Interview with Mr.A about StarContest

November 26, 2008

Few weeks ago, I asked Mr.A of TMX (the largest track-exchange server for Trackmania) few questions about StarContest. Today, you get the chance to read the answers…

(Al)Q(ator): When did you first learn about Nadeo’s plan for a community-built campaign?

(Mr.)A: It was in the build up to the the release of the Forever games. We had alot of chats with Nadeo about it and actually the StarTrack Contest might have happoned much earlier in the year. The original idea was to do it with the beta version of United Forever, but for various reasons that diddn’t happen and so we decided to wait until after the summer (when people are less likely to have holidays booked during the contest).

Q: Have you had any influence on the structure of the competition, or did Nadeo already have the rules pretty much cast in stone??

A: It was Nadeo’s idea for a rounds based contestest where builders are eliminated at each stage. I guess you can liken that to the way those TV shows work where a contestant is voted out each week. The detail of the schedule, the way tracks are named, the rule set, all that stuff was a collaboration between us. Quite alot of things changed from the orirginal plans becuase you really only start to realise how things need to be when you are trying to put the whole thing together.

Q: How much coding (code lines, scripts, database structures) were needed to allow for the competition?

A: I dont know about lines of code, but it was a huge ammount of work. Buzz made the initial work on the allocation program and then Ricardo Rix picked that up, finished it, built the front end presentation and the way TMX handles the changing stages of the contest through the rounds. We spent weeks and weeks with him coding, then me running simulation contests (we had a button to randomly enter people) and reporting back with what happoned and how things looked or worked.

Q: How long did the coding and other tasks take before the competition was announced to the public?

A: Well, the idea was always to be ready before Forever came out, so we were ready by then. I think it was 2 or 3 months in developement, as we knew right from the first rumblings of the Forever update that we might do a contest… not a bad length of time to keep a secret 🙂

Q: Are there any plans for some special TMX awards for those who either make it into the campaign or make it to the final few rounds?

A: Nothing like that is planned at the moment, but we will see. We still need to decide how we will deal with the Star tracks once the contest is over. (ed.: As it turned out, several TMX mugs were distributed to the finalists and some of the best drivers on the finalists’ tracks. Also, as you may already know, Nadeo promised an ingame TAG for PapyChampy as the ultimate winner.)

Thanks to Mr.A for answering the questions!


StarTrack Aftermath

November 21, 2008

PapyChampy became the ultimate winner of the StarContest today, with +0.01 gain against Dakkon, and Mr.A finishing third. As the competition is now over, it is somewhat hard to access the list of tracks submitted, so if you want to play some (or all) of the submitted tracks, try this link (provided by Mr.A). Pappy’s track is now showcased on TMX, so hop in and try it if you haven’t yet!

The StarContest brought many awesome tracks which I hope will make it to the final campaign, but it also raised many questions or created some commotion; on multiple occasions, the judges’ decisions or remarks about tracks caused the TMX users to stare in disbelief, some concerns appeared about the (lack of) difficulty in tracks supposed to be hard.

Nonetheless, the resulting campaign should be enjoyable, especially if Nadeo does indeed shift some tracks to easier or harder “layers” (such as shifting a C track to B or D category) in order to balance each group.

For the TMUblog, the competition provided plenty of writing opportunities, so now I’ll have to find something else to write about. *Sigh*

Startrack reporter 19 – Who’s gonna win?

November 21, 2008

In about 7 hours, the winner of round 6 will be announced. Two days ago, PappyChampy’s track had about twice as many awards as Dakkon or Mr.A, who were roughly at the same number of awards, but since then, Dakkon started gaining heavily, and is now just few awards behind. Mr.A is last as far as awards are considered, but he still got enough awards to get a green card in the Awards part of judging. Still, the number of awards is not a major judging factor, so there can be a lot of surprise when the results are finally made public.

The clock is ticking…

Startrack reporter 18 – The Final is here!

