Testing a Track

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This page is a part of the Custom Track Tutorial. Back to the main tutorial page.


Introduction

Seemingly minor issues like poorly placed respawn points and unusable Bullet Bills can ruin tracks. The more thoroughly tested a track is, the smaller the chance of problems, the more likely it will be that people enjoy your track, and the greater the chance of the track being added to distributions like CTGP Revolution and Wiimms Mario Kart Fun. This is a list of things to test before releasing a track.

If you want to know how to play your custom track on a Wii, see the How to play Custom Tracks page.

How To Test?

Test on a Real Wii

Some track developers use Dolphin (an emulator) to test tracks. Unfortunately, emulation is not perfect and many problems can go unnoticed if not thoroughly tested on a real Wii or Wii U system. Problems can include the track failing to load, freezing in mid-game, flickering or shimmering textures, the Harry Potter Effect, and various other issues.

Time Trial, VS, Split Screen and Online Modes

Time Trial and Versus races are different, but both modes are essential for testing your track. If you never test in VS or Grand Prix modes, you won't find out about problems with item boxes or wooden boxes, item routes that affect Bullet Bills and shells, or bad AI (CPU) routes. Watch the opening pans and make sure they don't freeze. Some things like Hanabi (fireworks) will only be visible in Grand Prix mode.

Likewise, if you never do a "free roaming" time trial test, you won't find out about places you can drive off the map and respawn where you reach a lap, or bad replay cameras routes that can cause crashes or just look bad. Try to explore the entire level, and note any places that can cause unfair shortcuts, collision problems like "death zones", barrel rolls, or falling through the level.

Make tests in 2 and 3 or 4 player split screen modes with CPUs enabled to detect slowdown issues. If possible, test the track online with a friend. Some problems, like the positioning bug, won't be detected offline.

Visual Review

Make a Visual Review of your track by using the wkmpt DRAW feature of Wiimms SZS Tools.

What To Test: Technical

BRRES Review

If you imported your BRRES with CTools, the only bug you're likely to find is the Harry Potter Effect (in case you have transparent textures). If you imported it with BrawlBox and edited more settings, such as materials and shaders, it's possible that some of them might look bad, in case of incorrect settings. Try looking at your models from different angles to see if you can find any problem, such as Z-fighting.

Lowering Walls

It's possible to hit or get stuck on the upper edges of walls that border drivable surfaces. See the Solidity article for information about lowering walls.

Face Down Roads

Triangles (faces) are 'solid' on just side (keyword culling). If your roads, walls or other surfaces have faces both above and below the intended surface, various glitches can occur:

  • Unwanted jumps while driving over the road.
  • Hard changing of the driving direction if jumping down to the road.
  • Barrel rolling.
  • Strange camera jumping effects.
  • Underground views of cameras.

If you have some of these effects, try to remove the face down road triangles. Face down roads can be selected by the KCL flag and its first normal (Y value <0.0). Wiimms SZS Tools can remove such triangles automatically; see Creating a KCL with Wiimms Tools for details.

Start and Respawn Positions

Check the position and direction of all respawn points. Fall off the course every place you can. Use mushrooms to fall down far away from the main route. If your respawn point is on a narrow strip of road, it can be a problem because all 12 players have different respawn positions (1200 units wide, 900 deep). This can lead to players respawning without solid ground below them, causing them to respawn in an endless loop. So your respawn point is actually a respawn area, and all of that area must be over a section of road.

Also be sure to check the positions of all 12 start positions in the level. Make sure the points are all inside the road. Test at least the first and last positions with CPUs.

Enemy Routes

Verify that all CPUs reach the finish line. Quite often bad respawn points that point in the wrong direction are the reason for AI problems. Pay attention to the minimap to see if CPUs are using all defined routes.

AIParam

Some track authors add AIParam to their levels to make it more challenging - these files make CPUs drive faster than human players. However, AIParam is not a substitute for good Enemy Routes, and many players find courses with AIParam very annoying. Since it is controversial, it is recommended that you release your level without AIParam, or release an AIParam version as an optional download.

Item Routes

If you have designed shortcuts on your level, use a Bullet Bill after entering the shortcut to verify if it follows the route and does not turn around or crash into a wall or the ground. If possible, use an item cheat for repeated usage of Red Shells and Bullet Bills. If you can't use cheats, you need to fall behind the CPUs so you'll get them randomly.

The height (Y value) of item points are important. If the Y value is too low, Bullet Bills will bore into the ground and shells might spontaneously be destroyed. If the height is too high, Bullet Bills will fly high in the sky. Use a tool with automated height correction to more easily fix this kind of bug.

Checkpoints

Make sure that the check points are set following the new quadrilateral model and cover all drivable parts by convex quadrilaterals. Set up your collision model with invisible walls so that potentially problematic areas cannot be reached.

