Article – Evolution and Devolution

Written by Alcator. 

It all began with TrackMania (now known as TM Original). Then came TM Sunrise, followed by the free TM Nations. Now, we have TM United, which unites all the previous games and tries to enhance the environments with new tiles, correcting some minor issues (such as now you can use OGG files for music directly, you don’t have to convert them to MUX files).

However, not all changes are automatically accepted as good. I expect a serious discussion evolving at this article, hope you’ll let me and others know what changes you like and which you don’t.

It is important to first remind you that there are basically two “old” groups of players:

  1. Those who players either TMO or TMS
  2. Those who only played Nations before TMU.

It’s important to keep this in mind, because opinions on some United features are greatly influenced by this.

In TMO and TMS, checkpoint-respawning worked; therefore, those who knew the games are used to CP-respawning and when they build tracks, they usually keep that in mind. In Nations, CP-respawning wasn’t available, so players of Nations aren’t used to CP-respawning and needlessly restart after crashes instead of just CP-respawning and finishing the track (such as to actually learn its layout). Also, when “Nationers” build tracks for United, they often forget to check CP-respawning and needlessly lose points when players complain about non-functioning CP-respawning.

In TMO and TMS, coppers, the in-game currency, were present. Their players knew how to get coppers and that you can use them to pay for certain stuff. In Nations, this wasn’t available, so Nationers may once again wonder what that stupid number is doing in United.

Nations also didn’t use the principle of unlocking new “campaigns” (sets of challenges) by first completing the previous ones. As United once again does feature this principle, we have encountered complaints or even misjudgments, such as one infamous Czech review that said that TM United has “few tracks” (while the truth is that for the Racing mode alone it has some 170 tracks, and there are two more campaign-like solo modes available!).

As I am quite interested in the in-game track editor and MediaTracker editor, I noticed a few changes here (as opposed to Nations) that didn’t make me happy.

  1. Change of font. Nadeo chose a new, “thinner” and “rounder” font for United, which has some bad features:
    1. The letters become ugly when zoomed much sooner (already at zoom 3 or so you notice ugly edges of them)
    2. Texts have a different size in United than they had in Nations, meaning converting tracks from Nations to United requires you to adjust texts
    3. It’s no longer that easy to use letters to create visual effects; in Nations, if you placed an “o” letter in the middle and zoomed it, it created a nice “tunnel” view, or you might have used the “|” or “-“ symbol to create those “theater-like” black stripes at top and bottom edge. In United, the letters are no longer one-colored, they all use smoothing at the edges, and they are also partially transparent at the edges, so making these theater-like stripes or circles or other useful shapes is not that easy.
  2. Change of arrows in the MT editor. In Nations, the MT editor had nice big arrows for selecting one of multiple options. In United, these arrows are small and harder to click on.
  3. When setting the medal limits, lap count etc. on a track, you are offered to set its difficulty, but this value is NOT saved unless it’s an “Upload slot” track. It’s a good programming practice to disable or hide those options that are not suitable for certain situation, so when making normal custom tracks, this option shouldn’t be there.

For some reason, the Stadium car doesn’t have Trail lights. Still, the Trails element is available in the MT editor for Stadium tracks as well. This is an obvious flaw. Another flaw is that the game doesn’t warn you when you upload a Stunt track from an Upload slot (that track is, basically, lost in the space, as no-one can download such track in-game, which is what Upload slots are meant for).

A positive change is that TM United doesn’t use the “hard” version of Starforce drivers, it only uses the SF runtime to manage the just-on-time decrypting and encrypting of data files.

Thing that Nadeo deserve an applause for is the in-game message system AND at the same time the fact that you are limited to 25 messages per day (by the 2 copper cost for sending a message and 50 copper daily income) – so far, I haven’t received a single spam ingame, which is very positive.

The ManiaLink thing isn’t realised very well, I’m afraid. It seems to be rushed, which would explain why the documentation was so poor at the beginning and why there’s not an in-game ML editor included.

