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📝 Posted:
🚚 Summary of:
P0146
Commits:
08bc188...456b621
💰 Funded by:
Ember2528, -Tom-
🏷 Tags:
rec98+ th05+ tcc+ animation+ boss- shinki+ micro-optimization+ waste+ uth05win+

Y'know, I kinda prefer the pending crowdfunded workload to stay more near the middle of the cap, rather than being sold out all the time. So to reach this point more quickly, let's do the most relaxing thing that can be easily done in TH05 right now: The boss backgrounds, starting with Shinki's, 📝 now that we've got the time to look at it in detail.

… Oh come on, more things that are borderline undecompilable, and require new workarounds to be developed? Yup, Borland C++ always optimizes any comparison of a register with a literal 0 to OR reg, reg, no matter how many calculations and inlined function calls you replace the 0 with. Shinki's background particle rendering function contains a CMP AX, 0 instruction though… so yeah, 📝 yet another piece of custom ASM that's worse than what Turbo C++ 4.0J would have generated if ZUN had just written readable C. This was probably motivated by ZUN insisting that his modified master.lib function for blitting particles takes its X and Y parameters as registers. If he had just used the __fastcall convention, he also would have got the sprite ID passed as a register. 🤷
So, we really don't want to be forced into inline assembly just because of the third comparison in the otherwise perfectly decompilable four-comparison if() expression that prevents invisible particles from being drawn. The workaround: Comparing to a pointer instead, which only the linker gets to resolve to the actual value of 0. :tannedcirno: This way, the compiler has to make room for any 16-bit literal, and can't optimize anything.


And then we go straight from micro-optimization to waste, with all the duplication in the code that animates all those particles together with the zooming and spinning lines. This push decompiled 1.31% of all code in TH05, and thanks to alignment, we're still missing Shinki's high-level background rendering function that calls all the subfunctions I decompiled here.
With all the manipulated state involved here, it's not at all trivial to see how this code produces what you see in-game. Like:

  1. If all lines have the same Y velocity, how do the other three lines in background type B get pushed down into this vertical formation while the top one stays still? (Answer: This velocity is only applied to the top line, the other lines are only pushed based on some delta.)
  2. How can this delta be calculated based on the distance of the top line with its supposed target point around Shinki's wings? (Answer: The velocity is never set to 0, so the top line overshoots this target point in every frame. After calculating the delta, the top line itself is pushed down as well, canceling out the movement. :zunpet:)
  3. Why don't they get pushed down infinitely, but stop eventually? (Answer: We only see four lines out of 20, at indices #0, #6, #12, and #18. In each frame, lines [0..17] are copied to lines [1..18], before anything gets moved. The invisible lines are pushed down based on the delta as well, which defines a distance between the visible lines of (velocity * array gap). And since the velocity is capped at -14 pixels per frame, this also means a maximum distance of 84 pixels between the midpoints of each line.)
  4. And why are the lines moving back up when switching to background type C, before moving down? (Answer: Because type C increases the velocity rather than decreasing it. Therefore, it relies on the previous velocity state from type B to show a gapless animation.)
So yeah, it's a nice-looking effect, just very hard to understand. 😵

With the amount of effort I'm putting into this project, I typically gravitate towards more descriptive function names. Here, however, uth05win's simple and seemingly tiny-brained "background type A/B/C/D" was quite a smart choice. It clearly defines the sequence in which these animations are intended to be shown, and as we've seen with point 4 from the list above, that does indeed matter.

Next up: At least EX-Alice's background animations, and probably also the high-level parts of the background rendering for all the other TH05 bosses.

📝 Posted:
🚚 Summary of:
P0140, P0141, P0142
Commits:
d985811...d856f7d, d856f7d...5afee78, 5afee78...08bc188
💰 Funded by:
[Anonymous], rosenrose, Yanga
🏷 Tags:
rec98+ th01+ pc98+ dosbox-x+ gameplay+ boss- konngara+ danmaku-pattern+

Alright, onto Konngara! Let's quickly move the escape sequences used later in the battle to C land, and then we can immediately decompile the loading and entrance animation function together with its filenames. Might as well reverse-engineer those escape sequences while I'm at it, though – even if they aren't implemented in DOSBox-X, they're well documented in all those Japanese PDFs, so this should be no big deal…

…wait, ESC )3 switches to "graph mode"? As opposed to the default "kanji mode", which can be re-entered via ESC )0? Let's look up graph mode in the PC-9801 Programmers' Bible then…

> Kanji cannot be handled in this mode.
…and that's apparently all it has to say. Why have it then, on a platform whose main selling point is a kanji ROM, and where Shift-JIS (and, well, 7-bit ASCII) are the only native encodings? No support for graph mode in DOSBox-X either… yeah, let's take a deep dive into NEC's IO.SYS, and get to the bottom of this.

