TrackMania Nations Forever

"Don't be absurd," you say. "Twenty thousand cars wouldn't fit on the start line". You're right—they don't, and the result of layering replay upon replay is a mesmerising flow of steel and rubber that took 300 hours to render. Distinct cars blossom from the chromium mass, crashing back down before fountaining over jumps or toppling backwards into the sea.

Each one of the cars in this video was, at one point, driven by a real human who submitted their Trackmania United and Trackmania Forever records to YouTuber L4Bomb4 to be compiled into one almighty race in the newer Maniaplanet version of Trackmania Stadium (unique skins were lost in the process).

However, 'only' 12,000 of the cars could be rendered simultaneously "at a pretty high quality"—anything more and the game crashed. Not one to be deterred by such obvious development oversights, editor Danixks made a custom chroma key mod to blend the remaining 8,000 replays into the finished video. Madness.

Apart from being pretty, the video doubles as a visualisation of the big data that developers work with when building levels, highlighting crash hotspots, bottlenecks and the idiots like me who ram the first pillar.

TrackMania Nations Forever
trackmania 2

Nadeo's shooty ShootMania and drivey TrackMania 2 games have both been given sizeable new demos, with the intention of increasing the player count in both Mania titles. The demos are pretty generous, offering access to a good number of environments, modes, tracks and the full editing suite in both games, although this unlimited access will expire after 48 hours, to be replaced with something perhaps a little more reasonable (an hour of play every day, or more if the player count falls below 100). Head here to check out the TrackMania 2 demo, and here to check out the ShootMania one, or stick around to hear exactly what you'll be getting.

Download the free trial of ShootMania and you'll be given access to the following:

3 multiplayer ranked modes: Battle, Elite & Siege
Full multiplayer experience (Nadeo and user-created gamemodes and Title Packs)
Access to all editors (Map, MediaTracker (Video), Actions & Weapons, Items)
Custom Titles: solo & multiplayer innovative modes

TrackMania 2, meanwhile, has the following to offer:

45 white solo tracks
Access to the TrackMania multi-environment title (Canyon + Valley + Stadium at the same time!)(1)
Full multiplayer experience (Nadeo and user-created gamemodes and Title Packs)
Access to all editors (Map, MediaTracker (Video), Actions & Weapons, Items)
Up to 3 user made solo & multiplayer experiences

Thanks, Blue's News.
TrackMania Nations Forever
Trackmania 2

How time flies when you’re in a race car flying through improbable loops and smashing into things. Speaking of which, Trackmania is turning ten years old next month. To celebrate, developer Nadeo is releasing free demos of Trackmania 2: Valley, Stadium and Canyon. If you’ve never tried the insanity that is a Trackmania race, head over to the Maniaplanet website to download.

Trackmania specializes in allowing, and encouraging, the construction of absurd, physics-bending tracks within a themed environment. We generally liked Canyons when it was released in 2012, and this year Nadeo unleashed the Valley and Stadium expansions upon players.

All three of Trackmania 2’s incarnations are available on Steam, and for the next few days they’re on sale for 50% off. I recommend that you check them out if you haven't played a racing game in a while.
TrackMania Nations Forever
TrackMania Valley thumb

Nadeo only recently released TrackMania 2: Stadium, but already they're revving up for the next addition to their series of improbable racers. TrackMania 2: Valley is a rally-focused expansion, and is planned for release this Thursday, July 4th. Incidentally, let's take a moment to congratulate Nadeo for the clear naming of their sequel. It's better than their previous system of bolting extra subtitles with every version - resulting in TrackMania United Forever Star Edition: Origins. Or something.

According to Nadeo, the expansion is the result of "years of development," and will offer the player new "rally-style" handling, a 65 track campaign, and new blocks for course creation.

TrackMania 2: Valley will be available on ManiaPlanet and Steam.
TrackMania Nations Forever
TrackMania 2 Stadium

Prepare to burn some rubber and press down hard on that virtual accelerator in a way you can never do as a mild-mannered, law-abiding citizen in real life—TrackMania's latest thing is now on PC. TrackMania 2 Stadium launched quietly over the weekend (well, as quietly as squealing tires can allow, anyway), and going by these screenshots? It's showroom-slick.

