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Computer whiz-kid has aced first game

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Tanner Cheliak might just have hit a royal flush.

The 21-year-old self-taught computer programmer has released his first computer game called PokerMIX, which is currently available on the Apple iPhone and Samsung Galaxy Android smartphones.

The game is a 10-stage, 100-level puzzle where players move pieces on a grid to form different poker hands. As the game progresses, so does the difficulty level. The background images for each level are photographs of Winnipeg landmarks — including such locations as St. Boniface Cathedral, the Royal Canadian Mint, Investors Group Field and the Fort Garry Hotel — taken by Cheliak. He also wrote and produced the game’s music and sound effects.

"By featuring the landmarks, I wanted to make the game more local and wanted it to represent where I made it," said Cheliak, who lives in Sage Creek and graduated from Winnipeg Technical College’s industrial mechanic/millwright program earlier this year.

Inspired by the format of popular games such as Bejeweled and Candy Crush Saga, Cheliak — who first became interested in computer programming at the age of 12 and recently got back into it after a hiatus — said he wanted to create a "brain game" based on his own interest in poker.

"I used to be a pretty big poker player, both online and with friends. I think the game will obviously appeal to people who like poker and also people who like puzzle games and board games," he said, noting the game’s icons represent the four playing card suits and each suit is depicted by a different colour.

"As the game progresses, you can’t just make moves willy-nilly. You’ve really got to think ahead. You can get penalized for a move that doesn’t score a hit, and in the higher levels there are squares blocking your path and you will get hit with move limits, time limits and high penalties."

The former Royalwood resident said it took him two months, which included lots of planning, to create the game.

"First I had to put it all down on paper, and there were lots of pieces of paper," he said.
Interestingly, Cheliak then decided to make PokerMIX free to download after initially charging 99 cents when it was released in September.

"A month after its release, I decided I wanted to make it free. I think it might help me get my name out there more and give the game greater exposure, and hopefully my name game will be more popular because of this," he said, noting he has no idea what that game might be.

The J. H. Bruns Collegiate alumnus is currently just happy to bask in the satisfaction of his completed project.

"This is my first completed game. I’ve started tons before, but never seen one through to the end, as I’m a bad procrastinator, but this time I buckled down and saw it through to the end," Cheliak said.

"Hopefully people download this game and enjoy it. It definitely won’t be my last. If I’m lucky, maybe I’ll make a career out of it."

To download PokerMIX, visit the App Store or Google Play.

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