And yes, graph mode pretty much just disables Shift-JIS decoding for characters written via INT 29h, the lowest-level way of "just printing a char" on DOS, which every printf() will ultimately end up calling. Turns out there is a use for it though, which we can spot by looking at the 8×16 half-width section of font ROM:

The half-width glyphs marked in red correspond to the byte ranges from 0x80-0x9F and 0xE0-0xFF… which Shift-JIS defines as lead bytes for two-byte, full-width characters. But if we turn off Shift-JIS decoding…

Jackpot, we get those half-width characters when printing their corresponding bytes.
I've re-implemented all my findings into DOSBox-X, which will include graph mode in the upcoming 0.83.14 release. If P0140 looks a bit empty as a result, that's why – most of the immediate feature work went into DOSBox-X, not into ReC98. That's the beauty of "anything" pushes. :tannedcirno:

So, after switching to graph mode, TH01 does… one of the slowest possible memset()s over all of text RAM – one printf(" ") call for every single one of its 80×25 half-width cells – before switching back to kanji mode. What a waste of RE time…? Oh well, at least we've now got plenty of proof that these weird escape sequences actually do nothing of interest.


As for the Konngara code itself… well, it's script-like code, what can you say. Maybe minimally sloppy in some places, but ultimately harmless.
One small thing that might not be widely known though: The large, blue-green Siddhaṃ seed syllables are supposed to show up immediately, with no delay between them? Good to know. Clocking your emulator too low tends to roll them down from the top of the screen, and will certainly add a noticeable delay between the four individual images.

… Wait, but this means that ZUN could have intended this "effect". Why else would he not only put those syllables into four individual images (and therefore add at least the latency of disk I/O between them), but also show them on the foreground VRAM page, rather than on the "back buffer"?

Meanwhile, in 📝 another instance of "maybe having gone too far in a few places": Expressing distances on the playfield as fractions of its width and height, just to avoid absolute numbers? Raw numbers are bad because they're in screen space in this game. But we've already been throwing PLAYFIELD_ constants into the mix as a way of explicitly communicating screen space, and keeping raw number literals for the actual playfield coordinates is looking increasingly sloppy… I don't know, fractions really seemed like the most sensible thing to do with what we're given here. 😐


So, 2 pushes in, and we've got the loading code, the entrance animation, facial expression rendering, and the first one out of Konngara's 12 danmaku patterns. Might not sound like much, but since that first pattern involves those ◆ blue-green diamond sprites and therefore is one of the more complicated ones, it all amounts to roughly 21.6% of Konngara's code. That's 7 more pushes to get Konngara done, then? Next up though: Two pushes of website improvements.

📝 Posted:
🚚 Summary of:
P0130, P0131
Commits:
6d69ea8...576def5, 576def5...dc9e3ee
💰 Funded by:
Yanga
🏷 Tags:
rec98+ th01+ pc98+ blitting+ good-code+ jank+ gameplay+ boss- rng+

50% hype! 🎉 But as usual for TH01, even that final set of functions shared between all bosses had to consume two pushes rather than one…

First up, in the ongoing series "Things that TH01 draws to the PC-98 graphics layer that really should have been drawn to the text layer instead": The boss HP bar. Oh well, using the graphics layer at least made it possible to have this half-red, half-white pattern for the middle section.
This one pattern is drawn by making surprisingly good use of the GRCG. So far, we've only seen it used for fast monochrome drawing:

// Setting up fast drawing using color #9 (1001 in binary)
grcg_setmode(GC_RMW);
outportb(0x7E, 0xFF); // Plane 0: (B): (********)
outportb(0x7E, 0x00); // Plane 1: (R): (        )
outportb(0x7E, 0x00); // Plane 2: (G): (        )
outportb(0x7E, 0xFF); // Plane 3: (E): (********)

// Write a checkerboard pattern (* * * * ) in color #9 to the top-left corner,
// with transparent blanks. Requires only 1 VRAM write to a single bitplane:
// The GRCG automatically writes to the correct bitplanes, as specified above
*(uint8_t *)(MK_FP(0xA800, 0)) = 0xAA;
But since this is actually an 8-pixel tile register, we can set any 8-pixel pattern for any bitplane. This way, we can get different colors for every one of the 8 pixels, with still just a single VRAM write of the alpha mask to a single bitplane:
grcg_setmode(GC_RMW); //  Final color: (A7A7A7A7)
outportb(0x7E, 0x55); // Plane 0: (B): ( * * * *)
outportb(0x7E, 0xFF); // Plane 1: (R): (********)
outportb(0x7E, 0x55); // Plane 2: (G): ( * * * *)
outportb(0x7E, 0xAA); // Plane 3: (E): (* * * * )
And I thought TH01 only suffered the drawbacks of PC-98 hardware, making so little use of its actual features that it's perhaps not fair to even call it "a PC-98 game"… Still, I'd say that "bad PC-98 port of an idea" describes it best.

However, after that tiny flash of brilliance, the surrounding HP rendering code goes right back to being the typical sort of confusing TH01 jank. There's only a single function for the three distinct jobs of

  • incrementing HP during the boss entrance animation,
  • decrementing HP if hit by the Orb, and
  • redrawing the entire bar, because it's still all in VRAM, and Sariel wants different backgrounds,
with magic numbers to select between all of these.

