Article – Theory of Track Building

Written by One.

I’d like to share a few track building tips that I’ve learnt from my experience with TM (As well as Stunts for all you old-school gamers!) I figure the best way to do this is to guide you through the process I go through to make a track and build a very simple Stadium Track. This article should be good for those who understand the basics of the editor, yet haven’t really made much with it – some track building theory, in other words. We’ll keep it on a simple level, but you track-building experts could also get something out of this 😉

Firstly: What makes a good track? The main factors are Flow, Speed and Stunts.

Flow dictates how easy it is to drive around the track without being jolted around. This is a race-track, not a platform track so we don’t want to be bashing into walls.

Speed represents how fast you’re going through the track. Driving at 30 k’s an hour is nowhere near as much fun as it is compared to 300 k’s an hour.

Finally: Stunts are those crazy jumps, wallrides, loops and whatever else you decide to throw at your poor unsuspecting driver. Stunts can be a real joy to fly through, but they can also be the world’s greatest source of frustration.

Now that we know what makes a good track: Let’s make one shall we? It’s not going to be anything fancy, so don’t expect too much, but I thought it would be a nice introduction.

Trackbuilding Walkthrough 1 Here’s how it starts off. Click to enlarge.

Since we don’t have much speed in the track, It’s safe to put in a nice twisty section which doesn’t disrupt the flow and gives a nice little challenge for the drivers. All you tech-track lovers will dig this section, but you speed-freaks shouldn’t dislike it too much as it doesn’t slow you down all that much. I end it with a nice wide corner, letting the driver pick up some speed.

Trackbuilding Walkthrough 2 Click to enlarge.

Now that we’ve got some speed, let’s use that to our advantage and throw a few stunts in. This technique is the best way to create a proportionately quick and flowy track. By recognising how quick the driver will be going at certain points and then harnessing that speed, you can create tracks that flow like a river.

It’s also a great way to figure out where to put stunts and technical sections. Stunts are best performed at high-speed so if there’s a part where a driver would be flying around the track: Throw a jump or a loop in. If there’s a part where the driver’s going a bit slower: Throw a few twisty sections in to keep things interesting.

Another great way to keep stunts feeling “natural” rather than tacked-on is to incorporate them into other track elements. For example: My jump there crosses the first twisty section of the track. My loop goes around the Start\Finish line and looks really cool. My second loop does not go around or over anything, however it acts as a change in height, which gives us a bit of room to play with.

Trackbuilding Walkthrough 3 Click to enlarge.

After all that, we need to slow down. Before you Speed-Freaks call me a n00b in disgust, here’s why: Speed is relative. If your entire track is flying along at 1000k’s it wont feel fast and quite frankly: It’ll be dull and uninteresting. If you mix it up with slow sections as well as fast sections, then the fast sections feel even faster and more out of control.

The problem is slowing your car down from a fast section. A 90 degree corner at the end of a straight with 4 red boosters is not fun by any stretch of the imagination. The above corner illustrates the best way to slow somebody down within a corner. A corner that initially harnesses the driver’s speed, but then forces them to slow down in that corner maintains flow and lets you build that slower section that you want. It basically acts as a natural brake.

However, one thing you should always do: Signpost these corners to indicate that they are bending sharper. Otherwise instead of being a nice slowing corner, it ends up being a bit of a nasty surprise. However: Once the driver has learned the track: It shouldn’t be too hard. The best way to take these
sort of corners is to not accelerate once you hit the apex of the corner. That’ll keep you decelerating so you’ll be at the right speed to take the sharper bit.

Trackbuilding Walkthrough 4 Click to enlarge.

Since I’ve slowed the driver down, I threw in a second twisty bit. As  intimidating as it may seem: The red line shows that it’s basically 1 hairpin followed by a wide 270 degree bend. This bit will require you to wiggle the car a little, but it doesn’t interrupt the flow drastically to the point where you’ll be pinballing. Also: After that first tightening corner, you wont have to brake and since you’re immediately thrown into
another corner, you wont notice how slow you’re going.

