Spectrum: Interactive Media & Online Developer News 23 September 2002

Reported, written and edited by David Duberman
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Today's Headlines (details below)


FEATURE REVIEW
--messiah:animate

GRAPHICALLY SPEAKING
--BioVirtual Ships 3D Character-Production Tool --Viewpoint Releases Product Swap Software

TECHNOTES
--Essential Reality Set to Launch 3D Glove

CONSUMER CHANNEL
--Digital 3D Innovator Schklair to Address Digital Hollywood --X3D Tech Turns PC into 3D TV

THE DIALS & LEVERS OF POWER
--Mini Book Review: Pause & Effect

GAMES PEOPLE PLAY
--Blizzard Announces Console StarCraft
--Square, Disney Ship Kingdom Hearts for PS2 --Sierra Ships Empire Earth Add-On
--Activision Announces Wreckless for Gamecube --CDV Ships Sudden Strike II, Divine Divinity for PC

DIGERATI ILLUMINATI
--Eurographics 2002 Web3D Winners Announced

F.Y.I.
--About Spectrum
___________________________________


FEATURE REVIEW

: messiah:animate< By David Duberman For years, software developer pmg has been a top name in LightWave 3D circles; its project:messiah plug-in program is used widely for character animation, including in some high-profile Hollywood projects. Now the developer is branching out with messiah:animate (m:a), a stand-alone 3D character-animation application that also works with 3ds max. The product will also eventually become part of a forthcoming suite that will include rendering software and an SDK for developing plug-ins. The user interface is similar to that of LightWave 3D's (LW) Layout component; the dominant feature is a large window, called the World View, with one, two, or four viewports onto the scene. Each size-adjustable viewport contains buttons to set the point of view, including the view from the selected object. The viewport also contains other viewport buttons that you drag on to move and scale the view. This latter takes a bit of getting used to, unless LW is your usual app. At the left is the command interface panel, whose contents are determined by which of the program's eight modules is active, and in some cases by the active sub-module as well. The command panel typically consists of a list of the scene elements above several vertically stacked modules, called "blocks" (equivalent to 3ds max's rollouts) each of which can be expanded or collapsed. The non-standard interface doesn't use a scroll bar or respond to the mouse wheel, so if a module is below the bottom of the screen, you can view it either by dragging the divider between the list and the modules vertically, or collapsing one or more modules; it's a bit awkward. As in LW, and a number of other 3D apps, the basic animation controls are grouped at the bottom of the screen. Here you can use the VCR playback functions and edit keys, and also like LW, this area contains a drop-down list for selecting an object. The program defaults to auto-key mode, where transforming an object creates a key at that frame, but you can easily switch to manual keyframing; a similar option exists for updating keys. A timeline in this area displays keys and lets you move them horizontally. And dragging the timeline upward reveals a curve graph that lets you change key values by dragging them vertically. The UI can be somewhat confusing; for instance, Save and Export functions appear in a section named Load Items. Also, when you position the mouse over a panel edge that can be resized by dragging, the mouse cursor usually switches to the standard two-headed arrow, but not always. Here's a real design goof: You can choose a specific channel to transform, such as x-axis position (xpos) from a pop-up in the viewport, or by pressing a number key. The pop-up shows the channel names, but after you choose one, the viewport button shows a number. However, the number is it shows is one less than the number you press to get the channel. For example, if you choose xpos from the pop-up, the viewport buttons shows 0, but to access the same channel from the keyboard, you press 1. That's not very friendly. Add to my list of gripes the fact that the program offers only one level of undo, and can't undo certain operations, such as adding a bone. On the other hand, the user interface has some very nice features. A toggle button in each window centers the current selection in the window. That's nothing new, but if you leave the button on, then moving the selection keeps it centered, while the rest of the scene moves past it in the view. This takes a bit of getting used to, but is very handy for positioning bones in a close-up view. No more having to manually scroll the window contents when you get to the edge, because you never do; as long as you keep moving the mouse, the window keeps scrolling. You change the Display Mode setting separately for each object in the scene (and, optionally, its descendants) by clicking a letter in the Item List. Each click goes to the next or previous choice, and with 10 modes available, this can result in a lot of clicking. pmg should have used a drop-down list, with full names rather than cryptic single letters, and/or keyboard input for this setting. At any rate, the modes include invisible, bounding box, points only, wireframe, flat/smooth shaded, and line view. Additionally, the weighted display mode shows a bone's influence on geometry, the toon mode shows inked outlines with no shading, and the anime mode shows inked outlines with smooth shading. The manual doesn't explain most of these, but they're pretty obvious once you see them. The Modules m:a comprises a number of tabbed modes; the active mode determines which settings and other features are available on the left side of the interface. To avoid writing a book-length review, so I'm going to rush through these, and suggest strongly that, if you want to know more, you download the demo and do the tutorials. File mode lets you load, save, and export files; you can export in LightWave 5.x and 6.x, .obj, .3ds, and