VRAM of course also means that the backgrounds behind the individual hit points have to be stored, so that they can be unblitted later as the boss is losing HP. That's no big deal though, right? Just allocate some memory, copy what's initially in VRAM, then blit it back later using your foundational set of blitting funct– oh, wait, TH01 doesn't have this sort of thing, right :tannedcirno: The closest thing, 📝 once again, are the .PTN functions. And so, the game ends up handling these 8×16 background sprites with 16×16 wrappers around functions for 32×32 sprites. :zunpet: That's quite the recipe for confusion, especially since ZUN preferred copy-pasting the necessary ridiculous arithmetic expressions for calculating positions, .PTN sprite IDs, and the ID of the 16×16 quarter inside the 32×32 sprite, instead of just writing simple helper functions. He did manage to make the result mostly bug-free this time around, though! There's one minor hit point discoloration bug if the red-white or white sections start at an odd number of hit points, but that's never the case for any of the original 7 bosses.
The remaining sloppiness is ultimately inconsequential as well: The game always backs up twice the number of hit point backgrounds, and thus uses twice the amount of memory actually required. Also, this self-restriction of only unblitting 16×16 pixels at a time requires any remaining odd hit point at the last position to, of course, be rendered again :onricdennat:


After stumbling over the weakest imaginable random number generator, we finally arrive at the shared boss↔orb collision handling function, the final blocker among the final blockers. This function takes a whopping 12 parameters, 3 of them being references to int values, some of which are duplicated for every one of the 7 bosses, with no generic boss struct anywhere. 📝 Previously, I speculated that YuugenMagan might have been the first boss to be programmed for TH01. With all these variables though, there is some new evidence that SinGyoku might have been the first one after all: It's the only boss to use its own HP and phase frame variables, with the other bosses sharing the same two globals.

While this function only handles the response to a boss↔orb collision, it still does way too much to describe it briefly. Took me quite a while to frame it in terms of invincibility (which is the main impact of all of this that can be observed in gameplay code). That made at least some sort of sense, considering the other usages of the variables passed as references to that function. Turns out that YuugenMagan, Kikuri, and Elis abuse what's meant to be the "invincibility frame" variable as a frame counter for some of their animations 🙄
Oh well, the game at least doesn't call the collision handling function during those, so "invincibility frame" is technically still a correct variable name there.


And that's it! We're finally ready to start with Konngara, in 2021. I've been waiting quite a while for this, as all this high-level boss code is very likely to speed up TH01 progress quite a bit. Next up though: Closing out 2020 with more of the technical debt in the other games.

📝 Posted:
🚚 Summary of:
P0120, P0121
Commits:
453dd3c...3c008b6, 3c008b6...5c42fcd
💰 Funded by:
Yanga
🏷 Tags:
rec98+ th01+ pc98+ blitting+ waste+ jank+ boss- mima-th01+

Back to TH01, and its boss sprite format… with a separate class for storing animations that only differs minutely from the 📝 regular boss entity class I covered last time? Decompiling this class was almost free, and the main reason why the first of these pushes ended up looking pretty huge.

Next up were the remaining shape drawing functions from the code segment that started with the .GRC functions. P0105 already started these with the (surprisingly sanely implemented) 8×8 diamond, star, and… uh, snowflake (?) sprites , prominently seen in the Konngara, Elis, and Sariel fights, respectively. Now, we've also got:

  • ellipse arcs with a customizable angle distance between the individual dots – mostly just used for drawing full circles, though
  • line loops – which are only used for the rotating white squares around Mima, meaning that the white star in the YuugenMagan fight got a completely redundant reimplementation
  • and the surprisingly weirdest one, drawing the red invincibility sprites.
The weirdness becomes obvious with just a single screenshot:

First, we've got the obvious issue of the sprites not being clipped at the right edge of VRAM, with the rightmost pixels in each row of the sprite extending to the beginning of the next row. Well, that's just what you get if you insist on writing unique low-level blitting code for the majority of the individual sprites in the game… 🤷
More importantly though, the sprite sheet looks like this: So how do we even get these fully filled red diamonds?

Well, turns out that the sprites are never consistently unblitted during their 8 frames of animation. There is a function that looks like it unblits the sprite… except that it starts with by enabling the GRCG and… reading from the first bitplane on the background page? If this was the EGC, such a read would fill some internal registers with the contents of all 4 bitplanes, which can then subsequently be blitted to all 4 bitplanes of any VRAM page with a single memory write. But with the GRCG in RMW mode, reads do nothing special, and simply copy the memory contents of one bitplane to the read destination. Maybe ZUN thought that setting the RMW color to red also sets some internal 4-plane mask register to match that color? :zunpet:
Instead, the rather random pixels read from the first bitplane are then used as a mask for a second blit of the same red sprite. Effectively, this only really "unblits" the invincibility pixels that are drawn on top of Reimu's sprite. Since Reimu is drawn first, the invincibility sprites are overwritten anyway. But due to the palette color layout of Reimu's sprite, its pixels end up fully masking away any invincibility sprite pixels in that second blit, leaving VRAM untouched as a result. Anywhere else though, this animation quickly turns into the union of all animation frames.

Then again, if that 16-dot-aligned rectangular unblitting function is all you know about the EGC, and you can't be bothered to write a perfect unblitter for 8×8 sprites, it becomes obvious why you wouldn't want to use it:

Because Reimu would barely be visible under all that flicker. In comparison, those fully filled diamonds actually look pretty good.


