PolygonTrix Frequently Asked Questions
Be sure to see the Help page. It's where we put all our good info. You can also refer to the same Help within PolygonTrix itself.
Now for the FAQ
Q 1: I don't get it. How to I get started with PolygonTrix?!
PolygonTrix is not a classic "shooting" game. Here's how you play:
That's how you play. Once you see what happens, you'll get it.
The first round of events on each polygon is a warm-up round. You connect the particle's future with each target. Thereafter, you need to deflect the path off of the polygon side(s), playing a one-deflection round, then a two-deflection round, and so on, up to a ten-deflection round. That's 30 events total for the Triangle, up to 90 events total on the nonagon. The program "levels up" automatically.
Did we mention our Help page? Anyway, continuing with the FAQ...
Q 2: What's the World Line?
A: The World Line is your view into the future of the particle — which instantly obeys The Law of Deflections at every turn inside a polygon.
Q 3: Hey! Why doesn't the particle bounce around!? Can I get my money back?
A: We warned you, this is not an ordinary pool ball physics game. If this were a classic pool table model, bouncing a ball around in order to try a particular shot would be the natural thing to do — but you might need to take a hundred shots just to bag one pocket on a polygon-shaped table, all the while making tiny adjustments to your cue stick. Fun at first maybe, but practically impossible. Frustrating! Boring. And, there are 500 shot-like events needed to complete this game. So, put down that stick, and pretend instead that you can control a single fundamental particle with your bare hands!
It may help to think of the World Line as a stream of miniature balls (called particles) bouncing around the polygon at the speed of light, seeking out the target for you.
Rest assured, a particle will bounce around just after you convert each target to a black hole in a future version of PolygonTrix. That animation and sound will be an additional reward for the particle event. (There may be other sounds and effects oo). We think the flux is a pretty cool reward, but we also recognize that Trix may never be insanely popular without some physical action completing the mental action in the game. We appreciate your patience.
Today, if you feel deprived of your money, pick up a free copy of Geom-e-Twee to play with while we work on the next version of PolygonTrix. Pick up Twee for free even if you don't feel deprived!
Q 4: The path of the particle jumps around like crazy sometimes! Why is it so jerky?
A: This is the nature of polygonal billiards (the mathematics), not a defect in the program. When you move or rotate the particle, the path will change when it switches from deflecting off one side to another at some point along its trajectory. That different side sends the World Line off in a "new" direction!
When rotating the particle by Degrees (using the outer compass dial), the end point will jump around more than when rotating by Minutes. The inner dial rotates the particle by minutes of a degree, making a more fluid change in the trajectory, but the path will jump at times just the same. Even if the App could smoothly change the angle with infinite precision (it can't), the path would encounter the same discontinuities.
Moving the particle to a new location can also cause the path to jump around for the same reason.
At higher levels of the game, the longer series of deflections can increase the chance that the particle will hit a different side along its way. So you see more jumping around on the higher levels and on polygons with more sides. The challenge of the game is to find strategies to navigate this complexity.
Tip: As you crank the degrees around, it may be helpful to focus on the line emanating from the particle -- focus on rotating it to a better direction rather than focusing on the endpoint and thinking you can make the endpoint move move continuously.
Tip: After you have played for a while, be sure to read the Help provided in the App (also published here on line) for important tips on using controls. For example, all you have to do is touch down in one of the compass rings, then you can wind around the particle any way you like — you don't have to carefully keep your fingertip within the dial.
Q 5: Why does the World Line (and flux pattern) change more when dragging the particle one way than another way?
A: The particle is aimed in one direction at any time, right? So, if you move the particle forward in that direction, or backwards, you haven't changed anything (geometrically) other than moving the particle closer to or further away from the side it will eventually encounter along that path.
If you move the particle sideways from the the direction it is aimed, then you are shifting all the lines in the pattern over. The best place to observe this is on the Square — where you clearly see waves of straight lines shifting back and forth as the particle is dragged. Then go back to the Triangle (or other polygon) and you should see lines shifting in them as well.
Q 6: Why is PolygonTrix limited to a polygon with 9 sides?
A: Many-sided polygons start to behave like circles with flat spots in them. Circles are way more predictable than polygons, but can make some nice star-like patterns. The Ellipse (Oval) would be an interesting shape to add, but where would the targets be?
Also, if we continued the same game "play" with larger polygons, you'd have to convert more and more targets to complete the game, and we figured the nonagon was a good place to stop, after the more predictable octagon.
Q 7: What is the Educational Value of PolygonTrix?
