The list of computer-y things I’ve done lately has been rather minimal; there was an article for issue 200 of Retro Gamer that, with a little hindsight and after some encouragement from on high, I’m rather proud of especially since it’s quite a distance away from my regular comfort zone of writing news and reviews so I’ll be looking at feedback from behind the sofa when that issue goes out.
Cosine haven’t been given the thumbs up to release the Gamerz Xtreme intro yet, but that’s only a matter of time and still needs me to sit down and write some finalised scroll text, everything else is complete… oh, and there’s a ridiculously over-engineered DYCP scroller that I’ve been prodding away at in quiet moments for the last couple of weeks as well. There isn’t a “home” for it yet but, due to it being inspired by a demo released in the 1990s by an Australian coder, sprucing things up a bit and bunging the result over for Syntax at the start of November seems like a fairly good idea.
Since I completely forgot about posting it last month, here’s the extended workprint for August 2019 and… erm, not much is actually happening right now. Well okay that’s misleading, things are actually going on and projects are being worked on, but the majority of it is still behind closed doors.
After the rush to get Death Weapon over the line for the RGCD competition I’m also a little “burnt out” on game code so it’s demo time and one thing I can at least mention is getting a request via Twitter to code a second Gamerz Xtreme intro which is nearly complete, full of raster bars and just waiting on a few final tweaks to the music from aNdy and little extra functionality to allow for tweaking since it’s meant for use on a Twitch channel. As with the first intro that’s done by editing a “script” (actually a block of source code that sets some constants and provides things like scroll text) and then assembling the code around those modifiers.
After that, there’s some graphics on the go for Kreator of Commodore Master Soft – I forgot to shamelessly plug my small, logo-drawing involvement in his previous intro Second – and some doodling of ideas for the hopefully upcoming next instalment of the Intro Creation Competition over at the CSDb because that’s always fun. I possibly have some thoughts about longer form demo projects as well, but as usual those are kept hidden away at this early stage.
So last week I burbled on a little about Beyond Force’s Charlatan and mentioned in passing it’s sort-of-sequel Splitter, developed by TNT and released in early 1989, soon after Solomon’s effort. The effect in this one is even more kaleidoscopic than its predecessor and is one of those demos that can be watched for an age without realising how long you’ve been staring at the screen.
Whilst talking to Daniel “DeeKay” Kottmair about this demo and Charlatan on Facebook, he referred to Splitter as being the “first 40-char FLI” routine; this threw me a little because I’d never come across the term before – that isn’t unusual since back in the day we all tended to work in something of a bubble, which is why other routines like VSP and AGSP have alternative names – and the routine has more in common with FLD than it does to FLI. Essentially it’s using the vertical scroll register to force the VIC-II to repeat the top scanline of a bitmapped screen and, because that’s a badline being replicated, cycling between all of the blocks of colour memory in the video bank – fifteen in total since the bitmap takes the relevant part of the sixteenth away – forwards and then backwards a couple of times gets all of those colours.
The colour data is all rewritten once per france to get everything moving smoothly and each byte of the bitmap data has two colours in use so there can be eighty “splits” per scanline not including the border colours. It’s bigger than Charlatan horizontally because there’s no FLI area at the left to worry about and the routine can handle a larger vertical area as well because mirroring the effect in the way TNT has done reduces the amount of colour data it needs to refresh – that trick wouldn’t work on an FLI routine because it can’t repeat colour data in the same way.
I said last time about Charlatan being a teensy bit rough around the edges due to its pioneering nature, but Splitter seems to have spent a little longer maturing and is tighter on the presentation with everything timed up neatly. With that said I do think that Charlatan is my personal favourite of the two, but they’re both worth an extended watch once in a while, not least because of the choice of JCH music.