After all that, the remaining time wouldn't have been enough for the next few essential classes, so I closed out the push with three more VRAM effects instead:

  • Single-bitplane pixel inversion inside a 32×32 square – the main effect behind the discoloration seen in the bomb animation, as well as the exploding squares at the end of Kikuri's and Sariel's entrance animation
  • EGC-accelerated VRAM row copies – the second half of smooth and fully hardware-accelerated scrolling for backgrounds that are twice the size of VRAM
  • And finally, the VRAM page content transition function using meshed 8×8 squares, used for the blocky transition to Sariel's first and second phases. Which is quite ridiculous in just how needlessly bloated it is. I'm positive that this sort of thing could have also been accelerated using the PC-98's EGC… although simply writing better C would have already gone a long way. The function also comes with three unused mesh patterns.


And with that, ReC98, as a whole, is not only ⅓ done, but I've also fully caught up with the feature backlog for the first time in the history of this crowdfunding! Time to go into maintenance mode then, while we wait for the next pushes to be funded. Got a huge backlog of tiny maintenance issues to address at a leisurely pace, and of course there's also the 📝 16-bit build system waiting to be finished.

📝 Posted:
🚚 Summary of:
P0111, P0112
Commits:
8b5c146...4ef4c9e, 4ef4c9e...e447a2d
💰 Funded by:
[Anonymous], Blue Bolt
🏷 Tags:
rec98+ th02+ th04+ th05+ gameplay+ player+ bomb+ boss- ex-alice+ animation+ glitch+ jank+

Only one newly ordered push since I've reopened the store? Great, that's all the justification I needed for the extended maintenance delay that was part of these two pushes 😛

Having to write comments to explain whether coordinates are relative to the top-left corner of the screen or the top-left corner of the playfield has finally become old. So, I introduced distinct types for all the coordinate systems we typically encounter, applying them to all code decompiled so far. Note how the planar nature of PC-98 VRAM meant that X and Y coordinates also had to be different from each other. On the X side, there's mainly the distinction between the [0; 640] screen space and the corresponding [0; 80] VRAM byte space. On the Y side, we also have the [0; 400] screen space, but the visible area of VRAM might be limited to [0; 200] when running in the PC-98's line-doubled 640×200 mode. A VRAM Y coordinate also always implies an added offset for vertical scrolling.
During all of the code reconstruction, these types can only have a documenting purpose. Turning them into anything more than just typedefs to int, in order to define conversion operators between them, simply won't recompile into identical binaries. Modding and porting projects, however, now have a nice foundation for doing just that, and can entirely lift coordinate system transformations into the type system, without having to proofread all the meaningless int declarations themselves.


So, what was left in terms of memory references? EX-Alice's fire waves were our final unknown entity that can collide with the player. Decently implemented, with little to say about them.

That left the bomb animation structures as the one big remaining PI blocker. They started out nice and simple in TH04, with a small 6-byte star animation structure used for both Reimu and Marisa. TH05, however, gave each character her own animation… and what the hell is going on with Reimu's blue stars there? Nope, not going to figure this out on ASM level.

A decompilation first required some more bomb-related variables to be named though. Since this was part of a generic RE push, it made sense to do this in all 5 games… which then led to nice PI gains in anything but TH05. :tannedcirno: Most notably, we now got the "pulling all items to player" flag in TH04 and TH05, which is actually separate from bombing. The obvious cheat mod is left as an exercise to the reader.


So, TH05 bomb animations. Just like the 📝 custom entity types of this game, all 4 characters share the same memory, with the superficially same 10-byte structure.
But let's just look at the very first field. Seen from a low level, it's a simple struct { int x, y; } pos, storing the current position of the character-specific bomb animation entity. But all 4 characters use this field differently:

  • For Reimu's blue stars, it's the top-left position of each star, in the 12.4 fixed-point format. But unlike the vast majority of these values in TH04 and TH05, it's relative to the top-left corner of the screen, not the playfield. Much better represented as struct { Subpixel screen_x, screen_y; } topleft.
  • For Marisa's lasers, it's the center of each circle, as a regular 12.4 fixed-point coordinate, relative to the top-left corner of the playfield. Much better represented as struct { Subpixel x, y; } center.
  • For Mima's shrinking circles, it's the center of each circle in regular pixel coordinates. Much better represented as struct { screen_x_t x; screen_y_t y; } center.
  • For Yuuka's spinning heart, it's the top-left corner in regular pixel coordinates. Much better represented as struct { screen_x_t x; screen_y_t y; } topleft.
    And yes, singular. The game is actually smart enough to only store a single heart, and then create the rest of the circle on the fly. (If it were even smarter, it wouldn't even use this structure member, but oh well.)
Therefore, I decompiled it as 4 separate structures once again, bundled into an union of arrays.

As for Reimu… yup, that's some pointer arithmetic straight out of Jigoku* for setting and updating the positions of the falling star trails. :zunpet: While that certainly required several comments to wrap my head around the current array positions, the one "bug" in all this arithmetic luckily has no effect on the game.
There is a small glitch with the growing circles, though. They are spawned at the end of the loop, with their position taken from the star pointer… but after that pointer has already been incremented. On the last loop iteration, this leads to an out-of-bounds structure access, with the position taken from some unknown EX-Alice data, which is 0 during most of the game. If you look at the animation, you can easily spot these bugged circles, consistently growing from the top-left corner (0, 0) of the playfield:


After all that, there was barely enough remaining time to filter out and label the final few memory references. But now, TH05's MAIN.EXE is technically position-independent! 🎉 -Tom- is going to work on a pretty extensive demo of this unprecedented level of efficient Touhou game modding. For a more impactful effect of both the 100% PI mark and that demo, I'll be delaying the push covering the remaining false positives in that binary until that demo is done. I've accumulated a pretty huge backlog of minor maintenance issues by now…
Next up though: The first part of the long-awaited build system improvements. I've finally come up with a way of sanely accelerating the 32-bit build part on most setups you could possibly want to build ReC98 on, without making the building experience worse for the other few setups.

