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📝 Posted:
🚚 Summary of:
P0186, P0187, P0188
Commits:
a21ab3d...bab5634, bab5634...426a531, 426a531...e881f95
💰 Funded by:
Blue Bolt, [Anonymous], nrook
🏷 Tags:
rec98+ th02+ th04+ th05+ gameplay+ boss+ portability+ tcc- master.lib+ bug- marisa-4+ gengetsu+ score+

Did you know that moving on top of a boss sprite doesn't kill the player in TH04, only in TH05?

That's the first of only three interesting discoveries in these 3 pushes, all of which concern TH04. But yeah, 3 for something as seemingly simple as these shared boss functions… that's still not quite the speed-up I had hoped for. While most of this can be blamed, again, on TH04 and all of its hardcoded complexities, there still was a lot of work to be done on the maintenance front as well. These functions reference a bunch of code I RE'd years ago and that still had to be brought up to current standards, with the dependencies reaching from 📝 boss explosions over 📝 text RAM overlay functionality up to in-game dialog loading.

The latter provides a good opportunity to talk a bit about x86 memory segmentation. Many aspiring PC-98 developers these days are very scared of it, with some even going as far as to rather mess with Protected Mode and DOS extenders just so that they don't have to deal with it. I wonder where that fear comes from… Could it be because every modern programming language I know of assumes memory to be flat, and lacks any standard language-level features to even express something like segments and offsets? That's why compilers have a hard time targeting 16-bit x86 these days: Doing anything interesting on the architecture requires giving the programmer full control over segmentation, which always comes down to adding the typical non-standard language extensions of compilers from back in the day. And as soon as DOS stopped being used, these extensions no longer made sense and were subsequently removed from newer tools. A good example for this can be found in an old version of the NASM manual: The project started as an attempt to make x86 assemblers simple again by throwing out most of the segmentation features from MASM-style assemblers, which made complete sense in 1996 when 16-bit DOS and Windows were already on their way out. But there was a point to all those features, and that's why ReC98 still has to use the supposedly inferior TASM.

Not that this fear of segmentation is completely unfounded: All the segmentation-related keywords, directives, and #pragmas provided by Borland C++ and TASM absolutely can be the cause of many weird runtime bugs. Even if the compiler or linker catches them, you are often left with confusing error messages that aged just as poorly as memory segmentation itself.
However, embracing the concept does provide quite the opportunity for optimizations. While it definitely was a very crazy idea, there is a small bit of brilliance to be gained from making proper use of all these segmentation features. Case in point: The buffer for the in-game dialog scripts in TH04 and TH05.

// Thanks to the semantics of `far` pointers, we only need a single 32-bit
// pointer variable for the following code.
extern unsigned char far *dialog_p;

// This master.lib function returns a `void __seg *`, which is a 16-bit
// segment-only pointer. Converting to a `far *` yields a full segment:offset
// pointer to offset 0000h of that segment.
dialog_p = (unsigned char far *)hmem_allocbyte(/* … */);

// Running the dialog script involves pointer arithmetic. On a far pointer,
// this only affects the 16-bit offset part, complete with overflow at 64 KiB,
// from FFFFh back to 0000h.
dialog_p += /* … */;
dialog_p += /* … */;
dialog_p += /* … */;

// Since the segment part of the pointer is still identical to the one we
// allocated above, we can later correctly free the buffer by pulling the
// segment back out of the pointer.
hmem_free((void __seg *)dialog_p);

If dialog_p was a huge pointer, any pointer arithmetic would have also adjusted the segment part, requiring a second pointer to store the base address for the hmem_free call. Doing that will also be necessary for any port to a flat memory model. Depending on how you look at it, this compression of two logical pointers into a single variable is either quite nice, or really, really dumb in its reliance on the precise memory model of one single architecture. :tannedcirno:


Why look at dialog loading though, wasn't this supposed to be all about shared boss functions? Well, TH04 unnecessarily puts certain stage-specific code into the boss defeat function, such as loading the alternate Stage 5 Yuuka defeat dialog before a Bad Ending, or initializing Gengetsu after Mugetsu's defeat in the Extra Stage.
That's TH04's second core function with an explicit conditional branch for Gengetsu, after the 📝 dialog exit code we found last year during EMS research. And I've heard people say that Shinki was the most hardcoded fight in PC-98 Touhou… Really, Shinki is a perfectly regular boss, who makes proper use of all internal mechanics in the way they were intended, and doesn't blast holes into the architecture of the game. Even within TH05, it's Mai and Yuki who rely on hacks and duplicated code, not Shinki.

The worst part about this though? How the function distinguishes Mugetsu from Gengetsu. Once again, it uses its own global variable to track whether it is called the first or the second time within TH04's Extra Stage, unrelated to the same variable used in the dialog exit function. But this time, it's not just any newly created, single-use variable, oh no. In a misguided attempt to micro-optimize away a few bytes of conventional memory, TH04 reserves 16 bytes of "generic boss state", which can (and are) freely used for anything a boss doesn't want to store in a more dedicated variable.
It might have been worth it if the bosses actually used most of these 16 bytes, but the majority just use (the same) two, with only Stage 4 Reimu using a whopping seven different ones. To reverse-engineer the various uses of these variables, I pretty much had to map out which of the undecompiled danmaku-pattern functions corresponds to which boss fight. In the end, I assigned 29 different variable names for each of the semantically different use cases, which made up another full push on its own.

