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Technical debt, part 6… and we only got TH05's stupidly optimized .PI functions this time?

As far as actual progress is concerned, that is. In maintenance news though, I was really hyped for the #include improvements I've mentioned in 📝 the last post. The result: A new x86real.h file, bundling all the declarations specific to the 16-bit x86 Real Mode in a smaller file than Turbo C++'s own DOS.H. After all, DOS is something else than the underlying CPU. And while it didn't speed up build times quite as much as I had hoped, it now clearly indicates the x86-specific parts of PC-98 Touhou code to future port authors.

After another couple of improvements to parameter declaration in ASM land, we get to TH05's .PI functions… and really, why did ZUN write all of them in ASM? Why (re)declare all the necessary structures and data in ASM land, when all these functions are merely one layer of abstraction above master.lib, which does all the actual work?
I get that ZUN might have wanted masked blitting to be faster, which is used for the fade-in effect seen during TH05's main menu animation and the ending artwork. But, uh… he knew how to modify master.lib. In fact, he did already modify the graph_pack_put_8() function used for rendering a single .PI image row, to ignore master.lib's VRAM clipping region. For this effect though, he first blits each row regularly to the invisible 400th row of VRAM, and then does an EGC-accelerated VRAM-to-VRAM blit of that row to its actual target position with the mask enabled. It would have been way more efficient to add another version of this function that takes a mask pattern. No amount of REP MOVSW is going to change the fact that two VRAM writes per line are slower than a single one. Not to mention that it doesn't justify writing every other .PI function in ASM to go along with it…
This is where we also find the most hilarious aspect about this: For most of ZUN's pointless micro-optimizations, you could have maybe made the argument that they do save some CPU cycles here and there, and therefore did something positive to the final, PC-98-exclusive result. But some of the hand-written ASM here doesn't even constitute a micro-optimization, because it's worse than what you would have got out of even Turbo C++ 4.0J with its 80386 optimization flags! :zunpet:

At least it was possible to "decompile" 6 out of the 10 functions here, making them easy to clean up for future modders and port authors. Could have been 7 functions if I also decided to "decompile" pi_free(), but all the C++ code is already surrounded by ASM, resulting in 2 ASM translation units and 2 C++ translation units. pi_free() would have needed a single translation unit by itself, which wasn't worth it, given that I would have had to spell out every single ASM instruction anyway.

void pascal pi_free(int slot)
	if(pi_buffers[slot]) {
		graph_pi_free(&pi_headers[slot], &pi_buffers[slot]);
		pi_buffers[slot] = NULL;

There you go. What about this needed to be written in ASM?!?

The function calls between these small translation units even seemed to glitch out TASM and the linker in the end, leading to one CALL offset being weirdly shifted by 32 bytes. Usually, TLINK reports a fixup overflow error when this happens, but this time it didn't, for some reason? Mirroring the segment grouping in the affected translation unit did solve the problem, and I already knew this, but only thought of it after spending quite some RTFM time… during which I discovered the -lE switch, which enables TLINK to use the expanded dictionaries in Borland's .OBJ and .LIB files to speed up linking. That shaved off roughly another second from the build time of the complete ReC98 repository. The more you know… Binary blobs compiled with non-Borland tools would be the only reason not to use this flag.

So, even more slowdown with this 5th dedicated push, since we've still only repaid 41% of the technical debt in the SHARED segment so far. Next up: Part 6, which hopefully manages to decompile the FM and SSG channel animations in TH05's Music Room, and hopefully ends up being the final one of the slow ones.