Monday, 9 October 2017

High scores and exploding ships

Some progress in a couple of areas.

Firstly, the high score display/entry is now fully debugged. IIRC there were at least 5 bugs in the code; not completely unexpected since - by necessity - I ported pretty much all of the code in one go before being able to test any of it. It did take a little longer than I'd hoped, but nothing too nasty in there.

The game is, arguably, fully playable now, missing only the exploding ship graphics and subtle positioning tweaks. IOW the 6809 core is complete, aside from the aforementioned exploding ship. I still need to compare a running attract mode against the original, but it appears on the surface to be 100% faithful. Now the fun bits can begin; getting the display right on various platforms!

Secondly, I took a closer look at the exploding ship routine. There's a curious amount of code for such a seemingly minor aesthetic, but after a second look I understand most of what's happening now. I was actually tipped-off when I revisited the DVG ROM listing on Computer Archeology; I'm sure it has been updated recently with more information! The extra snippet of information that put the pieces together for me was the 'Ship explosion pieces velocity' table.

There are six (6) pieces of ship that expand, dissipate and disappear one-by-one - hence the relative complexity of the code. The first (few) times the code is visited in an explosion, it creates an array of piece data in zeropage memory. This is the data that is updated each iteration (frame) of the explosion as the code moves and scales the pieces.

When rendering a given piece, a VECT command is added to the display list (with Z=0) to place the beam for the start of the piece, relative to the ship position. The SVEC command is then copied from the table in the DVG ROM to render the actual piece. And here's the interesting bit. The same SVEC is then copied again, but negating the dX,dY signs to position the beam back at the start of the piece. And finally, the first VECT command is similarly copied right out of the display list itself, again negating dX,dY to put the beam back at the ship position. And then on to the next piece...

I'd like to see how Norbet rendered the explosion; it seems awfully complicated for what could be done in a few pre-rendered bitmaps. If he took some short-cuts, it may not be necessary to port this code at all. However, I will need to port it for the Star Wars port anyway, so perhaps I will tackle it regardless. It'll be a little messy as there's copious instances of shuffling data to/from index registers and zeropage memory - doesn't translate well to the 6809's 16-bit index registers of course. At least it's not absolutely critical that this code run quickly...

UPDATE: I've taken a look at Norbert's code for the exploding ship, and have identified the graphics data - stored as individual pixel offsets - for the ship explosion pieces. He uses the same mechanism and rendering routine for the thrust (which reminds me, I haven't implemented the thrust graphic on the Coco version).

I'm yet to RE his code for moving the exploding pieces... that'll have to be another time.

Interestingly I've found a bug in his emulator. He overwrites part of the ship explosion pixel data table sometime during initialisation; I've haven't RE'd that routine but I suspect it's preparing memory for the control input shadow values. Why? Because he's also using 2 of those bytes from the pixel data table for the hyperspace and fire shadow values, and they're in a different memory area than the others. So he likely moved variables around and didn't finish the job...

And when you know it's there; the bug is apparent (extraneous pixels) in the YouTube video of his Atari emulator at 0:53.

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