Spectrum: Interactive Media & Online Developer News 22 September 1997

Reported, written and edited by David Duberman for editorial/ subscription inquiries, send mailto:duberman@dnai.com

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- David Duberman

 

Today's Headlines (details below)

--Guest Editorial

--WebSite Professional 2.0 Ships

--Pictorius Announces iNet Solo

--Paralogic Ships Chat Server

--HP Ships CD-RW Drive

--New Company to Produce DVD Video Authoring Systems

--New Oak Introduces Extranet Access Switch

--3Com Launches Lab for Multimedia in Enterprise Networks

--Companies Join Cisco to Accelerate Use of Data Services Over Cable

--NTT SOFT Launches New Multi-user VR Platform

--Rendition's New V2100 3D Accelerator Selected by Diamond for Stealth II

--Market Guide Offers Free Stock Screening Application

--Poetry Service Passes Million Hits

--Protocol Architecture for Wireless Apps Published on Web

--Microsoft, PBS Enhance TV Tech, Purple Dino

--idealab! Offspring Wants to Publish You!

--Thousand Authors Collaborate in Cyberspace

--Ezine Celebrates One Year, 50,000 Subscribers

--American Film Institute, Intel Team to Advance Digital Arts

--Game of the Week: Final Fantasy VII

--Multitude Announces Alpha Testing Plans for "Collaborative Play" Title

--Action-Strategy Game Offers Internet Warfare

--SCEA Signs Exclusive Deal with Eidos for Tomb Raider Franchise

--Next LastSaturdays Set for Oct 1

--About Spectrum

 

GUEST EDITORIAL

Editor's note: Multimedia producers require a functional Internet.

Discussing wider issues raised by the Geneva "Menorandum of Understanding" (gTLD-MoU) for managing generic top-level domain names (like ".com"), slated to become effective by February, the following is an edited excerpt from the essay "Global Sense: Calling the Question of Network Democracy," by Ken Freed.

 

THOUGHTS ON THE CURRENT STATE OF NETWORK AFFAIRS, WITH CONCISE REMARKS ON AN INTERNET CONSTITUTION

"I offer nothing more than simple facts, plain arguments, and common sense; and have no other preliminaries to settle with the reader, than that he [she] will generously enlarge his views beyond the present day."

--Thomas Paine, Common Sense

The central problems of democracy seem contained in the dispute over Internet expansion and the outcry over "privatization" of network administration by leading trade and professional organizations. The core question is fundamental. Shall our Internet be ruled by laws or by decrees, by networkers or technocrats? The choice is ours.

Someday, everyone alive could want a website, so we will need a lot of addresses. Authorizing additional generic categories of domain names is akin to declaring a land rush. Empires built from these new electronic domains could govern our lives in the next century, as do today's empires, so we ALL qualify as "network stakeholders."

A New Understanding

Because the Internet emerged as a free and open "public switched network," the right to govern the international network of networks is recognized (even by those who would be king) as a sacred public trust. The administrative power accorded by consensus to today's leadership has stayed unchallenged until their proposal stirred us to challenge our concepts of network governance. For these public servants now seem intent on installing themselves on the throne permanently in a system that lacks genuine public accountability about how and to whom they dispense parcels of cyberspace like royalty awarding land grants.

Whenever we tolerate a precedent of autocratic decision-making, the autocracy soon becomes entrenched. Freedoms lost can be regained only after anguish and travail. Why be a house divided against itself when Internet alchemy evokes a global sense of our interactivity?

Rather than keep habitually relying on management by hierarchy, business as usual, what if we agree instead on a new understanding of network democracy? Why rush into adopting the Geneva Memorandum or any other proposal? Recall all those early adopters who locked themselves into dead-end "solutions." So long as none of the competing plans have taken effect, the period of debate is not yet closed. Let us take time to meet and talk before we enact.

Risking a Constitutional Convention

A public inquiry is necessary at this time into our present and future vision of Internet governance. Before our Internet explodes, let's have a social contract. We need an Internet Constitution with policies that can't be changed at the whim of a committee. We need a Bill of Network Rights. We need a far-sighted document that institutes "participatory management" of our public switched network. And we need a trustworthy system of online electronic voting, one person one vote, perhaps accomplished through a secure browser form.

