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!

Things I learnt from Trackmania – TimeBreaker

October 23, 2008

After a longer pause, the time for TimeBreaker’s TILT finally comes.

1. Believe it or not, Rally has frozen lakes outisde the building area! What a multiclimatic environment.
2. All environments exist in parallel universes, you can see them through carwindows.
3. The world is a plate and the sun is an unreachable light.Trackmania knows best.
4. Stadium is the only environment with an actual driver in the car.
5. Trackmania has 4 different daytimes, but you never see them changing while racing, not even after days of driving.
6. The TM-Stadium is probably the only stadium ever without tribunes.
7. The Stadiumcar driver is the only living being in the whole world of Trackmania. Sounds like just another end-of-the-world movie..

With this, the TILT series is over, so thanks to all who participated. Of course, if you’d like to write your own list, feel free to either post it in the comments section, or send them to me – they might get published eventually 🙂

Things I learnt from TMU (Jozii)

September 28, 2008

The fuel barrel has been stealthily smugled into Jozii’s house, and Jozii, being the honest fool he is, couldn’t help it but fill it with these remarks:

1. Four wheel drive isn’t required to go off-road.
2. Gas prices appear to have gone down (at least I haven’t paid a thing, and I’ve been driving for years).
3. In the desert, vehicles laying on the side tend to tip back up on their wheels. Something about heatwaves…
4. All lights go on automatically when it’s dark.
5. A technology to keep things floating in the air has already been invented. (Damn, I was so close!)
6. When on the road, you don’t really have to take other driver’s into consideration.
7. When crossing a dirty Rally road with a car made for desert driving, you get a dirty American!

Oh, and TimeBreaker, you must have done something bad to Jozii, since he chose you as his victim 🙂

Avatar tutorial – part 2

September 25, 2008

this is the 2nd half of The Doctor’s Avatar tutorial. This time, you’ll delve into some advanced topics.

Things I learnt from TM 2 (Mr. A)

September 24, 2008

Mr.A from TMX faced the challenge vigorously and here comes his hepta-set (is that even word?)

1. Everything in the world is made of titanium.

2. In the American desert you can drive under a lake and re-emerge the otherside still dry.

3. If you work in a building with a flat roof, dont pop out to catch some rays else you might get run over.

4. What goes up, must come down… but only eventually!

5. If you wear glasses the world looks more 3D.

6. Poles usually grow up out of the middle of the road… go figure!

7. When you reach you destination, no need to stop, just take your foot off the gas and see what you hit.

Mr.A decided that the ideal person to carry the FUEL BARREL is >>Tuta<<, so… we’re waiting, Tuta!

In other news, Hillary Clinton fractured her dog, and the “Five into One challenge round 2” (see the side panel for a link) is still open!

Avatar tutorial (part 1)

September 23, 2008

this article was written and prepared by team ATP member “The Doctor”. Due to its length, I’m going to cut this article into two parts, with the second part coming on Thursday.

A checklist for improving tracks – part 2

September 17, 2008

A week ago, the first part of the checklist listed some things to check when you finish a track to see if you did all you can to make it better. The list continues here…

11. An intro clip: is there a 10 to 20 seconds introductory “movie” that introduces the track? Does it show the key (or the most interesting) part(s) of the track? Notice how every track in Trackmania Nations Forever has an introduction consisting of (usually) 3 short camera moves, one showing the overall track, and the other two or three showing key areas — try to do the same for your track. But don’t make the intro too long.

12. Is there an outro (replay) for your track? Will the player be rewarded for finishing the race by seeing himself in action from interesting view angles?

13. Does the replay work reasonably well even for a worse driver? Make sure those who are slower can still see themselves, and if a longer replay clip tends to “run away” from a slower car, cut it into two or more partial clips so that those who can finish can also see themselves in the replay. An extra benefit of this approach is that Spectators in online races can then use the Replay mode to observe other racers!

14. Light trails: Have you considered adding trails to jumps? It looks pretty awesome, especially in night and evening mood tracks, if you approach a jump during online play and see the colorful stripes ahead of you, showing you what’s gonna happen.

15. Finetuning (smoothing): After you’ve driven the car enough times, you might have noticed some areas that are not perhaps the smoothest possible. Don’t hesitate to take an extra time making them smoother. It does not mean “easier” — if you have a sharp turn that was intentional and the player is warned that it’s a sharp turn, then it’s OK, but if at certain combination of speed and angle the car just bounces off of a landing platform, then something’s not right.

Well, that’s my tips for making your tracks better, but I’m sure there are other tips that you use. Please, share them in the comments!