Thursday, April 21, 2011

GeneRally

John Marine | 4/21/2011 02:33:00 AM | |
Not everyone can make cars and tracks for games. Not everyone even enjoy today's hyper-realistic racing games. One game will allow you to enjoy the thrill of racing in a fun freeware game. If you fall into this category of not being able to create your own racing experiences, then GeneRally might be for you. This game allows you to race against as many as five other competitors. (Source for the remainder of this post: Wikipedia) Two brothers from Finland named Hannu and Jukka Räbinä created GeneRally back in 2002. The first true version was released back in July 2002. The most recent official version, Version 1.10, was released in February 2011. A Beta for 1.10 was released a month later. Version 1.10 Beta is the current available version of GeneRally as of the date of this initial blog post (April 21, 2011).

This blog post regards the wonderful freeware racing game known as GeneRally. I am here to bring this game to light for all of my readers around the world.





--- GeneRally at a Glance ---
GeneRally is a freeware racing game featuring 3D graphics in a classic top-down perspective. Think of top-down racing games like "Ivan Stewart's Super Offroad" as far as top-down action is concerned, though many more would liken this to games like Super Sprint. Races can be run either by laps (anywhere between 1 to 100 laps) or by kilometers (anywhere between 1 to 100 kilometers). You can adjust a number of different features to make the game as easy or as hard as you like. Adjustments to tire wear, fuel consumption, and damage can all be adjusted. Even how points are distributed for finishes can be determined. Races are either single events or part of a championship stretch.

Unfortunately, you cannot translate from the Metric system to the Imperial system. So you'd better learn your Metric system. Here is a deeper look at the different elements of this game:


Cars.

* General - the basic race car in GeneRally.
* Formula - equal in may ways to the General, but faster and quicker.
* Go-Kart - a nimble handling machine, but has the lowest top speed of all machines.
* Mini - a compact car that's big on fun!
* Truck - a semi truck suited for racing.
* McTurbo - the fastest and quickest car in the game, but it is a poor-handling car.
* Triangle - like the McTurbo, only with better handling. It is much slower than the McTurbo.
* Yankee - an SUV that is fast and capable on and off road.
* Onewheeler - a one-wheeled racing machine. Despite its mediocre top speed and equally mediocre handling, it is very durable.
* MonsterTruck - a big and heavy brute with awesome power. Much better off-road than on-road.
* Sidamob - this machine is very agile and makes tight turns. Essentially a sidecar motorcycle.
* Rallycar - quick acceleration and powerslides make this a great car for on and off road tracks.


Tracks.

The latest edition (as of this blog post) is 1.10b. This edition includes five default tracks, 16 old tracks, and 15 World Tour tracks. So you get 36 tracks to race on in all. Each one includes racing in various environments.

Here are previews of each default course...

--- Default Tracks Preview ---
* Estio - a short circuit in an urban locale. Seems best suited for the Go-Kart.
* Ohful - a short tarmac oval track.
* Plot - a short urban circuit with a Figure-8 layout.
* Rahli - a rather long off-road course with a few jumps towards the Start/Finish line
* Surkit - a proper racing track where lap times go by rather quickly.

That makes up only five of the 36 courses in this package. The others have to be discovered on your own! These include the misc. tracks and the World Tour tracks.



--- Making Your Own Tracks ---
If you enjoy what GeneRally brings, you may equally enjoy making your own tracks. Making these tracks, however, can be tough if you don't know what you're doing. This is a brief look at how to make courses:

You need to have the following in order for a track to be legitimate:
* starting points for six cars
* a path around the race track
* a path for AI drivers to pit in
* pit stalls themselves
* checkpoints around the track

You get six starting positions right away. However, you need to set up where each starting point is on the track. The most important thing to remember about making a track is that all tracks MUST be a closed circuit. You are unable to create an open circuit. Even when you set the AI path for your track, regardless of how it is created, it is always set to be a complete loop. More on these elements will be discussed later in this blog post.


The Basics.

The land for each course is a 512 x 512 bitmap with sixteen colors. Each of the colors represent basic elements that can be added or modified: tarmac, grass, gravel, mud, snow, lines on the road, and oil among others.

The method I recommend in making new courses is to save a copy of one course's map. To do this, when editing a course, export the map of the course by clicking on "Export Map." The map will be saved in a *.BMP format. It is best to save this bitmap under the name of the course you exported the map from. So if you exported the map from a track called (hypothetical) "MyTrack," it is best to save it as "MyTrack_Map.bmp" or even "MyTrack-Map.bmp." I would recommend you make one bitmap of it just as a template. Only instead of the existing data, clear the entire image until it's just the green color (which is the grass). To prevent from writing over it accidentally, make this template as a Read-Only file. That way, you will be required to save it under a different name.

