Tuesday, October 21, 2014

A Yours Truly Tale of MiniRacingOnline

My birthday has passed almost a week ago (15th October), and on the same week, it's been five years since I upload all my RendyTUNED-era creations. Time really goes fast and looking back at those stuffs, I can't help but wanted to remake almost all of them. Like I said in earlier posts, my trackmaking in Turbo Sliders back then was subpar compared to others.

But this time, I won't post about Turbo Sliders, rather I decided to post about my experiences in yet another top down racing game, this time it's called MiniRacingOnline, a top-down Formula 1 simulator made in Spain by Kotai. It is a top-down game unlike others: one of its most stand out features is the ability to set your car in the race like in real life, albeit limited to gearing and control settings. Not only that, it also features tire compounds (soft, hard and wet), weather effects and AIs with set personalities that can also pit. Recent versions added KERS and DRS systems to the game, and future version would include day/night cycle and the new SDL2 engine usage where, now, the map moves per your car's movement just like in classic racing games on older gaming consoles. It's been a long time I haven't touched this game, while I knew this game roughly six years ago when I was just browsing the net and stumbled upon this.


Six years ago is when I got this game via download and played it on my old PC (I downloaded it from a net cafe). The first time I played this, I was really getting into it and being immersed by its gameplay that really reflects what top-down racers should have; car settings, lively AIs, pit stops, weather effects, accurately-represented graphics and the F1-styled HUD. Yes, it doesn't seem to be lighter than other top-down racers like, say, Turbo Sliders, but the game shows the simulation side of a top-down racer. The game started its humble beginnings as a top-down karting simulator, and later evolved to the MiniRacingOnline they have today.

Car settings; something that sets itself apart from its competitors. Newer version introduces KERS settings (Image: MRO Official Site)

The car settings (tire compound selection included) are the primary spice of the game. Here, you can set your desired settings on wings, gearing, ABS, traction and select from three different tire compounds; soft, hard and wet. Setting the wings affects car controls and final top speed while setting the gearing affects acceleration and top speed. Setting the traction affects your car's stability, and putting it to 0 requires you to control the car carefully when it's in a slower speed. Finally, tire compounds. Soft compound offers maximum grip and hard offers maximum endurance, while wet compound is... well, self-explanation. You can also set the amount of fuel to be added to your car, which can affect your car's handling, though only applicable on practice and time attack modes, while you would only set a one-time fuel setting when qualifying and the remaining fuel from the qualifying session would carry to the race, just like in F1. Additionally, you can set whether fuel consumption and tire wear is disabled and follow the racing flag rules (i.e., yellow flags for crashed players, black flags for player-made fouls, etc.), to name a few. Weather effects are also part of the primary spice, and you could set the race's weather by yourself. You can even opt for weather changes which would occur in the middle of the race, so you may have a rainy start with a slow transition to sunny weather and vice versa.

Bots; define their personalities, their car performance, their sounds and their cars! (Image: MRO Official Site)

The AI players become a great complementary to its simulation-esque gameplay. The AIs, which are stored in the "Bots" folder and then stored in separate folders per their individual packs, have set parameters ranging from car performance (such as speed and acceleration) to the "driver" itself (such as aggressiveness and overall pace). Other than that, you can even set each AI's sound files, cars and profile. The AI system sums up my vision of how a perfect top-down racer should have. The awesomeness, though, doesn't stop there on gameplay and AIs alone; MECHANICS! How can we not mention the mechanics that consist of different images simulating their movements when a player pits in? These mechanics come in variety of colors, with more available on the official site. Each mechanic consists of five images simulating its animation, from idle, to tire changes, to refuelling, and finally its finish. The Team Radio thingy is also a nice touch too.

It's true that MRO doesn't have different car physics for each car like Turbo Sliders has, but in return, you can drive hundreds of community-made cars available online, and the AI parameters plus car settings ability complement its lack of individual physics very well.


The McLaren F1 GTR; as the day/night demonstration encouraged me, I thought it's time for me to make endurance-themed cars. I did post this in one of my previous posts. Previous creations in MRO by me include JCars template and Ford Fiesta XR4 which, sadly, is now gone.

I can consider 2009-2010 as my year of top-down racers, with me being active not only on Turbo Sliders and GeneRally, but also MRO as well. The online car making tutorial (explained in Spanish) did the justice, albeit using a machine translator due to language, and I started making cars for fun from there on. The challenge I face when making cars is the shading and the window shading because you won't be satisfied when you know your car's window isn't as good as Vivndum's creation, which always happens to me everytime I wanted to make window shadings. Vivndum is one of the prominent MRO names in carmaking, having made almost-realistic cars thanks to his meticulous shadings. Thankfully, there are two video tutorials to get you going if you want to make crazy-realistic cars like him. I even made J-Cars template, a set of *.psd files containing Japanese cars where you can paint whatever you want there. I should say, for a beginner at that time, it is good (not really good, but not that bad either), save for the unoriginal windows. As time flies, I suddenly realized why everyone needs a template pack now that it's been floating somewhere for years. The template pack doesn't seem to do any justice at all according to my now-matured standards.

