3 September 2001
Reported, written and edited by David Duberman
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At Siggraph, France-based Virtools announced the availability of the $5,000 Virtools Physics Pack for Dev 2.0, with integrated rigid-body physics powered by Havok. Building on Virtools Dev 2.0 with Havok's real-time physics engine, the integrated solution is designed to bring games physics to the Web, and makes them accessible to designers with no C++ knowledge. According to Virtools, users will be able to add physics to their interactive applications via drag-and-drop procedures.
Based on the Havok game technology available for the PC, PS2 and Xbox, the real-time physics behavior pack features rigid body collision detection and constraints. Vehicle dynamics and "rag-doll" effects are included.
SNAP2 Corporation, a provider of client applications and tools for set-top boxes, Internet appliances and in-flight entertainment systems, last week announced the October 15, 2001 availability of its Snap2 Gear for DVB-MHP iTV content development software. The plug-in for Java-based integrated development environment and runtime library is said to enable interactive television applications creation targeting the Digital Video Broadcast - Multimedia Home Platform (DVB-MHP) standard. In addition to the formal software release date, SNAP2 announced the availability of an evaluation version of GEAR for DVB-MHP. The free evaluation can be downloaded from http://www.snaptwo.com.
The Snap2 Gear for DVB-MHP features:
Samsung SDS America, the U.S. subsidiary of Korean IT company Samsung SDS, announces WiseVIEW 4.0, a multipurpose file viewer capable of displaying and converting hundreds of file formats. The software is designed for a wide range of users, from general enterprise employees to professional engineers and CAD users.
WiseVIEW is designed to replace the need for multiple desktop applications by supporting the most common image and office productivity suite file formats. For professional designers and engineers WiseVIEW allows editing, assembling and markup of 3D images from multiple sources and then allows users to save them in a generic file format for distribution. For CAD designers, WiseVIEW allows images to be saved in popular CAD systems formats for project members who work with multiple vendors or design teams. Integration with browsers means the software can be installed on a corporate intranet to enable employees and managers across the globe to share virtually any document or image file without the need for the original application.
WiseVIEW offers functionality for displaying and manipulating complex 3D CAD models and includes features such as sectioning, transforming, and assembling. Users can display CAD models in real time, and manipulate them in numerous ways for use in applications such as CATIA, Unigraphics, ParaSolid, SolidWorks, IGES, STEP, VRML2, 3DS,VDA-FS, and STL.
Pandromeda, Inc. shipped the Windows version of its MojoWorld 1.0 Near Space earlier this month. The software lets users create entire planets the size of planet Earth, explore them in real time, import objects from other 3D programs, and render and animate scenes. There are two MojoWorld products: the free MojoWorld Transporter for exploration and imaging, and the non-free MojoWorld Generator for creating new scenes and planets.
MojoWorld is geared toward online communities of artists and enthusiasts. Worlds are saved in compact Transporter Coordinate files that can be shared with users of the free Transporter over the Internet. MojoWorld Generator also ships with a chat utility that provides a hotline to other artists creating new worlds.
Scheduled to ship in October from Avid Technology-owned Softimage is the Softimage|XSI v2.0 3D nonlinear animation (NLA) system. New features include:
You might know startup Exluna by its freeware product, Blue Moon Rendering Tools (BMRT), used by film studios and 3D developers for more than seven years. Credits include Hollow Man, A Bugs Life, The Cell, Gone in 60 Seconds, and Stuart Little. At Siggraph, the company launched Entropy, which it humbly describes as "the world’s most advanced 3D rendering product."
Entropy is priced at $1,500 per CPU or dual-processor workstation and includes such features as selective raytracing, scanline rendering, multithreading, and management of complex scenes. It will ship with support for Linux on Intel, SGI Irix, and Windows NT/2000, with other platforms to follow.
The company was founded in July 2000 by graphics specialists Larry Gritz, Craig Kolb and Matt Pharr.
At last month's QuakeCon, a multi-player gaming event, Autodesk division Discreet announced details for gmax, the company's licensable game development platform and free consumer game-content editor. The consumer version of gmax will be available as a free download to gamers in fall 2001 and will include 3D modeling, animation, texturing and character-building tools (no, not that kind of character). Discreet also announced that elements of gmax will be bundled with Microsoft Flight Simulator 2002: Professional Edition, shipping this quarter.