DXF. This is also where you add basic objects such as nulls and cameras, copy objects with clone/mirror/replace commands, rename objects, set program options, and specify up to 25 project directories in addition to the default one. Animate mode is the command center, and has far too much functionality to describe in detail. However, much of the usage I describe elsewhere in this review takes place here. Then there's Compose mode, where you do non-linear animation editing. This is a powerful feature, and it's implemented well. Basically, you copy a set of keys to a clip, which appears as a block on the timeline, which you can then move, copy, scale, and scale with repeating. There's much more to it, but that will serve as a brief introduction. Setup mode is as important as the Animate mode. It's where you create and modify hierarchies, and add effects, of which the most valuable is Bone Deformation, about which more shortly. Other useful effects include Flex and FlexMotion, both of which enable deformation using control points on a spline; Flex affects a mesh directly, while the more powerful FlexMotion controls bones, which in turn deform the mesh. Command mode is where you set up and apply expressions, which let you apply mathematical formulas to your animations. This is done largely using a point-and-click interface. For instance, without typing, you can specify that one object follow another, using only one axis of the latter's motion. Then, with a bit of typing, you can make the expression a bit fancier, specifying, for example, that the first object should move twice (or half) as fast as second. It mostly works pretty well, but certain aspects of the Command mode interface weren't very well thought out. For instance, you can add elements from the scene to your expression by right-clicking a blank button next to a blank field labeled Buffer. Who knew? There's also the Edit mode, for working with keys; Play mode, for working with audio and creating animation previews; and Customize, for such functions as setting up lighting, toggling the auto-save feature, and saving motion in various formats. Animation in m:a Creating transform animation in m:a is straightforward. First, you go to the frame at which you want to set a key, and select the object to animate. The program offers several selection methods, including clicking the item in a list or middle-button clicking it in the World View. Selecting an object activates its edit sphere, a simple wireframe widget with buttons for translation and rotation actions. Depending on where you start dragging, you can move the object along a specific axis or plane, or rotate it about any of the three axes, described (as in LW) as heading, pitch, and bank. Transform operations can be counter-intuitive; often, when you want to move an object one way, you have to drag in a different direction. As you perform transforms in the viewport, a real-time numeric readout next to the edit sphere shows the change. You can use local or world coordinates for transforms by dragging with the right or left mouse button, respectively. However, using world coordinates can be a bit confusing, since the edit sphere always shows local orientation. Dragging the center of the edit sphere lets you perform planar translation, but I couldn't figure out how to translate interactively on the YZ plane in the Perspective viewport. The edit sphere works closely with the Motion block, which uses a spreadsheet layout for entering transforms from the keyboard and specifying channels to manipulate in the viewport. This lets you also use the edit sphere for gross manipulation, and the Motion settings for fine-tuning animation keys. Speaking of which, when you create Move keys, the motion appears as a spline curve in the active viewport. You can go to a key by clicking a spline vertex, move the key by dragging the vertex, and set each vertex's type to TCB--with individual controls for tension, continuity, and bias--or Bezier, Linear, or Stepped. It's very useful to be able to see and manipulate keys in the viewport. A large part of character animation is creating a bone structure, also known as rigging the character. Typically, for the arms and legs, you rig one side, and then mirror the structure over to the other side. pmg has made the mirroring step absurdly simple; you press a key, and it's done. Another important setup function is creating and modifying a hierarchy; pmg's elegant solution to this consists of simply dragging an item to its desired parent or child in the hierarchical Item List. When rigging a character, you have a wide choice of methods. You can add bones one at a time, creating the hierarchy later, or you can add a bone that automatically become the child of the one currently selected, and is positioned and oriented with respect to its parent. You can do either of these from the Skeleton block or, in "realtime" mode, by clicking in the viewport. A nice feature here is the Split Bone command, which creates two end-to-end bones from one, with both placed correctly in the hierarchy. You can split a bone in half automatically, or specify the split location. In some 3D programs, a time-consuming aspect of rigging a character is adjusting influence envelopes so each bone affects only the mesh vertices you want it to. But with m:a, it's pretty much automatic. For example, a one-bone rig controls the entire mesh. If you have two bones, they each control half of the mesh, more or less; of course, positioning is important. As a simple test, I added two bones to a T Rex mesh: one near the shoulders and second near the hips. If I then rotated the latter, the whole back half wagged, and rotating the upper one affected the upper half ... plus the fronts of the toes. Naturally, this isn't a realistic skeleton; you'd need a few more bones to animate the critter in a useful way. The main point here is that, although you can control bone influence regions manually if