Welcome Fellow C64 Fans
Indexed Indirect Addressing
Posted on 9-July-2021 by Kodiak
Many, if not all, 6502 coders are familiar with Indirect Indexed Addressing, but by all accounts very few have ever had reason to use its more esoteric cousin, the mysterious Indexed Indirect Addressing.
However, in the course of developing the "swarm" effect for Parallaxian, a rare case use emerged, specifically with regard to setting the MSB condition of each plexed sprite within the swarm.
The sprites in the swarm are plexed by the NMIs which operate on a minimalist "fast-in, fast-out" basis, with y- and x-positions set by the NMI along with pointers and colours and, of course, the tricky MSB conditions, as per the schematic below:
As intimated above, the coding brief for this required that everything be as lightweight and fast as possible within the NMI handlers, so I wanted to perform the logic for the MSB
conditions outside the NMIs to avoid losing CPU time with branch testing inside the NMIs.
We also must update each plexed sprite's MSB condition once per frame, independently of the others in the swarm, and do so by using just one subroutine to keep RAM overhead to a minimum .
So the idea is to set the MSB condition using a zero page value with an AND or ORA instruction that would be hard-written into each NMI handler once per frame by the raster interrupt (IRST) handler that deals with the lateral (x-direction) position updates for the swarm, thus requiring the IRST to be able to quickly modify the instruction dealing with the MSB condition inside each NMI handler.
(The actual value used by the relevant logical instruction in the NMI could much more easily be written into, and then read from, a ZP variable).
Where the MSB = 0, the relevant NMI handler would have to do this:
AND #%10111111 ; (Mask out sprite #06 as that's the one used in the swarm)
And where the MSB = 1, the relevant NMI handler would have to do this:
ORA #%01000000 ; (Mask in sprite #06)
But remember, we need to write the actual instruction into the NMI handler once per frame, in what is a pretty normal case of self-modifying coding practice; for example, in the truncated snippet from the NMI handler below, the instruction in NMIMSBSETROW0 has to be written to that address once per frame by the IRST that sets the MSB positions for all of the sprites in the swarm:
|NMIHANDLER2||STA ZPNMIHOLDA||; "Stack" the A-reg|
|; Set sprite y-pos + pointer|
|NMISETPOINTROW0||LDA #103||; SELF-MODIFIED value|
|; Set sprite MSB|
|NMIMSBSETROW0||ORA ZPSWARMMSBROW0||; SELF-MODIFIED instruction|
|; Set sprite x-pos + colour|
|NMISETCOLORROW0||LDA #00||; SELF-MODIFIED value|
|; Set NMI "vectors"|
|; NMI exit tasks|
|LDA ZPNMIHOLDA||; Recover A-reg|
|JMP $DD0C||; = BIT $DD0D + RTI|
Naturally, the IRST has to be able to exactly write to the correct address in memory within each NMI handler for that fast MSB-setting code, and it must do so from a single subroutine, so what we do is make the actual instructions (AND or ORA) to be written into the NMI handler done so indirectly through vectors held in a LO/HI byte format in dedicated zero page variables.
In other words, we use indexed indirect addressing to do it, as per the dumbed-down snippet from within the relevant IRST handler, shown below:
|SWARMSETXJ1||(tasks @ loop start)||; Y-reg = loop counter|
|; MSB = 0 @ this stage|
|SWARMSETMSB0||LDA #%10111111||; Mask for sprite 06 with MSB = 0|
|LDA #$25||; #$25 = AND in ZP mode|
|; MSB = 1 @ this stage|
|SWARMSETMSB1||LDA #%01000000||; Mask for sprite 06 with MSB = 1|
|LDA #$05||; #$05 = ORA in ZP mode|
|SWARMNEXTROWTEST0||LDX #00||; SELF-MODIFIED value|
|STA (ZPMSBLOINSROW0,X)||; INDEXED INDIRECT!|
|SWARMNEXTROWTEST||INY||; Increment swarm row counter|
|CPY #$06||; 6 rows to update|
|BEQ SWARMRESETROTEST||; Quit loop if counter = 6|
|ASL A||; Multiply counter by 2|
|STA SWARMNEXTROWTEST0+1||; Store as index|
|BCC SWARMSETXJ1||; Branch to start of loop|
|SWARMRESETROTEST||(continue with IRST)|
CONCLUSION: Where you need a fast operation within a loop to write to an absolute (i.e. 16-bit) address in RAM, where the target absolute address changes with each iteration of the loop as a function of the loop counter, indexed indirect addressing is ideal (so yes, it's something of an outlier case use).
