Track Creation 102 – Design your Circuit

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

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.

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Entry filed under: Tutorials.

Track Creation 101 – Make a list Track Creation 103 – Trackeditor

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