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📝 Posted:
🚚 Summary of:
P0138
Commits:
8d953dc...864e864
💰 Funded by:
[Anonymous], Blue Bolt

Technical debt, part 9… and as it turns out, it's highly impractical to repay 100% of it at this point in development. 😕

The reason: graph_putsa_fx(), ZUN's function for rendering optionally boldfaced text to VRAM using the font ROM glyphs, in its ridiculously micro-optimized TH04 and TH05 version. This one sets the "callback function" for applying the boldface effect by self-modifying the target of two CALL rel16 instructions… because there really wasn't any free register left for an indirect CALL, eh? The necessary distance, from the call site to the function itself, has to be calculated at assembly time, by subtracting the target function label from the call site label.
This usually wouldn't be a problem… if ZUN didn't store the resulting lookup tables in the .DATA segment. With code segments, we can easily split them at pretty much any point between functions because there are multiple of them. But there's only a single .DATA segment, with all ZUN and master.lib data sandwiched between Borland C++'s crt0 at the top, and Borland C++'s library functions at the bottom of the segment. Adding another split point would require all data after that point to be moved to its own translation unit, which in turn requires EXTERN references in the big .ASM file to all that moved data… in short, it would turn the codebase into an even greater mess.
Declaring the labels as EXTERN wouldn't work either, since the linker can't do fancy arithmetic and is limited to simply replacing address placeholders with one single address. So, we're now stuck with this function at the bottom of the SHARED segment, for the foreseeable future.


We can still continue to separate functions off the top of that segment, though. Pretty much the only thing noteworthy there, so far: TH04's code for loading stage tile images from .MPN files, which we hadn't reverse-engineered so far, and which nicely fit into one of Blue Bolt's pending ⅓ RE contributions. Yup, we finally moved the RE% bars again! If only for a tiny bit. :tannedcirno:
Both TH02 and TH05 simply store one pointer to one dynamically allocated memory block for all tile images, as well as the number of images, in the data segment. TH04, on the other hand, reserves memory for 8 .MPN slots, complete with their color palettes, even though it only ever uses the first one of these. There goes another 458 bytes of conventional RAM… I should start summing up all the waste we've seen so far. Let's put the next website contribution towards a tagging system for these blog posts.

At 86% of technical debt in the SHARED segment repaid, we aren't quite done yet, but the rest is mostly just TH04 needing to catch up with functions we've already separated. Next up: Getting to that practical 98.5% point. Since this is very likely to not require a full push, I'll also decompile some more actual TH04 and TH05 game code I previously reverse-engineered – and after that, reopen the store!