Written by Alcator.
Trackmania Forever (both the Nations and United version) enhances the MediaTracker Editor with a powerful new feature: “Import Ghosts”. This tutorial will provide you with all the information you need to successfully use this feature in your tracks.
First of all: “What is the ghost?”
This is not as simple as it may seem. All of you are surely familiar with “Replays” – the recordings of your attempts on TM tracks. You upload Replays to TMX to register a World Record or Personal Best on particular tracks, but Replays are just one version of Ghosts. The feature I’ll be tutoring you about here can use both standard Replay- and non-Replay- Ghosts, so you need to understand both properly.
A Ghost is a recording of a car’s positions, headings (pitch, roll, yaw), and eventually the horn and/or brake lights as well. What’s important to note is that the information about terrain and track tiles is completely MISSING from the Ghost file, which means that if you record a ghost, and then modify the track on which the ghost was recorded, the ghost may pass through obstacles (newly added tiles, raised terrain, etc.), or move through air (removed tiles, lowered terrain, etc.).
A Ghost can be recorded in two basic ways: By doing a standard run on a track, such as validating the track or playing it in solo mode, or by using the “Record a MediaTracker Ghost” function of the MT Editor first menu. In either case, after you successfully passed through all checkpoints and reached the finish, you will have the option (during the replay) to either Save the replay or Save the ghost.
Now, each Ghost file contains the car’s position/heading information from Start to about 5 seconds after Finishing, recorded at some “framerate”. When replaying a replay or ghost, the game tries to interpolate between the disjunct recorded positions to create a smooth movement illusion; however, if the load on the CPU is higher, you may (and probably will) notice certain jerkiness in the movement, or reduction of details on the ghost cars.
How do I create a ghost for … ?
The way in which you will record your ghosts for the use in MediaTracker clips is dependent on the purpose. What are you trying to achieve? Do you want to display the ghost as a “GPS” guidance? Or do you want it to suddenly drive in the opposite direction than the player is heading, scaring him? Or do you want the ghost to only show how to navigate the first 10 tiles of your tricky track, and then leave the player on his own?
There are probably dozens of possible ghost uses, each may require a different approach. But the general tips are:
- The Ghost does not have to come from the same track the player will be racing. If you need a ghost just for one middle section of your track, then remove temporarily all checkpoints, place a start tile and a finish tile before/after the section, and record a ghost that “jumps” into the race mid-way, and exits soon after.
- Swapping the start and finish tiles will allow you to create ghosts that run towards the player easily. There are other ways to achieve opposite driving, but this one may be the fastest/easiest.
- To provide the player with 3 “buddy” ghosts (Gold, Silver and Bronze) that will seemingly race against him and will allow him to see how well he’s doing, you just drive the track with intentional errors and save each of those runs as a separate ghost.
- You can use the same ghost several times in the same clip, so with clever planning, you may create an illusion of 50 car race with only 5 or 10 different ghosts. Each of the “clones” can have a different skin, and this can be changed during the MT work, you don’t need to re-skin your car every time you record a ghost.
A word of caution – Nadeo’s bugs strike again!
It wouldn’t be a TrackMania game if it was flawless 🙂 Working with ghosts in the MediaTracker may be frustrating, because the MT editor may miscalculate the timing/position of the ghost. There are tricks that may reduce this to a minimum, but don’t be surprised if what you see in the MT editor is quite different from what you see in-game.
OK, enough theory, let’s do it!
For your first track using ghosts, I really recommend trying to provide a player with a virtual opponent on a simple track. By simple I mean a track that does not have any MT clips such as wallride cameras or loop cameras in it. Make a simple tech track with several chicanes and a jump or two, that should be enough.
After you have the track built, validated and saved, click on the mediatracker button (the camera symbol), and choose “Record MediaTracker ghost”. Race the track, and when you finish, click on “Save the ghost”, then type in the name for this ghost: “Virtual opponent”.
Next, exit the race (stay in the editor), click on the MT editor button, and chose “Edit in-game”. The first clip of the in-game MT should be pre-placed and you should be in the “Place trigger” mode. Place the trigger on the start tile – this will ensure that the clip gets run right when the “Go!” appears.
Next, exit from the “place trigger” mode (click on the cube frame icon in the lower left). Next, find the “Import ghosts…” button at the top left corner – it’s the “floppy disc” icon to the left from the small car symbol in the top row of icons. DON’T CONFUSE IT WITH “Import clip…”!
Choosing to import ghosts will open a “Open file” dialog. Locate the “Virtual opponent.Replay.Gbx” file. Click on it, then click Open.
Please notice that the Ghost has been imported into the Clip. As soon as this clip is triggered, the ghost will appear on Start* and will start moving along its recorded path.
*) notes: This is not actually generally correct; the ghost will appear at the position that is recorded in the ghost file as its starting location, so if you moved the start after recording the ghost, the ghost will still appear on its own starting location.
Since working in the in-game MT editor invalidates the track, you need to re-validate it to be able to race it in Solo mode. Exit the MT editor, validate the track (notice the opponent racing against you), then save it.
The next obvious step is to provide the racer with several opponents of different skill levels. This is especially great if different medals require significantly different paths and/or skills (shortcut jumps etc.).
The process is the same: You record the ghosts, save each of them under different name (“Virtual Opponent Gold/Silver/Bronze” may be a good naming, or just “[TrackName] G/S/B” will do as well), then enter the MT editor, select the clip that gets triggered as soon as the race starts, and import each of the ghosts (in any order) into the clip.