Objects and Cameras

Make sure that all objects are placed properly, so that they look and act good. View replays (many times, if needed) to see if your custom cameras actually show something and are activated in the correct AREAs.

Cannons

See if you can always hit the cannon, no matter how fast or slow you try to hit the trigger, in which angle, and make sure you always land.

Minimap

Is the minimap fully visible and centered in its view area? If not, fix the minimap position. Wiimms SZS Tools can adjust the minimap automatically.

What To Test: Playability

Is it fun?

This might be a more subjective topic, but it's important to consider if you want people to actually play your track: is it fun? Is it a track which you finish a race and soon find yourself wanting another race there? Or just a boring or frustrating track which makes you never want to pick it again? Both technical "behind-the-scenes" detail and playability are important if you want to make a good track, not to mention the looks.

Characters and Vehicles

Mario Kart Wii has a variety of weight classes and vehicles that have different drifting (power sliding), handling, and off-road characteristics. If you have narrow roads and do all of your testing with just one type of vehicle (for example, the popular inside-drifting Mach Bike or Flame Runner) players using karts or bikes with outside drift may have difficultly navigating your course because their vehicles require more space to turn. If you have a lot of off-road area in your level, or shortcuts that are supposed to require a mushroom boost, be sure to test those areas using a vehicle with a high off-road rating like the Magikruiser or Tiny Titan to see if they do too well on those sections. Failing to consider all play styles can give certain vehicles an unfair advantage, or simply make the course tedious to play.

Speed and Jumps

If there are places where players must jump over an abyss, be sure to test the jumps in 50CC mode, and while shrunken by a Thunder Cloud. Some jumps can be difficult or even impossible on 50 or 100 CC mode. This problem can be made even worse by poorly chosen respawn positions that do not allow the player to get to full speed before attempting the jump again. In most cases, it is best to place your respawn point after the jump so the player won't have to repeatedly attempt it if they fail to cross it the first time.

All Possible Routes

While it's important to test the main road when designing a track, it's even more important to check the areas you wouldn't normally go - this is what glitchers will do the moment they try out your level. Start up time trial mode, leave the main road and drive all over the level. Find places to fall off, then make a note if the lap counts after you respawn. Test all possible routes of your track, also all possible shortcuts using mushrooms or other boost items.

Unintended and Unfair Shortcuts

Before releasing it is wise to thoroughly explore your track, especially areas that players would not normally go. If an area outside the normal track boundaries is drivable, then there is a chance it could be used as an ultra shortcut. Likewise it is important to determine if an intended shortcut is too good. Test it without items or boosts and compare how long it takes to complete the track both with and without the shortcut, using both a normal vehicle and one that has a high off-road rating. If the shortcut takes less time without boosts than the normal route, it needs to be revised. Ultras and poorly designed shortcuts can hinder your track's popularity and lead to its rejection from custom track distributions.

Item Box Placement

Good item box placement is important, not only to make your level as enjoyable as possible, but also because poorly placed item boxes can cause certain glitches to occur. Arrange your boxes into groups of 4 to 6, ideally in rows where you can't run over multiple boxes at once. For a typical 3-lap track, you should place 4 to 6 groups of item boxes.

  1. If a driver gets 18 or more items in an online race, all following items are mushrooms. This gives the player in first place an unfair advantage.
  2. If a row has fewer than 4 items boxes, typically only the first 2 players to pass through will get an item unless the boxes are spread far apart. This is bad for gameplay since only the first two players are guaranteed an item at any one time, giving them an advantage over people trailing behind them.
  3. Sometimes it may be tempting to place item boxes just after a sharp turn. If this is the case, then going for the outside item boxes may cause a vehicle to crash into a wall or otherwise lose too much time for collecting the box to actually be worthwhile, thus creating a problem similar to that discussed in point number 2, above.
  4. Retro tracks and tracks from other games sometimes only had 1 or 2 item box rows in their original game. That arrangement may have suited the gameplay in the original level just fine, but Mario Kart Wii plays differently, so it is important to ensure item boxes are evenly distributed. Do not be afraid to add or even move item box rows; Nintendo does the same for their retro tracks.

The height of the item boxes is also important. Be sure that all item boxes can be hit while using a small vehicle in reduced size (while under the influence of a Thunder Cloud or crushed by someone with a Mega Mushroom.) Use a tool with automated height correction to quickly set an ideal height.

Version Number

A version number of your track (preview, alpha, beta, RC, v) reflects its status. Read the Version number article and select a good version number.

Found Bugs?

If you have found bugs or glitches in your track, check these articles first:

If the answer you need isn't there, you may post your question on the Talk page (please sign your posts with --~~~~).

Links