Discreet also showed its own prototype game pack, tempest, which lets game players create custom content for Quake III Arena, developed by id Software. Developed internally at Discreet, tempest will be available as a free download to complement the release of gmax. The sample game pack will also be provided to gmax development licensees in source-code format, providing a real-world example of how to implement gmax game packs into a game production pipeline.
England's LightWork Design, a supplier of computer graphics rendering software, simulation and visualization solutions, previewed its new LightWorks Sketch Rendering technology at the recent Siggraph exhibition.
The Sketch Rendering technology lets architects, product designers and 3D modelers create impressionistic and stylized renderings of their designs. A wide selection of different styles is available for use. The technology can typically be integrated into 3D design applications in a few days.
LightWorks Sketch Rendering is available as an add-on module to the LightWorks SDK and comes with a customizable interactive user-interface to facilitate its integration into the application. It supports EPix output for use in the Piranesi application from Informatix.
Just out from Pinnacle Systems, Inc. is Commotion Pro 4, the company's integrated paint, composite, and special effects software. The new version offers speed gains in the areas of composite and paint, workflow advancements, and new features, including:
New Riders’ Digital series George Maestri’s Digital Character Animation 2, Volume II: Advanced Techniques debuted at this year’s Siggraph in Los Angeles. Also at the show, the series, which is also home to Jeremy Birn’s Digital Lighting & Rendering, debuted Digital Texturing & Painting by Owen Demers.
Maestri’s return to print is written directly to CG professionals, with more non-software-specific approaches to character animation. According to its creator, Digital Character Animation 2, Volume II is a book on how to really think like an animator. It is a tutorial covering advanced character animation theory and technique from a non-specific software perspective. Its 10 chapters cover major sub-disciplines that non-beginning animators need to refine.
Digital Character Animation 2, Volume I is grounded in the basics of traditional cell animation and provides information for creating convincing computer-generated characters in 3D. This step-by-step, full-color guide applies conventional character-animation techniques such as walk cycles and lip sync to computer animation, along with tips for giving characters the illusion of life. The cross-platform CD-ROM includes multiple walk cycles on various 3D programs, lip sync examples, texture maps, and 3D models from REM Infografica.
The Digital series continues with a book dedicated to mastering the painting and creating/applying of textures to 3D models in a non-software specific environment. The full-color book combines traditional texture-creation principles with digital texturing techniques to enhance scenes and animations. The book works through the history of textures in fine art and then allows readers to apply these principles to 2D and 3D digital scenes.
Jeremy Birn’s Digital Lighting & Rendering contains strategies for lighting design that are relevant to any digital artist. The book presents an awareness of computer lighting models, how they differ from real-world lighting effects, and how to approach 3D lighting projects differently from practical light. Topics include: What good lighting can do for you; Light sources; Shading; Shadows; Exposure and content; Color: temperature, correction, mood; Qualities of light; 3-point lighting; Indirect illumination; Multipass rendering and compositing; Lighting in production; and Case studies: natural lighting, interior lighting, character lighting, and effects lighting.
Discreet last week received an early Christmas gift from its corporate parent Autodesk, namely, the software product line from Media 100. Essentially, this is the Terran Interactive product line, acquired by Media 100 in 1999. With this acquisition, Discreet adds streaming-media software solutions to its content creation product portfolio, allowing users to create, distribute, re-purpose and publish media content for consumption via the Internet, corporate intranets and IP-enabled devices such as cell phones and PDAs.
The asset purchase for $16 million cash is expected to close during Autodesk’s third quarter and is anticipated to be non-dilutive to Autodesk’s expected earnings for the current fiscal year.
The software acquisition forms the foundation of Autodesk’s entry into streaming media for the corporate and institutional markets. Streaming delivers immediate playback of content over the Internet, without the need to download, and is becoming the distribution medium of choice for films and entertainment, advertising, corporate/investor communications, and distance learning and training.
