERS OF POWER
O'Reilly Releases "Creating Applications with Mozilla"
In Jules Verne's novel, "Mysterious Island," Cyrus Harding, engineer extraordinaire, fashioned nitroglycerine using common, everyday materials: the fat of a dugong, sulpheret of iron, vegetable cinders, and saltpeter. Unlike Mr. Harding, we don't always recognize the usefulness of things we encounter on a regular basis.
"Creating Applications with Mozilla" introduces and explores Mozilla's powerful cross-platform development framework, providing step-by-step instructions for creating applications. The first several chapters serve as an introduction to the Mozilla development environment and impart the knowledge necessary to learn to create simple programs. The authors then branch into topics on modular development and other advanced subjects.
The book covers these topics:
Chapter 2, "Getting Started," is available free online at http://www.oreilly.com/catalog/mozilla/chapter/index.html.
For more information about the book, including Table of Contents, index, author bios, and samples, see http://www.oreilly.com/catalog/mozilla/.
Report: Linux-based ITV to Grow through '06
Linux is showing signs of becoming the platform of choice for next-generation digital interactive television (ITV) client devices and services. This is according to a new research report released by Trace strategies, Inc., with the unwieldy name North American Linux-based Digital Interactive Television Forecast and Analysis, 2002-2006: New Rules For Success.
Among the key findings in the report, embedded Linux will comprise 12% of all digital set-top box shipments to North American television operators in 2006, compared to 5% of set-top box shipments in 2003. Furthermore, unit shipments of Linux-based ITV client devices is expected to experience average year-over-year growth of 70% through 2006, driven mostly by an anticipated pick-up in demand by operators in Q2 2003 for next generation client devices, including home gateway media centers, digital set-top boxes, and digital video recorders.
The research finds that Linux is expected to become a more common operating system within the digital interactive television marketplace at the expense of traditional proprietary OS vendors, due in part to its low cost, flexibility, networking support, and support for various chip architectures. While in-house development currently accounts for the largest share of all Linux-based ITV, Red Hat has the largest share of commercial Linux-based ITV developments.
The competitive landscape of Linux-based ITV client devices is currently dominated by TiVo and less notably Motorola. Both companies will continue to maintain their leading market share status through 2006, despite competition from Scientific-Atlanta, Pace, Pioneer and Sonic Blue.
Although the research finds there is not a large community of Linux-based ITV developers, industry efforts to design specifications for a Linux-based API for digital TV will produce developer support. In fact, an increasing number of ITV developers plan to use Linux as an alternate deployment platform and port their applications to the Linux environment following the creation of standards.
Published this month, the report examines market trends and provides five-year forecasts on the market support, unit penetration and development roadmap of Linux within a variety of interactive digital television embedded devices and services. It provides a five-year market penetration forecast of Linux-based ITV devices and services, including unit shipment and installed base data. The report also compares the benefits of Linux to proprietary ITV operating systems and identifies the key economic and technical factors required for Linux to be successful in the ITV marketplace. A competitive analysis highlights the leading suppliers and developers supporting Linux-based ITV and provides market share data through 2006. The report also measures current in-house and commercial Linux development trends within the ITV marketplace and provides data about ITV developer's key technical and non-technical selection criteria of Linux and distributors.
Firms Release MMOG Study
Can you say "wildly optimistic?" Some six million game players around the world will spend nearly half a billion dollars in 2002 subscribing to massively multiplayer online games (MMOG), and by 2006, that number should be USD$2.7 billion. Zona, Inc., a network-tech firm for MMOGs, and consultant Executive Summary Consulting released these and other conclusions last week in The State of Massive (sic) Multi-Player Online Games 2002: A New World in Electronic Gaming, a 49-page study analyzing the current and future projections of the MMOG market sector.
"The worldwide potential growth of MMOG is tremendous. The upcoming launches of 'Sims Online' and 'Star Wars Galaxies' promise to be the first in a string of games to reach even larger, more mainstream audiences," said Montgomery (Monte) Singman, CEO of Zona, Inc. "In order to survive in this competitive marketplace, game publishers need to understand how to lower their upfront costs significantly, before committing to supporting hundreds of thousands of concurrent game players."