📝 Posted:
🚚 Summary of:
P0105, P0106, P0107, P0108
Commits:
3622eb6...11b776b, 11b776b...1f1829d, 1f1829d...1650241, 1650241...dcf4e2c
💰 Funded by:
Yanga
🏷 Tags:
rec98+ th01+ meta+ file-format+ animation+ blitting+ boss- singyoku+ yuugenmagan+ elis+ kikuri+ konngara+ waste+

And indeed, I got to end my vacation with a lot of image format and blitting code, covering the final two formats, .GRC and .BOS. .GRC was nothing noteworthy – one function for loading, one function for byte-aligned blitting, and one function for freeing memory. That's it – not even a unblitting function for this one. .BOS, on the other hand…

…has no generic (read: single/sane) implementation, and is only implemented as methods of some boss entity class. And then again for Sariel's dress and wand animations, and then again for Reimu's animations, both of which weren't even part of these 4 pushes. Looking forward to decompiling essentially the same algorithms all over again… And that's how TH01 became the largest and most bloated PC-98 Touhou game. So yeah, still not done with image formats, even at 44% RE.

This means I also had to reverse-engineer that "boss entity" class… yeah, what else to call something a boss can have multiple of, that may or may not be part of a larger boss sprite, may or may not be animated, and that may or may not have an orb hitbox?
All bosses except for Kikuri share the same 5 global instances of this class. Since renaming all these variables in ASM land is tedious anyway, I went the extra mile and directly defined separate, meaningful names for the entities of all bosses. These also now document the natural order in which the bosses will ultimately be decompiled. So, unless a backer requests anything else, this order will be:

  1. Konngara
  2. Sariel
  3. Elis
  4. Kikuri
  5. SinGyoku
  6. (code for regular card-flipping stages)
  7. Mima
  8. YuugenMagan

As everyone kind of expects from TH01 by now, this class reveals yet another… um, unique and quirky piece of code architecture. In addition to the position and hitbox members you'd expect from a class like this, the game also stores the .BOS metadata – width, height, animation frame count, and 📝 bitplane pointer slot number – inside the same class. But if each of those still corresponds to one individual on-screen sprite, how can YuugenMagan have 5 eye sprites, or Kikuri have more than one soul and tear sprite? By duplicating that metadata, of course! And copying it from one entity to another :onricdennat:
At this point, I feel like I even have to congratulate the game for not actually loading YuugenMagan's eye sprites 5 times. But then again, 53,760 bytes of waste would have definitely been noticeable in the DOS days. Makes much more sense to waste that amount of space on an unused C++ exception handler, and a bunch of redundant, unoptimized blitting functions :tannedcirno:

(Thinking about it, YuugenMagan fits this entire system perfectly. And together with its position in the game's code – last to be decompiled means first on the linker command line – we might speculate that YuugenMagan was the first boss to be programmed for TH01?)

So if a boss wants to use sprites with different sizes, there's no way around using another entity. And that's why Girl-Elis and Bat-Elis are two distinct entities internally, and have to manually sync their position. Except that there's also a third one for Attacking-Girl-Elis, because Girl-Elis has 9 frames of animation in total, and the global .BOS bitplane pointers are divided into 4 slots of only 8 images each. :zunpet:
Same for SinGyoku, who is split into a sphere entity, a person entity, and a… white flash entity for all three forms, all at the same resolution. Or Konngara's facial expressions, which also require two entities just for themselves.


And once you decompile all this code, you notice just how much of it the game didn't even use. 13 of the 50 bytes of the boss entity class are outright unused, and 10 bytes are used for a movement clamping and lock system that would have been nice if ZUN also used it outside of Kikuri's soul sprites. Instead, all other bosses ignore this system completely, and just party on the X/Y coordinates of the boss entities directly.

As for the rendering functions, 5 out of 10 are unused. And while those definitely make up less than half of the code, I still must have spent at least 1 of those 4 pushes on effectively unused functionality.
Only one of these functions lends itself to some speculation. For Elis' entrance animation, the class provides functions for wavy blitting and unblitting, which use a separate X coordinate for every line of the sprite. But there's also an unused and sort of broken one for unblitting two overlapping wavy sprites, located at the same Y coordinate. This might indicate that Elis could originally split herself into two sprites, similar to TH04 Stage 6 Yuuka? Or it might just have been some other kind of animation effect, who knows.


After over 3 months of TH01 progress though, it's finally time to look at other games, to cover the rest of the crowdfunding backlog. Next up: Going back to TH05, and getting rid of those last PI false positives. And since I can potentially spend the next 7 weeks on almost full-time ReC98 work, I've also re-opened the store until October!

