Posts Tagged ‘2016’

How Koalatro works

Tuesday, May 16th, 2017

There were some interesting responses to Koalatro over at the CSDb when it was released, with a few people expressing surprise that the code only takes 16K which has left me giggling like a schoolgirl because, apart from some zero page use which doesn’t count towards the total according to the competition rules, the entire thing runs from 15K, loading and executing between $0400 and $3fff. A Koala-format bitmap is 10,001 bytes (8,000 of bitmap, 2,000 of colour and a byte for the background colour register), aNdy’s music takes around 3K and another half a K is taken up by unrolled code to open the borders and split sprite colours. So that’s about 13.5K use and the rest of the code, some tables, sprite definitions and a little scroll text therefore have to fit in the remaining 1.5K… right?

Well not exactly and it’s probably best to look at the memory map in order to explain further; before the code starts, the layout looks like this:

$0400 - $07e7	First block of colour RAM for the bitmap
$07e8 - $09db	Second block of colour RAM for the bitmap (packed)
$09dc		Background colour register
$0a00 - $13ff	Code, data and scroll text
$1400 - $1fff	Music
$2000 - $3f3f	Bitmap data
$3f40 - $3fff	Colour tables and sprite positioning/set-up data

The first two “tricks” are how colour for the bitmap has been stored; the first block at $0400 is already where it needs to be (which is why only the crunched file from the Github repository can be dragged and dropped into an emulator) so there’s no memory lost elsewhere or code required to move it into place. The second block of colour is a bit more involved since it’s been packed down into 50% of the RAM; this relies on the fact that only the lower nybble is used (a value from $0 to $f) so two of those can be stored in one byte. The background colour byte from the Koalapainter format file is included for completeness and the code will actually deal with other background colours cleanly despite that not being required in the final release.

One thing that’s missing from the memory map above is where the sprite definitions for the scroller are being stored but there’s a small hole between the end of the packed colour data and where the code starts for a reason; one of the first things the code does is unpack the colour data to $d800 and, once that’s done, the space from $0800 to $09ff is then cleared and used for the sprites so there’s only eight definitions available but, since both scrollers use the same eight sprites, that’s not an issue.

And speaking of the scrollers, there’s that block of unrolled block of code I mentioned previously to split the sprite colours and yes, it’s literally doing that; rather than changing the background colour and having black sprites over the top it’s actually writing one of two values to every sprite colour register on each scanline whilst juggling $d016 to open the side borders. The same block of unrolled code is recycled for the two scrollers, starting one scanline further up the sprites for the upper area so the reversed version of the scrolling message gets the static colours. Finally there’s the eight hundred bytes of scroll text from $10de to $13fe which leaves one byte free before the music starts.

I think that’s everything of note covered, the source code is, I hope, reasonably well documented.

How our CD5 part works

Monday, February 20th, 2017

So… erm yes, I said over at the Plus/4 World forums that I’d write a “how it works” for the Cosine contribution to Crackers’ Demo 5 and here it is girls and boys, only six months late! Generally speaking there are two actual effects in play, the forty by five byte luminance scroller running through the middle of the bitmapped logo and a sixteen by ten pixel DYCP which works in the regular 39 by 6 character workspace but splits it into two blocks which are four characters high at the top and bottom of the screen.

The DYCP isn’t doing anything majorly different to the other single character routines I’d released around the same time – the loops are all unrolled and there’s specially formatted character data for speed which was originally drawn with ProMotion (I’m actually using an older version) before being converted using my cheap and cheerless bitmap to raw data converter – except that it has two distinct versions of the clear and draw code; one starts from the left hand half of the first character and proceeds to draw across to the right whilst the other begins from the right hand half; the code then flips back and forth whenever the hardware scroll finishes a cycle. During what I’ll refer to as the “design phase” for want of a better term, I settled on wanting the four character high areas so the redraw has to happen during the logo and there was only enough time to render ten pixel high characters.

And since I mentioned the logo, it was originally drawn using C64-specific tool Project One (again, I’m using an older version… one of these days I’ll update all my tools) with the colours used representing luminances; that data was then converted for the Plus/4 with a small assembly language routine on the C64 (all it actually did was translate the C64 colour data and dump it into memory so I could save the results out with a virtual Action Replay cartridge) and all of the colour data was manually created as an included source file. Here’s the logo’s “before” picture when it was still on the C64:

Finally there’s the large luminance scroller; the TED keeps luminance and colour data separately for bitmap-based displays like the logo so one eight by eight pixel attribute cell has two bytes of information, one containing two nybbles of colour (values from $0 to $f for sixteen possible colours) and the other holding two nybbles of luminance data (this time values from $0 to $7 for eight possible brightnesses). The “trick” here is that the luminance has been limited to a maximum of $5 for every cell in the picture where the scroller can pass over it, so when that is added to the scroller’s buffer which is either $0 or $2 for each nybble there’s a noticeable hike in brightness. To keep things simple there’s a second copy of that luminance data used for reference.

And, apart from mentioning that the music was created by aNdy using Knaecketraecker, pretty much covers everything I think. The source code is available online for those brave enough to go prodding around it and I’ll have a go at answering questions if any arise.

Koalatro (C64)

Wednesday, December 21st, 2016

I’ve been almost worryingly quiet for a few months – according to others rather than myself I hasten to add, I worry about me all the time – due to a mixture of illness and… well, more illness really. Normal services will hopefully be resumed once the “festive season” is out of the way and I cheer up a bit! In the meantime, I’ve been working on entries for the Intro Creation Competition at the C64 Scene Database where the primary rule is that the releases must use a single block of 16K at all times. I’ve already put out one called Clonetro on the C64CD label and today has seen the launch of the second, this time from Cosine and sporting some music from aNdy.

Koalatro is a somewhat masochistic exercise in cramming a multicolour bitmap, music, scroller (with unrolled colour splitting code that takes over five hundred bytes on it’s own) and some text into just 15K. Using a Koalapainter format picture in an intro that small whilst executing doesn’t sound too complicated, but the 10,001 bytes of data would normally eat through two thirds of the space before any code or music is included! So, whilst all the data that a Koala picture would normally require is still present, 1,000 nybbles of $D800 colour data have been rather unceremoniously packed into 500 bytes. The double speed music (the player is called twice per frame) was supplied by aNdy who originally created it for a CSDb competition a few years ago, fortunately it was pretty short because the intro needed it to be.

The scroller started out as a reasonably straight copy of one in Contribution by Super Swap Sweden – the sprite colours are split on each scanline rather than the background colour, so it only just has enough time to load two values, write to all eight and keep the side borders open if the entire loop is unrolled and all of the LDAs are absolute! As is now usually the case, I’ve pushed the source code to Github for people to prod around, but it’s not exactly the cleanest thing I’ve ever written!