Negotiations could be rigorous, but if we interact with a global sensibility, we can agree on a network constitution that acknowledges and upholds our public and private rights and responsibilities.

A word of caution: Once any democratic constitution is offered for ratification by the Internet community, indeed, by the community of nations, the assembly developing the constitution then must be disbanded and replaced by a government elected through a democratic process. The new group must avoid committing the alleged sins of the old group. Private citizens never have a right to claim power over public affairs without the consent of the governed.

Only if we voice our concerns within the industry and to national officials can the "Internet Coup" be stopped. Now is the time for all good people with global sense to come to the aid of our network.

Note: Ken Freed's complete "Global Sense" essay is at his new Webzine, Media Visions (http://www.media-visions.com) along with links to many of the players in the contest for control over Internet domains. This inaugural edition of Media Visions also features a conversation with Esther Dyson. The next edition will include a dialogue with Discovery Channel founder John Hendricks plus essays by Sherry Miller and Adam Clayton Powell III. For more information, email Ken Freed ( mailto:kenfreed@media-visions.com ).

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WEBMEISTER

WebSite Professional 2.0 Ships

WebSite Professional 2.0 server is now shipping, O'Reilly & Associates has announced. Designed for higher-end Web developers who want to use a variety of the latest Web technologies, WebSite Professional 2.0 offers an open environment at SRP $799.

A full-featured time-limited WebSite Professional 2.0 demo will be available from http://Website.oreilly.com/ starting September 23. Users who download the demo can exercise all main functions of the software, including the Java software development kit (SDK), featuring the WebSite.Servlet package; a built-in HTML extension framework known as iHTML Professional, for ODBC database access; and Active Server Pages (ASP) support. Users can evaluate WebSite Professional's complete online store system, iHTML Merchant, and WebSite Pro's secure encrypted support, by acquiring a free test certificate from certificate authorities such as Thawte Consulting and Verisign.

Additional new and upgraded features for WebSite Professional 2.0 include:

* the ability to upload protected CGI: an important feature for Internet service providers (ISPs) who want to let their clients upload files and still maintain a high level of security for the ISP's own server

* IP-less virtual servers: multiple virtual servers can share a single IP address

* HTML editor HomeSite 2.5.

WebSite Professional 2.0 runs on Windows NT 4.0 or greater, or Windows 95.

A complete list of features is available at http://Website.oreilly.com/wspro2/productinfo/features_frame.html

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Pictorius Announces iNet Solo

Canada-based Pictorius Incorporated, announces Pictorius iNet Solo for Windows 95/NT 4.0, a tool designed for individual site developers. It uses a visual site representation that lets users maneuver through individual pages and branches of a site. The WYSIWYG site and page editor provides page organization, layout and editing. Users drag and drop HTML elements including text, graphics, fields and buttons to create a page.

iNet Solo includes Pictorius' On-Demand HTML architecture, said to eliminate the site management chaos caused by products that generate individual HTML files for each page and, as a result, cannot handle the differing and ever-changing browser features. On-Demand HTML means that any links are automatically updated when pages are deleted or moved eliminating the problem of lost links and missing pages.

iNet Solo is reportedly the first product of its kind to transparently support both Microsoft and Netscape versions of DHTML and Push technologies. Users can create channels by selecting a check box that designates a Web page as a channel. This allows subscribers to be kept up to date with the latest changes to a site.

iNet Solo comes with Agents, pre-written objects that can be dragged and dropped onto a page to add functionality. Pictorius iNet Solo Agents include time, date and counter agents, a search agent, discussion group agent, calendar agent and a survey agent. Drag-and-drop Java applets and ActiveX controls eliminate the need to write complex HTML code to embed these objects. The product supports Open Database Connectivity (ODBC), enabling users to integrate existing databases into their sites.

iNet Solo is scheduled to ship September 29 at $249US. Call Pictorius Sales at 1-800-927-4847 or send mailto:sales@pictorius.com

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Paralogic Ships Chat Server

Paralogic Corporation announces the immediate availability of ParaChat server release 2.0. ParaChat chat server powers Paralogic's network of more than 50,000 distributed chat rooms, said to be the world's largest distributed chat network.