In the case of Parallaxian, the (unspoken) brief stated:
- To minimise impact on the IRST handlers' on-screen operations, the NMI handlers had to execute ultra fast and thus consume a minimal amount of CPU cycles, to which end logic tests + branching within the NMIs had to be avoided; instead, any logic should be performed outside the NMIs and the results hard-written back into the NMIs in the form of an ORA instruction or an AND instruction, complete with appropriate masks, to ensure the MSB value is always correct for each sprite plexed by the NMIs.
- The code writing to the NMI handlers to modify the instructions as described would be executed from within the IRST schema once per frame for each of the 6 NMI plex zones and it too, given that it had to run from a RAM-efficient loop, had to execute as quickly as possible, so extraneous or bloaty instruction sequences had to be avoided (which, btw, is a general principle I use in Parallaxian).
- A C128 version of the game would not need the limitation of performing this via a loop, as RAM is much more abundant on that platform.
- The "heavy lifting" calculations for the swarm effect were to be performed by the game's main loop.
So hopefully by now you can see why I ended up using indexed indirect addressing for the swarm effect; it's the only thing that meets both the CPU cycle consumption and RAM efficiency requirements of the coding brief!
There is a slight downside, though; I had to sacrifice 6 x 2 = 12 zero page locations to hold the target addresses within the NMI handlers and I also had to have a subroutine during the game's initialisation that writes the addresses into those zero page locations in LO/HI byte form, but it still represents a RAM saving compared to unrolling the loop that updates the MSB instruction writes to the NMIs from the IRST and remember, the number one priority was a performance gain in terms of CPU cycle expenditure during the NMI handlers plexing the sprites and during the IRST that modifies the logic instructions within the said NMI handlers.
Last of all, here's a short clip of the net result:
Get up to speed with coding on the C64 with some light reading!
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June 2021 Kodiak64 Newsletter
Posted on 12-June-2021 by Kodiak
The June 2021 Kodiak64 Newsletter is ready for my subscribers to download.
- PARALLAXIAN WIP: POPULATING THE PLAY SPACE
- THEORY: MARKETING A C64 GAME TODAY?
- GRAPHICS: NON-STANDARD HUES ON PAL + NTSC
- A CLASH OF TERMINOLOGIES
- CODING THEORY: THE FUTURE OF VSP SCROLLING
- WEBSITE MUSINGS
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Next Generation Graphics on the Commodore 64
Posted on 15-03-2021 by Kodiak
Not that long ago, someone challenged me on my YouTube channel over my use of the term Next Generation Graphics for describing the graphical style used in my Deep Winter tech demo.
His exact words were:
"It looks very cool, but still being 320x200 and 16 colors... Not exactly nextgen (16-bit) like."
Obviously exceeding 320 x 200 px resolution is impossible on the C64's native hardware, so that was a bit of a big ask for start!
He also clearly did not notice that some non-standard colours are used in it, taking the palette beyond the base 16, but both of those issues aside, I now feel I should at least try once more to define what "next gen graphics" on the C64 might consist of.
However, before I proceed to attempt to provide such a description, I do accept that the term is substantially subjective and may also be a little inadvertently pretentious, but I have to define it somehow and do so in the least offensive, uncontentious manner possible.
In other words, this is my personal definition of "next generation graphics" on the C64 and has no broad consensual backing from the wider C64 scene:
- As a fundamental rule, next gen eschews the wanton use of blocky multicolour mode (MCM) graphics and instead emphasises the use of smoothing expedients, such as hi-res, anti-aliasing where hi-res is impossible, and other methods to avoid totally or to reduce, where avoidance is impossible, any unwanted jaggedness from MCM. MCM thus becomes a tool of last resort.
