Evolving from “Track 85”
to “The most spectacular track name ever”
He’s getting married, his future wife has an alien-looking thing in her stomachand he writes TM articles! Can life get any better? Alcator is here once again with a new fresh inside view of TrackMania 😀
If you’re new to trackmaking, you’ll unavoidably go through the initial phase of building tons of low-quality tracks – from simple ovals to familiarize yourself with the working of the multilap start/finish, to very long and dull tracks full of nonsensical and unsmooth turns and slopes. In this phase, you’ll probably save time by simply naming the tracks “Track 1” or “my first track” etc.
Later, your trackmaking will evolve, smoothness will silently come into your tracks, the dull (= uninteresting, boring, repetitive) sections will leave… But surprisingly, I’ve witnessed quite a lot of tracks that, while being very fun to drive, had incredibly dull names. Island-23, Circuit 17, Stadium Tech 5…
I have also had this problem with my Nations tracks; make a complete list of Alcator’s tracks on N-TMX ordered by time of uploading, and what do you see:
Ace-ProLaps-0 through Ace-ProLaps-D (14 tracks), Loop Mastery 01 through Loop Mastery 05…
The problem with dull names, especially when they refer solely to Environment, Style, or if they contain a number that may look like from an ordered list, is that they repulse potential downloaders/players; it makes the impression that you’re producing these tracks like on a conveyor belt, one per day, with no finetuning, no bigger theme in any of them.
This is what I think when I see the track name “Island 5”:
There’s no theme in the track – it’s just a “random” mix of island tiles – if there was, he would’ve mentioned it in the title.
There’s nothing really significant in the track, nothing to surprise me, nothing to make me say “Wow” – if there was something like that, he would’ve mentioned it in the title.
There’s one “technical” reason for differing greatly in track titles: Their display in listings. In-game (talking about United), only about 30 first letters of the track title are displayed, and on TMX, only about 15 letters are displayed (!). This means that if you have two tracks named “Spectacular Paradise 1” and “Spectacular Paradise 2”, these two tracks will be displayed as something like “Spectacular Parad…” on TMX (both of them), making it harder for people to locate the one they want to (re)visit – such as if they want to award it. Now you don’t want to make it any more difficult for people to award your tracks, right?
(Click to enlarge the pictures)
“Damn… I promised that man to award his “Big Loop” which I really liked… What was his name? Something like “C-something”. Oh, well, I can’t remember. Pity. It was really good…”
“Damn… Cologneandy told me to try his Wallride track… but which one was it?”
The track title is the single most important advertising space of your track. Not the screenshot, not the in-game description, not the Author comment on TMX – the title is the most important. It’s the ONLY thing people always see whenever your track is referred – in a list of newest tracks, in a list of tracks to come up in-game on an on-line server, in a link to your track. In some of these listings, you’re competing against other “candidates” (for download etc.) – and you need to catch their eye and persuade them to click on it, to load the track in Solo mode etc.
Finally, here comes the “guide” for giving your tracks proper names.
You can give the track a name based on one of these reasons:
1. Overall appearance – if it is a Bay track where the track itself looks like narrow streets between high buildings, names like “City Squeeze”, “City Chase”, “City of sharp corners” all express what the track looks like.
2. Overall racing feeling – in this case, you abstract from the actual construction point-of-view and focus solely on what you experience (feel) when racing. Are there plenty of sharp corners in the (previously described) Bay track? What about “Mad Cornering”? Are most of the turns resolved using sliding? “Mastering the cityslide” may as well express that.
3. The key moment(s) of the race – usually, there’s one or more key element in the track. This may be the most difficult stunt in the track, some spectacular jump across water or an obstacle, a set of sharp chicanes that must be navigated without a scratch etc. If you feel that you’ve built something truly “big”, you can use that as the base for the track name. “900 km/h waterflight” surely will attract some attention, “Touch the sky and say hello to God” will as well. However, this can be a two-edged weapon – because if that one advertised thing is not as spectacular as people expect, they may reject the track, even if it is good.
4. Ambiance / Abstraction – this is not very often used, but if your track creates an abstract feeling, if it resembles something else (something non-racing), you can name it according to this abstraction. A track with plenty of small jumps may be named “Kangaroo jumps”, a track with several through-the-hole jumps/flight can be named “Hole in One” or “Sharpshooter” etc. The advantage of this style is that it is very unlikely that someone else will use the same words in his track name – while there’s about 50 tracks with “grand prix” in the title on N-TMX, there’s not a single “sharpshooter” or “kangaroo” track there (there are, however, over 20 “bunny” tracks, so choose wisely).
5. Eye-candy reference – the game features some nice eye-candy effects, like skid marks, light trails etc.; if your track contains a place or moment when these effects are really “cool”, perhaps you might stress such moment with in-game and replay MediaTracker (a camera that shows a place where there’s tons of skidmarks or where trails look like a fireshow circles), and name the track according to this point – “Burned Rubber”, “Cheerleader trails”, “Air Stripes”, “Motion Blur” could all be names suitable for such tracks.
There are also some bad things to do, so…
1. Don’t lie. Don’t promise jumps if your track doesn’t contain any, don’t call the track “Mad Speed” if the average speed is just, well, average. Be careful about the usage of recognized expression like “Smooth”, “Flip” or “Powerslide”, because this really “asks” for criticism if that particular aspect of your track is not on the level (that is, in case of e.g. “Smooth ride”, if there are not-that-smooth jumps or drops or a single unsmooth transition).
2. Don’t phish. If a well known trackmaker did a track with the name “Sonata da ORA”, don’t name your track “Sonata d’Or”. Of course, for certain themes, this resemblance is unavoidable (such as the previously mentioned Grand Prix), but common sense is applicable here and if I have a track named “Desert Serpentines”, it would be quite ugly if you named your track “Desert Serpentine”.
3. Don’t capitalize. Capital letters are in general considered as shouting in writing, and some people are repulsed by such a low assault on subconscious level (that is – they WILL see your track in a list, as capital letters do have that effect, but these people will willfully ignore it in order to “punish you”).
There’s an author “sheet” on N-TMX who has over 30 tracks named “CZECH tech [Number]”. Guess what, they only have 1 award (presumably from a friend of his).
(BTW – Yes, I know, I do have one track with capitalized title. It’s my one hundredth track for Nations. GO TRY IT! 🙂 )
Hopefully, something in this guide was helpful. Any comments welcome.