MuxSock is Paralogic's new optimization module utilizing socket multiplexing to improve scalability and performance. Socket multiplexing allows multiple threads on communication to be channeled through a single socket to reportedly deliver more reliable, scalable and efficient performance. According to Paralogic, ParaChat with MuxSock can process well over 1,000 simultaneous connections on a single server and virtually unlimited number of simultaneous connections across multiple servers.

ParaChat server is written in Java and can be run on any machine that supports the Java Virtual Machine. ParaChat server has been tested on all major platforms including Sun Solaris and Microsoft Win/NT.

For more information, visit http://www.paralogic.com call 510-795-0559, fax 510-795-6181, or send mailto:info@parachat.com

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DEVELOPER'S TOOLBOX

HP Ships CD-RW Drive

Hewlett-Packard Company is shipping the industry's first full-function CD-ReWritable (CD-RW) drive, said to be as simple to use and universally accepted as a conventional floppy-disk drive, but with the qualities of a highly durable compact disc.

The HP SureStore CD-Writer Plus drive, available now through resellers, distributors and retailers, provides business and home users with up to 650MB of rewritable, removable capacity while retaining compatibility with the scores of millions of CDs in use today.

The HP SureStore CD-Writer Plus uses de facto industry-standard CD-Recordable (CD-R) as well as industry-standard CD-RW compact discs. It is the first drive available that takes full advantage of the compact disk-universal device format (CD-UDF) specification's file-by-file rewrite capability. The drive also supports HP-developed MultiRead compatibility to ensure compatibility with DVD-ROM, CD-R and CD-ROM drives.

The new HP SureStore CD-Writer Plus 7100i, internal, and 7100e, external, drives are expected to be available Oct. 1 through HP-authorized resellers, distributors and retailers worldwide. The 7100i is $499, and the external 7100e unit is $610.

Information about HP and its products can be found on the World Wide Web at http://www.hp.com .

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New Company to Produce DVD Video Authoring Systems

Spruce Technologies announced the launch of their company in Cupertino, Calif. last week. Established earlier this year, Spruce plans to develop the next generation of DVD Video authoring tools.

Company founders Dr. Hiromu Soga and Greg Wallace had both worked in MPEG-2 related businesses and seen the opportunities presented by DVD, and the limitations of existing authoring systems. "The DVD 1.0 specification offers a rich and complex feature set but, at 600 pages of dense type, does not make easy reading," said Wallace, Spruce VP of Engineering.

"Unfortunately, most authoring systems require significant understanding of this spec in order to use them."

Spruce's system creates an abstraction layer which allows the user to work in a visual space while shielding the user from the pain of the DVD specification itself. According to founder and CEO Dr. Soga, "Our approach not only reduces training time and increases creative freedom but also speeds up the authoring process, which is often the bottleneck in DVD production. Simpler operation and increased productivity are crucial to the rapid growth of authoring as DVD enters the mainstream."

The new system is expected to be formally launched early next year and will shortly be going into Beta test at user sites.

Contact Spruce Technologies' Pete Challinger at 408/863-9718 or mailto:petec@spruce-tech.com

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IN THE INFOGROOVE

New Oak Introduces Extranet Access Switch

New Oak Communications announces its NOC 4000 for remote access over the Internet. The unit combines technology for tunneling, encryption, quality of service, firewall security, and routing in a single hardware platform.

The NOC 4000, supporting from 200 to 2000 users, and including an unlimited license for New Oak's IPsec Extranet Access Client has a retail price of $50,000. It will be generally available in November 1997 and its first public demonstration will be at the October 1997 Networld+InterOp tradeshow in Atlanta in booth #7750.

New Oak Communications is on the Web at http://www.newoak.com

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3Com Launches Lab for Multimedia in Enterprise Networks

3Com Corp. has launched an initiative to speed the adoption and deployment of multimedia applications for corporate customers.

According to 3Com, these networked multimedia applications--such as desktop video conferencing, interactive workspaces, video streaming and networked telephony--will augment and improve people's ability to communicate and collaborate. The first step of the initiative is the opening of the 3Com Multimedia Laboratory, which will test applications from such firms as Microsoft Corp., Progressive Networks, VDOnet, PictureTel and Siemens.

The 3Com Multimedia Laboratory, open today, is a multi-million dollar, multi-vendor, multiprotocol facility designed to recreate enterprise networks. The laboratory can model any LAN and or WAN topology and is capable of testing multimedia traffic and its effects on traditional data and mission-critical applications.