- Rather than using the Silkworm style of stippling (or dithering, as it's better known nowadays) to produce half-tones, next gen uses non-standard colours, either the Alternate Line Method so popularised by Mayhem in Monsterland or the lesser known Dynamic Colour Mixing - see my Luma Driven Graphics for a detailed description of these techniques.
- Next gen requires all sprites to be visible against their backdrops, which means they must have predominant colours that strongly contrast with those in the backdrop, so as to avoid what I call "Flimbo's Syndrome", in which the sprites and backdrop have such similar hues as to make it hard to differentiate between them (Flimbo's Quest is not the only culprit in making this design faux pas, but stands out to me as the premier example given the scale and ambition of the game). In practice, the sprite visibility remedy would normally entail making either black or white the main sprite colour in instances where the backdrop is colourful (as opposed to the blackness of a space-based shooter, for example).
- Next gen should also use parallax scrolling where possible and other graphical effects to enhance the gaming environment, such as warping effects, transitions, char-enhanced sprites, sprite-enhanced char blocks, etc., as part of an effects-driven gaming environment.
- Next gen might even use a synthesised 80 column mode font, as my game in development, Parallaxian, does in its panel zone, to further endow it with a 16-bit look / aspiration.
While I am always keen to avoid or minimise the use of clichés in design and gameplay, that is not the primary driver behind my fixation on next generation graphics on the C64.
My main objective, rather, is to raise the bar, design-wise, in pursuit of closing the gap on the 16-bit platforms that followed on from the C64.
And in doing so, by no means am I saying all gfx styles that preceded my own are automatically inferior; I acknowledge and accept that, beauty being in the eye of the beholder, some people will dislike my design style outright and prefer the old school stipples and blockiness.
I also concede that, despite a surfeit of horrible exceptions, there are many outstanding pieces of standalone artwork and in-game graphics availing of the traditional methods, some such works still being made today; all I'm saying is that for my games, I prefer the next generation graphics style described herein.
Les News Du C64 Avec Parallaxian
Posted on 05-03-2021 by Kodiak
Cette vidéo montre un bel aperçu de Parallaxian en français ... merci beaucoup à Olivier Cappelaere pour avoir présenté mon jeu sur sa chaîne.
Je vous conseille vivement de vous abonner à son canal YouTube et de le suivre également sur Twitter!
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Parallaxian WIP - Plexfest
Posted on 27-02-2021 by Kodiak
First of all, profoundest apologies for the long "radio silence"... it was never meant to be so, but there were two very compelling reasons why that has been the case:
- I went on a coding binge for Parallaxian, which I expand on further below, and...
- I was locked out of this website due to another technical issue with my webhost.
Now that I'm back online, so to speak, I just want to - very briefly - say that I'm hoping to get more blog posts made shortly, starting with one on the subject of Next Generation Graphics on the Commodore 64.
Also, returning to the aforementioned coding binge, massive strides have been made in building and optimising additional in-game infrastructure for sprite-based objects... One could say the game underwent some perplexing re-plexing, all necessary work in advance of populating each level out with all the enemies - and friendlies - the game requires.
I've also developed a few new little tricks to hugely enhance the visual effects, but I want to keep them secret for now.
So that's it for now... It's such a relief to be able to post to my own website again!
In Retrospect: Dropzone
Posted on 08-Feb-2021 by Kodiak
In a somewhat disparaging, if not brutal recent retrospective assessment of Raid Over Moscow on the Commodore 64 (released in 1984 by U.S. Gold), I made reference to the technical superiority of its contemporary stablemate Dropzone from the same publisher, coded by Archer Maclean.
Dropzone was actually a near direct byte-by-byte port from the Atari 800 original version of the game, which Maclean coded first, so it wasn't even designed from the outset for the Commodore 64's relative strengths, making its technical ascendancy over almost everything that preceded it on the C64 all the more astounding.