Currently running for $10 on Steam as well as the somewhat confusing ManiaPlanet platform, Stadium comes with a new single-player campaign, packaged together with overhauled graphics and lighting. There are full content-creation tools, too, to further fortify the community that came in and settled with TrackMania 2 Canyon.

A TrackMania 2 Valley is also on its way sometime this year, though no word of a release date.

TrackMania Nations Forever
shootmania storm header

ShootMania Storm launches today. It’s a competitive shooter built for eSports, and as you might expect from Nadeo, the developers of TrackMania, it’s extremely malleable, with a level editor that lets you plug prefab components together to create your own arenas. It’s a game of breathless pace and precision, with its two-hit kills requiring well-timed projectiles - old hands at Quake 3 or Unreal Tournament should feel right at home.

To celebrate ShootMania’s arrival, PC Gamer is holding a tournament from 15th April to 7th May, with £800 in prize money to be divvied up between the three top teams. Whether you’re a pro-player in need of pocketmoney, or just a fan of oldschool shooters looking to recreate the twitchy thrill of a railgun duel, you’re very welcome to enter. Read on to find out how.

The game mode we’ll be playing is Elite 3v3, so you’ll have to find two buddies to sign-up as well. There’s no restriction on location, but the servers will be hosted in Europe, so bear that in mind if you are signing up to play from another continent.

We’ve partnered up with the lovely folks at Multiplay to run the tournament: you can create an account with them here. As soon as you have, you can log-in using the form below and sign-up to the tournament. Matches will take place on Tuesdays between 6pm and 10pm GMT each week, so make sure your team’s available unless you want to forfeit the match.

Watch out for the rest of our coverage, too: we’ll have Ziggy "nVc" Orzeszek and David "Zaccubus" Treacy from Team Dignitas commenting on our Twitch TV stream each Tuesday night from 6pm GMT, and weekly written round-ups every Thursday.

TrackMania Nations Forever
Trackmania Stadium

TrackMania 2! I'd entirely forgotten it even existed. That's one of the potential dangers when you hide your games away in their own tiny corner of the internet. Fortunately, as of today, Nadeo's various Mania games are getting some added visibility. TrackMania 2: Canyon, TrackMania 2: Stadium and ShootMania Storm have all been added to Steam in various states of release.

All games are currently playable through various means. It's a little bit complicated, so I'll break it down with the help of my trusty bullet point sidekicks:

TrackMania 2: Canyon is released, so you can buy it with money and then play it. This is all very normal.
TrackMania 2: Stadium is in beta, which you can access if you pre-order the game. It appears to be a more direct sequel to Trackmania Ultimate Forever Star Ultra Special Mega Edition: Revengeance: Origins, or whatever the hell that game was called.
ShootMania Storm is also in beta, which you can access by clicking the "Download Demo" link on the Steam page. It appears to be a game about shooting and dubstep.

Good job, bullet points!

Now, enjoy these highly illuminating trailers.

TrackMania Nations Forever

We hope you've fully explored TrackMania 2: Canyon's... canyon environment, because Nadeo have revealed a couple more. The game's Valley and Stadium expansions will be coming to their ManiaPlanet platform in early 2013, the latter returning from the original TrackMania to (as Eurogamer report) serve as a free-to-play component for the game. Stadium definitely seems to be the crazier of the two tracks, with loop-de-loops and all sorts going on. In related 'Mania news, Nadeo have also revealed a release date for Shootmania: Storm, which will arrive on January 23rd.

If you can't wait till next year, there's a Shootmania beta coming in December. This second phase adds a new mode, Royal Team, along with jetpacks and grappling hooks, which for some reason have eluded racing games until now. While you wait, be sure to check out this new TrackMania 2: Stadium video, then pretend you're doing that, but with shooting.

TrackMania Nations Forever
Shootmania thumb

FPS e-sports have always struggled to reach the same levels of popularity as RTS and MOBAs - something that Nadeo are hoping to change with ShootMania. Designed for competitive play from the ground up, the French developers are aiming to create a new model for the FPS e-sport to suit players and spectators alike.

