20 September 1999
Reported, written and edited by David Duberman
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Sony Computer Inc. (SCEI) last week let the cat out of the bag, announcing the launch details of its second-generation computer entertainment system, PlayStation2. The product will launch in Japan on March 4, 2000 with an expected initial week's shipment of one million units. The date's significance in Japan is that it's during the twelfth year of the current emperor's reign, hence 12/3/4.
Among the most consequential aspects of the announcement in broader terms was the confirmation of rumors that the unit would support playback of DVD-video movies. However, an infrared remote control will not be available (Spectrum assumes the game controller will serve for such purposes). Connectivity options are plentiful and adhere to existing standards; easy broadband access will enhance the unit's utility. Also, Sony expects a minimum of 85 titles to be available at launch time. While the Japanese launch price will be close to $400, it's reasonable to expect that figure to decrease by the U.S. launch, in fall '00.
Sony announced the following details of the new system:
We don't have room to list all 85 titles Sony announced (most by third parties), but here are a few of the cuter ones (names tentative) and categories:
It's also cute that Capcom has a title--Oni Musha--for which they've yet to decide on the category.
Trellix Corporation, a provider of Web site authoring
software, last week announced Web Gems. These add-ons let users enhance Web
sites built with Trellix Web by adding features such as maps, search
capabilities and affiliate links from merchants. Web Gems are available with
the Trellix Web v2.5 Tripod Edition now and will be available for all
Trellix Web editions in the coming months. New Web Gems will be released on an
ongoing basis and available free via download from the Trellix Web site (www.trellix.com).
Sony Computer Entertainment Inc. (SCEI) announced last week the release of the software development tools designed to support content creation for its new computer entertainment system, PlayStation2.
Sony says the tools offer several improvements over the development environment for the original PlayStation. The original PlayStation tools were supplied in the form of a PC extension board that required a PC or workstation. Connecting the PC or workstation to a network added further complexity to the development process. In contrast, the PlayStation2 development tools combine two separate operational modes in one unit: regular PlayStation programming/debugging mode and a new workstation mode. In the new mode, the tools can be used as a Linux-based workstation enabling developers to create graphics in the PlayStation2 development environment that were only previously possible on a separate workstation. When the development tools are employed with an Ethernet network connection, the result is a seamless development environment.
Product Name: PlayStation2 Development Tool (DTL-T10000)
Suggested Retail Price: 2,000,000 Yen (tax not included)
Dimensions: 230mm (W) x 405 mm (H) x 422mm (D) (9 1/8" x 16 1/8" x 16 5/8")
Weight: Approximately 13 kg (28 lbs. 8 oz.)
Microsoft's new Windows CE toolkit 2.0 for Sega Dreamcast reportedly offers game developers performance and feature gains, introduces two new modules for interactive music and Internet technology, and is optimized to take advantage of Sega Dreamcast hardware capabilities.
The software is designed to minimize the memory footprint, and includes elements from the DirectX 6.1 API libraries for 2D, 3D and audio special effects, input devices and online multiplayer capabilities.
New features supported are Internet Explorer 4.0 HTML Control, hardware bump-mapping, VQ texture compression, generalized modifier volumes, and real-time performance monitors. DirectMusic allows composers to create custom interactive music palettes, directing how music should change or intensify according to how well a user is playing, or associating the music with a particular character in the game.
The Windows CE toolkit 2.0 for Sega Dreamcast is scheduled to be available in early October. Additional technical information about Windows CE for Dreamcast is available on the Microsoft Developer Network Web site at http://msdn.microsoft.com/cetools/platform/support.asp. Those interested in registering as a Sega Dreamcast developer should visit the Sega Web site at http://www.dts.sega.com/NextGen/main.html.
Interacting online with people from throughout the world is a daily occurrence for millions of Internet users, yet most do it with little perspective on the virtual identity they are projecting. Now a multiplayer online game created by researchers at the Georgia Institute of Technology is offering insight to virtual community designers and members.