Another car that I've made for the game is the Australian iteration of Ford Fiesta ST (the XR4), complete with choice of colors like white/blue stripes and red/white stripes as two of the overall selections. The car is good, but doesn't live up to Vivndum's standard of "good". Unfortunately, the image link is dead and I don't back up them just when my PC is broken :(. However, I did make my return to the MRO scene, encouraged by Kotai's announcement of day/night cycle, with the McLaren F1 GTR, starting with the Gulf livery. I even vowed to create all liveries that competed in the BPR Global Series to complement the community-made cars. The reception is good and the car is now closer to Vivndum's standard of "good". Carmaking life's made easier when you have a template to make another livery ;).

There is, however, one site I frequently visit at that time. Sadly there are no more updates for years. It's Mikasa Drawing Office. He is the one responsible to port Mt. Haruna to the game, along with the Initial D Bots pack, among many other creations you can find here. I did asked him to make a Hakone track when he was very active at that time and even sent him my Mario Kart carpack in return (it's made a long time ago, but wasn't released for some reason). Some of his tracks even made to the Track Downloads section of the site, namely Road Atlanta and Suzuka to name a few. Mikasa / Yashima will go down as one of the memorable MRO names for creating my favorite tracks.


F1s gallivanting at 5th gear on Monaco; LOOK AT THE DAMN BUILDINGS!!! *o* (Image: MRO Official Site)

If Vivndum's level of detail on his cars isn't enough for you, then you really need to see how isometric the tracks look albeit in top-down proportions. This is one of the things I noticed the first time I played this game. At that time, the version included one track which is the Barcelona circuit (dubbed as Montmelo), and you can see how awesome the isometric elements are, ranging from the walls, the grandstands, the buildings and more. In every track, they seem to take track designs very seriously in order to attain almost-realistic looks aesthetically. Every track comes in the *.jpg format, and often have a size of more than 3 MB depending on how realistic and complex the design is. But how they can manage to make this track drivable, you ask? Using the Track Editor of course, but this is everything but a one-day job. Why so?

Unlike other top-down racing games where objects are pre-made for Track Editor purposes, MRO only provide rectangular "brushes" to define the track's terrain. These brushes will determine where the track's asphalt is and which part of the asphalt would act as a run-off (they won't be shown on the track's map), where are the sectors, starting grid placements, pit mechanics and time attack starting positions. You can even define an object (in indexed *.bmp format) to be used in the track's image, and even you can make an animated one defined from a number of images (simulating its animation) in that single image. Creating an AI file for the track requires a ghost file and a drive around the track, which includes starting in the pits, entering the pits and finally drive the finish line, which adds complexity to the track creation process. All this can take days to finish, even weeks, or even, to an extent, months. The Spanish trackmaking tutorials are online, and if you have some trouble grasping every Spanish in the document I suggest to use a machine translator.


Online races also exist in the MRO environment. This means that the game also has online playability as other top-down games, but I rarely use this feature. I don't know if the game also supports in-game downloading, but there's a Launcher that can solve your problems. If your internet isn't strong enough for races, don't worry; you can post your times to the upload server where you will be ranked based on your time, and you can even download ghosts in case you want to contest yourself against someone on the leaderboard who's faster than you in your desired track.

You can check out this section to see leaderboards for individual tracks. Keep in mind that each track is categorized as either General, F1, Rally, Nascar, and much more, and clicking an individual track will take you to the statistics page for that track, and you can download a player's ghost for that chosen track too.


The rain never bothered me anyway (Image: MRO Official Site)

If you are a top down racer fanatic like I am and also a racing simulation fan or even a fan of Formula 1, this game suits your needs. I would recommend you readers to have a moderately powerful PC / laptop to play this for a full enjoyment as it is heavier than most top-down games like, say, Turbo Sliders, but the aesthetically-realistic nature of the game, including the car settings, realistic AIs and isometric tracks makes the game worth playing. Online playability includes racing and sending your hotlap ghost in case you don't feel like racing, plus ghost downloads. From a personal Point of View, I will continue my McLaren F1 GTR and even make another set of cars that is yet included in the official pack. I would also try making my first track, but it would take a long time for that as, like I wrote earlier, it is everything but a one-day job. With the day/night cycle being announced, the game will get much better and realistic.

Closing this post is the video that showcases the SDL2 graphics it would use in the future version. With a view like this, the game would feel like a classic top-down racing game from classic game consoles, like DriftOut for example:


MiniRacingOnline Homepage / in English
Download the Game (also check other sections for more downloads!)


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