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Photo courtesy Sailboat Studios

New video game created by U of C student-run company

By Cristina Paolozzi, August 4 2021—

A student-run software company, Sailboat Studios, has just developed a new video game called Traction Control. This game is a downhill exploration racer that allows players to race virtual cars through skateboard-like tracks. 

Justin Tijunelis and Mitch Lawrence are two members of Sailboat Studios. Tijunelis is the lead software developer and is currently in his sixth year taking Software Engineering and Business at the University of Calgary. Lawrence is a Physics major at the university also in his sixth year of studies, and is a game developer.

Although some of the senior members of the company have graduated, the entire team at Sailboat Studios is made up of U of C students. Originally starting as a contractor for Sailboat Studios, Tijunelis eventually moved into the position of lead software developer over time. Similarly, Lawrence mentioned that he was approached by the CEO of Sailboat, Gabriel Mesquita, to help program some of the games the company would eventually design. 

One of the core mottos of the company is to “make people’s lives easier, happier and more productive,” which is something Tijunelis said is ultimately to help improve the quality of the product they make overall, as well as helping to streamline the way users interact with their software.  

“Some of the work I do beyond game development is actually using video game engines for visualization,” said Tijunelis. “In a lot of companies — specifically engineering companies — they have these large datasets of their facilities, and the existing tools are not exactly easy to use or visualize. What we do is we come in and use game engines to make that visualization process easier.” 

Tijunelis also mentioned that this vision was important for the company as making people’s lives easier is a major way technology has been used over time. 

“I think keeping with that motif of technology is there to make people’s lives more productive and easier, it’s just a good motivation to make technology,” he said. “You could say that you make technology to make money, but I don’t think that’s really a good way to look at it.” 

Their newest game, Traction Control, is a game where you “race cars and do tricks,” as Lawrence puts it. 

“It’s a fun arcade racing game that’s centred around getting the fastest times or doing the coolest tricks,” said Lawrence. “It’s not to be taken too seriously by the player, but we’re taking it seriously, obviously.” 

Sailboat Studios has recently released multiplayer play, which is meant for some casual racing fun between friends. 

Lawrence also mentioned this game was inspired by the popular vehicular virtual soccer game, Rocket League, but wanted to create something a little less competitive, where people could play without getting too frustrated by the game’s difficulty. 

“I was playing a lot of a game called Rocket League, and I just really liked the way the game controlled, but it was very competitive,” said Lawrence. “So I was finding it tough to get my friends to come play it because they’d come and they’d lose and they’d think the game was dumb. So we’re trying to make a game that is maybe a little bit more dumb on purpose.” 

Lawrence explained that there’s a lot more control over the car but it’s more geared towards a communal experience. 

“Mitch once said, we tried making a racing game and accidentally made a skateboarding game,” Tijunelis joked. “And I think that’s the perfect description of it — it’s a car game that you can do skateboarding and snowboarding with.” 

As students at the U of C, both Tijunelis and Lawrence agree that the programs they are currently attending have helped them to hone their skills as game developers, however, they also mention that this type of work is something they would have pursued regardless of their studies. 

“What goes into making a game is pretty much self-taught,” said Tijunelis. “But I guess just on the programming aspect, having that base knowledge is good — the university is here to help us learn.” 

Lawrence said that creating videogames isn’t necessarily all about the programming aspect, either. 

“Video games are multidisciplinary,” he said. “There’s just so much going on that regardless of what degree you have, you’re going to have to do some learning on your own to really fill the gaps. But I think definitely getting a degree in STEM really helped my personal industriousness.” 

Traction Control is free and available right now. To learn more about Sailboat studios, check out their website, or their LinkedIn profile. To join Sailboat Studio’s discord, click here. To download Traction Control, click here

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