PolygonTrix demonstrates that trial & error doesn't always beat out thinking. Like many puzzles, some thinking must be used to get results. PolygonTrix also shows that chance can play a role in how easy a particular trick can be — because each particle is placed randomly in the polygon. Some conversions certainly turn out to be easier than others.
We hope that players have fun trying to figure out the conversions they are given to make. Trix won't mind if the player just sweeps around looking for a line-up, because watching the ever-changing flux can be more interesting than trying to get the particle into a target. (See Settings about the flux drawing on/off switch.)
An exhuastive list of tips would be overwhelming. Besides, listing tips would defeat the purpose of the game which is for everyone to "play". Trix cheats may appear on the web someday. Who knows?
A pair of players could take turns on each level of an agreed-upon polygon and advance through the levels together. (Polygons can be reset and replayed.) They could verbalize their thought process while trying to find a combination that works, OR explain how an event happened, then improve the combination on their next turn. Some individuals might prefer to discover the heuristics on their own. Tell us what you think.
Another good exercise would be for a player to describe what they see in a pattern. Consider the one currently on our Home Page. The Deflections on the right side seem to be evenly spaced. Why not on the left side? Well, it's because there are two sets of Deflections on the left -- one coming up from the bottom of the triangle and ones coming back from the right. You can see that those related deflections are evenly spaced if you look at them separately.
Another educational aspect is seeing the consequences of a series of deflections. In some cases, the path of the particle has incredible order, while in other cases it seems to get random. That's usually because the series of deflections was interrupted when the world line or flux drifts over and hits a different side than earlier in the sequence, affecting subsequent deflections. The flux shows that the path of the particle is just a small segment of larger pattern that usually covers the entire polygon area. This is called ergodicity. Other times, a path loops back on itself when the particle returns to the same spot on the polygon and is going in the same direction. This is called an orbit. There are lots of different orbits in each polygon. The Math-Minded page on our PolygonFlux website goes into this in more detail. If you have had your curiosity piqued by Trix, you really should check out PolygonFlux which lets you draw more lines (or fewer), change the angle very precisely, choose graphic themes, etc.
We think that PolygonTrix makes a very advanced corner of mathematics accessible to anyone with an iPad. How could PolygonTrix not have educational value if it's geometrically correct? Please contact us if there is anything we can add that would make PolygonTrix more useful in math education.
PolygonTrix has a 50% discount available for 20 or more copies used at a school. Contact your I.T. support locally.
Q 8: Where did you get this idea?
A: We wanted to have a game-like version of our very serious app, PolygonFlux, which has an extensive history of its own. It took months of design work to invent a new game starting from the basic idea of bouncing a ball around on the billiards table. We wanted the game play to be simple and natural, like a classic game. A lot was drawn from board games such as carom and balkline pool.
The game went through many iterations on paper (described in words). It was apparent from the beginning that a player couldn't be expected to strike a ball and have it find a pocket after a bunch of bounces on a non-rectangular table, so the Tracer became the focus of the game, and allowed the game play to proceed more quickly from shot to shot. Once the basic ball-target stuff was operational other features followed, such as each bumper showing if it was hit, balls placed at each deflection point, showing of the flux while the ball is in play, and so on.
Then, the pool table and ball analogy caused confusion. The player expected to see the ball move around and bounce. As stated above, a physics game was never practical, so we intentionally changed the metaphor to particle physics. Balls changed to particles, open pockets became black holes, and so on. This analogy suggested more improvements to the PolygonTrix storyboard. Fun!
MARTIN GARDNER (1914-2010) stimulated my imagination every month for decades with puzzles and mathematical recreations.
Q 9: Do you have other ideas for cool apps?
A: Yes! This is our fourth App. We have several more in the pipeline that we hope you will enjoy in 2013. Be sure to check out our existing apps — PolygonFlux, Geom-e-Tree, and the free kids' version Geom-e-Twee.
If you enjoy one app, you'll likely enjoy the others. Please tell your friends & colleagues about our apps on Facebook, Google Circles, or where ever you gather socially. We appreciate your support. Thanks!
Q 10: Will there be an Android version of PolygonTrix™?
A: We will work on an Android version as soon as possible. We feel that we have the sole right to port PolygonTrix to Android. See A Challenge for Other Developers at the bottom of our Help page.
Q 11: Will there be a Windows version?
A: At this time, we have no plans to release PolygonTrix on any Windows device.
Q 12: Where can I send a question or comment?
Please feel free to write to TimeHavenMedia @ Gmail.com. We'd particularly like to hear about your game experiences if you are willing to share them.
Thanks for your interest! We'll improve the FAQ as more people play this new game, and as we improve PolygonTrix itself.