So what was so special about it? Why the lavish praise for its technical qualities?
- It had variable speed, bi-directional horizontal smooth scrolling, complete with inertia / momentum effects, which came at a time when this wasn't exactly commonplace.
- It featured in-game AI based on "feedback loops" that responded, on the fly, to the player's inputs and on-screen actions; to this day, very few C64 games have come close to that.
- Its sound effects raised the bar on the platform, which is apparently attributable to it being the first C64 game to use wavetables.
- It was graphically superior to most games of its era... well, its landscape and title screen were, even if the aliens and main sprite in the game were markedly less so. (On the landscape issue, for quite a while many people in the scene believed it was a scrolling bitmap, but according to this online discussion, it was, in fact, 100% chars).
- Unlike many games of its era and well beyond, it exhibited no jagged unstable raster jitter between the scrolling area of the screen and the panel zone; now this may have been a happy accident caused by lack of critical change in background colour, or it may be the result of Maclean knowing how to stabilise the raster at such interfaces... I have never examined the code, so I can only guess!
But, despite all of those positives, there are reasons why this is not a What Makes This Game Great article.
Or rather, there is one elephant-in-the-room, king-sized, over-riding mega reason why this cannot be considered among the greatest of the C64 games:
Yes, I'm sad to say it, but Dropzone - probably like its Defender inspiration - is not a very playable game.
While there are no playability issues with collecting and depositing the little "men", the rest of the gameplay is a stressful chore at best and a fingernails-scraping-on-a-blackboard irritation at worst.
I refer, of course, to the utterly horrible experience of shooting the enemies, a playability problem which can be deconstructed thus:
- The enemies (which mostly consist of software sprites made of chars) are too small, especially with regard to their vertical height, making them extremely hard to hit; this problem is compounded by their propensity for sudden dives or climbs.
- The player's weaponry is too thin... a broad "arc" or other vertically substantial projectile would have been much preferrable.
- Despite the presence of a radar display to warn you what's off-screen (a feature sadly lacking in Uridium), the central location of the player's sprite plus the high speed at which the scrolling occurs, gives very little reaction time.
- It may also be the case that the collision detection appears a little squiffy at times, seemingly erring on the side of you missing the enemy, but I have yet to see that really confirmed.
This, of course, provides important lessons / warnings for me as I continue to develop Parallaxian.
I have long been aware of the playability issue of bi-directionally scrolling shoot-em-ups with a centrally located sprite and the Dropzone-like
(or Uridium-like!) unfairness and frustration that can result.
The go-to remedy is to have the main sprite drift backwards to allow for more screen real estate between it and whichever side of the screen it is flying towards, and that is something I am considering for Parallaxian.
But there are bigger issues plaguing the gameplay in these games than the centralised sprite dilemma, issues which Parallaxian should fundamentally circumvent by virtue of it NOT being based on any of those games.
So if you've been imagining Parallaxian is a Defender clone, it's time for me to say no, it's not.
It won't have attack waves or unfair formations of enemies materialising off-screen and then charging at you, and your plane won't explode if it brushes against a 1 pixel sized enemy projectile or even if it strikes another craft.
Parallaxian's gameplay is much more nuanced as it seeks to avoid stale clichés, yet without falling into the trap of being incomprehensible or "so smart, it's stupid".
No, it's an action game, taking cues from the best parts of Choplifter on the C64 (and even on much newer platforms) and from Falcon Patrol, while refining those features and adding totally new, yet fun and therapeutic additional gameplay components, such as the carpet-bombing action.
Nevertheless, Parallaxian owes something to Dropzone beyond hard-earned lessons in gameplay; the sheer technical finesse of the older game is a lesson to anyone aspiring to make a groundbreaking game.
Because, let there be no doubt.
For all its shortcomings in gameplay, Dropzone remains a seminal moment in C64 gaming history, simply because it set new standards for professionalism.
And for that, it deserves to be considered a C64 classic, even though its playability problems mean it cannot justly be called a great.