Called "The Turing Game," its object is to differentiate imposters from players telling the truth. Games can cover aspects of gender, age, race, religion, nationality, native region or any other cultural marker of the users' choice. Differentiating imposters by the content and style of their online written communication will reveal insights into how various cultural markers affect a person's virtual identity, researchers said.
"Rather than just studying identity online, why not create a way for everyone -- netizens and scholars alike -- to learn more about it through personal experience?" said Joshua Berman, a Georgia Tech College of Computing doctoral student who developed The Turing Game with his advisor Dr. Amy Bruckman. "And why not try to make it fun as well as intellectually engaging?"
Bruckman compares The Turing Game to the old game show called "To Tell the Truth." "You have a panel of people with all but one of them pretending to be something they are not," she explained. "The audience asks questions via the computer, trying to determine which panelist is telling the truth."
The Turing Game is based on the "Turing Test," named after British mathematician Alan M. Turing. Its intention is to see if a person could distinguish the differences between men and women without being able to see them -- basically doing it with written responses.
The game is a research tool for Berman's dissertation, which will explore identity and culture in online communities from two complementary perspectives. "I hope to help virtual community members understand the actions which create their public identities, and to help virtual community designers be aware of the cultural and social affordances of the societies they " Berman said.
Virtual communities, which are growing in popularity, are creating new educational and cultural opportunities that would not otherwise be possible. For example, U.S. students can regularly meet online with students across the world to play educational games and share project information.
"That's a powerful learning experience," Bruckman said. "The community support found in a virtual community can provide students with a lot of help."
But while virtual community support is a powerful tool, it is not fulfilling its potential effectiveness, Bruckman said. Community designers and members must first have a better understanding of virtual identity.
"Identity in online environments is still poorly understood," Berman said. "As online culture becomes an increasing part of everyday culture, it becomes more and more important for us to understand how it affects who we are. Our research aims to expand the body of knowledge about identity and culture online. We hope to expand that understanding not just for scholars, but for everyone who plays The Turing Game." Researchers hope to answer what they call some crucial questions for virtual community designers. "Is it possible to create a genderless classroom? A raceless courtroom? A rich environment where a user can be not just a pseudonym, but a person with a full history of culturally bound " they ask on their Web site. "The Turing Game is a participatory collaborative learning experience to help us understand these phenomena."
Online players have been trying out The Turing Game recently with questions designed to reveal a panelist's gender. Here's a sample Q & A from people trying to portray women: "What's your best beauty tip? Nicky says: Mix your own concealer with Oxy10. It's a better color than the one that comes out of the bottle. Rhonda says: Always blot your lipstick with a piece of tissue." Who was really a woman? Nicky.
Here's a sample Q & A from people trying to portray men: "What was the worst thing about your last significant other? Bob responds: She wanted me to hang out with her all the time. David says: She always had a comment for everything. Joe says: She was the 'clingy' type. I felt like I had to check in every hour." Who was really a man? David.
The Turing Game is now available to the public free of charge via an Internet-based virtual community at http://www.cc.gatech.edu/elc/turing/. It runs on any computer with Windows 95, 98 or NT 4.0. You must register to play online at any of the scheduled game times.
Eventually as interest increases, players will be able to log on and play at any time. Interest seems high; more than 1,200 people -- ranging in age from 18 to 89 -- in six continents registered to participate within the first month of the game's posting on the Web on July 21, 1999.
"Participants report being both amused and enlightened, seeing themselves and others in new ways," Berman said.
Prospective players are warned that what they say is immediately posted on the Web site -- people are identified by their online names -- and may be used in Berman's study.
The Turing Game is supported by a grant from Microsoft Research and by the National Science Foundation.
For technical information, contact: 1. Joshua Berman Telephone: 404-786-1698 E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org 2. Dr. Amy Bruckman Telephone: 404-894-9222 E-mail: email@example.com Georgia Tech Research News and Research Horizons magazine, along with high resolution JPEG images, can be found on the Web at http://www.gtri.gatech.edu/rco.html.
