Network: An off year for `offline'

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The Independent Culture
THE GIANTS of the gaming industry seemed strangely quiet at Milia 99 in Cannes last week, but the collective of UK artists who make up AudioRom had reason to celebrate, following up last year's Bafta award with a Milia D'Or for their Shift Control CD-Rom.

For the first time at the Milia D'Or ceremony, CD-Roms, websites and games were judged together. It was an ominous sign for the "offline" business. In the words of one of the judging panel, journalist Denise Caruso, the offline industry and the Internet have increasingly similar concerns; interactivity, graphics and content. The problem is that the Internet is a cheaper platform and much of what could only be delivered by CD-Rom is now possible over the Net.

And if location is a good barometer, the games industry certainly lost out at Milia, with a small site outside the main hall. It's not all doom and gloom, however. Sega's Dreamcast project, which launches in the UK this year, made a strong impression. Its key title was designed by the legendary Yu Suzuki, who has come out of retirement to create Shenmue. The gameplay is still not clear, but the realistic detail, and claims of a 4D game with its own dynamic time and environment systems, could boost this industry.

One of the online innovations doing its best to steal the show was at the Intel stand, where you could get sneak previews of the software houses that are writing new titles for the forthcoming Pentium III processor. According to Intel's Tim Keating, there has been a very fast take-up by software houses keen to exploit PIII's enhanced multimedia capabilities. Applications that use video and audio streaming, and the gaming industry, will benefit most. Unsurprisingly, Intel reps were keen to downplay the "Big Brother Inside" technology with the Pentium III, which makes it possible to identify a specific machine via an ID number on every chip. Intel has been accused of encroaching on personal privacy, and has now announced that it will ship PIII's with the ID function turned off.

One of the highlights was at the New Talent Pavilion, which showcased the most creative sites and games. But the battle cry at Milia 99 was for multimedia to be granted equal status with the traditional media. After all, the industry has not only engaged the minds of children, but their parents and grandparents as well.

Milia D'or Awards

Action Games: Wargasm (CD-Rom) Infogrames/Digital Image Design, UK/France; Adventure/ Roleplaying games: Zelda The Ocarina Of Time (Nintendo 64) Nintendo, France/Japan; Strategy Games: Populous III: The Beginning (CD- Rom) Electronic Arts/Bullfrog, France/US/UK; Simulation/Sports Games: Gran Turismo (Playstation) Sony Computer Entertainment, Europe/Japan; Family Entertainment-Leisure: ShiftControl Interactive Music (CD-Rom) AudioRom UK; Children's Edutainment: Midnight Play (CD-Rom) NHK Educational Corporation, Japan/Tivola Verlag GMBH , Germany; Reference & General Culture: Le plus beau musee du monde (CD-Rom) Gallimard Multimedia/France Telecom Multimedia/Gyoza Media; Education & Training: Les Cybersessions Medicales (www.cybersessions.com), Conceptis Technologies Canada; Interactive Information: CNN Interactive (www.cnn.com)

Grand Prizes

Most Impressive Game Play: Zelda The Ocarina Of Time; Excellence in Content: Le plus beau musee du monde ; Most Innovative Use of Real Time Interactivity: Les Cybersessions Medicales ; Hottest Multiplayer Game: Starcraft TM (CD Rom) Havas Interactive Inc/Blizzard Entertainment, France/US; People's Choice Award: Gran Turismo

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