⮜ Blog

📝 Posted:
🚚 Summary of:
P0137
Commits:
07bfcf2...8d953dc
💰 Funded by:
[Anonymous]

Whoops, the build was broken again? Since P0127 from mid-November 2020, on TASM32 version 5.3, which also happens to be the one in the DevKit… That version changed the alignment for the default segments of certain memory models when requesting .386 support. And since redefining segment alignment apparently is highly illegal and absolutely has to be a build error, some of the stand-alone .ASM translation units didn't assemble anymore on this version. I've only spotted this on my own because I casually compiled ReC98 somewhere else – on my development system, I happened to have TASM32 version 5.0 in the PATH during all this time.
At least this was a good occasion to get rid of some weird segment alignment workarounds from 2015, and replace them with the superior convention of using the USE16 modifier for the .MODEL directive.

ReC98 would highly benefit from a build server – both in order to immediately spot issues like this one; even more so than the usual open-source project of its size, I would say. But that might be exactly because it doesn't seem like something you can trivially outsource to one of the big CI providers for open-source projects, and quickly set it up with a few lines of YAML.
That might still work in the beginning, and we might get by with a regular 64-bit Windows 10 and DOSBox running the exact build tools from the DevKit. Ideally, though, such a server should really run the optimal configuration of a 32-bit Windows 10, allowing both the 32-bit and the 16-bit build step to run natively, which already is something that no popular CI service out there offers. Then, we'd optimally expand to Linux, every other Windows version down to 95, emulated PC-98 systems, other TASM versions… yeah, it'd be a lot. An experimental project all on its own, with additional hosting costs and probably diminishing returns, the more it expands…
I've added it as a category to the order form, let's see how much interest there is once the store reopens (which will be at the beginning of May, at the latest). That aside, it would 📝 also be a great project for outside contributors!


So, technical debt, part 8… and right away, we're faced with TH03's low-level input function, which 📝 once 📝 again 📝 insists on being word-aligned in a way we can't fake without duplicating translation units. Being undecompilable isn't exactly the best property for a function that has been interesting to modders in the past: In 2018, spaztron64 created an ASM-level mod that hardcoded more ergonomic key bindings for human-vs-human multiplayer mode: 2021-04-04-TH03-WASD-2player.zip However, this remapping attempt remained quite limited, since we hadn't (and still haven't) reached full position independence for TH03 yet. There's quite some potential for size optimizations in this function, which would allow more BIOS key groups to already be used right now, but it's not all that obvious to modders who aren't intimately familiar with x86 ASM. Therefore, I really wouldn't want to keep such a long and important function in ASM if we don't absolutely have to…

… and apparently, that's all the motivation I needed? So I took the risk, and spent the first half of this push on reverse-engineering TCC.EXE, to hopefully find a way to get word-aligned code segments out of Turbo C++ after all.

And there is! The -WX option, used for creating DPMI applications, messes up all sorts of code generation aspects in weird ways, but does in fact mark the code segment as word-aligned. We can consider ourselves quite lucky that we get to use Turbo C++ 4.0, because this feature isn't available in any previous version of Borland's C++ compilers.
That allowed us to restore all the decompilations I previously threw away… well, two of the three, that lookup table generator was too much of a mess in C. :tannedcirno: But what an abuse this is. The subtly different code generation has basically required one creative workaround per usage of -WX. For example, enabling that option causes the regular PUSH BP and POP BP prolog and epilog instructions to be wrapped with INC BP and DEC BP, for some reason:

a_function_compiled_with_wx proc
	inc 	bp    	; ???
	push	bp
	mov 	bp, sp
	    	      	; [… function code …]
	pop 	bp
	dec 	bp    	; ???
	ret
a_function_compiled_with_wx endp

Luckily again, all the functions that currently require -WX don't set up a stack frame and don't take any parameters.
While this hasn't directly been an issue so far, it's been pretty close: snd_se_reset(void) is one of the functions that require word alignment. Previously, it shared a translation unit with the immediately following snd_se_play(int new_se), which does take a parameter, and therefore would have had its prolog and epilog code messed up by -WX. Since the latter function has a consistent (and thus, fakeable) alignment, I simply split that code segment into two, with a new -WX translation unit for just snd_se_reset(void). Problem solved – after all, two C++ translation units are still better than 1 ASM translation unit. :onricdennat: Especially with all the previous #include improvements.

The rest was more of the usual, getting us 74% done with repaying the technical debt in the SHARED segment. A lot of the remaining 26% is TH04 needing to catch up with TH03 and TH05, which takes comparatively little time. With some good luck, we might get this done within the next push… that is, if we aren't confronted with all too many more disgusting decompilations, like the two functions that ended this push. If we are, we might be needing 10 pushes to complete this after all, but that piece of research was definitely worth the delay. Next up: One more of these.