.Txt Files in More Depth

By now I think I've covered the main ins and outs of UltraStar, so guides from hereon are more likely to be bonus materials.

Whilst I've talked about the primary aspects of .txt files, it may be of interest to some people to understand exactly what the finer details of the files mean. They're actually very straightforward files and aren't difficult to get your head round. This is one of the many things that make the game work; I guess it encourages people to create songs for the game. Sadly, I won't be able to produce an extensive guide on how to do this. I've made a handful of .txt files using the MIDI conversion tool within UltraStar itself, and I will talk about this at some point. However, this method does have its flaws and I think it is falling out of popularity with the more 'professional' song makers out there.

So, as I've mentioned before, each song file starts with a series of #tags. Those written in red are necessary for gameplay. Those written in green are not necessary.

#TITLE: Title of the song
#ARTIST: Artist behind the song
#MP3: The name of the MP3 being used for this song. Must have a .mp3 extension included here
#GAP: The amount of time, in milliseconds, before the lyrics start. This allows for any instrumental (or other type of) introduction to the song. It is important to note the number of the first note below. If it is not 0 (which is rare) then the #GAP will be less straightforward. If the lyrics aren't set to start until 8 beats into the song, but the singing starts straight away, then the #GAP may need to be set to a negative number, to force the lyrics to start early.
#BPM: Beats per minute. This signifies the rate at which the text should display. Put simply, fast songs have a higher BPM, slow songs have a lower BPM. To complicate it slightly, the BPM can be upped for slower songs as long as more beats are added in the main body of the song below. If the BPM of a song is high then it generally means a good, smooth .txt file with more attention to subtle changes in tone. But if that means nothing to you, then you don't need to worry about this tag. If it is a good .txt file, then it won't need changing.
#GENRE: The genre of the song. As UltraStar has a 'sort by genre' option, it's a useful tag to use. That, and the search option uses the word(s) in the #GENRE tag when you're on the song selection screen, so you can automatically find all 'rock' songs, for example, if you use this tag.
#EDITION: Typically refers to the SingStar edition, if applicable, that the .txt file is taken from. For organisational purposes, it's good to leave this tag in.
#COVER: Typically the single/album art appropriate for the song, to be displayed on the song selection screen. This is not necessary but it does brighten up the look of the game (and makes certain songs identifiable when not selected). This must be in .jpg format and the .jpg extension must be displayed here.
#VIDEO: The name of the video file used for this song. Must have the file extension included out of the many types of video file that UltraStar accepts.
#BACKGROUND: If you don't have a video file, then you may prefer to have a background image displayed instead of a plain background or visualization. This must be in .jpg format and should have the .jpg extension attached. If the song is set to have a #VIDEO file and is linked in properly, then this tag is disregarded. If the .txt is set to have a #VIDEO but the video is not linked in properly for whatever reason, then the game will automatically display the background image.
#RELATIVE: This is an unusual tag that I will talk about later. It is simply set to YES or NO. If it is set to YES, then it specifies a particular format of .txt file that functions in a different way to a typical .txt file. If the tag is absent, or is set to NO, then the .txt file functions as the others do. It is essential for this tag to be applied on a relative .txt file (these are rare. If you find one on USDB then the tag will be readily applied anyway).

When the tags finish, then the main data for displaying the lyrics and notes, at the appropriate times and for the appropriate lengths of time, begins. That is, unless the song is a duet song. If it is a duet, then the file should start with P1, with P2 appearing somewhere in the middle.

As you will see, the .txt is sort of divided into 5 columns from hereon, with spaces separating each one. Take the first line of the .txt below, for example. The first column is :, the second is 0, the third is 2, the fourth is 12, and the fifth is Tee. Each row of .txt applies to a different syllable or note. Multiple syllables should not be included on the same line; in the example below, “Teenage” takes up two separate lines. The exception to the rule is when the note is a freestyle one, because no points are available then anyway.

Sometimes people do add more than one syllable to a line, but it technically shouldn't be done and means that the .txt is imperfect. It's not really possible to sing two syllables without breaking up the note. There are some exceptions, though, as you'll see below: where it reads 'family' below, it is set to 2 syllables, rather than 3. This is because Mika sings 'fam-lee,' rather than 'fam-il-ee.'

: 0 2 12 Tee
: 2 2 12 nage
: 6 6 12 dreams
- 12
: 12 2 9 in
: 14 2 7 a
: 16 3 12 tee
: 20 3 12 nage
: 24 4 16 cir
: 28 3 14 cus
- 32
: 32 2 16 Run
: 34 1 16 ning
: 36 2 16 a
: 38 4 17 round
- 42
: 42 2 16 like
: 44 2 14 ~
: 46 2 12 a
: 48 2 12 clown
: 50 2 14 ~
: 52 4 16 on
: 56 3 11 pur
: 60 3 12 pose
- 64
: 64 1 12 Who
: 66 2 12 gives
: 68 2 9 a
: 70 4 12 damn
- 74
: 74 2 9 a
: 76 2 12 bout
: 78 2 9 the
: 80 1 12 fa
: 82 1 12 mily
: 84 4 12 you
: 88 4 16 come
: 92 3 14 from?
- 96
: 96 1 16 No
: 98 2 16 gi
: 100 2 16 ving
: 102 4 17 up
- 106
: 106 2 16 when
: 108 2 14 you're
: 110 1 12 ~
: 112 2 12 young
: 114 2 14 and
: 116 4 16 you
: 120 4 11 want
: 124 3 12 some

The first column

This can be one of 4 things: :, *, F, or -. Here's a rundown of what they mean...