Special Advisory: Email + Web host Issues
Posted on 02-Feb-2021 by Kodiak
As you will know if you're a regular visitor to this site or if you've tried to join my Newsletter subscriber list only to find the automated service not working, I have been having increasingly vexing problems with my web host.
Today I discovered a number, which I estimate to be of the order of several hundred, of failed sign-up efforts, every single one of which seems related to the web hosting problem.
As you can doubtless imagine, I am less than pleased at this failing, so, digging further, I checked the most recent communication from them concerning the neverending saga of server problems and this is what they had to say:
We have been experiencing issues with the cloud hosting platform for a while and due to this it is no longer offered. Our system administrators are working on stabilizing the server, but unfortunately we cannot confirm when this will be completed.
We would recommend considering moving your websites/emails to a more modern platform, where you will have a better overall experience than on the current hosting.
You can check our newest offers here:
[link redacted by Kodiak]
If you are interested, we can provide further details.
Obviously the last thing I feel like doing is availing of any more of their services, so I am hoping to make the move urgently; my only worry now is any loss of service during the move, especially with regard to my emails, but other than that, I'm primed to take the leap.
Finally, apologies once more for any incovenience caused by this; you should still try to use the service to sign-up, but, if it fails, you can alternatively subscribe by emailing me direct on jon (at symbol) kodiak64.com and I can manually add your email to the mailing list.
In Retrospect: Raid Over Moscow
Posted on 22-Jan-2021 by Kodiak
It was with shrill protestations from some of those who lived in fear of imminent nuclear war during the 1980s that U.S. Gold released Raid Over Moscow, from the same development team, Access Software, that created Beach Head a year earlier in 1983.
It wasn't just a few hysterical harpies-gone-bonkers that threw a strop at the game's release; the Soviet Union's government also got in on the act, singling out poor old Finland for an off-the-record tongue-lashing, no doubt with brows appropriately furrowed, just because it allowed such an offensively-premised game to be imported... Obviously, compared to actually pointing real nuclear weapons at every major city in the West, an 8-bit computer game with primitive graphics and unrealistic gameplay stood as the more compelling political issue.
The game was even banned - allegedly - for a time in Germany, ostensibly for the negative psychological effects it produced in young people!
However, as I found when finally I played it, the only verifiable negative psychological effect it produced in me was crushing disappointment.
Now, before the howls of derision from its fans bellow out, let me first say that the game has some redeeming features and could have been so much better, all of which I get into further below.
But it has several major problems that debar it from consideration as a true Commodore 64 classic, so if you're a huge fan of the game, either look away now or brace yourself for what follows:
- The graphics are ugly and utilitarian, much like its predecessor, Beach Head and the visually unimproved successor to both games, Beach Head 2.
- The pilot in the hanger level is a giant compared to his craft but then gets teleported - and shrunk - to fit inside it in what constitutes one of the wackiest visual effects you'll ever see on the C64.
- Almost every level of the game looks like it could have been written in BASIC (and this charge is likewise levelled at its two Beach Head stablemates), so lethargic, ponderous and simplistic is the gameplay.
- The explosions are simply pathetic, barely animated at all, seemingly taken from the Zaxxon textbook of feeble blasts.
- The sound effects are hopeless too and again, could have been written in BASIC; actually, I literally encountered some type-in games back in the 1980s with better sfx than this.
- The use of the standard C64 charset for the scores is another reprehensible act of gross game development negligence... and yes, others back in 1984 were doing the same, but that's no excuse.
- Apart from the first two levels / scenes of the game, none of it is remotely what I personally could have hoped for in a game called Raid Over Moscow... destroying things with a bouncy frisbee thing, for example... what on earth were the developers thinking?
Now, that all said, the fundamental concept of a Cold War themed game was solid and some of the ideas of R.O.M. could, if better implemented, have cemented its status as a bona fide classic.
For example, I really liked the hangar idea, so much so that it inspired the pilot-out-of-plane elements of my game in development, Parallaxian.
I also very much admire the idea behind the low level flying raid on Russian territory, even if it was crudely executed.
And the Strategic Air Command overview scene was another highlight.
