Custom Track Tutorial
This page contains a brief overview of Custom Track files, a listing of the programs used to create Custom Tracks, and a listing of in-depth tutorials on creating Custom Tracks and related topics.
Overview of a Custom Track File
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.
- Your SZS
- 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:
- This is collision data. This file 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 file 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.
- This is the minimap, which is a textureless 3D model that is displayed in-game from a birds-eye viewpoint.
- This is the background of the track, often a 3D model of the sky.
An SZS archive typically contains many other files. These include BRRES files, which are the models of objects used in the level. BRRES files can also contain textures, "bones" and multiple types of animation. You may also find folders labeled posteffects, effects and brasd. Post effects include fog (BFG files) and bloom settings (BBLM files). 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. Please note that if you plan to use an object with effects or animations, you will need all its associated files in your SZS, otherwise your level will freeze on load. Files can also be imported, exported or deleted from an SZS file as needed using SZS Explorer.
Required Programs and Files
You will need to download these programs and a track file to use as a base for your new level.
- SZS Viewer/Editor
- SZS Explorer (Recommended)
- This program is used to load an SZS file archive and manage the files inside, such as the course and map models. Double clicking on an object inside an SZS archive will open it in an external editor, if available.
- Model Editor
- BRRES Editor
- This program is orginally designed for Brawl, but can edit Mario Kart Wii's BRRES files aswell. You can convert DAE files, which hold a better texture mapping and 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.
- 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.
- Track Files
- You can base your level on one of Mario Kart Wii's track files, such as beginner_course (Wii Luigi Circuit), castle_course (Wii Mario Circuit) or old_mario_64 (N64 Mario Raceway.) These levels all have fairly easy to understand KMPs. This option is usually preferable, as long as you have access to the original files.
- You can also base your track off of another custom track. Rooster Island works well as it can replace almost any track and is based on castle_course's KMP. Fishdom Island is another good choice if you need more complex checkpoints, item routes and enemy routes. Or you can create an SZS file from scratch using CTools. If you create the SZS with CTools you will need to import KMP and the KCL files from another Nintendo or custom track into your SZS. Some dedicated CT creators have managed to create their own glitch-free KCL or KMP files, such as the KCL at Sunset Ridge.
These are helpful programs that can enhance your track.
- This program is the predecessor of CTools. It's required for editing things that CTools currently cannot edit. 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.
- 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.
- These command-line tools replace some functions of SZS Modifier and SZS Explorer and surpasses many of the capabilities of these programs. They allow the creation of SZS files automatically using scripts (batch files) and are notably useful for compressing SZS files as small as possible and checking/fixing errors in KMP, KCL and SZS files files. Automatic minimap adjusting and height correction is also possible. And last but not least the program can generate KCL files directly from OBJ imports. This program is recommended for advanced users.
- 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.
These tutorials cover all the normal procedures for making a Custom Track.
- How to import textures to and export textures from BRRES model files. Useful information even if you aren't creating a texture hack.
- How to make your track with a model editor, map the textures to follow the road (optional but recommended), and convert it to a BRRES model that Mario Kart Wii can load.
- How to create an optimized collision model and assign properties such as boosts, walls, and off road to surfaces in your level.
- How to create a minimap for your level. A minimap not only helps players by showing their location on the track, it is needed as a guide to place objects in your level.
- How to make a cannon.
- How to texture and change other models (sky dome, item boxes, etc.) in your level.
- How to import objects from other levels.
- How to swap out post effects to give your level a different look, such as night-time, foggy or sunny.
- How to edit post effects.
- How to set up objects, routes, checkpoints and many other important things using SZS Modifier. Expanding KMP files is also covered in this tutorial.
- How to set up intro and replay cameras in your level for a professional look.
These tutorials cover additional topics.
- How to Port 3D levels from other games such as Mario Kart 64, Double Dash, or Super Mario 64.
- How to make your track with MS Paint and import into a BRRES file. (OBSOLETE AND NOT RECOMMENDED.)
- How to remake a MS Paint level in SketchUp using an image, while maintaining the original scale and position of the track.
- How to convert music into the BRSTM format used by Mario Kart Wii and many other Nintendo games.
- How to create a KCL using Wiimms SZS Tools.
Testing and Bug-Fixing Tutorials
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 by a 3D tool to make a visual review of your track.
These pages cover various glitches and errors that may occur in your course.
- Scale your track, if it is to small or to large.
- Problems with transparent textures.
- How to fix various problems with checkpoints.
- Slow frame rates can make a fun level a dread to play.
- If your viewpoint when playing gets stuck under your level, this tutorial is for you.
- A little discussion about often found KCL glitches.
- A way to skip a large portion of a course by a glitch or skipping the first checkpoint.
- When two overlapping polygons/faces "fight" to be seen, which causes flickering in-game.
- A visual artifact caused by small repeated textures.