And that my dear friends is the most important lesson in regards to speed. It’s not necessarily how fast you ARE going. It’s how fast it FEELS like you’re going. If it feels like you’re flying along like a bat out of hell, yho cares if you’re actually going 30 k’s an hour? Creating this fast-sensation happens naturally when you’ve got a nice flowing track. Got a track with good flow? It’ll feel fast. Got a track with superb flow? It’ll feel fast even in the slow sections.

Trackbuilding Walkthrough 5 Click to enlarge.

Here’s another way to create a speedy-sensation (that’s a rock band name if I ever heard one). Using the scenery, you can create the illusion of speed without requiring it.

Look at it this way: Wave your hand in front of your face as fast as you can (Without slapping yourself. If you do slap yourself: Please provide a video for my personal entertainment 😀 ). Now wave your hand in front of your face as far away as you can reach. It looked a lot faster when your hand was closer, didn’t it, even though it was actually moving at a slower speed.

Tunnels are a great way to give a rush to the player. When you’re whipping past some scenery that bends around the track: It’ll feel a lot faster than it actually is. Don’t have your track entirely underground however, as that’ll get boring. Arches are a good way to create speed as well as provide a really cool “woosh” sound as you flick under them. If you’ve got space, having the track go in between something also works well.

Sure, it’s kinda ugly and it made it real hard to clearly signpost that tightening corner, but hey: I’m just proving a point at the moment here.

Trackbuilding Walkthrough 6 Click to enlarge.

Here’s the ending. The track lifts back up to the original height, twists through the loop (creating another cool effect) and hairpins to finish. Speedfreaks will question the hairpin, however: Note that this was a
Multi-Lap track. Since it started off a bit slow, it’d be stupid to have the track finish with you flying along at 300 k’s an hour so that it makes the opening section completely interrupt the flow and make you scream obscenities at the monitor.

Trackbuilding Walkthrough 7 Click to enlarge.

Add a few signposts and we’re done! We’ve made a simple yet decently fun
little track. While nothing spectacular, it’ll give you a bit of fun on an
online server for 5 minutes without frustrating you terribly as well as
providing some good competition. There’ll be a clear separation between the
good drivers and the mediocre drivers, yet the Mediocre drivers will still
be able to complete a lap and compete in this round.

This article will continue, and next time I’ll show you the best way through this little track as well as some simple but effective ways of using scenery effectively. A few words on the Media-Tracker will come as well.

Hope I’ve cleared some things up or given you a few good ideas for your next track.

To be continued…

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7 Responses to Article – Theory of Track Building

  1. Hastings says:

    A wonderful step-after-step explanation how track building should work like. It was a good idea to use a small track as example, because every part shows in a simple yet clear way what you want to express. Excellent! I’m looking forward to reading part 2. 😀

  2. Alcator says:

    It would be nice to include a link to this track on TMX.

  3. One says:

    Hey thanks for the kudos everybody. I’ll write Part 2 tonight which will show a good line through the track as well as some speed-control tips.

    If you want to download the track, look me up on TMX under the username “One”. Here’s the direct link to it. http://united.tm-exchange.com/main.aspx?action=trackshow&id=174938#auto

    If you like that track though: I built this track in the same way I build all of my tracks. If you’re bored and looking for some simple fun, check the rest of ’em out.

  4. Jozii says:

    One and I was discussing the link thing earlier (even before the release of the article), but I just realized that as the article will be continued with scenery and such, the same track will be used, right? So basically the track isn’t ready, and the finished version should be released once completely done.

    But for now, One has the track, and you can all download it at TMX (see link above). 😉

  5. One says:

    Yes, the track isn’t finished with more scenery and some MT to come. I wont go over how I did the MT since there’s nothing really in-race, I thought I’d save that for another track with more MT.

    The track is currently up, but I’ll update it once Part 3 of this article is up.

  6. […] the first article: Theory of Track Building. Note: The track built in the first article can be downloaded here. This is the track used for this […]

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