Title screen goodness

Tuesday, 20th September 2005

I spent some time yesterday doing some 'fun' work on Fire Track - that's not to say that the other stuff is not fun, but I find the graphics work less head-hurting than the programming work.

Hence the spiffy title screen above! It was fun trying to fit that into 16 colours and able to be broken down into 256 tiles, but with a bit of shuffling around it's a mere 254 tiles and the GIF exporter in Photoshop has done a great job dropping down the colours.
The display on the Game Gear blends adjacent pixels together very nicely - on hardware, the title looks pretty flash. (It's difficult to get a good picture of Game Gear - you try taking a photo of a TV set and you'll see what I mean! As clear and sharp as your TV looks out the photo will usually look washed out or fuzzy). See, here is a screenshot of the game running in an emulator:
Not quite so smooth, is it? (Not to mention it's a different aspect ratio!) Still, it's a little more colourful than the original:
(Mine is a cleaned up version of the box cover with the text redrawn.)

As you can imagine, a title screen such as the above takes up a lot of space. 254 8x8 tiles means 254*8=2032 rows of pixels, each row is made up of 4 bytes (four colour bitplanes) giving us 8128 bytes or 7.94KB. Seeing as the ROM I'm using is only 32KB, things are going to get tight - not to mention that even without the title picture I get the following:

Building... (Sega Game Gear)
Setting base location 'D:\My Documents\Game Gear\Dev\Fire Track\'
Running batch job '"D:\My Documents\Visual Studio Projects\Latenite\bin\compile\Sega Game Gear.bat" ftrack.z80 ftrack "D:\My Documents\Visual Studio Projects\Latenite\bin\compile"'
Build process complete!
Bank 00 has 03729 bytes (11.38%) free.
Free space at $0029-$0065.
Free space at $7191-$7fdf.
Free space at $7ff8-$7ff9.
Free space at $7ffc-$7ffe.
3729 unused bytes of total 32768.

Erk! That's not much room at all, and I still need more space for the music. I need to jump to using 2 ROM banks - that'd give me a healthier 64KB to work in, and 48KB of that is set up to be directly accessible without any paging as default. Or so it goes in theory, but WLA-DX's syntax for defining memory locations/ROM bank setup has me totally stumped. Looks like I'll need to pester the SMS Power! chaps again. embarrass.gif

Anyway, what is going on in Fire Track itself? I did do some coding last night as well as slacking off with some image editing, and these features are now implemented:

  • Final attack pattern is in place - small ships appear then attack you by setting a direction when at a certain Y coordinate and just heading into you in a straight line. This is slightly buggy, some ships appear to have drunk pilots and veer off in completely the wrong location. Not sure why that is, but most seem to hit the target (read as: ME).
  • Bugfixes/tweaks on a couple of the enemies. The ones that randomly drift towards you (the dumbell-shaped blockers and another formation) now only start drifting in X once they are on-screen, else they all appear on screen in a vertical column and it looks really silly.
  • If you complete a level it doesn't just automatically jump to the next level, you lose control of your ship and it flies up and off the top of the screen. I shall probably also stop the end face from looping so that when you finish and have flown the background doesn't just disappear, it's as if you accelerate and it moves downwards off screen to the blackness of empty space.
  • The sound! How could I forget that? It now works on volume rather than the hard-coded priority, and thus sounds very much better. (The loudest sound is the one that is played, as I can only set one period/amplitude as a sound effect at any one time).
  • Fixed a bug on the title screen where sound channel #2 was not being set (channel #1 was set twice by accident).

Rather than just see a list of what's done, have a list of what is left to do as I am feeling generous. wink.gif

  • Get ROM paging correctly up and running so I can dump more data onto a second 32KB ROM chip.
  • Add sounds for me exploding (uses the noise channel so isn't just a case of adding a new sound effect).
  • Adding the "mine" enemy. This is a small spiky blobby thingummy (technical term) that drifts in a straight line until it hits the edge of the screen, at which point it reappears at a random location and drifts in a new, random direction. If it hits you, of course, you lose. You can see it in this screenshot of the BBC Micro version:
    It's the thing above the two lower explosions.
  • Music. I need music. I also need a music system, so defining instruments (attack fade, play effect (vibrato?), release fade) and notes, as well as all sorts of other nasty music things.
  • Scoring.
  • Parallax stars? (Maybe, hopefully!)
  • Lots of other things I must have forgotten.

Until next time! Incidentally, my journal is now listed as the News section on my website.

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