The 3Com Multimedia Laboratory will attempt to answer the following questions for enterprise network customers wishing to deploy multimedia applications:

· "What effect will these applications have on my network?"

· "What will happen to my existing mission-critical applications?"

· "How will my new applications run?"

· "How do I phase deployment?"

· "What part of the network infrastructure should I upgrade first?"

3Com will deliver the following results to enterprise IS managers:

· research & testing

· customer multimedia networking guidelines

· pilot systems

· customer trials

For further information, visit http://www.3com.com .

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Companies Join Cisco to Accelerate Use of Data Services Over Cable

Networker Cisco Systems, Inc., and three consumer-electronics companies last week announced their support for an industry standard for cable modems and advanced subscriber units, and their intent to deliver products based on that standard.

Joining Cisco were Hayes Microcomputer Products, Samsung Electronics Corp., Ltd., and Thomson Consumer Electronics. Discussions with additional companies are underway to join the initiative.

The four companies have announced their intent to build equipment based on the Data Over Cable Service Interface Specification (DOCSIS), which defines technical specifications for equipment at both subscriber locations and cable operators' headends.

The companies hope that adoption of DOCSIS by system operators and equipment-makers will accelerate deployment of data-over-cable services, by reportedly ensuring that consumers can obtain reasonably priced cable modems at retail outlets or through service providers. The standard also will ensure interoperability of equipment throughout system operators' infrastructures, including a range of consumer devices.

Hayes, Samsung and Thomson have announced their intent to build cable modems or advanced subscriber units based on a DOCSIS-compliant product design from Cisco, which incorporates the MCNS DOCSIS Silicon Platform from Broadcom Corporation. Cisco intends to announce details of its MCNS Internet cable solution by the end of 1997.

The DOCSIS standard is managed by Multimedia Cable Network System (MCNS) Partners Ltd., an organization formed by four major cable television system operators--Comcast Cable Communications Inc., Cox Communications, Tele-Communications Inc., and Time Warner Cable. The effort also is supported by Rogers Cablesystems Ltd., MediaOne and Cable Television Laboratories Inc. (CableLabs).

More information is available at http://www.cisco.com .

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GRAPHICALLY SPEAKING

NTT SOFT Launches New Multi-user VR Platform

NTT SOFT launches its new multi-user virtual reality platform InterSpace.

InterSpace is said to be the first Internet-enabled (via 28.8Kbps modem) VR experience that allows face-to-face interaction in 3D environments among multiple users. The InterSpace client is free to download from http://www.ntts.com/interspace

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Rendition's New V2100 3D Accelerator Selected by Diamond for Stealth II

Rendition, Inc., a developer and supplier of graphics processors, announces the V2100, the newest member of the V2000 family of integrated 2D/3D graphics and video accelerators. Rendition also announced that the V2100 has been selected by Diamond Multimedia Systems, Inc. for its new Stealth II, model S220, graphics accelerator. The PCI-based Stealth II, incorporating the V2100, will begin shipping later this month for an estimated retail price of $119.95.

The V2100's single-chip design supports the Intel Advanced Graphics Port (AGP) standard, with a measured 3D WinBench '97 score of over 185, and a fill rate of 40 million pixels per second.

It supports multiple APIs at full performance including Direct3D, OpenGL and the Rendition-native APIs RRedline and Speedy3D.

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WEBSIGHTINGS

Market Guide Offers Free Stock Screening Application

Lake Success, NY-based Market Guide announces the pre-release of NetScreen ( http://netscreen.marketguide.com ), a free Java-based stock screening application.

In addition to creating basic stock screens such as searching for a "list of all companies with PE ratios less than 15," NetScreen allows the user to create complex stock queries by comparing one variable to another and also including equations in the screening expression such as searching for "a list of all companies whose earnings are growing 75 percent faster than their revenues."

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Poetry Service Passes Million Hits

Poetry Daily ( http://www.poems.com/ ), a Web site for professionally published poetry, passed one million hits at the end of August after less than five months in operation. Founded in April of this year, the online anthology offers a new poem every day from more than 50 poetry book and journal publishers. The service is one of many sites benefiting from the growing popularity of poetry on the World Wide Web.