📝 Posted:
🚚 Summary of:
P0099, P0100, P0101, P0102
Commits:
1799d67...1b25830, 1b25830...ceb81db, ceb81db...c11a956, c11a956...b60f38d
💰 Funded by:
Ember2528, Yanga
🏷 Tags:
rec98+ th01+ gameplay+ bullet+ jank+ contribution-ideas+ bug+ boss- elis+ kikuri+ sariel+ konngara+

Well, make that three days. Trying to figure out all the details behind the sprite flickering was absolutely dreadful…
It started out easy enough, though. Unsurprisingly, TH01 had a quite limited pellet system compared to TH04 and TH05:

  • The cap is 100, rather than 240 in TH04 or 180 in TH05.
  • Only 6 special motion functions (with one of them broken and unused) instead of 10. This is where you find the code that generates SinGyoku's chase pellets, Kikuri's small spinning multi-pellet circles, and Konngara's rain pellets that bounce down from the top of the playfield.
  • A tiny selection of preconfigured multi-pellet groups. Rather than TH04's and TH05's freely configurable n-way spreads, stacks, and rings, TH01 only provides abstractions for 2-, 3-, 4-, and 5- way spreads (yup, no 6-way or beyond), with a fixed narrow or wide angle between the individual pellets. The resulting pellets are also hardcoded to linear motion, and can't use the special motion functions. Maybe not the best code, but still kind of cute, since the generated groups do follow a clear logic.

As expected from TH01, the code comes with its fair share of smaller, insignificant ZUN bugs and oversights. As you would also expect though, the sprite flickering points to the biggest and most consequential flaw in all of this.


Apparently, it started with ZUN getting the impression that it's only possible to use the PC-98 EGC for fast blitting of all 4 bitplanes in one CPU instruction if you blit 16 horizontal pixels (= 2 bytes) at a time. Consequently, he only wrote one function for EGC-accelerated sprite unblitting, which can only operate on a "grid" of 16×1 tiles in VRAM. But wait, pellets are not only just 8×8, but can also be placed at any unaligned X position…

… yet the game still insists on using this 16-dot-aligned function to unblit pellets, forcing itself into using a super sloppy 16×8 rectangle for the job. 🤦 ZUN then tried to mitigate the resulting flickering in two hilarious ways that just make it worse:

  1. An… "interlaced rendering" mode? This one's activated for all Stage 15 and 20 fights, and separates pellets into two halves that are rendered on alternating frames. Collision detection with the Yin-Yang Orb and the player is only done for the visible half, but collision detection with player shots is still done for all pellets every frame, as are motion updates – so that pellets don't end up moving half as fast as they should.
    So yeah, your eyes weren't deceiving you. The game does effectively drop its perceived frame rate in the Elis, Kikuri, Sariel, and Konngara fights, and it does so deliberately.
  2. 📝 Just like player shots, pellets are also unblitted, moved, and rendered in a single function. Thanks to the 16×8 rectangle, there's now the (completely unnecessary) possibility of accidentally unblitting parts of a sprite that was previously drawn into the 8 pixels right of a pellet. And this is where ZUN went full :tannedcirno: and went "oh, I know, let's test the entire 16 pixels, and in case we got an entity there, we simply make the pellet invisible for this frame! Then we don't even have to unblit it later!" :zunpet:

    Except that this is only done for the first 3 elements of the player shot array…?! Which don't even necessarily have to contain the 3 shots fired last. It's not done for the player sprite, the Orb, or, heck, other pellets that come earlier in the pellet array. (At least we avoided going 𝑂(𝑛²) there?)

    Actually, and I'm only realizing this now as I type this blog post: This test is done even if the shots at those array elements aren't active. So, pellets tend to be made invisible based on comparisons with garbage data. :onricdennat:

    And then you notice that the player shot unblit​/​move​/​render function is actually only ever called from the pellet unblit​/​move​/​render function on the one global instance of the player shot manager class, after pellets were unblitted. So, we end up with a sequence of

    Pellet unblit → Pellet move → Shot unblit → Shot move → Shot render → Pellet render

    which means that we can't ever unblit a previously rendered shot with a pellet. Sure, as terrible as this one function call is from a software architecture perspective, it was enough to fix this issue. Yet we don't even get the intended positive effect, and walk away with pellets that are made temporarily invisible for no reason at all. So, uh, maybe it all just was an attempt at increasing the ramerate on lower spec PC-98 models?

Yup, that's it, we've found the most stupid piece of code in this game, period. It'll be hard to top this.


I'm confident that it's possible to turn TH01 into a well-written, fluid PC-98 game, with no flickering, and no perceived lag, once it's position-independent. With some more in-depth knowledge and documentation on the EGC (remember, there's still 📝 this one TH03 push waiting to be funded), you might even be able to continue using that piece of blitter hardware. And no, you certainly won't need ASM micro-optimizations – just a bit of knowledge about which optimizations Turbo C++ does on its own, and what you'd have to improve in your own code. It'd be very hard to write worse code than what you find in TH01 itself.

(Godbolt for Turbo C++ 4.0J when? Seriously though, that would 📝 also be a great project for outside contributors!)


Oh well. In contrast to TH04 and TH05, where 4 pushes only covered all the involved data types, they were enough to completely cover all of the pellet code in TH01. Everything's already decompiled, and we never have to look at it again. 😌 And with that, TH01 has also gone from by far the least RE'd to the most RE'd game within ReC98, in just half a year! 🎉
Still, that was enough TH01 game logic for a while. :tannedcirno: Next up: Making up for the delay with some more relaxing and easy pieces of TH01 code, that hopefully make just a bit more sense than all this garbage. More image formats, mainly.