"Massive multiplayer games are a revolution for the electronic game industry. Their profit potential is unlike anything the game industry has known before," drooled Rick E. Bruner, principal, Executive Summary Consulting, Inc. "The key for game publishers to the incredible revenue possibilities of this model is one word: subscriptions. The fees for the current hit titles in the U.S. market are all in the $10-13-per-month range. That means games can earn $120-156 per customer a year for several years. In Asia, where MMOG is already huge, those fees are upwards of $20 a month. When you run the math, you only need a few million people worldwide playing regularly to add up to a multi-billion dollar market."
The study begins with an overview of the USD$31.7 billion worldwide electronic games industry and the trends that are driving it to grow faster than either the music or film industries. The study then goes on to examine 12 trends that are driving the five-year-old market for massive multiplayer games, including the following:
A game that achieves a million monthly subscribers stands to gross more than USD$150 million in a year, or $450 million in three years. Selling through the retail software channel, by comparison, a game priced at $50 to the same 1 million buyers would gross only $50 million.
Big business and Hollywood are investing heavily in MMOGs. A growing number of the largest companies in the film, publishing, software and gaming sectors have been jumping on board the MMOG bandwagon, including Sony, Microsoft, Vivendi Universal, Warner Bros., Disney, Simon & Schuster, and Electronic Arts.
Users will pay for content. In August 2002, the Online Publishers Association (OPA) released a report titled "Online Paid Content" that found U.S. consumers spent USD$675 million in 2001 on electronic content. The largest MMOGs, including Lineage, EverQuest, Ultima Online, and Dark Ages of Camelot, each currently have hundreds of thousands of subscribers paying $10 or more every month to play.
Broadband adoption continues to grow steadily. The adoption of cable models and DSL to the home worldwide continues to expand rapidly. Currently, 25% of all U.S. Internet households are on broadband connections. In Germany, Japan and The Netherlands, more than 40% of Internet homes are broadband, and in Korea, the figure is more than 50%. Adoption of high-speed connections continues to grow, and there is already more than four times as much home broadband capacity as would be required to meet the projections in this report.
Next-Generation Internet consoles are heating up: PlayStation 2, Xbox & GameCube. Microsoft, Sony and Nintendo are spending billions to release their new generation on home consoles, all of which are Internet enabled. Microsoft and Sony in particular are heavily invested in making MMOG work.
New titles expected to drive MMOG to new heights. Several of the new upcoming MMOG titles are based on strong existing entertainment franchises, such as Star Wars Galaxies, The Matrix, Marvel Comics-based characters, Disney characters and more. Many of the new games are also targeting new audience segments, such as children (Disney's Toontown), women (more than half of The Sims players), non-violent game lovers (Parable, from the makers of Myst, will feature a magical world but will go light on game violence by prevailing standards), as well as movie lovers (in addition to Star Wars, MMOG versions of Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, The Matrix, Lord of the Rings and Harry Potter are presently in the works).
Finally, the report discusses the serious challenges the industry still faces to gain mainstream acceptance and commercial viability, as well as offer game developers and publishers 10 strategic recommendations for how to make the most out of the MMOG opportunity.
For a copy of the study, contact David Libby, email@example.com.
Activision Acquires Game Developer Luxoflux
Activision, Inc. last week announced the acquisition of software developer Luxoflux Corporation. The two have collaborated since 1997, most recently on LucasArts Entertainment's Star Wars Demolition. Luxoflux is currently in development on Activision's upcoming title True Crime: Streets of L.A. and a game based on the sequel to the DreamWorks feature film "Shrek," which is being co-developed and co-published by TDK Mediactive, Inc. and Activision.
Founded by Adrian Stephens and Peter Morawiec, Luxoflux operates a 30- person studio in Santa Monica, Calif. The company uses proprietary technology to create interactive entertainment on multiple console platforms. Under the terms of the agreement, Luxoflux has become a wholly owned subsidiary of Activision. As part of the transaction, Luxoflux's management team and key employees have signed long-term employment contracts with Activision.
GAMES PEOPLE PLAY
iBlast Launches Wireless Game Service
Datacasting network iBlast has introduced its first commercial service, Game Silo, in seven markets across the US. Developed with the tech-savvy video game player in mind, Game Silo offers subscribers up to three gigabytes per day of games, game trailers and other videos, playable demos, patches/fixes/updates and other game assets. iBlast broadcasts game content directly to subscribers' hard drives without relying on the Internet or streaming technologies.