One thing that I still don’t really comprehend is the infamous Arrow signs bug, which causes SOME players to see different arrow signs (or advertisement signs) in tracks made by other people. It seems that somehow the game’s custom content downloading routines are confused into thinking that “arrowUp” contains “arrowRight” etc., thus showing wrong signs. It can get PRETTY annoying, being told to go forward and crashing into a wall ahead. This should have been prevented or fixed by a patch, but it wasn’t.

Did you play one of the previous TM games before United? What changes and adds (or removals) do you like or dislike? Discuss in the comments below!

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6 Responses to Article – Evolution and Devolution

  1. TimeBreaker says:

    hm yeah nice article, some things i dont know what you mean..
    – the part with the starforce drivers, what do you exactly mean ?
    – i like the new font i have to say, and the problem of theatre-like stripes is the same in nations..

    other things ididnt like..
    – nadeo hasnt changed the fonts sharpness.. cant nadeo let the font stay sharp even in a bigger size? or rounden ita little bit.. even simple wird programs can do that -.-
    – online chatting has gone worse than ever before..
    when you write while the time runs out (so the clock show 0.00 and you see the winnercars, the message is lost 😦
    same on mapchange
    and you cant write anymore while the intro runs -.-

    – has nadeo improved the textures from tms and tmo?? if not (doesnt look as if it looks better) they shall do that !

    – the default.system.config.gbx file disappeared, it is now way harder to change the opponents count to 0 -.- -.- -.- (why is there a minimum of opponents anyways..)

    – one great thing: when playing tmu in window-mode, you can grab an edge and define your own resolution 🙂

  2. alcator says:

    TB:
    StarForce is a anti-pirating technology that works by secretly installing a program into your computer that keeps running all the time (that’s the old version). Original, Sunrise and Nations used this technology. united uses a lighter version that doesn’t install such program. The technology is problematic in several ways (both “ethically” and “code-wise”), so many people swore to boycott TrackMania as long as the technology is used to protect it.

    As far as the theater-stripes are concerned – I don’t think it was the same in Nations, now you need to make those stripes differently to achieve the same effect.

  3. TimeBreaker says:

    ah ok, thx for explanation 😛
    and about the theatre stripes..
    the font is different, so importing from nations wont work, but still you an achieve the same effect 😛

    one more thing that is still superbuggy and i dont understand..
    the nickname.. if you use to many letters and $ codes, it will first appear correct, but fter restarting tmu, it looks weird and many arial special signs still not work

  4. Dutchman says:

    Good article!
    I wished Nadeo had brushed up the TMO environments (desert, snow, rally) up to the level of the TMS envis (island, bay, coast) by reworking the 3D-structures and making them more detailed and richer. When making videos in TMO, i always was jaleous on the TMS envis ….

    When it comes to the manialink point, i guess that nadeo relied on the communitys habilities and energy to create tutorials & tools – perhaps to add some long term motivation to the players.

    A great advantage for TMU compared to TMO/TMS: you can use the same model/skin in ALL envis (TMN did not have this problem, because it had only one environment). When making a video with scenes from more than one envi, you have a wider choice of cars you can use (if you want to use the same car in every envi)

  5. Emil Hjelm says:

    Good article, although I noticed one thing wasn’t correct… :

    “Now, we have TM United, which unites all the previous games and tries to enhance the environments with new tiles, correcting some minor issues (such as now you can use OGG files for music directly, you don’t have to convert them to MUX files).”

    In TMN you didn’t have to convert the files to .mux

  6. SkunkY says:

    Yep, nice article,
    I agree in pretty much all points. The ingame-messages are a nice thing. Though I hardly ever use it.
    Timebraker is right – online chatting is very annoying since tmu.. in tms you were able to complete your sentence after the map changed. now in tmu your message is just lost.
    also the sign bug is very annoying. I’ve noticed it on my own tracks. It happens that the animated signs that were included in tmu dont work proper. they show red/black chequered, or as default yellow/red sign, even to myself when playing my own track. sometimes they work, sometimes they dont. I dont understand why NADEO doesnt care about their comunity and bring a patch. they never did, thats very sad.
    the track-uploading is a nice thing though if I get it right you have to build a track from scratch and cant even save it to complete it another day. I dont like that.
    Its also nice to add a track to your custom campaigns and make it available for other players so they can drive official times on the tracks. And you can also give feedback to the track. I like that.

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