But where was the actual "raid over Moscow"?
Where was the flak, the surface-to-air missiles screaming up towards you, the incoming fighters, and above all, the bombing over the target that the name of the game merited?
It is of course, easy to be critical looking back at it from 2021, with the knowledge of programming and designing for the Commodore 64 we have accumulated over the intervening years.
All I could say in my own defence is look at Dropzone, also released the same year by U.S. Gold.
And yes, while its gameplay was era-typically limited, it was a technical tour de force, and may have been the first ever C64 game to deploy wavetables for its sound effects, which were on a different planet (ahem!) to those used in R.O.M... its scrolling and overall slickness were also years ahead of the vast majority of its peers on the platform, so my point is, with the right development team, R.O.M. could have been so much better. `
Nevertheless, it's still a fundamentally interesting idea and arguably a milestone in the progression of gaming on the C64, as well as an objective lesson in using controversy as a marketing ploy.
But a C64 classic?
Podcast 001: Twofold Purpose of Kodiak64 Website
Posted on 16-Jan-2021 by Kodiak
Welcome to the first ever "Kodiak64FM" podcast, in which I ramble in a steady sleep-inducing monotone about the twofold purpose of the revamp of Kodiak64.com in recent times, those 2 purposes being:
- To build my newsletter subscriber list (if my unreliable web host would only get its act together consistently enough for that to occur), and,
- To get some support to help me justify the time I spend on Parallaxian to my increasingly weary family.
I also talk a little bit about which countries most of my visitors come from and which type of articles are the most popular.
Anyway, it's my first ever attempt at a podcast so lower your expectations accordingly!
VOLUME TOO LOW? If the audio is a little too quiet on your browser, you can always download the podcast from the control bar above and play it back at a higher volume.
Entering and Exiting Interrupts Efficiently
Posted on 14-Jan-2021 by Kodiak
If you're new to 6502 coding on the Commodore 64 or, at least, new to working with interrupts, you've probably seen the "textbook" way to enter and exit them.
And sure, it's not without good reason it's done that way... it reinforces the need for the programmer to be mindful of certain things that must be taken care of as part of any interrupt code, specifically, recording and recovering the registers and acknowledging the interrupts themselves.
But textbook - or "cargo cult" in the lingo of the coding snobs - is not necessarily optimal in many cases.
However, before elaborating on why that's the case, let's consider the typically taught way of entering an interrupt:
|PHA||;  Push contents of A-register (Accumulator) on to Stack|
|TXA||;  Since there is no PHX instruction, do X -> A|
|PHA||;  Push contents of X-register on to Stack via A-reg|
|TYA||;  Since there is no PHY instruction, do Y -> A|
|PHA||;  Push contents of Y-register on to Stack via A-reg|
|; Interrupt's proper tasks begin here|
Plainly, therefore, the above does 3 things:
- It stores the contents of the Accumulator out of harm's way for later retrieval at the end of the interrupt.
- It stores the contents of the X-register out of harm's way for later retrieval at the end of the interrupt.
- It stores the contents of the Y-register out of harm's way for later retrieval at the end of the interrupt.
Then, at the end of the interrupt, the standard thing to do is recover the registers in the following fashion, which is cognisant of the first-in, last-out way of using the Stack for storing values:
|; Interrupt acknowledged before this point|
|PLA||;  Pull contents of Stack into Y-reg via A-reg|
|TAY||;  Since there is no PLY instruction, do A -> Y|
|PLA||;  Pull contents of Stack into X-reg via A-reg|
|TAX||;  Since there is no PLX instruction, do A -> X|
|PLA||;  Pull contents of Stack into A-reg|
|RTI||; Return from interrupt|
These actions ensure that, when the interrupt finally finishes and the CPU returns to executing the code in the program's "main loop", all the registers are restored to the exact condition they were in just before the interrupt started.