: Regular note
* Golden note
F Freestyle syllable
- Line break (separates lyrics into suitable lines).
Line breaks are different to other types of row, in that they consist of a hyphen ( - ) and either one or two numbers. If it contains one number, it determines the beat at which the previous line will disappear. For example, in the first line of the song above, the 'Teenage dreams' line disappears as soon as it's been sung, on beat 12. If the line break contains 2 numbers, the first number determines when the first line disappears, and the second determines when the next line will appear. There is no example of this type of line above, as it's a fast moving song with no proper breaks from singing – line breaks containing two numbers are generally for songs with a large instrumental break in them. Two numbers aren't at all necessary, however, as the game automatically puts the next line up when it is approaching – it's only if you want to control when it happens that you need to worry about the 'second' number.

So, effectively, the first column states the nature of the note, or if it's a line break. It's pretty straightforward.

The second column

This specifies the number of beats into the song at which point this syllable appears. The higher the BPM, the sooner the beat will appear. This isn't something you can really adjust without an image representation of the notes, but it's the way that the game understands it.

The third column

This states the number of beats that the note goes on for. The longer the note, the larger the number. Technically, the length of the note in question should finish before the next beat starts. 'Tee,' for example, in the first line of the example, goes on for exactly 2 beats, and the 'nage' syllable picks up on beat 2, immediately after 'Tee' finishes. If they overlap, then scoring full points for the song is rendered impossible, as you can't sing 2 notes at the same time, even if they only overlap fleetingly.

The fourth column

This contains a number code for the pitch of the syllable. Unfortunately, I don't have a list of which numbers correspond to which notes, though I believe that '0' is C1, so I guess you work either up or down from there (negative numbers are accepted).

The fifth column

Contains the text to be sung at that very syllable. As I've touched on, this should specifically refer to one portion of text for any words that are over 1 syllable long. In many cases, singers extend the syllable that they sing to show off their vocal range, and as you may have noticed, the standard format to represent this is to use '~' to show that you are extending the syllable to a different pitch. In the example above, 'you're' would normally be a single syllable, but Mika sings that first part and drops his voice slightly towards the end, so it will read as 'you're~' on the game itself.

One of the most important things to bear in mind with this column is that UltraStar will automatically join the words together. You therefore need to include spaces at the end of each word, but do not include spaces for syllables in the beginning or middle of a word.

So, in the first example, if no spaces were included after each word, the song would read like this in-game:

Teenagedreams
Inateenagecircus
Runningaround
Like~aclown~onpurpose

If you copy and paste the text in the first example, you will see that spaces appear at the appropriate points to stop this from happening, such as after 'age,' and 'ing.' Spaces are not necessary just before line breaks, but you can still use them.

Conversely, if you put a space after every syllable, it would read like this:

Tee nage dreams
In a tee nage cir cus
Run ning a round
Like ~ a clown ~ on pur pose
Perhaps this error isn't quite as bad as the first one, but it should still be avoided as it looks... stupid. Remember only to include spaces at the end of a word, not at the end of a syllable.

Finally, it is very important to include 'E' at the end of the song, to tell the game when it finishes, or it will not work:

: 1602 2 12 We
: 1605 2 12 are
: 1608 2 12 not
- 1611
: 1611 2 12 what
: 1614 3 12 you
: 1618 2 12 think
: 1621 2 12 we
: 1624 3 12 are
- 1628
: 1628 1 12 We
: 1630 2 12 are
* 1632 5 12 gol
* 1638 3 12 den
- 1642
: 1642 2 12 We
: 1645 2 12 are
* 1648 5 12 gol
* 1654 9 12 den
E

Do not include anything after the E, such as an extra line break, or the song may crash the game. Also, avoid putting a line break just before the E – this can confuse the game, too.

Relative .txt Files

As I mentioned earlier, .txt files with a #RELATIVE:YES tag included are of a different nature to normal .txt files. To be perfectly honest, I hate them. If they contain errors, they're difficult to track down and fix. However, given how different they are to normal ones, it wouldn't be as extensive a guide if I overlooked them.

#ARTIST:Beyonce
#TITLE:Crazy In Love
#MP3:Beyonce - Crazy In Love.mp3
#BPM:198,4
#GAP:15500
#VIDEO:Beyonce feat. Jay-Z - Crazy In Love [VD#0,0].mpg
#RELATIVE:YES
: 0 2 62 Uh
: 4 4 57 oh
: 8 2 62 uh
: 12 3 57 oh
- 15 16
: 0 2 62 Uh
: 2 2 57 oh
: 6 2 57 oh
: 8 2 58 no
: 10 2 57 no
- 14 16
: 0 2 62 Uh
: 4 4 57 oh
: 8 2 62 uh
: 12 3 57 oh
- 15 16
: 0 2 62 Uh
: 2 2 57 oh
: 6 2 57 oh
: 8 2 58 no
: 10 2 57 no

As you'll see, each line in the song counts from 0, rather from the very start of the song. These types of files are fewer and far between now, but there are still odds ones that you may come across.

I think I've covered the various aspects of .txt files now – most of it, of course, you'll never have to understand, though it may be useful to know a little more about them for troubleshooting purposes, and if you fancy making your own songs, this will serve as a good starting point. Like I said, I can't help much there, but I will do an entry soon sharing what I do know about song creation that may help to get you going.