Software acquired from Media 100 includes the Cleaner family of products--Cleaner 5, Cleaner EZ, Cleaner Live, Charger and SuperCharger--and the editing and dynamic streaming media production software of CineStream, EventStream technology, EditDV, and IntroDV.
Media 100, led by CEO John Molinari, will continue developing digital media systems, such as iFinish and Media 100i, as well as continuing support for its ICE family of effects acceleration solutions, and its MediaPress family of real-time MPEG-2 encoding solutions. Development and support personnel from the software division of Media 100, currently based in its Los Gatos, CA office, will transition over to the Autodesk Discreet division.
The acquired software product lines will be sold and distributed by Discreet upon final completion of the acquisition and is expected to be fully branded under Discreet within the year 2001.
Electric Rain, Inc. recently signed its first agreement to integrate its RAViX II technology into a third-party application via a licensing contract. The company will license the vector-rendering technology to Strata, makers of Strata 3Dpro, a modeling and animation application.
RAViX II will provide a future release of Strata 3Dpro with the ability to export to Macromedia Flash (SWF), Adobe Illustrator (AI), EPS, and the latest XML-based vector format, SVG. Vector output options including three levels of outlines, five levels of cartoon shading, two levels of gradient shading, shadows and specular highlights. The renderer supports scenes containing over 200,000 polygons.
Sierra recently released for PC its new steampunk title Arcanum:Of Steamworks and Magick Obscura, the debut RPG from the team that brought the gaming world the popular role-playing game Fallout. Set in the land of Arcanum, the game comprises a world of ancient runes and steamworks, magic and machines, sorcery and science.
Arcanum creates a new world where magic and technology coexist in an uneasy balance. As the game opens opens, the mechanical age has only recently arrived in this ancient land where humans, elves, dwarves, orcs and other races have learned to coexist in the new sprawling industrialized cities.
But this radical shift from magic to technology has created a potentially explosive situation. As the townspeople and other thinkers begin mass production of light bulbs, batteries, eyeglasses and guns, the mages grow leery.
Forty-two percent of all video gamers plan on buying at least one of the new wave of gaming consoles due out by Christmas of 2001, according to the "Digital Gaming in America Survey," a look at the demographics and psychographics of the gaming market. The finding is yet another indication that video gaming -- increasingly in the public's consciousness with movies like "Tomb Raider" and "Final Fantasy" (although perhaps not in the most favorable light, considering the public reception for those films -ed.) -- is becoming a permanent part of today's culture.
Said Lee Uniacke, group publisher of the Ziff Davis Media Game Group, which sponsored the independently researched survey, "Gamers have become a key demographic target for advertisers and vendors--young males from 15 to 25 years old. That's where movies and television are aimed and that's exactly where video games are." (Hmm…)
Some of the new consoles are more anticipated than others. Of the 42 percent of gamers who were planning to buy a console, 62 percent picked PlayStation 2 (cited as reasons: "Leader in the market, loyalty to Sony, most game variety"), 34 percent wanted an Xbox ("Best Internet access, most technologically advanced, speed and power"), and 33 percent desired the Game Cube ("Best kids' games, best game franchises, best adventure games"). Some respondents considered buying more than one console.
The survey paints a picture of the lifestyles and buying habits of people who play games on PCs and consoles like PlayStation, Sega, Nintendo and GameBoy.
Coming this fall for PlayStation 2 from Sony Computer Entertainment America is OKAGE: Shadow King, a role-playing game featuring six amusing characters in a vast 3D world. The game combines traditional role-playing elements with real-time battle sequences, strategic gameplay and puzzle-solving.
The player assumes the role of Ari, a young boy summoned to embark on a mythical quest. Gamers will discover hundreds of attacks, spells and weapons, and more than 150 items to collect during the adventure through towns and dungeons.
Sierra and Click Entertainment are looking for a few good samurai for the Throne of Darkness Beta Program to help put the game's multiplayer feature to the test. Be among the first to do battle against the demon Zanshin and his horde of undead warriors!
The beta test will run September 9-23. The game is set to ship shortly afterward.
During this time Sierra will be monitoring the game's ability to host a large number of simultaneous players. Beta participants are encouraged to play Throne of Darkness online via Sierra.com for at least 10 hours per week, with at least five of those weekly hours taking place between 5 and 10 PM Pacific Time.