📝 Posted:
🚚 Summary of:
P0086, P0087
Commits:
54ee99b...24b96cd, 24b96cd...97ce7b7
💰 Funded by:
[Anonymous], Blue Bolt, -Tom-
🏷 Tags:
rec98+ th02+ th04+ th05+ gameplay+ animation+ hud+ blitting+ boss- yuuka-6+

Alright, the score popup numbers shown when collecting items or defeating (mid)bosses. The second-to-last remaining big entity type in TH05… with quite some PI false positives in the memory range occupied by its data. Good thing I still got some outstanding generic RE pushes that haven't been claimed for anything more specific in over a month! These conveniently allowed me to RE most of these functions right away, the right way.

Most of the false positives were boss HP values, passed to a "boss phase end" function which sets the HP value at which the next phase should end. Stage 6 Yuuka, Mugetsu, and EX-Alice have their own copies of this function, in which they also reset certain boss-specific global variables. Since I always like to cover all varieties of such duplicated functions at once, it made sense to reverse-engineer all the involved variables while I was at it… and that's why this was exactly the right time to cover the implementation details of Stage 6 Yuuka's parasol and vanishing animations in TH04. :zunpet:

With still a bit of time left in that RE push afterwards, I could also start looking into some of the smaller functions that didn't quite fit into other pushes. The most notable one there was a simple function that aims from any point to the current player position. Which actually only became a separate function in TH05, probably since it's called 27 times in total. That's 27 places no longer being blocked from further RE progress.

WindowsTiger already did most of the work for the score popup numbers in January, which meant that I only had to review it and bring it up to ReC98's current coding styles and standards. This one turned out to be one of those rare features whose TH05 implementation is significantly less insane than the TH04 one. Both games lazily redraw only the tiles of the stage background that were drawn over in the previous frame, and try their best to minimize the amount of tiles to be redrawn in this way. For these popup numbers, this involves calculating the on-screen width, based on the exact number of digits in the point value. TH04 calculates this width every frame during the rendering function, and even resorts to setting that field through the digit iteration pointer via self-modifying code… yup. TH05, on the other hand, simply calculates the width once when spawning a new popup number, during the conversion of the point value to binary-coded decimal. The "×2" multiplier suffix being removed in TH05 certainly also helped in simplifying that feature in this game.

And that's ⅓ of TH05 reverse-engineered! Next up, one more TH05 PI push, in which the stage enemies hopefully finish all the big entity types. Maybe it will also be accompanied by another RE push? In any case, that will be the last piece of TH05 progress for quite some time. The next TH01 stretch will consist of 6 pushes at the very least, and I currently have no idea of how much time I can spend on ReC98 a month from now…

📝 Posted:
🚚 Summary of:
P0078, P0079
Commits:
f4eb7a8...9e52cb1, 9e52cb1...cd48aa3
💰 Funded by:
iruleatgames, -Tom-
🏷 Tags:
rec98+ th02+ th04+ th05+ gameplay+ animation+ bullet+ boss- alice+ mai+ yuki+ yumeko+ shinki+ ex-alice+ uth05win+

To finish this TH05 stretch, we've got a feature that's exclusive to TH05 for once! As the final memory management innovation in PC-98 Touhou, TH05 provides a single static (64 * 26)-byte array for storing up to 64 entities of a custom type, specific to a stage or boss portion. The game uses this array for

  1. the Stage 2 star particles,
  2. Alice's puppets,
  3. the tip of curve ("jello") bullets,
  4. Mai's snowballs and Yuki's fireballs,
  5. Yumeko's swords,
  6. and Shinki's 32×32 bullets,

which makes sense, given that only one of those will be active at any given time.

On the surface, they all appear to share the same 26-byte structure, with consistently sized fields, merely using its 5 generic fields for different purposes. Looking closer though, there actually are differences in the signedness of certain fields across the six types. uth05win chose to declare them as entirely separate structures, and given all the semantic differences (pixels vs. subpixels, regular vs. tiny master.lib sprites, …), it made sense to do the same in ReC98. It quickly turned out to be the only solution to meet my own standards of code readability.

Which blew this one up to two pushes once again… But now, modders can trivially resize any of those structures without affecting the other types within the original (64 * 26)-byte boundary, even without full position independence. While you'd still have to reduce the type-specific number of distinct entities if you made any structure larger, you could also have more entities with fewer structure members.

As for the types themselves, they're full of redundancy once again – as you might have already expected from seeing #4, #5, and #6 listed as unrelated to each other. Those could have indeed been merged into a single 32×32 bullet type, supporting all the unique properties of #4 (destructible, with optional revenge bullets), #5 (optional number of twirl animation frames before they begin to move) and #6 (delay clouds). The *_add(), *_update(), and *_render() functions of #5 and #6 could even already be completely reverse-engineered from just applying the structure onto the ASM, with the ones of #3 and #4 only needing one more RE push.

But perhaps the most interesting discovery here is in the curve bullets: TH05 only renders every second one of the 17 nodes in a curve bullet, yet hit-tests every single one of them. In practice, this is an acceptable optimization though – you only start to notice jagged edges and gaps between the fragments once their speed exceeds roughly 11 pixels per second:

And that brings us to the last 20% of TH05 position independence! But first, we'll have more cheap and fast TH01 progress.

