Business

Cybermedia Premier '95 showcases local talent

Kids learn problem-solving skills as they help Putt-Putt find the baby animals in time to open the zoo in this interactive adventure from Woodinville's Humongous Entertainment.

Cybermedia by John Soltys
The cream of the crop in digital entertainment due out before the end of the year was presented by the Digital Media Alliance and Washington Software Association at an event Nov. 21 at the Westin Hotel in Seattle.
   Cybermedia Premier '95 concentrated mostly on local products, including a line of "edutainment" for children from Humongous Entertainment in Woodinville.
   Humongous' most recent release, Putt-Putt Saves the Zoo, turned out to be one of the best-received products shown at the event in spite of the fact that it targets children under 10 years old.
   Putt-Putt is an interactive story which looks more like a cartoon than a computer program. Putt-Putt must rescue six baby animals who've been lost in the soon-to-open Cartown Zoo. Problems increase in difficulty throughout the game, but there are always hints along the way to help a child figure the way.
   Not surprisingly, given Putt-Putt's acceptance, two of the other popular titles presented were also aimed primarily at children.
   Piper, from Splash Studios in Redmond, is another interactive story in which children watch and help the hero, Mighty Morphin Power Rangers' Jason David Frank, battle Mephisto, King of the Rats.
   Piper is loosely based on the Pied Piper folk tale of a town overrun by rats. Piper's job is to get the rats out of town, but he makes the mistake of striking a deal with the rats for a share of the treasure in the Lost Cavern of Gold.
   By the tale's end, Piper has learned the "moral value of a promise kept," and the user has the satisfaction of helping Piper get to this end by solving puzzles and playing games.
   The most innovative feature of Piper is its dissection of the story into half-hour blocks as well as its multi-level difficulty scheme, which allows the same game to work for younger and older children.
   Of course, the most anticipated presentation at the show was PIXAR's sneak-preview of Toy Story, released by Disney on Wednesday.
   In addition to presenting the movie's trailer and several clips from the film, Allison Smith Murphy, a production manager at PIXAR, talked about the making of Toy Story and the technical detail that went into the picture.
   One scene, for example, depicting a chase through a neighborhood, had 2.1 million leaves on trees, each of which had to be drawn by computers. Some of these frames took 24 hours to render, even using some of the fastest computers available.
   Sierra On-Line presented its new thriller Shivers, which takes place in a mysterious museum and includes 3-D animation plus a virtual setting.
   Keynote speaker Bill Buxton, from Alias/Wavefront, gave a glimpse of the future as he talked about ways the software industry needs to change to meet the demands of artistic content creators.
   His demos of one of Alias/Wavefront's applications was nothing short of spectacular, even though it dealt only with user-interface enhancements.