Custom Track Tutorial

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Introduction

This is the main page of the Custom Track Tutorial. Here, you'll see a brief overview of the SZS (track) file, a listing of programs you might need to edit them and in-depth tutorials on creating and editing each of the files. All files and sections are combined together to form a track, so it is important to know what each of them does while working with them. It is important to read all the tutorials and topics thoroughly before starting to make the track. The tutorials are presented in an order, however, you will find yourself jumping to previous and later steps, as it's impossible to define a strict "order" of building the track. During this proccess, it's common, even for advanced track makers, to run into issues or freezes of unknown origin. This is also addressed in the tutorial.

You can use the blue links box at the bottom of each page to navigate faster through the tutorials. If you have any questions, you may post them on the talk page (please sign your posts with --~~~~).

Overview of a Custom Track File

A view of SZS Explorer showing SZS file structure.

Mario Kart Wii uses SZS files to store track data; all of the original tracks can be found and extracted from the game's ISO using a program such as WiiScrubber or Wiimms ISO Tools. You will mainly be working with the following files when creating a custom track; they are all required for your track to load and work.

SZS is an archive format used by Nintendo for many types of data, and is similar to a ZIP or RAR file. Your SZS file will contain all the files needed by your track, including:
  • course_model.brres and vrcorn_model.brres
BRRES files contain 3D models and textures. They have no solidity of their own. The course_model.brres defines the main course model of the track and vrcorn_model.brres defines the model of the background, usually the sky.
  • map_model.brres
This is the minimap model, which is a textureless 3D model that is displayed in-game from a birds-eye viewpoint.
This is the 3D model that defines collision data. It determines what parts of the level can be driven on, where the walls and boost pads are, and which parts of the level are out of bounds.
This is a binary data file which controls the placement of all objects in a level, including item boxes and other animated objects such as trees, as well as enemy routes, start positions, checkpoints, and intro and replay cameras.
  • posteffect folder
This folder contains data for effects such as fog, glow, bloom and lightning, simulating the natural environment of the world.

An SZS archive typically contains many other files: Objects are usually composed of one or more files, and all associated files must be present for the track to load and the object to function properly. They might include BRRES files, which contain models, textures, "bones" and multiple types of animation and KCL files for objects with collision (although some solid objects do not use KCLs for collision). You may also find folders labeled effect and brasd. Effects include water splashes (Pocha), snow and fireworks (Hanabi). The brasd folder contains animations, needed for Goombas (Kuribo), Chain Chomps (Wanwan), flags, cannons and other items. Files can also be imported, exported or deleted from an SZS file as needed.

Programs and Files

The following programs and files are recommended for you to create your track. Some of them are required, and some are optional.

  • Track Files
You will need to obtain the SZS files of Mario Kart Wii's original tracks to use the object files (such as the item box) and maybe the KMP and vrcorn_model from them. You can see how to extract them from your Wii game disc in the Obtain Original Track Files page.
These command-line tools can perform many tasks efficiently. They allow the creation of compressed SZS files automatically using scripts (batch files) and checking/fixing errors in KMP, KCL and SZS files. It can adjust the minimap automatically and can generate KCL files directly from OBJ imports.
  • Wiimm's Tool Manager is a simple GUI for Wiimms SZS Tools.
  • You can download a pack of batch files with simple scripts which can be used on this tutorial here.
The multiple programs contained in this pack are used to load and edit SZS, BMG, TPL, BRRES and KCL files. Only the following two will be used in these tutorials:
It can open SZS archives and manage the files inside, by adding or removing them. Double clicking on an object inside an SZS archive will open it in an external editor, if available.
This program is used to view models and convert OBJ-format models (exported with 3D modeling programs) to the BRRES model format used in Mario Kart Wii. It is also used to import and export textures without otherwise altering a model.
If you use Wiimms SZS Tools to manage your SZS file and BrawlBox to import your models, this pack is not needed (recommended for advanced users).
Most 3D model editors can be used to create a Mario Kart Wii track. Google SketchUp is the recommended tool for beginners. 3ds Max can be used for more advanced editing.
  • A KMP Editor:
This program can edit and expand KMP data. It allows you to add or remove extra objects, checkpoints, respawn points, etc.
A tool giving an overview of the whole KMP file and is able to add/delete/move points with a click of the mouse button. For more complex models an imported map model OBJ file can be used to directly calculate the height values.
Both tools convert a KMP file into a text file, which can be edited with any text editor. And both tools use an internal compiler to re-create the KMP.