you want, you'll probably never have to. Other neat bone features: A bone can act as a muscle, so it stretches and contracts realistically in response to the motion of other bones. This requires a bit of setup, but is pretty effective once you get the knack. Also, the handy Slip setting lets you tweak deformations around the end of a bone, so you can control how skin bunches up when you bend the joint. Of course, m:a offers comprehensive IK features. Setup is a bit more involved than in some other programs, but this allows more flexibility. One nice feature is the ability to set, for each bone, which way it bends with one click. Connecting to max You connect m:a to 3ds max via a limited-function modifier plug-in for the latter that lets you use m:a for character rigging and animation, and max for everything else. Basically, the way you use it is to create the geometry (polygon mesh only) in max, send it to m:a, rig it and animate it, and then return it to max for texturing, lighting, rendering, etc. The data added in m:a is embedded in its modifier; the only way to alter the rigging and/or animation is to send it back to m:a. Similarly, m:a doesn't work with a max character rig, whether using bones or a biped from Discreet's character studio software. As long as you can accept those limitations, it works fine. I was able to create an object in max, rig and animate it in m:a, and then bring it back to max and add object-level transform animation with no problem. The Docs The program manual comes in electronic, HTML-based format only. It's fairly well organized, which is important, because there's a lot of information here. Unfortunately, it takes relatively little advantage of one of the most important HTML features: cross-linking. If you stumble across an unfamiliar term, typically you're on your own as far as finding out what it means. For example, at one point, a tutorial made a cryptic reference to an Apply function, which I had no idea how to use. So I used the Search facility to find "Apply," only to turn up no results, even though the word appeared twice in the tutorial I was working in. Another of the great potential benefits of electronic documentation is the opportunity to perform a thorough search, but it's apparently not as well implemented here as it might be, although I did find other search terms without too much trouble. The manual contains a good number of tutorials, and many of the illustrations are animated, which helps a great deal in illustrating concepts that would otherwise have taken excess verbiage to describe. However, these same animations, which repeat automatically, can be distracting when you're trying to read a nearby text passage; it would have been desirable to be able to turn them off. There are also two simple video tutorials: one on using bones and morphing animation together, and another on rigging a leg with a bones and applying IK. The tutorials keep telling you to make settings that are already made, so you're reading a lot of unnecessary instructions. Also, I reviewed version 3.2 of m:a, but the only manual available was for 3.0, so it was somewhat out of date. Last and least, the writing is a bit cutesy for my tastes, although it's wittier than other attempts I've read. Also, rendered animations are available from a camera icon that appears at various points in the manual. One of these shows Tia, an head-and-shoulders model of a girl whose face is expressively animated using a combination of morphing and bones animation, which would be difficult to accomplish in other applications. The scene file is included, so you can examine the sophisticated methods used to create the animation. Conclusion I've picked a lot of nits here, but that's my job; overall, I'm very impressed with messiah:animate. pmg prides itself on creating software designed by animators, and this pedigree shows. Basic animation can be created in m:a as easily as or more easily than in competing products, but the program is capable of highly advanced animation as well. The emphasis on character animation is obvious; its ability to create a full bones structure from a BioVision-format (.bvh) mocap file, which works flawlessly with .bvh files included with Discreet's character studio, is by itself almost worth the price of the software. The additional features, such as dynamics and particles (at least, once the latter is implemented), are nice, but not really necessary. messiah:animate is reasonably stable, too; it rarely crashed while I was using it. The software has its idiosyncrasies and some not-very-intuitive methods, but what package at this level of sophistication doesn't? Actually, among the idiosyncrasies is the fact that it's very much a work in progress; some features don't work yet. But even in its current form, it's a very capable piece of software. Before I conclude, I should advise you to take this review with a grain or two of salt. m:a is a large and complex program, and for this to be a fully authoritative evaluation, I'd have to use the software over an extended period of time in a production environment. But that's not practical for any number of reasons. Despite my relatively limited experience with messiah:animate, I can recommend the software highly to those interested in 3D character animation, whether in conjunction with LightWave 3D or 3ds max, or even without either of those. Combine its wealth of character-animation features at a reasonable price with an active and helpful community of over 1,800 users at Yahoo groups, and you've got a number of convincing reasons to buy this program. Don't take my word for it; download the demo from the pmg Website (see below for URL). It does everything the final version does except save. I also encourage you to join the project:messiah Yahoo group (http://groups.yahoo.com/group/pmGmessiah/) and ask questions of the users and pmg folks there. http://www.projectmessiah.com ___________________________________

