Games that inspired Backstabber Hero
This year’s js13k game development competition has come to an end. For those who don’t know, js13k is a yearly competition to create an HTML5-based game for a given theme and with a maximum total size of 13,312 bytes, including assets. I’ve decided to write a two-parter post-mortem from the development of my contribution. This first part is inspiration behind the game and the second one will have technical focus.
When the theme for this year’s js13k competition (“back”) was announced, my first thought was “backstabber.” I’m a sucker for pixel art games, and in particular NES-looking retro games (I know I’m not alone) and wanted to do something inline with that. Three NES favorites have been my main inspiration: Metal Gear, Kid Icarus and Rush n’ attack.
Kid Icarus was maybe surprisingly my first source of inspiration. To be more specific, I thought about the reaper enemies which I had a love/hate relationship with as a kid. The reapers walk back and forth on platforms and seem quite harmless. However, when they get their eyes on you, they call for additional enemies at the same time as they goes bananas themselves. I was always fascinated by them, but they were hard (and I was never any good at Kid Icarus). The core mechanics of the enemies in Backstabber Hero mimic this behavior. If they see you it’s over, forcing you to always attack from the back. Some enemies even copy the occasional turn behavior of the reapers.
Metal Gear was the first stealth game I encountered, and it really sucked me in with its great narrative and exploratory adventure in a mature setting. As the protagonist Solid Snake you routinely sneak up behind enemies and take them out to be able to progress unnoticed. Bullets are rare and without a silencer you would draw attention. I wanted to recreate the feeling of taking down an entire area without ever being noticed. The first encounter in Metal Gear is a sleeping soldier, which was brought into my game as a possible enemy behavior.
Rush n’ attack (Green beret) isn’t the kind of game I usually enjoy. It’s kind of a linear runner where you defeat your enemies by stabbing them. It’s just that in Rush n’ attack the stabbing is so surprisingly satisfying. The sound, animation, and one-stab kills almost feel physical. I wanted to reproduce this feeling in Backstabber Hero and studied the gameplay to identify what I thought was so captivating.
I obviously added some more modern features like no life count and stars to collect for completionists. I wanted the character itself to be a shady person sneaking around (tried my best with the animation). Perhaps an unexpected source of inspiration is the zapper game Gumshoe.
So there you are. The mix of this, the limitations of my imagination, and 13kb resulted in Backstabber Hero. It may seem pretentious to write an article based on a 13kb game I developed during a month. However, not even small ideas come from nowhere. By studying and revisiting my sources of inspiration I’m certain that the end result became a far greater game than it would have been if I didn’t.
It you haven’t played the games listed above you should. At least all but Gumshoe.