“HUGE CTR NEWS AT 3 PM UTC TODAY”
That was the Twitch stream title of Crash Team Racing (CTR) speedrun record holder Hypnoshark on Saturday, 10th June. It was purely coincidental that I had turned on his stream, intending it to be background noise whilst I played games and went about my business throughout the day.
Little did I know I would be shocked and astounded by what was to come.
Aside from the killer 101% CTR speedrun attempt (so unlucky not to break his World Record!), Hypnoshark unveiled something truly exceptional. He had been given access to the world’s first custom track made for the original PlayStation game. That game was released in 1999, almost 25 years ago!
The track is called Tile Trauma, a short map that, if driven intentionally without shortcuts, takes a good racer 15 – 20 seconds to complete per lap. I would take 25 – 30. With shortcuts, by the time I left the stream on Saturday, it was down to around 26 seconds for three laps. Although Tile Trauma is only available to race in Time Trial, the accomplishment was just astounding.
But it wasn’t that the map was functional enough to allow you to race Dingodile, Crash, or even Polar (if you so wish, but why would you?) around the track. It was also the number of features the developers had brought to it from scratch! It has two types of boost pads. It had respawn points that, if you fell off the map, Aku Aku or Uka Uka returned you to. It even had a Time Trial Ghost of your best time!!! Incredible.
It also has quality-of-life features that, as a player, I didn’t even think about but must be ridiculously hard to code. AI self-driving after the race had concluded was there, as well as a cinematic camera.
Yes, the backgrounds are not stylized, but this is one hell of a start, and it doesn’t detract from the gameplay. Let’s face it, despite what the internet says; graphics are done late in the development of a video game. And the horizon isn’t unappealing to the eyes, but the floor floats in midair like some kind of elaborate magic carpet. Does it matter? No.
So how did this come to pass?
Tile Trauma was brought to you by the immensely talented modders at the YouTube channel Darkaiser. Their team has been trying to reverse-engineer the code for CTR with the goal of creating a full custom CTR game in the engine.
Darkaiser Engineers (Niko, Super, DCxDemo, and Branch) and Texture Artists (Mnesiq and Avery) generated this track from the ground up. Their release notes state that Tile Trauma took 2100 hand-cranked lines of code to create. That’s a lot of lines of code that have to interact with each other perfectly for this track to function. I salute each and every one of you!
But they’re not finished yet. One of their end goals is to provide an artist-friendly editor where levels “will be built with zero lines of code, with the full complexity of an original Naughty Dog track.” Once that happens, it’s going to get a little weird.
As weird as a sentient bandicoot driving a cart, dropping TNT boxes behind him. Which, as we know, is freaking cool.