Sierra will select the first 750 qualified applicants to return by U.S. mail the Throne of Darkness Beta Test License. This application, as well as further information about Throne of Darkness and the beta test program, can be found at http://throneofdarkness.sierra.com/multiplay-beta/.
Throne of Darkness is a new multiplayer action RPG with a Japanese storyline. The single-player campaign includes 10 large levels, each with multiple side quests. Players manage their party through a series of tactical "plays," - formations and action orders that the party follows, allowing coordination between the player and the AI-driven samurai.
Microsoft announced that the official Web site for Zoo Tycoon is live at http://www.microsoft.com/games/zootycoon/. The site features screenshots, product info, downloadable sounds, a fan site kit (FSK), previews, and an avi showing off some of the gameplay.
Zoo Tycoon brings a new twist to the tycoon style of simulation games, challenging players to construct a healthy and vibrant zoo while managing animal and guest happiness. With more than 40 animals and over 175 habitat and zoo building materials, the game lets players build, manage and maintain a metropolitan zoo. Players can build an extensive menagerie, from traditional favorites such as elephants, lions and giraffes to more exotic offerings including pandas and white Siberian tigers. Players must decide how to turn a profit with their zoo -- some may choose the path of frugal management, while others may overcharge for admission and stiff the guests with an $8 soda!
Developed by Blue Fang Games LLC, Zoo Tycoon lets players construct a zoo or engage in one of 15 scenarios.
id Software's venerable action-shooter game, Doom, is coming to Game Boy Advance. The project is a joint development effort by id Software and David A. Palmer Productions. id and Palmer recently teamed up to bring Commander Keen, another well-known id franchise, to the Game Boy Color.
Published by Activision, Inc. , Doom for GBA will pit players against cyber-organic creatures and nightmarish demons as they blast their way through 24 3D levels. Armed with eight weapons, players must navigate treacherous architecture to avoid traps and use power-ups in a battle of skill and firepower.
The handheld version features multiplayer support through the GBA Game Link Cable. Two to four players can test their mettle in classic deathmatch through all of the single-player levels and an additional eight dedicated multiplayer levels. In addition, two players can team up to blast their way through single-player levels in Cooperative mode.
Also, Activision will publish two new id Software games: Quake IV and a new, as-yet untitled game. Quake IV is in development by Raven Software and marks a return to id Software's signature single-player gameplay experience set in the Quake II universe. Quake IV will use id Software's advanced new Doom game engine.
Microsoft and Gas Powered Games will not release Dungeon Siege in the fall of 2001, as originally scheduled; instead, the game will ship sometime in 2002.
“Our decision to delay the release of Dungeon Siege is one of the toughest we’ve had to make, but we firmly believe that this is the right choice given that one of the most critical steps in creating an RPG is the tuning and balancing stage,” said Chris Taylor, lead designer, Gas Powered Games.
Additional updates will be posted at http://www.microsoft.com/games/dungeonsiege/.
TimeGate Studios, Inc. and Loki Software, Inc. have posted the demo for Kohan: Immortal Sovereigns on the Linux platform at http://www.lokigames.com/products/demos.php3.
Game features include storyline, company-based combat system, classic military concepts, and the elimination of economy micromanagement found in other real-time fantasy strategy games. For more information, visit http://www.kohan.net .
The U.S. videogame industry is poised for several years of strong growth, as a number of industry heavyweights continue to invest in this expanding market. According to IDC's recently completed Videogame Consumer Survey report, from Sony's release of the PS2 almost a year ago to Microsoft and Nintendo's pending release of 128-bit consoles, the major players are preparing to grab their piece of what will be a $21.1 billion market by 2003.
Gamers are becoming increasingly interested in using their next-generation videogame consoles for online gaming. According to IDC's survey, 60% of gaming households showed high interest levels in online gaming. That number increased to 65% among PS2 households. Additionally, the ability to download games from the Internet was of high interest among 76% of respondents.