Canada-based Isee3D has finalized an agreement with RealNetworks Inc. for streaming Internet 3D video. The company is now proceeding to complete delivery of its "3D retail kit". The company also announced the launch of its content aggregation portal for September 21. The kit will provide consumers with tools to view live 3D events on the Web and the portal will be a viewing location for sourcing 3D content.
The portal will also permit immediate pre-registration for consumers who wish to receive the kit when it becomes available for shipment on October 15.
The company will be exhibiting its technology to attendees the Digital Hollywood convention in Los Angeles on Sept 27-29 (www.digitalhollywood.com).
Contact: Nigel Horsley, Isee3D Inc.
Electric Rain last week released Font FX v2.5, a $50, Windows-based 3D text rendering and animation tool. The program uses TrueType fonts and symbols to produce 3D text and logo animations with control of depth, colors, viewing angles, lighting effects, textures, and backgrounds.
Advanced features include texturing for surfacing and backgrounds, high-resolution printing, pre-built animation paths, and lightning-quick rendering speeds. Animations can be exported as AVI or GIF files, and Font FX v2.5 also allows vector-based EPS files to be imported and converted to 3D objects.
A thirty day evaluation version of Font FX v2.5 is available at http://www.erain.com.
FairMarket Inc., Microsoft Corp., Excite@Home and Ticketmaster Online-CitySearch Inc. (TMCS) today jointly announced a relationship that creates an online auction network. With the launch of the MSN.COM and Excite@Home auctions (http://auctions.msn.com/ and http://auctions.excite.com/) and the planned launch of TMCS auctions, FairMarket also unveiled the FairMarket Auction Network, an alliance of auction sites comprising the three new auctions along with auctions on Lycos, Tripod, XOOM.com, EarthLink, ZDNet, PBS Online, CBS SportsLine, DellAuction.com, CompUSAAuctions.com, Outpost.com, Boston.com, Global Vacation Group, NewLine Cinema, VH1.com and many other e-commerce leaders.
The network is a collection of merchant and community auction sites connected through a single database of goods and services that is shared across the network. For example, a customer looking for a Dell computer in an auction on MSN.COM, Excite or Lycos will automatically see merchandise available from the www.DellAuction.com site, as well as person-to-person auction listings from other FairMarket Auction Network sites. This strong network provides both a compelling marketplace for vendors selling new and refurbished high-quality merchandise to a huge online audience as well as an extremely dynamic trading place for person-to-person auctions.
Taking a cue from 3dfx, Aureal Inc., which previously only provided audio chips to sound-card manufacturers like Diamond, expects to begin shipping two new Aureal-branded sound card products, the Vortex SQ1500 and the Vortex2 SQ2500, to retail outlets within the next month. The new products will be exclusively marketed under the Aureal name by I/OMagic Corporation, a marketer of peripheral PC products.
The Vortex SQ1500 features include:
The Vortex2 SQ2500 features include:
Loki Entertainment Software, in cooperation with Activision, Inc. and the Atlanta Linux Enthusiasts, announces Loki Hack 1999 to be held on October 11 through 13 at the Cobb Galleria Centre in Atlanta in conjunction with the Atlanta Linux Showcase.
Loki Entertainment Software launched the Linux version of Activision's strategy game Civilization: Call to Power in May 1999. During Loki Hack, up to 30 qualified hackers will have 48 hours in a secure setting to make alterations to the Linux source code for this game. Loki will make available in binary form all resulting work from the contest. Winners of the contest will be announced during the Atlanta Linux Showcase. First prize will be a dual-processor workstation (running Linux of course).
The hackers will be able to add features, alter logic, or implement additional library support. Upon conclusion of the contest, a panel of judges will evaluate the hacks and award prizes to the best hack and runners up.
Linux is attracting millions of new users, many of whom--unlike the early adopters of Linux--don't come from a UNIX background. And if you come from a Windows or Macintosh background, Linux can be a little gnarly.
Bill McCarty's new book for new users, "Learning Red Hat Linux" (O'Reilly, $34.95), has just been released. The included CD-ROM contains a fully operational, complete version of Red Hat Linux.