"Our goal is to make poetry a part of daily life again," said co-founder Don Selby. "Using the Web, our readers can enjoy a new poem over their morning coffee, at the start of their work day, or on their lunch hour. "

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TECHNOTES

Protocol Architecture for Wireless Apps Published on Web

Ericsson, Motorola, Nokia and Unwired Planet introduce the architecture of the Wireless Application Protocol for public review and comments on the World Wide Web.The new information forum for Wireless Application Protocol can be found at http://www.xwap.com

The Wireless Application Protocol is currently at the architecture phase.

The protocol will include specifications for transport and session layers as well as security features. Over and above these network layers, the protocol will define an application environment including a microbrowser, scripting, telephony value-added services and content formats. The Wireless Application Protocol will be scaleable so applications are able to make the best use of available display and network data transport capabilities across a broad range of terminal types. Services can be created from single-line text displays in standard digital mobile phones to highly sophisticated smart phone displays.

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CONSUMER CHANNEL

Microsoft, PBS Enhance TV Tech, Purple Dino

Microsoft Corp. and the Public Broadcasting Service (PBS), through its PBS National Datacast subsidiary, last week unveiled an enhancement in the educational use of television technology. Beginning Nov. 3, PBS' "Barney & Friends" will carry a specially encoded signal and animation technology from Microsoft that will enable Microsoft ActiMates Interactive Barney to interact with the program. Microsoft ActiMates is an early-learning system for children ages 2 to 5 that works alone, with the VCR or with the PC.

Utilizing an unseen portion of the broadcast signal, "Barney & Friends" will air with an encoded signal, which will be read by a transmitter that comes with the ActiMates TV Pack and is hooked into a television VCR. The transmitter will then decode the data and transmit it to a wireless receiver in the Microsoft ActiMates unit, enabling a Barney toy to comment on and reinforce positive themes in the television show.

The encoded episodes of "Barney & Friends" initially are scheduled for broadcast by 20 PBS member stations in markets including New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Boston and Philadelphia. A total of 68 programs are to be encoded for broadcast between November 1997 and April 1999. More stations are expected to be added over the next year.

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THE DIALS & LEVERS OF POWER

idealab! Offspring Wants to Publish You!

ideaMarket, one of the Internet companies hatched by idealab!, now invites anyone with "expertise" - in any field - to submit written material for publication and sale on the Web.

Says Bill Gross, founder of idealab!, "We believe that almost everyone has knowledge or expertise that can be profitably shared with others. We are creating an online forum where anyone can write an article - we call it an Expert Report - and submit it to us for publication. If it contains useful ideas or value added information, we will publish the report and make it available for sale on our Web site."

Authors get up to half of the sale price - ideaMarket gets the other half.

Expert Reports remain online for as long as they are in demand. "A popular report can easily net $5,000 per year for the author - not a bad return compared with traditional print publishing," notes Gross.

Anyone wanting to be published on ideaMarket should send a content proposal by email to roger@ideamarket.com, or visit http://www.ideamarket.com and click on the "Contribute" button.

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Thousand Authors Collaborate in Cyberspace

What happens when 1,000 people from 26 countries work together to write a book? Either absolute chaos or the possibility of some amazing results!

"Most people would consider this to be an absolute organizational nightmare, but with an email discussion list on the 'Net, it's easy," said Hal Croasmun, moderator of the INFLUENCE discussion list. "We're working with such an important topic. Influence is one of the most valuable skills you can have if you want to succeed in today's work environment. If you can influence, you can get things done with people."

The list has already discussed such topics as "International influence", "What truly influences people?", and "How do you get commitment that sticks?" Their next topic is "How do you make something irresistible?" and you are invited to be part of it.

"We've got wisdom coming from many different cultures and all different walks of life," said Croasmun's partner, Alston Boyd. "We are discussing people's experience of what really works and at the same time, writing a book called "The Rules of Influence: How to Get Anything You Want in Life."

To observe or be part of it, send mailto:majordomo@po.databack.com In the body: subscribe influence

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Ezine Celebrates One Year, 50,000 Subscribers

We checked this one out briefly, and it looks quite worthwhile.