November 14, 2008

Finally, after 5 weeks, we’ve come to the final of StarContest. The three builders who made it through all the elimination rounds into the final are Mr.A, Dakkon and PappyChampy.

These three finalists will now build their Stadium E track, due on monday 17th, and from those 3, the supreme winner will be chosen.

Please, also give a warm welcome into the Loosers Lounge 😉 to Phil83, Raxor and Dengel, who were eliminated just before the finish straight. Good work anyways, guys!

Vacation announcement

November 13, 2008

Hello, folks!

From Saturday (November 15th) till next Wednesday (November 19th), I’ll be on a vacation, which may mean I won’t be able to cover the final round of StarContest as much as I would like (although I will try).

On another note, my son is now 13 months old and growing nicely 🙂

StarTrack reporter 17 – Who’s gonna be the finalist?

November 10, 2008

By now, the 6 semifinalists have uploaded more or less final versions of their tracks, some of them after starting over several times.

Let’s talk briefly about the three “duels” that will happen after tonight’s closure of submissions…

Duel #1: Coast

The combatants are Mr.A and raxor. Both of them have built rather technical coastal tracks, with many twists and turns. Both tracks feature coastal ride, with raxor’s track having one nasty coastal turn without protective fence, so let’s go for some swim! 🙂 Both of the tracks also contain at least one tricky off-road part, raxor once again being the more evil one, as his off-road section is preceeded with a yellow booster. Mr.A, on the other hand, decided to put an unforgiving stunt just before finish — I think many people will learn to hate treehuggers after crashing into those nasty plants in the middle of that stunt.

Duel #2: Island

Dakkon and Dengel are the two duelists here. Dengel has built a technical track with some “pixel-perfect” jumps, while Dakkon has gone insane with high speed adrenaline jumping experience. Unfortunately, dengel is reworking his track heavily as I’m writing this, so there’s not much I can speak about here now. Dakkon’s track is definitely cool once you memorize the route by heart, but surprisingly, all CP-respawning works, so while my wife wasn’t able to make it through, I’d say it’s easier than the original Island-E from the United Race campaign.

Duel #3: Bay

Fasten your seatbelts, guys, this is gonna be tough… the “miracle kid” Phil83, who was unknown before this compo and now is one of the favourites of the contest, vs. PappyChampy (btw, I really hate the nick, as the middle 2 syllables of it are a rude word in my language 😦 ).

Both guys managed to find out original (“innovative”) things to do with the Bay tiles. Pappy has a cool 90-degree banked jump through a CP, while Phil sends you through a gap between bridge-support pillars, to name just one from each track. Both tracks vary very well between tech and speed sections, and checkpoints are distributed reasonably well so that CP-respawn does not put you 30 seconds back. In Pappy’s track, one CP respawn requires you to take an alternate route — I’m curious whether Nadeo will object against this or not. What is even more interesting is that both tracks employ Water-bounce, but while Phil’s track has the water bounce as mandatory, Pappy allows you to ride around it (might be interesting to test if it’s not faster to go around…)

All in all, the five tracks (excluding Dengel’s one, which is under reconstruction right now) are top quality and Nadeo will definitely make many enemies when they decide which of the track gets butchered.

Stay tuned!

Startrack Reporter 17 – Semifinal 6

November 7, 2008

Today, Nadeo announced the 6 participants of the StarContest that made it to round 5. Three of them built the best Extreme tracks for each of the three “Original” environments, while other 3 were the best 3 losers. Today, StarContest lost hawk_ger, Ricardo Rix and smok3y, to whom we send our heartfelt pity 🙂

Now, the 6 semifinalists are building the Sunrise environments’ Extreme tracks: 2 of them build Bay, two build a Coast track and two try their best for Island.

Keep checking TMX’s StarContest section for uploaded and updated Round 5 tracks, so that you can provide the very needed and appreciated feedback to Mr.A, Rax, Phil83, Dakkon, Dengel and PappyChampy!