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Best Way to Steer in TrackMania

Posted: 21 Nov 2019, 15:10
by TheGalantMAN
Hello, trackmaniacs.

We know the pad is the best currently available option. Yea, okay, some people with the keyboard make faster times on certain tracks, hitting maximum turning immediately, but just bind the steering to two buttons on the pad and you'll have that plus the analog to make progressive turns; even though you'd have to finish one turn in a way and then make the next turn in the other way. For the keyboard to beat the pad in the absolute, it would need a trigger that switches from digital to analog and back + left & right-buttons which detect how much they get pressed.

Yet, I am not feeling completely at home with the pad. For instance, when I made my proper run on the E05-Endurance I used a keyboard, not even bothering taking my better one* without key-ghosting (*where I can drift left without leaving the throttle for a sec), just because I was more comfortable with the kb; since here my goal was not making a great time (only beating the Nadeo run, who also crashed once), just lasting for an almost full hour playing a single ride on a track full of bugs without going crazy.

Using the four arrow-keys is quite awesome to me because: I'm concentrated and still, not spreading my arms like if I used A & Z to accelerate & brake and two arrows to steer; with my left hand at the left steer and my right hand at the throttle/brake & right steer I can divide the steering into my two different hands like with a steering-wheel, matching closer how I trained my mind to move my own articulations.
Not so by using one analog stick for both directions on my xBox-gamepad.

Hence, my favorite way of playing (keyboard's arrows) is not the most effective, but the most used for world-records (pad's left stick) cannot either be the absolute best, because it lacks the advantages of:
– Immediate maximum steer.
– Right and left steering divided for each hand.
– Concentrate in the middle and be still.
That progressive keyboard with a trigger to switch between analog and on/off that I theorized would do it, while my pad cannot.

Yet, the pad could do something kinda similar if… if it just used R2 & L2 to steer. Not as concentrated, but pretty close, and you could just accelerate with X (X as in the xBox device, not in the PlayStation one) and brake with Select. And you could use something like reWASD to set e.g. R1 as trigger of a maximum sensitivity set-up to turn it into a switcher between progressive and instant steer (analog/emulated digital).

But here are the two respective problems with this solution:
1. The 'Steer with Z-Axis' method needs an update in ManiaPlanet where e.g. the controls "Steer left (analog)" and "Steer right (analog)" (separated) be implemented.
2. Using reWASD in that way would be considered cheating, unless Hylis proclaims it canonical, since it's not how the competition in this game has been so far, while the world-records were established.
Yea, well, I know Nadeo also wrecked all Canyon-WRs at a time with a physics-update, but they're the developers, they can get away with that, while if I tried to openly start a new trend with reWASD without permission: I'd get banned.

The gamepad Z-axis is better than the left stick also because there would not happen the following: the finger slipping-out constantly.
I have sweaty hands, so I especially notice this issue, but it's not only that; the stick has a small surface which constantly changes angulation, and the finger is not easily maintained on top of it and at an angle with the best grip. Also, sometimes you adjust for the best grip to go left, but then you suddenly figure-out you have to go right, so you need to change your finger's position, and sometimes you cannot do that properly even if you know it in advance, due to timing, so you're simply doomed and will have to accept that in a second you'll have lost the expedient position and will do a worse turn (or worse attempt at going straight after a curve).
With the xBox-controller's Z-axis: no such problem. (Let's forget about the Dualshock from the PS3, which years ago I also tried to use; it not only features a worse position for the left analog, yet also R2 & L2 shaped in the opposite way they should be: they're shaped to let your fingers slip-off instead of keeping them in contact)

The joystick cannot be the best solution either. It moves around in that arch which is too not immediate to be the fastest most precise way to control. The way in which it requires you to go up and down and to change your angle while you try to steer is a distraction in a similar way to that in which the bump in the middle of an infamous Valley dirt-curve is (like the sticks of the joypad, though those are small and thus have smaller distracting arch-path).

So, Florent, here are the steps I ask from you, according to my petition:
1. Add either the separated analogs for the steer, or a joint analog input that works fine with the Z-axis (in TMUF it almost does, only left & right are reversed).
2. Approve the reWASD thingie I mentioned, or implement an ingame trigger to switch between analog & digital (or other different sensitivities, like with a RAT mouse).
(3.) Also, an input to stop any analog steering going-on before the physical trigger gets back to the neutral position ('stop last steering input' or 'force straight') would be great.
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I know many prefer the 'multiple interpretations', open to fan-fiction & expanded-universe type of arguments while mine is presented as defined, but: while you can have different opinions about how to steer in TrackMania (it does not depend from me; and I myself changed some opinions, I once theorized a small wheel could be the best option), if I am arguing something right now I will of course not pretend to be unconvinced of what I'm saying to satisfy the need for a safe-space of those who think differently.
_ _ _
If I had to post this somewhere else I'm sorry, it's my first post, I searched for some already opened thread to continue but could not manage to find a properly related one, so I'm just opening this and then you can move it elsewhere.

Re: Best Way to Steer in TrackMania

Posted: 21 Nov 2019, 15:44
by riolu
TheGalantMAN wrote:
21 Nov 2019, 15:10
Hence, my favorite way of playing (keyboard's arrows) is not the most effective, but the most used for world-records (pad's left stick) cannot either be the absolute best, because it lacks the advantages of:
– Immediate maximum steer.
The majority of your post is unfortunately based on misconceptions - the main one being you thinking that you're in a disadvantage when it comes to full steering with a gamepad. The way the car physics work in this game is that it takes a certain amount of time for the car to reach 100% steering after you're applying the input physically.
To picture that in other words: when you turn a steering wheel irl, it also takes time for you to reach the full steering threshold.

Let's take the following example to further prove my point. The start of TMNF's D10-Race is a perfectly timed, 100% leftwards steering input in order to get over the wall and cut the track.
The current world record, the 44.43 by Katic, is driven with a gamepad.
A former world record, a 44.86 by JaV, is driven with a keyboard and achieves the exact same start like Katic in the new world record. ... =2435#auto
To further elaborate, feel free to download the entire set of replays from the top10 and let them run simultaneously. Within this top10 you have a wide array of different players with different playstyles and input devices - and they all manage to hit that exact time stamp for the aforementioned 100% left steering movement to get over the wall.

There is a time window (most likely a few milliseconds) in which the game engine does not differenciate between digital or analog input. Obviously, if you were to attempt to do this strategy with a steering wheel using 900° rotation, you wouldn't get anywhere close to the desired result.

TheGalantMAN wrote:
21 Nov 2019, 15:10
– Right and left steering divided for each hand.
I hardly know of anyone at higher level who plays this way. I'm sure this would be something you could get used to if you were to devote to it, but it would certainly not be an advantage.
TheGalantMAN wrote:
21 Nov 2019, 15:10
– Concentrate in the middle and be still.
This is absolutely no problem unless you're playing with a broken gamepad or faulty ingame settings (deadzone/sensitivity). Analog sticks always snap back and center perfectly straight.

As a conclusion, there's nothing to be fixed or added from Nadeo's side. You're free to adjust your gaming experience in a positive way using the third-party tools you mentioned in your initial post - because it won't impact the gameplay in any way.