"The availability and adoption of broadband in U.S. households is definitely influencing online gaming," said Schelley Olhava, IDC senior analyst, Consumer Devices and Gaming research. "Broadband households have much higher interest levels in online gaming activities and are prime targets for an array of gaming options and services." Although only 6.5% of videogame households have broadband access, that penetration will continue to grow, which bodes well for next-generation consoles that are basing online gaming efforts on broadband communication.
The survey also revealed a changing face of the videogame user. Although young men remain the majority of gamers, young women are also working gaming time into their entertainment schedules. According to the survey results, a relatively high proportion of female teenagers are primary players on key platforms such as Sony's PS2 (9.1%) and the Sega Dreamcast (11.4%). Unlike their male counterparts, who enjoy the excitement of the latest football release or video invasions from outer space, the more subdued female gamer prefers classic arcade and city/business simulation games.
For more information on IDC's report Trends Today, Insights for Tomorrow, IDC's 2001 Videogame Survey (W25166), contact 508-988-7988 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Video game veteran RJ Mical has joined Fathammer as chief architect. Mical assumes the responsibility for designing the software architecture and development interface for Fathammer's mobile game engine, X-Forge. He will oversee the integration of third-party components as well as serve as a company spokesman and technology evangelist.
Mical joins the management team of Samuli Syvahuoko, founder, chairman and president; Brian Bruning, CEO; Fredrik Kekalainen, CTO and co-founder; and Arto Astala, executive vice president of development and co-founder.
Syvahuoko began his video game career organizing the original PC demo group Future Crew. He launched Remedy Entertainment, developer of the game "Max Payne," and co-founded MadOnion.com. Bruning has more than 10 years' experience in the electronic entertainment industry, having served in senior management roles at Red Jade, an Ericsson-backed mobile entertainment company and at 3D graphics accelerator pioneer 3dfx.
Mical has an notable career in the video game industry, dating back to his role on the development team for the original Amiga Computer. Prior to joining Fathammer, Mical was vice president of software engineering at Red Jade. Mical is also credited with co-inventing the Atari Lynx handheld video game system and co-architecting the 3DO entertainment console. Over the years he has also developed more than 15 video games.
Fathammer, with offices in Helsinki, Finland, and San Jose, Calif., has developed a cross-platform 3D video game engine for current and future mobile devices.
Zona, Inc., (http://www.zona.net), a massively multiplayer online game (MMOG) server solution provider, today announced that 20-year interactive entertainment industry veteran Bernard Stolar has joined the company’s advisory board.
Stolar is recognized for his leadership roles in several industry biggies, including as executive vice president Sony Computer Entertainment of America, president and COO of Sega of America, and president and CEO of Mattel Interactive. Notably, he was an integral member of the launch team for the Sony Playstation in 1995 and drove the Sega Dreamcast launch in 1999.
Stolar will be an active advisor.
“Zona has the right technology and management team in place now. I’m looking forward to helping them focus on these great assets to truly advance online video gaming for developers, publishers and ultimately consumers,” Stolar said.
Organizers of the upcoming 10-year anniversary of the CyberArts International Conference announced the conference and gala party for September 15-16, 2001.
This conference and mini-expo is being held in conjunction with and in support of YLEM <http://www.ylem.org>, a pioneering group of artists who use science and technology in their work. YLEM is celebrating its twentieth anniversary simultaneously, and is having a retrospective art show at Somarts Cultural Center September 4-22. The CyberArts X Festival will feature a two-day world-class conference, being held at San Francisco's Exploratorium, focused on new technologies and their impact on the arts, film, theatre, video, games, music, and other media, as well as an evening gala to be held at Somarts, the site of the YLEM art show. Invited presenters include well-known leaders in digital media: Jaron Lanier (VR pioneer), Brenda Laurel, John Perry Barlow, Larry Lessig (Stanford), Gary Rydstrom (Skywalker Sound), Michael Kaplan (Adobe Systems), Bruce Damer (Contact Consortium), Joan Collins-Carey (Siggraph), Michael Masucci (EZTV), and more.
In addition to the 3D "avatar" world for online interaction, Internet participants will be able to see streaming video of most of the conference in realtime, and on-demand after the event, courtesy of the Exploratorium. To attend, participate, or for more information, interested parties are encouraged to contact Bob Gelman <email@example.com> or call 650.851.7799.
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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