Written by Alcator.
Introduction – what the hell is “PF”?
“Press Forward”, or “PF”, is a section of the track originating at the Start, which:
- a) is successfully navigated by holding the Forward key (usually the Up arrow) down and not doing anything else. (It is the general consensus that you have to hold the key pressed down during the start countdown already; pressing it after the “GO!” is not enough, as the car gets slightly different characteristics if it is allowed to descend on the suspensions.)
- b) and contains some spectacular (eye-candy-ish) saltoes, wall-bounces, tight-fit jump-throughs etc. in it (so it is not enough to just create a 32 tile long straight road and call it PF)
Note: The above definition is not generally agreed upon; There are tracks which do not meet the (b) criteria and still claim to be PF; however, the (a) criteria is agreed upon.
There are two branches of PF: PF Tracks and PF Starts.
“PF Start-ish track” has an introductory PF section, followed by normal “rest of the track”; the good practice is to give the racer a hint as to when to start the actual driving (I myself prefer two types of this hint: Either Display “Press Forward” message throughout the PF section and then fade it out when the PF section ends, eventually with “Go Go Go!” or “Take Control!” message fading in at the same time; or Briefly displaying “Press Forward” at the beginning of the track, and then counting down 3 seconds at the end of the PF section: “Take Control in 3… 2… 1…”). This hinting is done using MT text messages that should be positioned a distance from the center (eye) line of the screen; I suggest using Y-offset 0.7, which works very well; as for the color-codes, I suggest “$s$f00Press Forward” (shadowed red) or “$s$fffPress Forward” (shadowed white) for the PF message, and green colored “Go!” message ($s$0f0Go!). Shadow increases readability a great deal.
“PF Track”, on the other hand, can be successfully raced through by simply keeping the Forward key pressed all the time and not doing anything else; this basically turns the race into a movie, and the player only has to watch the spectacular events happening on his screen.
Reasoning – Why the hell create PF?
First of all – it’s an eye-candy. People love eye-candy. Watch “60 seconds” in a theatre with hundreds of spectators and observe their reactions – they are thrilled the most when a car crashes in a spectacular manner, is smashed through a concrete wall or makes a 360 degree backflip 🙂
Secondly, PF lets the racers experience moments they will not be able to experience during “normal” racing (PF really allows the car to fit through an unbelievably complex knots of pipes, pillars, supports, TV screens, frames, road fencing etc, with only inches on each side; attempting something like that using manual driving is impossible). Think about PF as an auto-pilor or “robot” with the ability to pre-calculate the future and picking the best option 🙂
Lastly, PF is really great for making videos of many cars on the same track. If the PF allows
- a) a little deviation and still finishing
- b) or a deviation that results in spectacular crashes, followed by a CP-respawn followed by some finishing
…, then it is possible to create truly magnificent videos of hundreds of cars with spread-effects and amazing backlights trails left in the air. Although normal tracks also allow this (see the 1K project), the saltoes and flips and twisters in PF tracks are cooler.
Reasoning II. – Why the hell refrain from creating PF?
Before, I told you some reasons why create PF; let’s look at the other side and explain some of the perils associated with PF in tracks.
Firstly, the greater the proportion of PF-ness in your track to the whole length of the track, the lesser the actual racing is; if the first half of the track is a PF start, then racers can only affect the results in the other half; and since the PF section by definition has to come first, it means players have to first pass this “always-the-same” first part in order to improve their previous time. Because of this, I suggest what I call the “one sixth rule”: Make sure the PF start is not longer than one sixth of the total typical racing time (let’s say the silver medal time). If your track is 1 minute long, don’t make the PF longer than 10 seconds; if you built 15 seconds PF start, make the track 1 minute 30 seconds long. Also, be aware that players don’t feel the PF start to be part of the track “adrenaline-wise”, which means 1 minute long track with 20 seconds PF start only feels as 40 seconds race – I even witnessed myself looking away from the screen for the first 10 seconds of a track that I knew had 15 seconds long PF start – I’ve seen the track so many times that it bored me.
Secondly, and I mentioned it at the end of the previous paragraph, PF starts quickly become boring. PF sections of tracks are, by definition, similar to “twist ends” of movies – the first time you see “eXISTENZ” (see: http://imdb.com/title/tt0120907/), you jaw-droppingly stare at the surprising twist at the end, but if you watched it the second time, would that finish really be THAT interesting? Because there’s no deeper thought behind PF – it’s a shallow eye-candy. Normal racing sections of tracks may have a theme, may build up some momentum or thrill for the upcoming stunt or whatever, but PF? Bouncing of walls and pillars and seeing “12x chained Master Backflip 1080!!!!!!” three times in a row? What’s that about?
Thirdly, and this applies the most to PF tracks, PF breaks competition. If the track can only be completed by holding the Forward key, then all the racers attempting it will have the same time, so the only thing that matters is what order you get to the track in (i.e., if you are the first to start the race (online) or if you are the 11th to submit your replay to TMX). PF is a movie – you watch it, you may say “Oh” or “Wow” or “Holly **** ******** *** ******** **** *****!!!!”, but that’s about it. So, in case of PF starts, if the rest of the track is not fun and competitive enough, don’t bother – either turn it into complete PF track, or remove the PF start.
To be continued tomorrow…