📝 Posted:
🚚 Summary of:
P0067, P0068, P0069
Commits:
e55a48b...ebb30ce, ebb30ce...2ac00d4, e0d0dcd...0f18dbc
💰 Funded by:
Splashman, Yanga, [Anonymous]
🏷 Tags:
rec98+ th01+ pc98+ blitting+ glitch+ boss- mima-th01+ yuugenmagan+

Now that's more like the speed I was expecting! After a few more unused functions for palette fading and rectangle blitting, we've reached the big line drawing functions. And the biggest one among them, drawing a straight line at any angle between two points using Bresenham's algorithm, actually happens to be the single longest function present in more than one binary in all of PC-98 Touhou, and #23 on the list of individual longest functions.

And it technically has a ZUN bug! If you pass a point outside the (0, 0) - (639, 399) screen range, the function will calculate a new point at the edge of the screen, so that the resulting line will retain the angle intended by the points given. Except that it does so by calculating the line slope using an integer division rather than a floating-point one :zunpet: Doesn't seem like it actually causes any weirdly skewed lines to be drawn in-game, though; that case is only hit in the Mima boss fight, which draws a few lines with a bottom coordinate of 400 rather than the maximum of 399. It might also cause the wrong background pixels to be restored during parts of the YuugenMagan fight, leading to flickering sprites, but seriously, that's an issue everywhere you look in this game.

Together with the rendering-text-to-VRAM function we've mostly already known from TH02, this pushed the total RE percentage well over 20%, and almost doubled the TH01 RE percentage, all within three pushes. And comparatively, it went really smoothly, to the point (ha) where I even had enough time left to also include the single-point functions that come next in that code segment. Since about half of the remaining functions in OP.EXE are present in more than just itself, I'll be able to at least keep up this speed until OP.EXE hits the 70% RE mark. That is, as long as the backers' priorities continue to be generic RE or "giving some love to TH01"… we don't have a precedent for TH01's actual game code yet.

And that's all the TH01 progress funded for January! Next up, we actually do have a focus on TH03's game and scoring mechanics… or at least the foundation for that.

📝 Posted:
🚚 Summary of:
P0029, P0030
Commits:
6ff427a...c7fc4ca, c7fc4ca...dea40ad
💰 Funded by:
zorg
🏷 Tags:
rec98+ th02+ th04+ th05+ blitting+ gameplay+ midboss+ boss- tcc+

Here we go, new C code! …eh, it will still take a bit to really get decompilation going at the speeds I was hoping for. Especially with the sheer amount of stuff that is set in the first few significant functions we actually can decompile, which now all has to be correctly declared in the C world. Turns out I spent the last 2 years screwing up the case of exported functions, and even some of their names, so that it didn't actually reflect their calling convention… yup. That's just the stuff you tend to forget while it doesn't matter.

To make up for that, I decided to research whether we can make use of some C++ features to improve code readability after all. Previously, it seemed that TH01 was the only game that included any C++ code, whereas TH02 and later seemed to be 100% C and ASM. However, during the development of the soon to be released new build system, I noticed that even this old compiler from the mid-90's, infamous for prioritizing compile speeds over all but the most trivial optimizations, was capable of quite surprising levels of automatic inlining with class methods…

…leading the research to culminate in the mindblow that is 9d121c7 – yes, we can use C++ class methods and operator overloading to make the code more readable, while still generating the same code than if we had just used C and preprocessor macros.

Looks like there's now the potential for a few pull requests from outside devs that apply C++ features to improve the legibility of previously decompiled and terribly macro-ridden code. So, if anyone wants to help without spending money…

📝 Posted:
🚚 Summary of:
P0028
Commits:
6023f5c...6ff427a
💰 Funded by:
zorg
🏷 Tags:
rec98+ th04+ th05+ gameplay+ midboss+ boss-

Back to actual development! Starting off this stretch with something fairly mechanical, the few remaining generic boss and midboss state variables. And once we start converting the constant numbers used for and around those variables into decimal, the estimated position independence probability immediately jumped by 5.31% for TH04's MAIN.EXE, and 4.49% for TH05's – despite not having made the game any more position- independent than it was before. Yup… lots of false positives in there, but who can really know for sure without having put in the work.

But now, we've RE'd enough to finally decompile something again next, 4 years after the last decompilation of anything!

📝 Posted:
🚚 Summary of:
P0049, P0050
Commits:
893bd46...6ed8e60
💰 Funded by:
-Tom-
🏷 Tags:
rec98+ th04+ th05+ file-format+ gameplay+ boss- yumeko+

Sometimes, "strategically picking things to reverse-engineer" unfortunately also means "having to move seemingly random and utterly uninteresting stuff, which will only make sense later, out of the way". Really, this was so boring. Gonna get a lot more exciting in the next ones though.

📝 Posted:
🚚 Summary of:
P0041
Commits:
b03bc91...f3b6137
💰 Funded by:
-Tom-
🏷 Tags:
rec98+ th04+ th05+ gameplay+ midboss+ boss-

So, after introducing instruction number statistics… let's go for over 2,000 lines that won't show up there immediately :tannedcirno: That being (mid-)boss HP, position, and sprite ID variables for TH04/TH05. Doesn't sound like much, but it kind of is if you insist on decimal numbers for easier comparison with uth05win's source code.