Everyone loves TrackMania United. However, after some time, people may start seeking more things to do than what’s provided in-game. Thankfully, many community members have put up websites and created tools that make TMU much more than just a game! I’ll walk you through all the important sites and tools, and explain how to use them.
The singularly most important part of the whole TrackMania series is, of course, tracks. TrackMania Exchange allows users to browse and download tens of thousands of other people’s tracks. It also offers the capability of uploading your own tracks! Each game in the TM series has its own dedicated sub-site on TMX, although the Original and Sunrise sites have been put into “Read-Only” mode. The huge track database, the large user base, and the active forum make TMX a superb online spot for TM players.
Of course, to drive on a track, you need a car. And with TMU, you now are allotted seven different cars, one for each environment. What makes these cars really fun is the ability to paint them any way you like! Using the in-game Paint tool, you can customize the look of your automobile with very high precision in 3D. If, however, skinning is not your idea of a good time (but you still desire a nice ride), there’s a site just for you! The TrackMania Carpark offers tons of 2D skins for the seven default cars.
Aside from the traditional seven cars, TM Carpark provides a huge number of custom-made 3D cars. From real-world cars like Hummers and Ferraris to wacky penguin-mobiles, TM Carpark will definitely have what you need!
As many track creators know, car skins are not the only skins available for TMU. Most people are familiar with the customizable sign pieces on tracks. Well, have you ever wanted to use an image that the game doesn’t provide? TM Block Tuner provides a solution! At their website, you can download (and upload, if you’re a member) a multitude of sign images. While there is no official TMU download button at the moment, the other buttons for TMO/S/N work anyway.
Another track-building-related skin category is mods. Mods are essentially a skin for an environment. And since the introduction of TMS (along with mod support), TM-Mod has stocked up on the largest collection of mods on the web! While a number of mods are now unavailable to download due to removal of the files, most mods still are there to provide a beautiful transformation to any track!
So far, all this discussion has pertained to content for TrackMania. Now, however, it’s time we take a look at an incredibly valuable tool for all different kinds of TM content. This tool is called the TrackMania URL Protocol (TMUP). When a TMUP client program is installed, any web link that begins with tmup:// (instead of the usual http://) will send a message to your client telling it to download the proper file. The advantage to using TMUP is that the client program automatically knows where to put the file you’re downloading – no more sifting through confusing folders! All the websites we’ve talked about so far allow you to use TMUP, so if you download files frequently – no, make that ever – you should consider using TMUP.
At the moment, there is only one major TMUP client: EasyTM (for those of you who are familiar with this subject and are questioning there being only one client, I just checked, and all the other programs’ links are dead). EasyTM, which supports all four TM games, allows for the downloading of almost all content types (let’s put it this way – you’d really have to work at it to find a non-supported file type 😉 ). EasyTM isn’t merely a TMUP client though – it has evolved over the years to become a complete TM toolbox. To quote from the TM Wiki website (<-another helpful resource; check it out here), the feature list is as follows:
- TrackMania direct launcher
- TMUP client for Original, Sunrise, Nations and United
- TMUP uninstaller and generic installer
- Map Checker : maps analyser (sic.)
- Profile Backup : auto profile backup
- Default Mod Swapper : Swap a zip mo[d] to the default environment
- Config Swapper : Starts TM with alternative configuration file
- Nadeo JukeBox : Listen [to] TrackMania music out of the game
- File Installer : TM file installer wizard
- Zip Pack Installer : TM Zip pack content installer wizard
- Zip Pack Creator : TMUP compatible Zip files creator wizard
- TMUP List Creator : TMUP list creator wizard (by Thoun).
- Radio Ala[r]m Clock : NetG-Radio TM-Zone
- Video Shooter : for Nations
- Community tools (ServerMania, Easy Mod Downloader, Easy Locator, Easy Updater …)
- Links to Community websites
- Links to Competition websites
- Automatic update with Easy Update by Alf.Red
- TM-Wiki support.
- Bloc creator wizard for BlockTuner (Note: I haven’t actually found this… maybe it’s just me!)
- ManiaCode creator wizard
All these features make EasyTM a wonderful resource for TM players, whether or not they’re big on downloads!
While there are a lot of downloads out there, some of the best websites don’t even have a Downloads section. There are a number of TrackMania forums on the web – the two most notable at the moment are the official http://www.maniazones.com/ and http://www.tm-forum.com/ . Although ManiaZones is not exclusively a forum, it is TMU’s official forum. Topics you see on the right-hand side of the in-game main menu come from there. As ManiaZones is a valuable piece of the community pie, we’ll talk about it first.
When you first visit the site, you are shown the “World” zone page. If you look on your left, you will see all the zones and sub-zones available to browse on the site. In case you’ve started to wonder by now, the zones used on http://www.maniazones.com/ are the same zones offered in-game (the game downloads them from online). By logging in with your TMU login and community code (found, from TMU, on Profile->Player Page), you get taken to your zone, where you can view ranks of players (including yourself), news, and online servers. ManiaZones also provides the management interface for Groups (like the ones seen in your profile menu). Aside from zones and groups, however, there is also a thriving forum. Get to it by clicking on “Forum” on the top of the page. The forum is also organized into zones, although it also has a “General Talking” section that allows users to post about non-zone-specific matters.
While the up-and-coming ManiaZones system is quite efficient and well-designed, TM-Forum is the most popular TM forum. It has sub-forums for all the TM games, along with various other sub-forums and useful links. TM-Forum has just undergone a large update (they are now using their version three system), which looks quite nice. If you are looking for some fun and interesting reading, check it out!
Another category of websites is those of tournaments. Tournaments add a special level of competition to TMU. While I don’t want to ignore other tournament sites, I’m only going to list two. If you want to find more (which you should try!), go to the ManiaLink browser in-game and look at the Competitions category or go to TM-Forum’s Competitions sub-forum. Electronic Tournaments and Vogzone are two examples of different tourney styles. ET has more traditional tournaments – everyone meets at specified times and competes using various rules. Vogzone has a different approach, one that TM players will find familiar. Vogzone uses seasons (which last 60 days); anyone can register during these 60 days, and repeatedly submit their best replays on tracks until the time is up. ET, Vogzone, and others are all great ways to get in the game. Tournaments are really fun, especially so in TMU!
I certainly hope I didn’t miss too many websites. If you think I’m lacking something, please put it in the comments section so other readers can share your knowledge! There are loads of TrackMania websites out there – I simply tried to list out all the ones I am most familiar with. I’m not advertising the sites here, though I do recommend taking a poke around them. The world outside TMU is truly amazing – it’s practically bigger than the game itself!