With most games and demos now larger than 100 megabytes, and videos and other game-related materials in the tens of megabytes, there is currently no reliable and efficient method of delivering high-quality game content over the Internet. Using the transmitters of digital television stations and an indoor desktop antenna, Game Silo sends entire games and game-related content into the home wirelessly without taxing the user's Internet connection.
Gamers can now start receiving Game Silo broadcast service in Los Angeles, San Francisco, Oakland, San Jose, Washington DC, Baltimore, Atlanta, Phoenix, San Diego and their surrounding areas. Both the Seattle and Tacoma areas will be added in late October with more cities being added regularly. The company claims the service will be available to over 92% of the TV households in the US within the next 24 months.
The $100 receiver is offered in two configurations: internal PCI Card or external USB box. For a monthly charge ($9.95), Game Silo subscribers receive the "basic" service package of game content. Full game releases from a growing list of titles from top publishers are available for purchase and rental for $4.95 and up.
The content broadcast on launch day includes trailers for Red Faction 2 and Summoner 2, a playable demo for Links 2003, plus five full games. The press release didn't mention their names, so they're probably not the hottest titles around.
The user interface features content-management tools and a multimedia player for full-screen video playback.
Industry Pioneers to Be Honored by Computer History Museum
The Computer History Museum last week announced its latest inductees as Fellows of the Museum. On October 22, industry pioneers Charles Geschke, John Warnock, Carver Mead and the late John Cocke will be officially inducted at the Museum's annual awards banquet. The event will take place at The Fairmont Hotel in San Jose, Calif.
Charles Geschke co-founded Adobe Systems Incorporated in 1982 with John Warnock and has been a leader in the software industry for more than 30 years. Geschke has been honored by the Association for Computing Machinery (ACM), the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, Carnegie-Mellon University, Macworld magazine, INC magazine, the National Computer Graphics Association and the Rochester Institute of Technology.
John Warnock co-founded Adobe in 1982 with Geschke and the two have worked closely together to develop a stream of pioneering software products that leverage Adobe's core strengths in graphics, publishing and electronic document technology. Warnock holds four patents, has contributed many articles to both technical journals and industry magazines and is a frequent speaker on critical issues in the computer and publishing industries
Chairman and founder of Foveon, Inc., Carver Mead is a member of the Silicon Valley scientific and business community. Before starting Foveon, he made many pioneering contributions in solid-state electronics, and was one of the forces in VLSI design methodology. Throughout his career as an inventor, author and educator, he has received more than a dozen honors in the microelectronics and engineering fields. He holds over 50 U.S. patents and holds fellowships or distinguished memberships in seven different scientific and professional societies.
John Cocke (1925 - 2002) is widely considered to be the "father of RISC architecture." Cocke was an IBM Fellow, was awarded the National Medal of Technology and the ACM Turing award, and was granted the National Medal of Science in 1991 by President Bush.
Reservations are required to attend the event, and proceeds support the preservation and educational missions of the Computer History Museum. For more information, visit http://www.computerhistory.org/events or call 650.604.2579.
Siggraph Loves L.A.
ACM SIGGRAPH announced last week that Siggraph 2004, the 31st International Conference on Computer Graphics and Interactive Techniques, will be 8 - 12 August, in Los Angeles, California, at the Los Angeles Convention Center. Originally scheduled for Atlanta, the decision to change the location to Los Angeles was made to better serve the needs of both attendees and exhibitors.
Said Dena Slothower, Siggraph 2004 conference chair, "Both our attendees and exhibitors prefer a West Coast location, and we are happy to be able to accommodate them by returning to Los Angeles."
Siggraph 2004 is the fifth time the show has been in Los Angeles in recent history. It was in Los Angeles in 1995, 1997, 1999, and 2001. The entertainment and game development communities are among the largest consumers and developers of computer graphics and interactive technology. Siggraph 2004 hopes to bring more than 30,000 computer graphics and interactive professionals from around the world to the city for the five-day conference and 3-day exhibition.
Siggraph 2004 is currently looking for volunteers for the SIGGRAPH 2004 sub-committees. Information about volunteering is located at: www.siggraph.org/volunteering/volposn.tm .
Siggraph 2003 will be held 27 - 31 July 2003 at the San Diego Convention Center in San Diego, California. The Siggraph 2003 Call for Participation is available at www.siggraph.org/s2003.
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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