Matthew Miner

Trajectory Wins Great Canadian Appathon’s “Wild Card” Category

This is slightly old news, but recently a game I built for the Great Canadian Appathon — hastily named Trajectory at 5 am on a Sunday morning — took home the “Wild Card” prize. The criteria for this category was originality, creativity, fun and cool factor. Like the Global Game Jam and similar hackathons I’ve participated in, the game had to be built in under 48 hours. A key difference of the Appathon was that the game, like the event’s title suggests, had to be targeted towards mobile deployment. This was my first time developing for a phone, but as I wasn’t exactly pushing the boundaries of graphical realism this proved to be easier than I anticipated. As burnt out as I was by the end of the competition, I was very pleased with the resulting app.

By design, the gameplay is simple. You play a spaceship, which for no apparent reason must collect stars (I’ll be the first to admit that the story lacks panache). To move about the level, you orbit around planets then slingshot yourself off, avoiding those mysterious black cinder blocks in the process. There’s only one control: tapping the screen attaches yourself to the closest planet, or releases you if you’re already in orbit around one. Traveling through a wormhole transports you to a sibling wormhole, which can be beneficial or detrimental depending on your randomly chosen destination. Completing a level requires that you collect all the stars in it, after which the next level begins. The time it takes to finish the level determines how well you do; like golf, a low score is desirable. Completing all ten levels lands you back at the main menu, where you eagerly scramble to play again.

Admittedly the orbiting mechanic feels more like you’re swinging, particularly so with the unexplained gravity that constantly pulls you to the bottom of the screen. For this reason a monkey character in a jungle environment would have been more appropriate, but a space theme was chosen as something my feeble 3D modelling skills could pull off. Pixar might not be pleading for me to design their next adorable protagonist, but when it comes to sculpting blocky planets I’m second to none.

Overall the Great Canadian Appathon was a bang-up affair. Organized by mobile game studio XMG, the prizes were impressive — the team behind the dashing Super Punch walked away with $25,000 — and we were kept well nourished throughout. I look forward to participating again when the next Appathon rolls around, before which you will hopefully see Trajectory up for sale in your local app store. All I need to do now is hire/kidnap an artist with 3D modelling skills superior to my own; which, to be honest, could be just about anyone.