Now, this becomes a waste of code and CPU cyles when the interrupt handler code only uses 1 or 2, but not all 3 registers, so to enter and exit efficiently, we should only record and recover the actual registers the interrupt handler code uses, as per the example below:
|PHA||;  Push contents of A-register on to Stack|
|LDA #%00001110||; Set charset to $7800|
|LDA #06||; Set background colour = BLUE|
|LDA #<IRST6||; Set vectors for next handler|
|LDA #$80||; Set trigger point for next handler|
|ASL $D019||; Acknowledge interrupt|
|PLA||;  Pull contents of Stack into A-reg|
|RTI||; Return from interrupt|
Since the X-reg and Y-reg were not used in the main handler code, there was no need to record and restore them, thus saving 10 CPU cycles on entering the interrupt handler and 12 on exiting it (22 cycles altogether which is approximately one third of a raster line saved); the RAM saved is 4 bytes on entry and 4 on exit = 8 overall.
And if you're not doing anything exotic like interrupting the interrupt handler using the NMI, you could avoid the Stack altogether and just replace the opening PHA with STA ZPHOLDA, where ZPHOLDA is a zero page (or "Zeropage") value that will be used to temporarily hold the A-reg's value on entering the interrupt handler; then, at the end of the handler, you would replace PLA with LDA ZPHOLDA.
That process takes 2 more bytes of RAM overall than just using the PHA/PLA construct, but it takes 1 cycle less because the LDA ZPHOLDA operation only takes 3 cycles, not the 4 cycles the PLA requires.
You could also just enter with some self-modifying code such as STA ARECOVER+1 (4 cycles) and exit with ARECOVER LDA #$00 (2 cycles... immediate value modified via STA ARECOVER+1).
All of the foregoing should, of course, highlight the folly of doing something stupidly unnecessary like this:
The moral of the story being: never use extra registers unnecessarily!
Of course, where your interrupt handler must use 2 or all 3 registers, you can also apply the zero page holder variable method or the self-modifying code method, as per the technical notes in my Deep Winter Tech Demo article.
Illegal Opcode SAX/AXS: A Practical Use
ORA: A Special Use in Branch Testing
Interested in coding on the C64? Check out these books on Amazon (and yes, I get a tiny pittance if you buy via any banner below):
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Parallaxian WIP - Explosions
Posted on 07-01-2021 by Kodiak
Things have been a bit quiet with the blog this week and for good reason; I've been snowed under coding a new explosion sequencer for Parallaxian.
As part of my "all killer, no filler" mantra for the game, these explosions must not look clichéd... out go the stereoptyped 7-8 frame fireballs so popular in shoot-em-ups and in comes an ambitious, bombastic visual effect inspired by the toggleplex concept.
That being said, I am hoping to get my next two blog posts finished very soon; one covers the issue of efficiently entering and exiting interrupts, while the other is a technical critique of Raid Over Moscow, so look out for those coming shortly.
And if all goes to plan, my first toe-dip into podcasting should also be online very soon, so again, look out for that.
Anyway, back to coding fireballs... (or as the Rowlands brothers might have said when coding Creatures 1 & 2, "back to coding furballs").
ORA: A Special Use in Branch Testing
Posted on 02-Jan-2021 by Kodiak
In a recent post, I talked about some special uses for the EOR instruction, particularly with regard to saving CPU time on addition and subtraction.
Now it's the turn of ORA, which can also be used for adding within certain conditions on 6502, as per this Codebase piece on Combining Bits / Substitute Logical Operations.
Changing track from maths, a nice little hack you can apply (and which is used occasionally in Parallaxian) is where you start with something prosaic like this:
|LDA ZPPLANEBLOWMODE||; Disable effect if plane is exploding|
|LDA ZPTAILSLIDE||; Disable effect if plane is tail-sliding|
|LDA ZPTURNSTATUS||; Disable effect if plane is turning|
|LDA ZPRESPAWN||; Disable effect if plane is respawning|
The above assumes, in all instances of the variables being tested, that 01 = relevant condition is active and 00 = relevant condition is inactive (i.e. turned off).
Note that if any single one - or more - or all - of those conditions is / are active, the effect will not be performed; in other words, all of those conditions must = 00 for the effect to be executed.