Chapter 3, Installing Linux, is available free on the Web at: http://www.oreilly.com/catalog/redhat/chapter/ch03.html
For more information about the book, including Table of Contents, index, author bio, author interview, and samples, see: http://www.oreilly.com/catalog/redhat/
A cross-section of companies are investing in e-Business to improve customer relations, data capture and cost savings, according to new study, but usage is varied and has yet to be embraced by most functional areas across the typical organization. The data also indicates that even the majority of early adopting companies have not made e-Business a strategic priority.
Instead they are making short-term investments in Web technology and committing only limited resources to reshaping operations around an e-Commerce business model.
The data and findings are from the Hackett Benchmarking|solutions Best Practices Benchmark Study of e-Business. Part of AnswerThink Consulting Group, Hackett maintains a database of knowledge-worker functions like finance, human resources, information technology and procurement. Participants contributing to the e-Business study include companies in most business sectors, averaging $15 billion in annual revenues, and ranging in size from $450 million to more than $50 billion per year.
Companies in the study are budgeting for a 68 percent increase in e-Business investment during the next two years. Improving customer relations was reported as the primary driver for nearly 40 percent of them. But most companies, based on indicators in the study, are not making e-Business a priority because they believe inhibitors like security, internal culture, cost and systems integration will prevent them from benefiting from the investment.
Additional findings reflect the following:
CONTACT: James M. Kenny of Hackett Benchmarking|solutions, 330-656-3110, ext. 5349, or mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org
Interplay Entertainment Corp. and Liverpool, England-based Rage have agreed for Interplay to distribute entertainment titles from Rage in North America on several platforms. Included in the list of titles are Midnight GT, Off Road, Hostile Waters and Incoming for the SEGA Dreamcast.
Diamond Multimedia Systems and ESS Technology Incorporated last week announced a partnership under which Diamond will offer next-generation PC audio solutions based on the ESS chip platform. Diamond thus becomes the exclusive retail provider of ESS-based audio solutions in the western hemisphere. Diamond plans to launch its new accelerators in November 1999.
Eidos Interactive last week released its strategy simulation game, Cutthroats: Terror on the High Seas, for the PC. The game, which takes place in the seedy world of the 17th century Caribbean, lets pirate/players board ships, ransom hostages, sack towns, and generally wreak havoc. Seek a Letter of Marquee and fight for your King and country as a privateer or become a ruthless pirate; either way, remember to ply the crew with rum and treasure or face a mutiny.
Cutthroats: Terror on the High Seas features over six million miles of territory to explore, and over 70 ports to sack. In addition to the real-time top-down engine for fighting other ships, it features individual control of crew members when attacking a port. This allows the player to duck in, raze a few buildings, empty the treasury, and return to the high seas.
The title was developed by Bristol, England-based Hothouse Creations, creators of Gangsters: Organized Crime
It's ba-ack! The game that refuses to die, the multimedia marvel that carried Broderbund's bottom line for year after year (4.5 million units sold!), the title that launched the Miller brothers into fame, fortune, and show biz--Myst--is newly available in an enhanced "masterpiece edition" from Mindscape. New features include:
Will it return to the single-digit sales ranks? Mmmmm … could be!
Sony Computer Entertainment America last week released Omega Boost, a 3D shooter for the PlayStation game console. Created by Polyphony Digital, the developers of Gran Turismo, the game lets players take the role of Omega Boost, a sophisticated suit of armor, as he engages in dogfights with multiple enemies and travels through a time warp system man. Players can choose from first- and third-person viewpoints in full-360-degree environments and blast through 18 stages of mayhem, each with a boss and sub-boss to defeat and each with various objectives.
Visit us on the Web at http://www.playstation.com
Acclaim Entertainment, an entertainment software company known for titles including Turok and NFL Quarterback Club last week announced it is entering the girls software market. To that end, the company has signed an exclusive agreement with TV twins Mary-Kate and Ashley to appear in a line of interactive entertainment products designed for girls.
