The Trackmania Perils – part 1

written by Alcator

Even a game as great as Trackmania can sometimes be a bit pain-in-the-foot’ish. So, in these few articles, I’ll mention stuff that annoys me, frustrates me or just plainly makes me angry. It goes from minor nitpicking issues to larger problems in the concepts of the game, as indicated in each case.

Selection of opponents

Being an intermediate player of Trackmania, the ghosts that are most likely to be a challenging match for me in Solo campaigns are Silver and Gold ghosts. However, when you launch a track, the game only allows you to select one of them, and if you want to race against both of them at the same time, you need to wait for the map to show, then go to the Escape menu, select opponents and tick those you want. Couldn’t there be a global setting “Desired opponents in Solo mode”, where you could set this once and for all, perhaps with additional options such as “Only display those opponents who are better than your best attempt”, since after you beat one or more of them, you have your ghost to compete with…?

Tracks locked

I’ve made quite a lot of progress in the Solo campaigns in TMU, and I raced many of the tracks in official mode; then I reinstalled the game to a new computer, upgraded to TMUF, and guess what: Even tracks that I have previously conquered were suddenly inaccessible, because I didn’t meet one of the pre-requisites, such as beating the Gold time on all the previous tracks at the same difficulty, or even beating Gold time on all the tracks; since in TMU, all the tracks were accessible right from the start, I can’t really understand why the Forever version now blocks access to them.

Physics changes

As you probably know, I’m the proud author of “Alky PF”, a PF Stadium TMU track that is over 5 minutes long. However, the track won’t work in TMUF, since the physics got changed a bit. Now, normally, this wouldn’t be a problem if TMU was still playable, but unfortunately, Nadeo pretty much cut off TMU(non-F) from existence — you can’t find any non-F patches for TMU anymore, you cannot play TMU online… but what is worse: you cannot find the installer for TMU anywhere! If I hadn’t burned the installer when I purchased TMU, I would be helpless. When I contacted Nadeo and asked for a pre-Forever patch for TMU, they replied that there are no patches for the game.

Now, what are trackmakers supposed to do? Where’s _any_ guarantee that their tracks will be playable in the following years? What if Nadeo comes with TMU-Eternity the next spring, changing physics AGAIN (!), and disconnecting TMUF from the internet?

The wrong way to preload

When you launch TMU(F), there are two steps the game tries to do.

  1. It preloads all tracks it can find, so that the subsequent browsing of tracks is faster
  2. It checks the connection to the internet and loads stuff from the master server.

However, the game does these things in the wrong order: it first checks the connection, and if it fails, it requires a user response, or it won’t continue. Which means that if you are like me and have 200+ custom tracks in your TMU(F), and the connection is for one reason or another down, you will go to the bathroom (since the preload takes a long time), and when you return, you have to click “Stay offline”, only to see the long process of preloading. While if the two activities were swapped, you would get a cup of coffee or a toilet break first, and then you would only have to deal with the connectivity problem…

Don’t ask me again means Ask me again?

“Your framerate is low, should I switch to a lower resolution?” (paraphrased) – that’s what the game asks me whenever something slows the graphics card’s performance down. And when it asks, there’s a checkbox “Don’t ask me again”. Which I tick. And then I click “Cancel”, as there is no “No, I don’t want the resolution changed!” option (there’s only OK, which means “Yes”, and there’s “Cancel”).

So, “Application development 101”: If you ask a user a Yes or No question, you should provide buttons “Yes” and “No”. Providing “OK” and “Cancel” as options to answer a Yes or No question is a big no-no.

Well, that’s it for today, what do you think about these things? Do you have have another “peril” that you are facing from time to time when playing Trackmania? Please share it in the comments!

Thank you!


6 Responses to The Trackmania Perils – part 1

  1. […] Original post by alcator […]

  2. Aaerox says:

    I have built a PF-Track too in TMU. And I made the mistake, that many of my tracks started with a PF-Start. So now in TMUF about 60% of my tracks aren’t playable anymore.
    Why do they have to change physics? Every old TMU track with a PF section doesn’t work anymore and still the old bugs like the “Loopbug” are still in the game. I know that the bugs have become a part of the actual gameplay, but what did this physics-change really do except that the pf-start don’t work anymore? I didn’t notice any difference between TMU and TMUF physics…

    Anyway, nice article alcator. 🙂

  3. Jozii says:

    Wasn’t the physics change simply to make TMUF and TMNF compatible? As that’s solved now, I doubt they’ll need to do it again…

  4. alcator says:

    Well, while it is true that now the car behaves the same way in both -F games, it doesn’t behave neither like in Nations, nor like in Forever. So neither PF tracks from Nations nor from Forever are certain to work in TMxF. And that’s what I really don’t understand and don’t really like.

  5. Aaerox says:

    I think you mean United, not Forever alcator. 😛
    Still I hope that the next TM (if there will be a sequal :O) won’t be such chaotic and that there won’t be one free version and one buyable (is that an english word?) version.

  6. alcator says:

    Aaerox: Yep, thanks. However, the concept of making part of the game free and the rest “commercial” is really working, because after people enjoy Nations for quite a long time, and can see how it plays online or how the map editor works, they are more likely to purchase the full version. The only alternatives are
    1) no free version –> less players
    2) no commercial version –> Nadeo suicide 🙂

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