As with Trackmania, ShootMania will be driven by the community. Maps, skins and even game modes will all be designed, built and tested by players. Not only does this create a pretty much infinite map pool but it also gives players the opportunity to streamline the game into something more fun. If a map or game mode is too one-sided, then it can be tweaked and edited to create a more balanced experience. Most dedicated servers also run a simple map rating system which allows the very best to rise to the top.

The most popular game mode for competitive play is currently ‘Elite’. In this 3v3 mode, one attacker wields an instakill railgun where three defenders carry rocket launchers.

But there's a twist. Nadeo have included a block in the map editor that automatically equips a railgun to any defending player standing on the piece. Istead of jumping, space activates a zoom. This enables map makers to create powerful sniper nests for defenders. Similarly, when a player enters a tunnel, their weapon is gets switched to the 'Nucleus' which fires a small glowing blob of mass very slowly. It can stick to walls for a limited time and will detonate when an enemy is within a certain radius. These features put an emphasis on positioning and will separate the professionals from the amateurs.

But back to the Elite mode. The attacker has three hit points and has to either kill all the defending team or activate the flag by standing on it for one second. However, the flag is only available for capture after 45 seconds have passed, and even then it’s only active for a further 15 seconds - so timing is crucial. One of the main problems with watching a competitive FPS is that it’s incredibly difficult to keep track of all the players, and as a result most of the action can happen off-screen. This is why Duel is the most popular mode for Quake Live tournaments - you’re always going to see every frag when it’s just two players battling it out. The sole attacker in ShootMania’s Elite mode works in the same way.

Joust is the equivalent of Quake Live’s Duel mode. Normally taking place on a small map, both players have limited ammunition with which to hit the opponent a certain number of times. To gather ammo, the player must touch the opponent’s flag. It doesn’t have quite the same tactical depth as a QL duel, but it can create some very tense moments.

In Royal mode, up to 32 players start in separate spawn locations on the outskirts of a large circular map. Each player has recharging rocket ammo, two hit points, and respawns are disabled. The aim is to be the last player standing. There is also a flag in the center of the map which, once activated, will unleash a giant electrified dome completely enclosing the map. This gradually decreases in size shrinking the battlefield until it’s only a few meters wide. Frequently, two players are left dancing around the pole trying to bluff each other into guessing which way they’ll go.

Even in the obligatory deathmatch mode, Nadeo have managed to up the stakes by allowing up to 255 players on a single server. Although technically possible, Nadeo international product manager Edouard Beauchemin says that “it is unrealistic to reach such a high number, given the bandwidth required”. I’ve been playing on an 80 player server throughout the past week and it has surprisingly little lag, given that you can be trying to dodge up to 320 rockets at once. They are still improving the net code throughout the beta - so hopefully higher numbers will be reached with time.

Like TrackMania, Nadeo have developed ShootMania to be incredibly simple to control - just WASD for movement and space for jumping and sprinting. If space is held whilst airborne, you glide and can land much further away than you would normally. Gliding and sprinting both degrade your energy bar, however, which takes several seconds to recharge. The movement system is very fluid, and can even feel a bit like Tribes Ascend when you’re gliding across a map.

Competitive Quake Live wasn’t just popular for the pixel-perfect aim of its players. Part of the spectacle was the perfectly timed rocket-jumps and plasma wall-jumps that allowed players to circumnavigate entire maps in moments. ShootMania currently has very little leeway for mechanics like this. Although rocket jumping is possible to an extent, there isn’t enough benefit gained from doing so. However, ShootMania has only been in beta for a week - and as more and more professional FPS players move over, it’s only a matter of time before movement exploits are discovered.

Players already familiar with the TrackMania level editor will instantly recognise the interface used in ShootMania. The simple block-based interface allows incredible maps to be made simply and efficiently. What’s even more exciting is the idea of players influencing tournaments via map creation. With so many tiles and blocks, every map can be finely tuned to be perfectly balanced for a particular game mode. When asked about map-pools for tournaments, Beauchemin says that “ will publish official map packs that are ‘ready to be used’ for competitive modes. However, if organisers and players are organising their own tournaments, it is quite common that they will select the best maps in their opinion. Some might come from our official map pack, some might have been created by themselves or by the community.”