GRAPHICALLY SPEAKING

BioVirtual Ships 3D Character-Production Tool Just out from Manchester, England's BioVirtual is the professional multimedia version of its 3D character-production suite, 3DMeNow Designer ($499). The 3D technology generated last year's BBC2 trailers, featuring a digital Anne Robinson (singing, turned into a frog, exploding head). Designer builds on perimeter-based photoalignment and WYSIWYG animation-editing tools with an upgrade aimed at creating 3D human avatar content. Photogrammetry lets users build the models using a simple control-point (perimeter-based) methodology New features include: * Content can be output as Web video as well as in real-time 3D. * built-in audio editing * automatic lip-synch from audio * includes a range of facial expressions for different kinds of facial animation * more-realistic human models; new models include head and upper torso, as well as bust (head and neck) and head alone. * improved animation functions, including background image keyframing as well as key visibility tracks * unrestricted commercial license http://www.biovirtual.com/3DMeNowDesigner ___________________________________ Viewpoint Releases Product Swap Software Viewpoint Corporation last week released Product Swap, a 2D color- and texture-swapping tool designed for Web retailers and merchandisers. Leveraging Viewpoint's new ImageLayer technology for 2D images, Product Swap allows shoppers to interactively change out colors, textures and materials in a product shot from a single master photograph. http://www.viewpoint.com/retail/ ___________________________________

TECHNOTES

Essential Reality Set to Launch 3D Glove Essential Reality says it will ship its $149 P5 glove for the PC during the week of October 21, with a console-based version coming out next year. Based on the company's bend sensor and tracking technologies, the hand-worn controller reportedly gives users intuitive interaction with 3D environments. While the P5 can function in "mouse mode" by default, it is designed to deliver an enhanced experience that frees PC game players from the constraints of complicated keyboard/mouse combinations. As a result, while the P5 will work with almost any PC game, its true power is said to be fully realized only with games that have been especially enabled for it. http://www.essentialreality.com/products.html ___________________________________

