Knock your socks off. (Verbum Interactive and Spaceship Warlock CD-ROM software) (Multimedia PC)(Column) (Evaluation)
by David English
If you think of CD-ROM software as boring, you're in for a big surprise. Two new CD-ROM packages explode the old prejudice and point the way to great things to come.
What makes these two CD-ROMs so different? Each was put together by an exceptionally talented group of artists, animators, and musicians--individuals who are clearly excited about the creative potential of this new medium. Their talent also shows through in their ability to mix animation, music, sound effects, and video into a unified whole. If you need proof that multimedia is something to shout about, look no further than Verbum Interactive and Spaceship Warlock.
There is one catch. At the time of this writing, both are availably only for the Macintosh. They were created with MacroMind Director, which currently has no equivalent on the PC. But with the recent release of Windows with Multimedia and MacroMind about to release a PC program similar to Director, you can expect to see comparable CD-ROMs for the PC. In fact, both Verbum Interactive and Spaceship Warlock are being ported over to Windows with Multimedia. They should be virtually identical to their Mac cousins. (Did you ever wonder why Microsoft chose the Mac II's default resolution of 640 x 480 with 256 colors as Windows with Multimedia's default resolution?) They should also be two of the first CD-ROMs that make multimedia a must-have component of PC computing.
Verbum Interactive (Verbum, 670 Seventh Avenue, Second Floor, San Diego, California 92101; 619-233-9977; $49.95) is basically a multimedia version of Verbum magazine, a flashy quarterly that explores the cutting edges of computer art and design. It comes on two CD-ROMs (that's right, a single 650-megabyte CD-ROM wasn't big enough) and includes a look at how major ad agencies use multimedia (with some impressive samples), a hands-on guide that explains how to add special effects to type, a discussion by six industry leaders about the future of multimedia (with three full hours of recorded voice and video excerpts), and much, much more.
My favorite section is called Gallery, which includes 13 stunning examples of multimedia. "Living Photos" lets you tour an interactive exhibit of photographs by rock musician Graham Nash. The commentary and music--both by Nash--make this more than a simple slide show. "Street Poet Ray" features Marvel Comic's rap poet Ray, whose colorized face moves in sync with his spoken poetry. "Student Work" showcases the multimedia explorations of a group of students at the Art Center College of Design in Pasadena, California. And "Verbum Tunebox" lets you play music selections, with screen graphics, by Todd Rundgren, Graham Nash, Pauline Oliveros, and others. The music plays in stereo through your CD-ROM drive's audio-out.
If Verbum Interactive could be described as art school meets multimedia, then Spaceship Warlock (Reactor, 3110 North Sheffield, Chicago, Illinois 60657; 800-843-9497 for orders, 312-573-0800 for information; $95) could be described as Marvel Comics meets NASA simulation. Created by Mike Saenz, a former artist and writer for Marvel Comics, and Joe Sparks, a former aerospace simulation artist for NASA/Ames Research, Spaceship Warlock is quite simply the best-looking and -sounding game I've ever played on a computer. The stunning 3-D animation and excellent original score make it the closest thing yet to an interactive movie. (It even feels like a film--black bands at the top and bottom of the screen make it look like a wide-screen movie.)
The transitions from static graphics to animation are smooth as silk, and the digitized music doesn't begin and end abruptly during the animated sequences (unlike almost every other PC game that uses real sounds). But best of all, everything looks great--including the green buglike aliens, the dark city streets with their video-propaganda machines, the Flash Gordon-like luxury spaceliner Belshazzar, and the sudden attack of the pirates spaceship Warlock.
Verbum Interactive and Spaceship Warlock show the real potential for CD-ROM and multimedia technology when creative artists are involved. In upcoming columns, I'll take a look at other knock-your-socks-off CD-ROMs that are currently being developed to run under Windows with Multimedia.