Archive for October, 2009

Track Creation 102 – Design your Circuit

Obviously before you can start you want to have an idea of what your track will look like.  Yes, this means you should have a feel for the general look and feel of the track and its surroundings – what country is it in, what season, is it mountainous or flat, rural, forest or built up etc etc.  You may even have collected or created some textures already.  Its definitely good to have an idea of what direction you’d like to go in this regard before you begin, but its not essential.  I’ve found that in reworking old tracks I can study the nature of the track and from that derive an idea of what setting would work best later.

So … what comes first is the actual layout of the track.  Its straights, its fast sweepers, its tight chicane or challenging S bends.  Where the pits are, where the start/finish line is (doesn’t have to be the same place).  Some people are really good at inventing tracks like this – I’m not one of them.  Eric Espie is/was a genius.  To design a layout, I guess you’d make a sketch of the idea, scan it (if its an old-school pencil sketch) and then use it as a background in the trackeditor.  Other people like modelling real-world tracks, assembling Google World screenshots for maximum accuracy.  Whatever works for you – what you need is an image, to scale, of the track you want to create from directly overhead.

I’ll talk a bit more about trackeditor in the next post, but one feature that’s not immediately obvious, and really essential, is how to use the background image.  Here’s how you go about it:-

1. File Menu -> Properties.  Select the Image tab.  Choose the file you want, and the scale factor (you can change this later if its wrong).

2. The World-with-binoculars button shown in the screenshot below.  It toggles displaying of the background image.

02-background-image

3. Right-click and drag to position the image relative to the track – you’ll have the very first segment of track visible if its a brand  new track.

With the image in place you can create track segments to match the curves of the track you’ve designed.

I should take a quick moment to explain something here.  Many racing sims use the 3D model itself to determine where the drivable surfaces are, their slopes and so on.  Speed Dreams does not.  It defines the layout of the track in its entirety in an XML file that the trackeditor creates.  This XML file is then used to generate a 3D model that you can later enhance, but the 3D model is nothing more than eye candy.  The game itself only goes off the XML file to work out where cars can drive, the friction, slope and camber of surfaces and so on.  You could delete everything in the 3D model and Speed Dreams will still work, showing a car driving suspended in mid-air.

The trackeditor’s job is to make it easy to create this XML file and setup its basic values – what the segments are, the width and texture of side runoffs, where curbs start and finish, and the fences/walls on the edges. The trackeditor has its limits though.  It only takes you so far, and then you’ll have to edit the XML directly.  I’ll get to all that in the next few posts.

October 9, 2009 at 11:12 am Leave a comment

Track Creation 101 – Make a list

So you’d like to make a TORCS Speed Dreams track?  You love the game (and lets be honest, who wouldn’t?) and you’d like to hurl a 1936 Alfa Milano 12c around your favourite race track, which for some strange reasons isn’t already part of the game.  Perhaps you’d like to host your tracks on your own website for Speed Dreams enthusiasts to download, or even better, you envisage your creations becoming part of the game itself.

You just don’t know how to go about it.  I mean, anyone can use the included track editor to define a circuit, but how do you include hills and valleys in the track?  Most importantly, how do you transform the bland, character-less cookie-cutter tracks it creates into the work of art you envisage in your mind?  How do you change trackside terrain, improve its textures, and include trackside objects?  How do you add shadows for that extra touch of realism?

Over the last few years I’ve made a lot of tracks (street-1, wheel-2, ruudskogen, dirt-3, forza, brondehach, reworks of e-track-6, alpine-2 and corkscrew) for TORCS and now Speed Dreams, and thought it was time to share some of the hard-won knowledge I’ve gained during the process, hence this, the first in a series of tutorials on creating tracks for the game.

First, let me be blunt.  Making Speed Dreams track is a ton of work.  It usually takes me about 2 to 3 months from start to finish, spending about 10 hours a week before I finish a track.  That’s 80 to 120 hours or so, not for the faint hearted.  Usually once I complete a track I’m exhausted & unable to bear the thought of starting another one, which is why I only create one or two a year max.

So … you’re still here?  Still want to give it a go?  Ok then.  The first thing you need to do is write a todo list.  That way you have a plan of attack, and know what needs to be done to bring your idea to fruition.  It also gives me a list of things to post about in this tutorial 🙂

It so happens that I’ve just started a major rework of the old TORCS track, e-track-4, for inclusion in Speed Dreams.  Ok, its not a new from-scratch track, but as I’ve changed the layout somewhat its pretty close to being one.  As I go through each step in the process I’ll use it as an example in this series of tutorials.  So, here’s my todo list for this project – yours should look something similar.

  1. Design the circuit layout, including an idea of elevation changes and allowing at least 240m of a straight for pits (16 pits of 15 meters in length) with enough length for pit entry and exit.
  2. Create the circuit using the trackeditor tool.
  3. Define changes of elevation in the XML.
  4. Test drive until 100% satisfied with the track.
  5. Trackside terrain
  6. Trackside objects
  7. Naming of textures.
  8. Editing the 3D model..
  9. Editng textures.
  10. Materials and surface settings
  11. Creating a shadow map
  12. Applying the shadow map
  13. Adding a “raceline”.

My next post will look at steps 1 and 2.  If you’re working on tracks yourself and have any questions or would like to share some of the tips and tricks you’ve discovered, please add a comment or two!
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October 1, 2009 at 9:21 am Leave a comment


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