Lockergnome's free Windows 95/NT ezine (electronic newsletter) marks its one year anniversary on September 25, 1997, with more than 50,000 individuals from over sixty countries. The award-winning publication keeps a loyal subscriber base up to date with Windows 95/NT and Internet information, provided with a charming, personal twist.

To find out more about Lockergnome or to subscribe visit http://www.lockergnome.com

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American Film Institute, Intel Team to Advance Digital Arts

The American Film Institute (AFI) and Intel Corporation have announced an initiative supporting members of the Hollywood creative community in the evolution of digital entertainment.

Among the anticipated activities are:

--Intel sponsorship of the AFI Los Angeles International Film Festival, allowing AFI to create interactive sessions and exhibitions during the film event, held each October in Hollywood.

-- Creation of a new "Interactive Star" Award to be given for individual creative achievement in the emerging interactive digital media field. The "Interactive Star" Awards will be presented at a ceremony during the AFI film festival beginning in 1998.

-- Creation of an AFI-Intel interactive production workshop at AFI, at which top creative talent from the traditional fields of entertainment and media arts will explore their ideas for new online and interactive media.

-- Intel will join the California Arts Council in supporting a California Digital Arts Workshop, scheduled for December 1997.

-- Initiation of an annual symposium and exhibition of outstanding work in the interactive field.

-- Expansion of AFI OnLine, AFI's Web site.

More information on AFI can be found at http://www.afionline.org .

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GAMES PEOPLE PLAY

Game of the Week: Final Fantasy VII

The other day, we were telling an acquaintance about Final Fantasy VII, the latest in the venerable console role-playing game (RPG) series from Japan-based Squaresoft, published by Sony exclusively for PlayStation. "Is it like Ultima?" we were asked. Nope, not quite. The console RPG is a unique genre, essentially different from anything available for computers.

They're almost exclusively developed in Japan, and typically involve anime-type characters in a quest to save the world from some horribly evil entity. Like their computer-based ilk, there are usually sub-quests, puzzles and treasures, as well as many randomly generated encounters with various types of monsters that help develop characters and fill their pockets. The big difference, though, especially as compared to go-anywhere-anytime games like Ultima, is that console RPGs are typically quite linear, and we wouldn't have it any other way. In a game of this size, you really don't want to waste time wandering around trying to find the next phase of the story.

Yes, FF7 is quite huge; it comes on three CD-ROMs, and is estimated to take upwards of 60 hours to complete, even without futzing around in the limited branching available. The story, which takes place in a Blade Runner-type near-future scenario, involves Shinra, an energy-hungry giant multinational corporation. The company is on the trail of an ancient race called Cetra, to help it find the "promised land," a source of unlimited energy that it can drain for its nefarious purposes. Fighting Shinra is Avalanche, a small band of do-gooders headed by Cloud, who formerly served with Shinra's military branch, Soldier. He's suspected by the others at first, but quickly proves himself, especially when he recruits Aeris, possibly the only surviving member of the Cetra. Complicating things is Sephiroth, a manufactured being of incredible power who was once Cloud's mentor in Soldier, but subsequently went seemingly mad and is now on a rampage.

At its heart, FF7 is not fundamentally different from previous console RPGs. For example, as you wander cities and the countryside, your party of three encounters monster bands at random intervals, whereupon a battle scene ensues on a special screen. This is where one of the first big differences occurs. Combat in most console RPGs is phased; each character takes its turn, and you can wait (and plot your strategy) as long as you want between turns. In FF7's default real-time combat mode, however, you must think and act quickly to succeed. Fortunately for beginners, there's an option to turn the timer off while selecting commands such as magic and items.

Another noticeable difference between FF7 and its two-dimensional predecessors is the look of the game. All of the imaginatively designed backgrounds and cut-scene animations are rendered in 3D, on high-end graphics workstations. They look just great, evoking a kind of steam-punk atmosphere. The characters themselves are made of polygons, allowing them to scale effortlessly between the size of a few pixels and near-full screen without the overhead of cel animation. Although the world is essentially 2D, clever programming enables a convincing pseudo-3D effect, with the characters able to climb ladders, walk towards the camera while growing in size, and so on. Another innovation is the clever use of Materia, gems that can be placed into slots in weapons and armors, giving them many additional offensive and defensive capabilities. Adding to the intrigue of Materia usage is the ability to combine the gems in almost countless ways for additional effects.