There are already plans to expand ShootMania beyond Storm. Last week, at Brighton’s Rezzed convention, Nadeo announced that they are planning another two games which will each bring different environments and features to the series. Several rumours have been circulating that the second title will be set in a snowy environment and be called Cryo. Beauchemin downplays the rumour. “Somebody from Nadeo mentioned that it could be ShootMania's next game, but he was misinformed. It is nothing concrete at the moment.”

Despite still being in beta, ShootMania tournaments have been popping up all over the place. The Cyberathlete Summit in Paris last month allocated over €8000 in prize money to the game. Winners Team Colwn are led by Alessandro ‘Stermy’ Avallone, an Italian pro gamer who has been playing competitive Quake for over a decade.

As a Quake player, why have you chosen to move to ShootMania?

At the moment I’m still planning to play both games, and as a matter of fact we are trying to attend Quakecon next month. ShootMania just got into beta stage and it’s already quite fun to play with a competitive team and has potential to become big, with many tournaments and events already taking place in different countries and as a professional gamer you always have to be ready for something like this. I remember back in 2004 when Painkiller came out, I was exactly in the same position as I am now. I was playing Quake III Arena but practicing tons of Painkiller because it was being used at ESWC 2004. Right after that the CPL picked it up and slowly became huge.

It’s also nice to finally be back practicing constantly and looking forward to events each month. I really missed competing regularly and ShootMania at the moment is delivering that, which is great.

Do you think that Nadeo were right to simplify the FPS to such an extent?

I have to agree that it is a bit too much simplified, but that’s the general direction games have nowadays since they probably want it more accessible to the casual gamers. Simplified doesn’t necessarily mean worse compared to others, quality is better than quantity.

Which game mode is best for spectators?

Only the Elite mode is suited for competitive play at the moment.

Are there any issues currently affecting ShootMania’s chances as a competitive e-sport?

I think it`s too early to judge. The Elite mode is fun - I have played two live tournaments so far with my team against the current best ShootMania players in the world and I have to say it was a great experience and we enjoyed the tournaments. Game wise, it still needs polishing and some important features and fixes and I wouldn’t go into details because I’m sure the developers are aware of the community requests and they keep releasing updates every second day, which is great.

The learning curve might not be as high as it should, limiting the pro-player experience and skill in the long run. This could also go the other way around, since more and more teams will be able to compete for the 1st place, creating strong and exciting tournaments. After the summer we can have a better idea overall.

Can you see ShootMania being a part of tournaments like the IEM (Intel Extreme Masters) and Dreamhack?

I think so yeah. Servers are always full at the moment and a lot of people are enjoying the game. We have seen a lot of teams forming and there are full online tournaments popping up every week. The game definitely has potential. I love FPS and I just hope we can see them back in the big leagues.
TrackMania Nations Forever

I played the original TrackMania not so much to death, but to the point where it was six feet under and the flowers had gone mouldy. In a way I’m not surprised by how little I’ve played its latest incarnation, TrackMania 2: Canyon. It’s the same jolly good physics-defying racing as the first, complete with the absurd track designs. But, for me at least, it just feels a bit too similar to the original.

This new video has piqued my interest, though. It reminds me of the thing that makes TrackMania great, other than the fact that you can drive upside-down: the community. I spent many a night up until 2am in that “just one more race” mentality, racing a hotchpotch of strangers on un-completable tracks. Once, I was racing three Swedish people on a track that simply consisted of a three-foot diameter tube and nothing else. We were all so determined to finish that we failed to see the futility of attempting to keep a racing car on a surface that it didn’t fit on in the first place.

Anyway, it’s a lovely, cheery video, complete with a kid playing the game (They seem to have negated the magenta cockskins for that particular bit), someone swearing at the game, some re-skinned rocks, some toilets racing through the game and, as testament to just how rock-solid TrackMania’s physics engine is, a shot of 1,000 cars attempting the same track. It ends with quite possibly the best home-made racing car rig on the planet.

So, this weekend, I might boot up TrackMania: Canyons and see what’s going on. While sitting in a pram.

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