CONSUMER CHANNEL

Digital 3D Innovator Schklair to Address Digital Hollywood "Digital 3D is all about added value for the consumer," says Steve Schklair, CEO, Cobalt Entertainment, and featured speaker at Digital Hollywood, Sept. 23-25 at the Beverly Hilton Hotel in Beverly Hills. Schklair is speaking on the panel entitled "Immersive Technology on TV, Movies and the Net -- Expanding the Visual Horizon." He will address the challenge of finding and maintaining an audience for the digital technology that will shape entertainment in the near future. "All major US markets now have on-air HDTV content available, yet consumers are still slow to upgrade to the new technologies. Why? Perhaps we need to give them more than just a prettier picture." Schklair continues, "History has demonstrated many times over that new platforms such as HDTV need applications that add real value before they will be adopted by the consumer market. Sound has evolved spectacularly since the days of mono recordings, but images remain flat pictures on a flat screen. We have tested technologies that can deliver the excitement of 3D movies to the home. Offering a consumer the choice between watching a sports or music event in either 2D or 3D is the value added application that we believe will drive this market." Schklair and Cobalt Entertainment have been developing new digital 3D technologies and content. Cobalt most recently assisted the Jackson Hole Tech Symposium by setting up a screening for Jim Cameron's latest 3D film, "Ghosts of the Abyss." Schklair's personal interest is in live 3D-broadcast applications for distribution to multiple channels and venues, such as the emerging multi-purpose digital theater. He is also a co-owner of Paradise FX, the service company whose 3D projects include "Terminator 2:3D" for Universal, "Pirates and Haunts of the Olde Country" for Busch Gardens, and "Muppet Vision" and "Honey I Shrunk the Audience" for Disney. ___________________________________ X3D Tech Turns PC into 3D TV X3D Technologies Corporation plans to unveil at Internet World next week its technology that transforms TV broadcasts, videos, and games in real time from 2D to 3D, on any PC with a CRT monitor. Called X3D (eXtreme Three Dimensional), the images reportedly appear to float in space in and outside of the screen. Company officials will demonstrate a number of X3D applications, including: * video games that immerse the user in 3D fantasy worlds, including Star Treks * TV signals that convert on the fly to stereoscopic 3D viewable on a CRT computer screen * eCommerce applications that combine X3D and IBM WebSphere technologies, presenting products as they are seen in the showroom The X3D system includes wire and wireless glasses, receiver, connecting cords and infrared transmitter, install system software, TV & DVD conversion software. http://www.3dworld.com ___________________________________

THE DIALS & LEVERS OF POWER

Mini Book Review: Pause & Effect Nuts-and-bolts books about multimedia software tools are as common as non-reasons to invade Iraq, but few publishers other than New Riders seem to step back occasionally to analyze the bigger picture. The imprint's latest title in that effort is Pause & Effect by award-winning author/artist Mark Stephen Meadows. Subtitled "The Art of Interactive Narrative," the book's purported aim is to "examine the intersection of storytelling, visual art, and interactivity," and at this it succeeds admirably, not least of all by serving as a shining example of its subject matter. Well, being a book (no CD), it's not very interactive, but at least you can interact with the sites it cites. Can a story really be interactive? Game developers have been saying "yes" for years, but the bulk of the interactivity found in games amounts to solving puzzles and slaying foes. It's fun, but is it art? According to Meadows, it can be. His goal with this book is to broaden current thinking about narrative and interaction design, with a focus on imagery. How do you tell a story with pictures, and how do you make it interactive? An enticing question, indeed. The 250-page book comprises four long, multi-part chapters, each with roughly the same structure. In each, Meadows begins by discussing perspective, proceeds to discuss narrative and interaction, and then ends up with examples and interviews. The first chapter covers theory and principle; the second, two-dimensional art; the third, three-dimensionality; and the fourth deals with development and practice. The only problem with this book, and it's a minor one, is that the relatively small size prevents adequate reproduction of some of the artwork he discusses. Of course, most of the images are available elsewhere. Meadows isn't exactly breaking new ground here, but he discusses his subject matter in an intelligent, interesting way that's seldom been achieved before. Pause & Effect is a book well worth reading and rereading by anyone who reads this newsletter, and also everyone you know that cares about this important topic. http://bore.com/ http://www.newriders.com ___________________________________

