Watching PasIntro (Atari 8-bit)

If you write a new high-level compiler for an 8-bit system, what do you do in order to promote it? Well in the case of Mad Pascal for the Atari 8-bit, the developer was Tebe of Mad Team so the most obvious way for him to showcase what his shiny new utility is actually capable of was always going to be to create a demo with it. The result is PasIntro and, considering it’s not running at flat out assembled code speeds, the results are surprisingly impressive.

There are two routines included, a large twister and some Kefrens bars. The latter is somewhat anaemic – I’m assuming it’s actually rendering everything to a back buffer over multiple frames rather than racing the raster and drawing a new bar on each scanline as it’s about to be displayed like these routines would normally do – but it still works reasonably well despite that. Where PasIntro shines visually however is the large, colourful twister routine which looks very smooth and has an independently-moving grid effect behind it which is a very neat touch.

But the biggest selling point for me personally is the bit that wasn’t written in Pascal, the soundtrack from Wieczor of Lamers which starts playing as the demo’s pre-calculation begins and continues behind both of the effects as they cycle through their presets. It really does have to be up there amongst my all-time favourite pieces of POKEY music and adds to the experience as a whole.

Releasing Level One (C64)

We’ve reached the end game for 2018’s Intro Creation Competition so there’s been an inrush of new releases over the last couple of days including one last contribution from yours truly with the ever patient Andy Vaisey on music. It went through a few names but Level One was the final choice simply because it looks somewhat like a game.

The scrolling area takes up the entire regular screen – 39 visible characters across by 25 down – and is being moved using a double buffered scroll routine similar to the ones employed by games which in turn leans on some Run-Length Encoded background data. It also uses the C64’s Extended Colour Mode so, although there are only 64 characters available in the font, it can have four possible background colours for each character so I don’t have to scroll the colour RAM.

Something a little trickier is happening in the black bands above and below the scrolling; these are ten pixels high and sat in the borders, but containing a seven character wide Cosine logo and nineteen characters of either static text or scrolling message. To get twenty six characters into that space the code has to abuse the ghostbyte, splitting it at five points on each scanline to produce the extra two characters (they’re at the far left and right of the screen on both lines) and mask off the raster bars for the areas between the sprites.

I suspect a few people will be asking themselves if a game with similar graphics would be possible and the answer is a sort-of-yes, although drawing decent backgrounds when restricted to just 64 characters is bloody tricky!

Crack Intro (C64)

It’s been noted on a few occasions previously that I’m not particularly fond of the “festive season”, so here I am on the day itself applying WordPress updates and releasing another intro for the CSDb Intro Creation Competition. This one is rather literally called Crack Intro and was inspired by a couple of ICC-related releases with the same name from nomiStake. They all rely on the same “pun” – the idea that it’s an intro with some kind of crack on the screen – so the only real distinction is that mine actually fits within the competition’s rules, although I had to check beforehand that using a copyright symbol counted as a Cosine logo.

Writing the scrolling message for this one was pretty uncomfortable; the trick being used for the scroller relies on there being eight possible versions of each character so they can arbitrarily roll around within their own eight pixel wide cell, but that means there can only be thirty two characters. That means I get a space, 26 letters and five punctuation marks which are full stop, comma, question mark, exclamation mark and an asterisk so I could highlight phrases in a similar way to the C64’s power up message. This rolling font is generated when the code starts up, using the ROM character set to save a little space even though I have more than enough room left for some bespoke characters.

For anyone wondering, the copyright symbol is built from sprites and uses five in total and recycles the top row of three for the bottom whilst the middle two are being displayed. The cracks are built from characters apart from where they have to overlap the scrolling message; that’s where the spare sprites take over and the fractured parts of the power up message are using sprites for the text. The music is by Sean Connolly and a cover of the tune from Star Trooper by Melbourne House, and originally composed in 1984 by Clifford Ramshaw; it has a lovely, slightly manic quality that I felt blended well with what was happening on screen.