Terms of the deal call for Mary-Kate and Ashley to be featured in upcoming video games across all platforms including console, hand-held, and PC games. Two games are slated for release this holiday season.
"Mary-Kate and Ashley's Dance Party of the Century" for the PC takes gamers on a dancing tour through the 20th century and beyond. "The Adventures of Mary-Kate and Ashley" will bring puzzle solving based on their video, TV and publishing detective series to Game Boy Color.
Avid gamers themselves, the girls are playing a role in the development of the games. In addition, they are involved in the creation of game ideas, story lines and imagery, and will participate in blue screening, body scanning, and motion capture sessions to translate their images and movements into data used for creating video game characters.
The girls interactive segment has seen positive growth over the past several years according to PC Data, with 1998 PC sales surpassing $82 million, up 18% from the previous year. By 2000, analysts project sales in the PC category alone to top $400 million. Additionally, both Sony and Nintendo have reported significant increases in female usage over the past 2 years.
Two eagerly anticipated titles last week achieved gold status, meaning development is complete and they'll probably start showing up on store shelves in the U.S. in early October.
Ensemble Studios' Age of Empires II: The Age of Kings, published by Microsoft, is the sequel to the real-time strategy game Age of Empires, which has sold over three million units worldwide. The new title spans a thousand years, from the fall of Rome through the Middle Ages, in which players lead one of 13 civilizations into greatness. The game keeps the original's game play while evolving the combat and economic features. Starting with minimal resources, players are challenged to build their civilizations into mighty empires. Gamers can choose from several ways to win, including conquering enemy, accumulating wealth by extensive trading and diplomacy, building and defending wonders of the world.
Also, Sierra Studios' Homeworld lets players command a starfleet on a journey to the heart of the galaxy. The game includes 16 missions and two races in 3D environments, along with eight-person online multiplayer gaming. Homeworld is the debut release from Vancouver, B.C.-based Relic Entertainment.
Dynamix, a division of Sierra On-Line, offers online multiplayer fans a taste of Tribes action in a free, three-mission downloadable demo. The popular first-person shooter is designed for multiplayer online play for up to 32 players. Success in the missions depends on the ability of the team to work together to meet an objective, such as securing a base.
The downloadable Tribes demo features the following:
Ubi Soft Entertainment announced last week that Mortyr, the game developed by Mirage Media, will be published and distributed worldwide by the Dutch firm HD Interactive. HD Interactive will handle the marketing, localization and distribution of the title in all major markets.
Mortyr, scheduled for a PC CD-ROM release in October, is one of the portfolio of games Ubi Soft purchased from Interactive Magic Inc. in May 1999. Immediately after signing the deal with Interactive Magic, Ubi Soft expressed its interest in selling the Mortyr license.
Twelve months ago just over half of the people on the Internet were making purchases. Now nearly three quarters are buying and 82 percent of these are filling up their virtual shopping carts with multiple purchases, Greenfield Online announced last week at the company's Information Edge marketing conference in San Diego.
Generation X is doing the most online buying, with men just slightly more likely to be purchasing than women, according to Greenfield Online's quarterly Digital Consumer Shopping Index.
In the last 12 months, consumer e-commerce penetration peaked at 74 percent in the quarter after Christmas and then flattened at 70 percent in each of the next two quarters. Participation in online auctions also has plateaued at just over 40 percent for three quarters.
Here are the top items purchased online and shopped for online:
Top - 5 Items Purchased
Aug. 1999 Aug. 1998 Change
* Books 26% 10% +16
* CDs 24% 10% +14
* Computer Software 21% 11% +10
* Computer Hardware 13% 7% + 6
* Airline Tickets 12% 5% + 7
Top - 5 Items "Window Shopping"
Aug. 1999 Aug. 1998 Change
* Books 30% 18% +12
* CDs 29% 17% +12
* Airline Tickets 28% 18% +10
* Computer Software 28% 20% + 8
* Computer Hardware 24% 16% + 8
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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