Of course, no game is perfect, and FF7 is not an exception, although we had to look hard to see any flaws. The dialogue (printed rather than spoken--can't wait for DVD console RPGs!) is of a higher caliber than in most such games, with a few embarrassing exceptions, such as lines like, "There's so many frivolous things in this world." Also, the default control system takes a bit of getting used to, with the Cancel function activated by X, the button used for selection in most PlayStation games. But mostly, the game is just perfect.

We could go on and on about FF7, but suffice to say it's a thrilling, enthralling game full of convincing character interaction, highly satisfying eye candy, surprising plot twists, lots of in-game help, interesting side trips such as a theme park with all kinds of games, and much, much more. In our opinion, it comes closer to the ideal of interactive storytelling that visionary game designers have been talking about recently than does any other title to date. As did Donkey Kong Country with platform games, FF7 sets a new, very high standard for the console RPG, and it'll be interesting how future titles compare.

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Multitude Announces Alpha Testing Plans for "Collaborative Play" Title

San Mateo, Calif.-based Multitude, Inc. announces plans for the Alpha testing of its flagship game, FireTeam. The company stated that testing will begin later this month and that it is now accepting applications from eligible game players from the consumer arena.

Would-be testers for any of FireTeam's test programs (including the forthcoming Beta test in late fall) should apply immediately by completing a questionnaire now available on the company's Web site at: http://www.multitude.com

Built specifically for the Internet from the ground up, FireTeam is a dynamic multiplayer combat game that engages players in realistic situations of intense, shared danger and conflict. Individuals join teams of 2 - 8 players who work together as part of a collaborative unit, defeating opposing teams of other real people within a wide range of compelling scenarios and settings.

FireTeam employs real-time voice communication to encourage team cooperation within a socially engineered environment, where players can interact easily and naturally. The result is a social experience based on a new genre coined Collaborative Play. In addition to team play and social engineering, the design elements behind Collaborative Play include "Intensified Reality" and "Just-in-Time content."

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Action-Strategy Game Offers Internet Warfare

The downloadable demo of NetStorm, Activision, Inc.'s real-time action strategy game is now available at ( http://www.activision.com ). The NetStorm demo offers six early missions, three single-player missions and multiplayer play.

"NetStorm has been designed from the ground up for multiplayer Internet warfare," states Bobby Kotick, Chairman and CEO, Activision, Inc. "The demo's advanced features include virtually no lag, effortless player matching and true alliances, and players will be given a unique online gaming experience that encourages long-term strategizing and planning."

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SCEA Signs Exclusive Deal with Eidos for Tomb Raider Franchise

Sony Computer Entertainment America announced that the Tomb Raider franchise, featuring leading character Lara Croft, will be exclusive to the PlayStation for game consoles.

Released in November 1996, the original Tomb Raider game from Eidos Interactive and Core Design, was one of the best-selling videogames of all time with more than 1.5 million units sold for the PlayStation game console worldwide. Marking its one-year anniversary with a highly anticipated sequel, Tomb Raider 2 is scheduled for release in November 1997.

Visit http://www.playstation.com

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HAPPENINGS

Next LastSaturdays Set for Oct 1

After a brief hiatus, Bob Ayres and the LastSaturdays crew are back in action, and have set an event for October 1 in San Francisco at 6:30 pm.

The event, at 1015 Folsom, is an opening night gala reception for the Seybold SF Conference at Moscone Center. This will be a large cocktail reception, on two levels, including live jazz, light appetizers and over 20 technology demos.

Some remarkable digital imaging technology and tools will be on display as well as a peek at the new I.E. 4.0

Attendence is open (free with or $10 without post card invite).

Reservations recommended at 415-764-2967

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F.Y.I.

About Spectrum

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.

Send your interactive multimedia business, product, people, event, or technology news to: duberman@dnai.com. We prefer to receive news by email but if you must, telephone breaking news to 510-549-2894. Send review product and press kits by mail to David Duberman, 1609 Addison St. #6, Berkeley, CA 94703.

If you contact companies or organizations mentioned here, please tell them you saw the news in Spectrum. Thanks.

 

(c)Copyright 1997 Motion Blur Media. All rights reserved. No reproduction in any for-profit or revenue-generating venue in any form without written permission from the publisher.

Spectrum