You can use GeneRally's own editor to outline the race track, but I recommend you use a Paint program. I recommend using brush sizes and line sizes at least 20-25 pixels in size. You want to make the road wide enough so that drivers can be on the road without going off into the grass often. If making off-road courses, it's probably best to set up gravel or snow roads to make a proper path around. The best advice is to just take inspiration from other courses.

In addition, consider pit space. If you are building any course for GeneRally, be sure to designate some space for drivers (including yourself) to pit. You don't need to have six pit stalls for each course, but it is recommended you have at least four. Make room for six pit stalls just to be fair so that drivers (including yourself) don't have to wait until everybody else is done for you to pit.

If you are unsure as to how to actually plan the layout of your course, then simply look at the included tracks for inspiration. Take elements from your favorite courses to help you to plan making your own racing courses. This is perhaps the best advice I can give anyone looking to create a track in GeneRally.

Creation of a brand-new course requires you to set a few early parameters early on. The most important one early on is the World Size, which affects the size of objects on your track. A World Size of 120 is a default setting. If your track is on a small scale, then the World Size will need to be small (but not TOO small) to accommodate six vehicles. If your track is on a larger scale (like the Algeria track), then the World Size will need to be at least 175 or greater. Don't worry about the other elements for now.


Track Making: Using the Editor.

So, did you create your own track layout yet? You can import your design into the GeneRally TrackEditor. Please note that you are only using the land map to outline the basic layout of your course. Why do you need to use the editor? You used the map to outline the main layout of the track, but you still need to define all the 3D elements of your course. The only way you can create walls and other things is by using the editor. You have to place objects and define checkpoints to give your track some life. You need to use the TrackEditor to create the AI path, put in certain objects to spice up your track, and things like that.

With the layout set, you have two options to start off with (realistically): either set up the starting positions or outline the AI line. Make sure there is enough room for the road to contain all six cars in starting position. Create an AI line by clicking on points of your track. Try to trace a line around the course by clicking on certain points of the track. You don't have to click and drag; just make a realistic racing line around the track. Also, make sure this line around the track is a realistic one to follow. You don't want to create a racing line that the AI will continually find itself crashing and damaging their cars. Be realistic.

Build a bunch of barriers and objects to help define the main flow of the course. I use a lot of concrete walls and soft walls to define the walls of the course. This is going to be important for when you create checkpoints. Left-click to add an object; right-click and hold to rotate objects. You rotate objects in certain directions by moving your mouse around while holding down the right mouse button.

Each track needs to have a set of checkpoints. The checkpoints are defined by these aquamarine boxes that must be passed through for a lap to count. The Start/Finish line should be the LAST checkpoint. Therefore, pick the first crucial point of the track for which to define the checkpoint. Make sure the checkpoint is long enough for the lap to count. Such crucial points to set a checkpoint would include sections within chicanes, the apex(es) of critical corners, and things like that. If you have a proper racing circuit (like the Indonesia track, for example), the Start/Finish line should extend from the inside of pit road to the outside of the Start/Finish front stretch. This way, you can be in the pits and still have your lap count.

Adding things like buildings and grandstands is fairly simple. When adding certain objects (like office blocks or stands), rotate the object in the direction that faces the road or whatever. The grandstands are these blue boxes with one side colored yellow. So be sure to have the different-colored side face in the direction you want to place that object. Objects like trees are circles with a line pointing in one such direction. Treat trees the same as you would a building or some other object.

Because you can't make hills and waterways with a bitmap editor, you have to define elevation changes with the TrackEditor. The HMap feature makes it possible to add elevation changes. Hold down the left mouse button to increase elevation. Hold down the right mouse button to decrease elevation. Proper use of the HMap will create proper hills and lakes. The more of either HMap feature is applied, the higher/lower the elevation will be at certain points of the track. Be careful with this, though. You could make certain points too high or too low to where they ruin the flow of your race track to a substantial degree. Proper use of this feature is trial-and-error.


Track Making: Track Properties.

Once you have created your track, you can freely edit certain parameters of the track when viewing it. This can be important because you want to be able to provide the best view of the track so you can properly see around the track. Here is a basic look at the Track Properties:

* Water Level - (I am inexperienced and can't describe this in this initial blog post. Maybe will be edited in the future.)

