Thornmarked

Thornmarked is a Nintendo 64 homebrew game by Team Vanadium and released on 13 December 2020 for the 64brew game jam 2020. In this game, you control a witch fairy that destroys thorned creatures on a checkerboard.

You can download the ROM and source code from the download page for this homebrew game by using the password vanadiummarked or see the source code on Github and download from Drive.

Thornmarked style and gameplay

Thornmarked is an unfinished game, so just like Test 3rd Person Demo the game is more about its potential than the incomplete version that was submitted.

There is only one level in this game. It has a checkered floor and you control a fairy named Fogwill Pepperfrost which flies around zapping baddies with her wand. There are no instructions anywhere so it took me a long time to figure out how to play the game. Because of this, I think the more interesting part of Thornmarked’s gameplay is the journey to figure out how to actually play the game.

Upon starting the game, you move around with the joystick and attack with the A and B buttons. It seems simple enough, right? However after zapping through a few baddies, new ones appear and these seem to resist your attacks and give off an awful clanging sound when hit.

Then I mashed buttons until finally they started getting destroyed again. I assumed that the new ones that appeared have some extra armour or require some combination of button presses in order to be destroyed.

I was confused beyond reason so I went off to hunt the instructions somewhere. There was nothing in the game so I checked the enclose INFO.txt, it said nothing. I checked the post-submission interview but there wasn’t any for Thornmarked. I had no choice but to go into the source code to find out what is causing it.

I spent a good while going through all the files in the source code when I finally came across this within monster.h file:

// Apply damage to the given monster. Return true if successful, false if this       
// was the wrong type of attack.

This comment gave me one of those eureka moments where I realised that the A and B buttons did different types of attacks. I looked down at my controller and remembered that the B button is green and the A button is blue… and the game just so happens to have green and blue enemies.

Connect the dots and there you have it: You kill blue baddies with the A button and green ones with the B button. Voilá. If you hit two at the same time, the miss takes priority.

There isn’t any score keeping or losing condition so your round is continued in perpetuity until you decide to quit. The game also has a 1-player mode and a 2-player mode, but they’re essentially the same thing.

‘Size’ theme

There doesn’t seem to be any apparent size theming in Thornmarked. Since this game is at such an early stage of development, I can only assume that it was planned, but not implemented.

Credits

Thornmarked was made by Team Vanadium. Dietrich Epp did the programming and music while Alastair Low did the artwork and modelling.

Conclusion and review

Since it’s an unfinished game, I can’t really be too harsh on Thornmarked. It’s really difficult to make a game with a looming deadline so it’s great to even have something that we can even play for real.

That said, there could have been two small changes that would have converted this game from a demo to a nice little homebrew game that wouldn’t have taken too long to implement.

The first one is to add a score. A simple score-keeping tally can help make the game into an arcade-style game like many others we’ve seen in this competition. The second is to add in a losing condition. I’d say that each time you hit a baddie with the wrong spell, you lose some health. Lose too much and the game is over.

I do like to reiterate what I said in the gameplay section: a game like this is not so much about the final experience as it is about the journey we took to get there. Because of this, I would recommend you look at Dietrich’s blog posts about the subject to give you an idea of the effort it takes to make something like this.

Articles across the web

Thornmarked is a homebrew game for the N64 by Team Vanadium made for the 64brew game jam 2020 where you destroy thorned creatures with magic.
Article published on N64 Squid

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