GAMES PEOPLE PLAY

Blizzard Announces Console StarCraft At last week's Tokyo Game Show, Blizzard Entertainment unveiled StarCraft: Ghost, a tactical-action console game set in the StarCraft universe. Currently under development by Blizzard Entertainment and Nihilistic Software, the title is scheduled for release in late 2003. It will be co-published by Capcom and Blizzard Entertainment in Japan; further details regarding platform/country specifics will be announced in the months to come. In StarCraft: Ghost, players take the role of Nova, a lethal Ghost operative trained in the arts of espionage and tactical combat. Twenty years of physical conditioning and techno-psychological instruction have made Nova one scary dude. With the help of allies, players follow a series of story-driven missions, engaging in planetary battles and solo operations. To complete their mission objectives, players must execute intelligent tactical decisions while mastering an arsenal of sophisticated weaponry. Features include: * new style of gameplay featuring enhanced physical and psionic abilities * Hostile Environment Suit designed to magnify strength, agility, and speed * special effects * 3D environments * Calldown abilities let players target large-scale attacks from the ground * evolving storyline set in Blizzard's gritty sci-fi StarCraft universe http://www.blizzard.com/ ___________________________________ Square, Disney Ship Kingdom Hearts for PS2 Square Electronic Arts, which publishes all Squaresoft products in North America, and Disney Interactive last week began shipping Kingdom Hearts for PlayStation2 to retail. Described as an action role-playing game, Kingdom Hearts is the first video game project between the two companies. Featuring more than 100 Disney characters, Kingdom Hearts is debuting new Disney characters, Sora, Riku, Kairi and the Heartless, designed by Square's Tetsuya Nomura, director and character designer of Kingdom Hearts. Nomura is best known for his creations in the hit titles Final Fantasy VII, VIII and X. The new Disney characters team up with classic favorites to embark on an adventure that takes them to familiar and newly created Disney worlds. Kingdom Hearts is the story of Sora, a 14-year-old boy whose world is shattered when a violent storm hits his island-paradise home, and he is separated from his two closest friends, Riku, a 15-year-old boy, and Kairi, a 14-year-old girl. The storm scatters the three to different and unknown worlds. While searching for his friends in a strange and mysterious land, Sora meets Court Wizard Donald and Captain Goofy, who are on a mission to find the King of the Disney Castle, who has also mysteriously disappeared. The three learn of ominous creatures known as the Heartless, who collaborate with Disney villains to realize their devious intentions. Sora, Donald and Goofy join forces to recover Sora's friends, return the King to his rightful position and save the universe. The game's real-time battle system incorporates new elements with traditional RPG elements found in other Square titles. The North American version features two modes, "Normal" and "Expert," which can be chosen between when first starting the game. The North American version also features additional bosses, including Sephiroth, Ice Titan and a boss that carries the name of a recent sweepstakes winner. http://www.kingdomhearts.com ___________________________________ Sierra Ships Empire Earth Add-On Sierra Entertainment, Inc., a studio of the Games division of Vivendi Universal Publishing, last week shipped Empire Earth: The Art of Conquest to retail. Developed by Mad Doc Software, the title is the official expansion pack for Empire Earth, a real-time strategy game has sold over one million copies worldwide. The game includes three new single-player campaigns set in ancient Rome, the Pacific Theater of World War II, and Asia in the 22nd century. In addition, each of the 21 pre-designed civilizations in the game gains a unique special power, building, or unit. Examples include: the Kingdom of Italy's Metallurgy power, which allows them to pay building costs with gold or iron interchangeably; Great Britain's S.A.S. unit will be able to plant demolitions and swim across water; and the United States' market building will allow that civilization to trade abundant resources for scarce ones. The game also features unspecified new multiplayer functionality. The two games cover over 500,000 years of human history, from the discovery of fire to the laser battles of the future. Each player takes control of a fledgling civilization and strives to forge the greatest of all empires. Mad Doc Software was founded in November 1999 by Dr. Ian Lane Davis, formerly Technical Director at Activision's Santa Monica studio. Mad Doc developers have worked on such games as Dark Reign, Battlezone, Civilization: Call To Power, Star Trek: Armada, System Shock, Thief, Flight Unlimited, Thief 2: The Metal Age, System Shock 2, and Flight Unlimited II. http://www.empireearth.com/ ___________________________________ Activision Announces Wreckless for Gamecube Activision plans to release Wreckless: The Yakuza Missions, a mission-based driving game previously available Xbox only, for the Nintendo GameCube this fall. Like the upcoming PlayStation2 version, the GameCube title will feature all of the missions of the Xbox game, plus 20 all-new missions, two-player action, 16 more vehicles to drive with mounted rockets, new sub-missions, interaction with pedestrians, 60 fps gameplay and a "Free Roam" mode. http://www.activision.com ___________________________________ CDV Ships Sudden Strike II, Divine Divinity for PC CDV Software Entertainment, a German publisher of game software, last week released U.S. version of Sudden Strike II and Divine Divinity for the PC. Sequel to the worldwide hit Sudden Strike, World War II real-time strategy Sudden Strike II adds Japan as a playable nation and includes 50 new units. Divine Divinity is a fantasy role-playing game with a reported 200+ hours of gameplay. In Divine Divinity, the player sets forth on a perilous journey avoiding the clutches of evil in pursuit of good. The gamer can choose to walk the way of the Warrior, Wizard or Survivor to restore balance to the mystical land of Rivellon. Features include: * four maps totaling over 20,000 screens, ranging from peaceful small villages to demon-infested wastelands * six playable characters with customizable appearances * up to 96 learned skills in * unlimited amount of special equipment that can be enhanced by magic * over 150 non-player characters and more than 100 monsters and creatures In Sudden Strike II, players can experience World War II in command of German, Russian, British, American or Japanese troops on land, sea, and air. Single-player offers five campaigns and multiplayer is available online. Features include: * over 50 new units * new playable nation - Japan * controllable ships and trains * planes that land and launch from airfields * clearly distinguished unit types * realistic damage values and armor * map editor http://www.divinedivinity.com http://www.suddenstrike2.com ___________________________________