Advanced

These are optional programs and tools that can enhance your track.

  • Image Editor
Photoshop, GIMP, and Paint.NET are just a few examples. Since they are free, GIMP and Paint.net are recommended; Paint.net is much faster and lighter while GIMP is slower but more powerful.
This program is originally designed for Super Smash Bros. Brawl, but can edit Mario Kart Wii's files aswell. You can convert DAE files, which have more features than OBJ files, to the BRRES model format. This way other features that the BRRES model format supports, like vertex painting and more complex materials, can be converted too. It also allows the creation of BRSTM files for custom music.
This tool edits the properties of the materials in MDL0 files.
KMP3D is a plugin for Google SketchUp 6 and above that can help custom track authors with the KMP.
MagicY is a tool which works together with KMP Cloud to automatically calculate Y coordinates for KMP entries.
A Hex Editor is included with CTools, but this technique is for experienced hackers or experimental purposes only. Some files, such as post-effects and animation files, cannot be edited with the current suite of programs. Hex Editing is the only option is cases like these, and can lead to greater understanding of these files.

Tutorials

If you're creating your first custom track, you should begin with the Modeling with 3D Editor page.

Main Tutorials

These tutorials cover all the normal procedures for making a Custom Track.

Model Related

How to import and export textures to and from BRRES files.
How to make sure your track will be the right size; not too big or too small.
Guidelines on making your track's model with a 3D model editor.
How to convert your model to a BRRES file that Mario Kart Wii can load using the CTools Pack BRRES Editor. (beginner)
How to convert your model to a BRRES file that Mario Kart Wii can load using BrawlBox. (advanced)
How to create a minimap for your level.

KCL Related

Guidelines on creating an optimized collision model, assigning properties such as boosts, walls, and off road to surfaces in your level.
How to convert your optimized collision model into a KCL using Wiimms SZS Tools.

KMP Related

How to set up objects, routes, checkpoints and many other important things.
How to import objects from other tracks.
How to edit other models (sky dome, item boxes, etc.) in your track.
How to set up intro and replay cameras in your level for a professional look.
How to set up a cannon using a KCL trigger and a KMP destination point.

Other

How to change data for effects such as fog, glow, bloom and lightning of the world.
Index of video tutorials on various subjects.

Miscellaneous/Advanced Tutorials

These tutorials cover additional topics.

Model Related

Various things that can be done with your BRRES in BrawlBox, either to make the track look better or fix issues.
How to create and edit model or texture animations using BrawlBox.
How to add shadows so your track doesn't look like the floor emits its own light.
How to add mipmaps to BRRES files created in CTools.

KCL Related

How to create moving terrain in your track.

KMP Related

How to create a custom battle arena.

Other

How to convert music into the BRSTM format used by Mario Kart Wii and many other Nintendo games.
How to extract an existing model (such as from Nintendo or another custom track) from a BRRES back into the 3D model editor.
How to Port 3D levels from other games such as Mario Kart 64, Mario Kart Double Dash!!, or Super Mario 64.
How to remake a MS Paint level in SketchUp using an image, while maintaining the original scale and position of the track.

Testing and Reviewing

In all phases of the development it is important to test the track. This is especially true before releasing the new track.

Testing check list.
Create an OBJ file and import it in a 3D tool to make a visual review of your track.
Scale your track, if it is too small or too large.

Crashes and Bugs

These pages cover various glitches and errors that may occur in your course.

Common reasons why your track might freeze the game.
Problems with transparent textures.
A little discussion about often found KCL glitches.
A visual artifact caused by repeated textures.
How to fix various problems with checkpoints.
Slow frame rates can make a fun level a dread to play.
A way to skip a large portion of a course by a glitch or skipping the first checkpoint.
If your viewpoint when playing gets stuck under your level, this tutorial is for you.
When two overlapping polygons/faces "fight" to be seen, which causes flickering in-game.

Tutorial Archive

The following programs and tutorials are outdated and/or obsolete and not recommended.

Software

This program is the predecessor of CTools. It can be used for editing things that CTools currently cannot. It is also better for certain tasks that CTools can handle, such as creating minimaps and editing KCL data, as both of these features in CTools have problems that will produce glitches in-game. Unlike CTools, SZS Modifier cannot expand files to make them larger than the originals.

Tutorials

How to convert your collision model into a KCL using CTools and SZS Modifier.
How to make your track with MS Paint and import into a BRRES file.
How to make your minimap using SZS Modifier and/or BRRES Editor.

Links