* View Angle - This setting determines the top-down angle for viewing the track. Increase this value for a better overhead view (similar to certain classic top-down racing games), or decrease this value to lower the top-down angle.

* Rotation - adjust the angle for which the track is shown. Increase this value to rotate this track in a clockwise direction, or decrease this value to rotate the track in a counterclockwise direction. Adjusting this setting can be effective in properly being able to see all of the track.

* Zoom - increase this value to zoom out, or decrease this value to zoom in. Find the best setting to offer the proper zoom level for your track.

* World Size - be careful adjusting this setting if you've already created a course! The World Size setting adversely effects creating certain objects and layouts for tracks. You will need to do extra editing if you change this section after completing a course. If you have created a small-size layout of your course, the World Size must be small. If your track is massive in size, then the World Size must be large enough to properly fit all six cars.


These items and more can be adjusted to make your dream tracks with this game. Experiment to your heart's content! :)



--- GeneRally Review ---
When you really play around with all of the features, it is a very fun title. This is a great game to play. Maybe it isn't hyper-realistic. Maybe it isn't hardcore. Does it need to be, though? It is a great ARCADE racing title in the spirit of most classic top-down racing titles. It is a very fun game to play and to make your own.

Perhaps the most refreshing thing about this game is that you can enjoy it on just about any modern PC. A PC with at least 16 MB of RAM and a 200 MhZ processor can enjoy this game without needing a computer that can play "blur" or "GTR Evolution."


Video Preview.

This video showcases what is possible with GeneRally. Honestly, this was the best and most useful one I could find. Most other videos on GeneRally just included bad driving and some annoying music. So, it was this or nothing:



You like?



--- What I Would Want to See in the Future (Bonus Section)! ---
This is a look at what I wouldn't mind seeing in future installments of GeneRally:

Future Machines?

I say machines because these can pertain to more than just cars. Any car names in quotations are hypothetical names I will use to describe certain machines.

* Sprint Car - they rule the short ovals with their impressive ability to get up to speed and powerslide into the corners.
* Stock Car - though better suited for ovals, these durable race cars would be great to see take on the tracks of GeneRally.
* Touring Car - nimble racing machine whose performance is very near production cars.
* Super Touring Car - touring cars with incredible performance.
* Grand Touring - exotic sport coupes vastly tuned for racing.
* Prototype - much like the Le Mans prototypes (LMP) and Grand Touring Prototypes (GTP).
* Grand Prix Motorcycle - think of your MotoGP or World Superbike racing bikes. This would compliment the Sidamob very well.
* Motard - this would be good for two-wheel racing on-road and off-road.
* Dune Buggy - a nimble machine that handles on-road and off-road very well.
* Trophy Truck - off-road racing trucks used to rallycross-type courses and long-distance off-road endurances.
* Hydroplane - if Generally offered racing on water, a hydroplane would be great for GeneRally racing.
* F1 Powerboat - if there was racing on water in GeneRally, powerboats would be great for water racing.
* Speed Boat - if there was water racing in GeneRally, a speed boat would be fun to race with.
* "amphibious" - a car that is great both on land and on water!
* "dorifito" - a compact sports car tuned for drifting.

If I think of any more, I may edit this blog post regularly.


Future Features?

* I'd be interested in seeing time cycles for GeneRally. Imagine racing certain tracks at different times of day or night. I think you would need to create lights for the cars (especially those that actually would use the lights if such a feature were implemented. It would even be interesting to have maybe some simulated 24 hours of racing as well. That, though, would require modifications to allow for dynamic time cycles.

* It would be interesting to see weather effects for GeneRally in addition to time cycles.

* I touched on it earlier, but racing on water would be nice for boat racing fans. It would add to the diversity of races in this game.

* Elimination events would also be interesting to include. The lowest-placed contenders from either each lap or each race will be eliminated. Last one standing wins. You obviously would need a five-race championship if eliminations are done by race.

* I think an online-enabled GeneRally would only add to its addictive style. Something tells me that an online multiplayer GeneRally is either in the works or likely to surface. It is certainly inevitable in my view.


If I (or even yourself) think of anything else, I'll edit this post accordingly.





That concludes this blog post. To learn more about GeneRally or to download, please visit GeneRally's official website at gene-rally.com. Thank you for reading! Since this game was created by two Finnish brothers, I want to make a special salute to all of you people from Finland who may be reading this! :D

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