DIGERATI ILLUMINATI

Eurographics 2002 Web3D Winners Announced ParallelGraphics (www.parallelgraphics.com), a developer of Web-based 3D technologies, has awarded the winners of the 3D game competition held at Eurographics 2002, Saarbrucken, Germany. Eurographics focuses on the growth of computer graphics technology and how it is being used to develop people's visual and thinking skills. Web 3D developers were asked to develop game modules based on a "Treasure Hunt" theme. Competition entrants were asked to design a module comprising a game or puzzle to be incorporated into the final conference version. All entries had to satisfy a set of requirements including compatibility with various Web design languages and the ability to run the module within Netscape and Internet Explorer. This year saw many entries involving games and puzzles utilizing Web3D technologies including VRML, X3D, Java3D, Shockwave, and others. This year's winning projects are DragonStone by Roland Smeenk (Best Entry) and Neora by Cecile Muller (Best Student Entry). http://www.mpi-sb.mpg.de/conferences/eg2002/game/ ___________________________________

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, 2233 Jefferson Ave., Berkeley, CA 94703. If you contact companies or organizations mentioned here, please tell them you saw the news in Spectrum. Thanks. ___________________________________ Please send address changes (with old and new addresses), subscribe and unsubscribe requests etc. to the above address. If you use the Reply function, please do _not_ echo an entire issue of Spectrum with your message. ___________________________________ Publisher's note: We are now accepting limited advertising. If you'd like to offer your company's products or services to Spectrum's elite audience of Internet and multimedia professionals, send an email query to duberman@dnai.com, or telephone 510-549-2894 during West Coast business hours. - David Duberman ___________________________________ (c)Copyright 2002 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.