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Sci-tech: Burning the midnight rubber

Trackmania Nations: Electronic Sports World Cup If you bought it in a box it would be labeled “for ages 7 to 70 and “fun for the whole family . It might also carry an advisory sticker that says “Warning: users may incur hours of life-loss or “Sleep will be severely restricted . A new version …

Trackmania Nations: Electronic Sports World Cup

If you bought it in a box it would be labeled “for ages 7 to 70 and “fun for the whole family . It might also carry an advisory sticker that says “Warning: users may incur hours of life-loss or “Sleep will be severely restricted .

A new version of a free online game originally released this time last year, made by French game developer Nadeo for the Electronic Sports World Cup (ESWC), is now available from www.trackmania.com.

The arcade racing game in question is “TrackMania Nations: ESWC .

Let me give a bit of background. The ESWC is a world-wide video game competition comprised of national preliminaries and a grand final event, usually held in France. The 2006 competition, held over three days in Paris, saw nearly 6,000 players and 35,000 spectators, and gave out over $400,000 in prize money.

Trackmania Nations is one of the games played at the ESWC, along with others like Counter-Strike, the tactical and team-play reference of first-person shooters; the real-time strategy game Warcraft III; the football simulation, Pro Evolution Soccer 6; and where the rail gun rules, Quake 4, an action-based first-person shooter.

What the free Trackmania Nations game does, in its pick-up-and-play design, is let anybody take part.

It’s a simple download that runs very well on an average PC, running something like a 2 GHz processor with 512 MB of RAM. It’s also a game that’s very simple in concept as this arcade racer requires only the cursor keys to control your car – although admittedly there’s an undeniable advantage with a gamepad or steering wheel, which you could buy for LE 50 and up as a simple accessory for your PC.

Trackmania Nations has the playing qualities of a full-price game, and not least in its presentation, with detailed graphics in the cars and scenery. The variety of tracks, with upwards of 90 available, have a range from beginner to advanced; after getting a medal in all those, the pro-tracks are unlocked. The car handles extremely well, almost kart-like, and corners as though it were on rails; but the madness of the track designs will have often have you in the air, trying to make absurd leaps off ramps and attempt insane landings.

This combination of life-like physics that the car exhibits, and the arcade nature of the game design, makes for an addictive and stimulating gaming environment. It also features a track editor and lets one paint and modify the car’s exterior.

Trackmania Nations simplifies the standard Internet gaming learning curve like no game before it. Not only is it easy to get started, as you can get yourself racing on international servers within five mouse-clicks of the game loading: watching the rankings – of not only your personal rankings but also the country you’ve chosen to race for – is also a breeze.

The points you earn as you race go towards your individual world-ranking and your country’s rank, and you win more points for beating players with a higher ranking than yourself. You can race with up to 40 other players at a time over the Internet – amongst a worldwide community of 6,000 and counting, even with a humble 256 kb/s DSL connection. There’s also a facility for playing over your local area network.

Those 6,000+ racers are a keen lot, and you’ll find tremendous third-party Trackmania support on the Internet. There are thousands of resources to download tracks, car skins and avatars for your gaming pleasure.

There is in fact a family of official Trackmania games that take you beyond the racing circuit into urban and desert environments and offers you a greater variety of different cars – for a price. Though the name recognition of the Nadeo software company may have been made from Trackmania Nations, said to have been downloaded six million times, it is financially sustained by the glitzier and more glamorous paid-for games.

And no one ever said online gaming was easy.

Much as a surfer will fall off their board hundreds of time before catching a wave, you too will have to play for hundreds of hours if you want to excel at electronic sports, hardcore gaming in other words.

The Electronic Sports World Cup Organizing Committee has already announced ESWC 2007, which will take place from Thursday, July 5, 2007 to Sunday, July 8, 2007 at the Expo Park of Paris, France. Online trials begin in the preceding months.

So if you need to take time out from shooting people, or need a breather from simulating soccer, then the latest version of Trackmania Nations might be the distraction – and if you don’t want out, addiction – you’ve been looking for.

Topics: Coalition

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