Blood, Sweat, and Kremlinks

Fall of 2013, America was a storm of marriage desanctification, selfies, and Grumpy Cat. Somehow I stopped twerking to “What Does The Fox Say?” long enough to have an idea for a game – a top-down twin-stick shooter. At that point HTML5’s canvas element had recently gained support in all major browsers. Adobe had dropped flash support for Linux and Android, and the writing was on the wall for other operating systems. As someone that had previously written his games in Flash and ActionScript, I was at a crossroads. I’d been writing ActionScript since the Macromedia days, and while I was also reasonably competent with JavaScript for web UI/UX, the process of using it to draw and animate on an HTML5 canvas was still “black magic” to me. A few HTML5 canvas/JavaScript game engines had sprung up already, but I’m the kind of person that really likes to understand things from the ground up. I made the decision to write my engine from scratch.

I’d written engines from scratch before, but they were generally for smaller, less ambitious games. However, my thinking was it’s a top-down scrolling 2d tile-based engine, how hard can it be? I envisioned gameplay similar to one of my SNES favorites, Super Smash TV. Rather than Smash TV’s chain of mostly-identical square rooms, though, I wanted a series of maps, and enemies with real pathing AI. Not just open arenas, but alleys and corridors; maps that would’ve been at home in 2.5d games like Wolfenstein or Doom but in a top-down two-stick universe. It would’ve been a linear, story-driven thing. Science fiction film noir – a space-faring bounty hunter that gets drawn into a web of murder, police corruption, and mad science. Shades of Blade Runner and Shadowrun but with blocky pixel graphics reminiscent of the 16-bit era. A whole alternate history reality grew out around it – a universe where the cold war went hot in the mid-80s. The name “Fistful of Kremlinks” is an obvious homage to Sergio Leone, owing to space western influences like Firefly. A “kremlink” was a blockchain currency developed in the former Soviet Union in the 2030’s by a mysterious, mostly-anonymous engineer. If you’re asking “how would you end up with a fistful of virtual currency?”, consider your character is a high-end assassin and many affluent people in this universe embed their private crypto keys on subcutaneous chips – a mental picture begins to form that gives the phrase “blood money” new depth. Each map would involve gunning your way through the baddies to uncover another piece of the story that would lead to the next location. In concept, it would’ve been my magnum opus. In reality, it was never finished.

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