You could, in plain English, say this:
"If any one or more of ZPPLANEBLOWMODE or ZPTAILSLIDE or ZPTURNSTATUS or ZPRESPAWN is turned on, then we do not perform the effect."
So we can convert that sentence into code thus:
|LDA ZPPLANEBLOWMODE||; Disable effect if plane is exploding|
|ORA ZPTAILSLIDE||; Disable effect if plane is tail-sliding|
|ORA ZPTURNSTATUS||; Disable effect if plane is turning|
|ORA ZPRESPAWN||; Disable effect if plane is respawning|
By the same token, you could use AND everywhere instead of ORA and finish with a BEQ to the exit location, but the key aim is always the same: to save some needless branch-testing cycles and RAM by using ORA or AND in this fashion.
SCHEDULED AS AN EXCLUSIVE FEATURE ARTICLE IN THE JAN 2021 NEWSLETTER: FLD Three Ways - CPU + RAM efficient ways to perform FLD.
Illegal Opcode SAX/AXS: A Practical Use
Interested in coding games on the C64? Check out this book on Amazon (and yes, I get a tiny pittance if you buy via the banner below):
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Special Advisory: Email Sign-Up Woes Continue
Posted on 30-Dec-2020 by Kodiak
Ongoing issues with my web hosting provider continue to turn the Newsletter subscription service on and off every day, but I am trying to work with the web hosting provider to resolve the problem.
Again, apologies for any incovenience caused by this; you should still try to use the service to sign-up, but, if it fails, you can alternatively subscribe by emailing me direct on jon (at symbol) kodiak64.com and I can manually add your email to the mailing list.
Deep Winter Thoughts
Posted on 28-Dec-2020 by Kodiak
As the year draws to a close and I sit here mindful of the freezing, snowy scene outside, my thoughts turn again to the tech demo videos I released back in early 2020 of Deep Winter on the Commodore 64, my planned sequel to Parallaxian.
It's true to say I rushed the coding side of it, being pressed for time (as usual), but the fundamentals are there in the form of a nice NMI (Non-Maskable Interrupt) chain that interrupts the IRSTs (Raster Interrupts).
The principle is simple: let the IRSTs do the heavy-lifting of scrolling the parallax landscape and meanwhile we interrupt the scroll code with precisely timed NMIs to nip in quickly, plex the tree sprites, and get out again quickly, without skipping a heartbeat.
Of course, the whole NMI-plexing-while-suspending-IRSTs concept has its origins in Parallaxian and has also been ported into the chase levels of my good friend John Henderson's game in development, The Wild Wood, which I have been helping out with, as per this detailed tech article.
It's a truly great way to mix sprite plexing and scrolling based on screen split effects on the venerable C64, so one day I hope to reveal it in all its gory technical detail, ideally after Parallaxian's release.
In the meantime, check out the snowstorm effect in the clip below; it's a new recording and while it suffers from some of the same video capture problems that plagued the Youtube version, the quality is better; this is an effect that needs a real C64 (or a VICE running without rival applications slowing it down) to truly execute flawlessly.
That effect is entirely built on the Toggleplex concept; in this example, a sprite "canvas" is
projected over the landscape and then simple falling snow sprite definitions are updated as required.
The game itself is to be a survival-against-the-wild experience, where each day you must source enough food, water, heat, medical aid, clothing, shelter, etc., to survive until spring, while also avoiding dangerous interactions with wild animals and other survivalists in the mountains.
Gameplay is envisaged as a combination of problem-solving, exploration and strategy elements, so it should be quite different to almost anything ever seen on the C64 prior to it.
More information on the game concept in this article.
Help Make Parallaxian Happen
I would ask you if you could consider a small, recurring monthly donation (and depending on your tax situation, you might even be able to designate it as a charitable donation rather than let the taxman have it).
And don't worry, you can cancel at any time... but in the meantime, it would be a welcome contribution, however petite.
Oh, and as a special thank you, all who do this will be credited in the game (unless you opt out of it if you have the same kind of incognito hermit tendencies I do).