Local game developer designs ‘A Duel Hand Disaster’

Originally published in What’s Up Weekly (El Paso) on June 21, 2017.

For El Paso native Jaycee Salinas, video games, technology and music are “the lifeblood of any creative mind.”

This is a maxim Salinas knows very well, as his own creative mind has consistently brimmed with endeavors in each of these fields. But one pursuit in particular has been his obsession for the past two years: Salinas has dedicated most of his free time to developing, designing, programming and marketing his own video game, which he is scheduled to release sometime this year.

The game is called “A Duel Hand Disaster: Trackher,” and in gamer parlance, it’s a “split screen, single player, twin stick risk ‘em up.” In other words, the game puts the player in control of two spaceships simultaneously, with the object to shoot enemies and rack up high scores. The concept is relatively simple but is designed to get you hooked – a throwback to the games he loved growing up.

“It’s like playing Galaga and Pac-Man at the same time,” Salinas said about the game.

Salinas will be releasing the game through Ask An Enemy Studios, his own gaming imprint that also serves as a record label. In many ways, the ability to design and self-publish a game is a sign of the times. Salinas, 35, loved playing games like Metal Gear Solid and Mortal Kombat, whose imaginative characters and gameplay filled him with ideas for games of his own. However, game design technology was such that only professional studios with healthy cash reserves could undertake such a task.

Salinas’ childhood dreams were put on hold until a few years ago when game-making technology evolved to the point that one could create complex, graphically-impressive videogames from a home computer. And networks like Steam and Xbox One allow fledgling designers to put their games online for purchase and download, reaching gamers around the world.

“The design tools are way more complex, but easier to use,” Salinas said.

“A Duel Hand Disaster” has been a labor of love, and Salinas is justifiably proud that he has created the game completely on his own terms. He dropped out of video game design school, where he said many of the classes involved designing games using programs like Word, Excel and PowerPoint instead of heavy-duty development tools like the Unreal Engine.

“College was a complete waste of time,” he writes bluntly on the game’s website. “I wanted to make video games, not listen to people lecture about pointless bullshit and work on assignments that weren’t teaching me a damn thing about game design. I left before I went insane.”

At this point, Salinas has put in two years of solid work on the game. He would come home from his day job and get down to business on the game for the rest of the night, he said, and would work on it all weekend as well.

Salinas also takes it upon himself to hype the game. He recently showed the game at the Electronic Entertainment Expo, or E3, the premier industry event of the gaming world. Attendees were able to come up and play the game, after which Salinas solicited their feedback. He’s been showing the game at similar events throughout the U.S. for the past two years and said that such unbiased input is crucial to fine-tuning the game. Well-meaning friends and family tend to avoid saying anything critical about the project, Salinas said.

“Events like E3 have helped me mold the game and pay attention to its plusses and minuses,” he said.

At the present, the game is about 85-90 percent done, and Salinas plans to release it to the gaming networks for public consumption sometime this year. He has ideas for future games, but for now, “A Duel Hand Disaster” is taking up all of his time. However, his drive and autodidactic approach to doing the thing he loves keeps the creative momentum moving forward.

“This goes to show that if you’re willing to take responsibility for your decisions, anything is possible,” Salinas said. “The ability is there – make games, not excuses.”

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