Now, 16 bytes of wildly shared state, isn't that the perfect recipe for bugs? At least during this cursory look, I haven't found any obvious ones yet. If they do exist, it's more likely that they involve reused state from earlier bosses – just how the Shinki death glitch in TH05 is caused by reusing cheeto data from way back in Stage 4 – and hence require much more boss-specific progress.
And yes, it might have been way too early to look into all these tiny details of specific boss scripts… but then, this happened:

Looks similar to another screenshot of a crash in the same fight that was reported in December, doesn't it? I was too much in a hurry to figure it out exactly, but notice how both crashes happen right as the last of Marisa's four bits is destroyed. KirbyComment has suspected this to be the cause for a while, and now I can pretty much confirm it to be an unguarded division by the number of on-screen bits in Marisa-specific pattern code. But what's the cause for Kurumi then? :thonk:
As for fixing it, I can go for either a fast or a slow option:

  1. Superficially fixing only this crash will probably just take a fraction of a push.
  2. But I could also go for a deeper understanding by looking at TH04's version of the 📝 custom entity structure. It not only stores the data of Marisa's bits, but is also very likely to be involved in Kurumi's crash, and would get TH04 a lot closer to 100% PI. Taking that look will probably need at least 2 pushes, and might require another 3-4 to completely decompile Marisa's fight, and 2-3 to decompile Kurumi's.

OK, now that that's out of the way, time to finish the boss defeat function… but not without stumbling over the third of TH04's quirks, relating to the Clear Bonus for the main game or the Extra Stage:

And after another few collision-related functions, we're now truly, finally ready to decompile bosses in both TH04 and TH05! Just as the anything funds were running out… :onricdennat: The remaining ¼ of the third push then went to Shinki's 32×32 ball bullets, rounding out this delivery with a small self-contained piece of the first TH05 boss we're probably going to look at.

Next up, though: I'm not sure, actually. Both Shinki and Elis seem just a little bit larger than the 2¼ or 4 pushes purchased so far, respectively. Now that there's a bunch of room left in the cap again, I'll just let the next contribution decide – with a preference for Shinki in case of a tie. And if it will take longer than usual for the store to sell out again this time (heh), there's still the 📝 PC-98 text RAM JIS trail word rendering research waiting to be documented.

📝 Posted:
🚚 Summary of:
P0135, P0136
Commits:
a6eed55...252c13d, 252c13d...07bfcf2
💰 Funded by:
[Anonymous]
🏷 Tags:
rec98+ th02+ th03+ th04+ th05+ kaja+ menu+ micro-optimization+ bug- tcc-

Alright, no more big code maintenance tasks that absolutely need to be done right now. Time to really focus on parts 6 and 7 of repaying technical debt, right? Except that we don't get to speed up just yet, as TH05's barely decompilable PMD file loading function is rather… complicated.
Fun fact: Whenever I see an unusual sequence of x86 instructions in PC-98 Touhou, I first consult the disassembly of Wolfenstein 3D. That game was originally compiled with the quite similar Borland C++ 3.0, so it's quite helpful to compare its ASM to the officially released source code. If I find the instructions in question, they mostly come from that game's ASM code, leading to the amusing realization that "even John Carmack was unable to get these instructions out of this compiler" :onricdennat: This time though, Wolfenstein 3D did point me to Borland's intrinsics for common C functions like memcpy() and strchr(), available via #pragma intrinsic. Bu~t those unfortunately still generate worse code than what ZUN micro-optimized here. Commenting how these sequences of instructions should look in C is unfortunately all I could do here.
The conditional branches in this function did compile quite nicely though, clarifying the control flow, and clearly exposing a ZUN bug: TH05's snd_load() will hang in an infinite loop when trying to load a non-existing -86 BGM file (with a .M2 extension) if the corresponding -26 BGM file (with a .M extension) doesn't exist either.

Unsurprisingly, the PMD channel monitoring code in TH05's Music Room remains undecompilable outside the two most "high-level" initialization and rendering functions. And it's not because there's data in the middle of the code segment – that would have actually been possible with some #pragmas to ensure that the data and code segments have the same name. As soon as the SI and DI registers are referenced anywhere, Turbo C++ insists on emitting prolog code to save these on the stack at the beginning of the function, and epilog code to restore them from there before returning. Found that out in September 2019, and confirmed that there's no way around it. All the small helper functions here are quite simply too optimized, throwing away any concern for such safety measures. 🤷
Oh well, the two functions that were decompilable at least indicate that I do try.


Within that same 6th push though, we've finally reached the one function in TH05 that was blocking further progress in TH04, allowing that game to finally catch up with the others in terms of separated translation units. Feels good to finally delete more of those .ASM files we've decompiled a while ago… finally!

But since that was just getting started, the most satisfying development in both of these pushes actually came from some more experiments with macros and inline functions for near-ASM code. By adding "unused" dummy parameters for all relevant registers, the exact input registers are made more explicit, which might help future port authors who then maybe wouldn't have to look them up in an x86 instruction reference quite as often. At its best, this even allows us to declare certain functions with the __fastcall convention and express their parameter lists as regular C, with no additional pseudo-registers or macros required.
As for output registers, Turbo C++'s code generation turns out to be even more amazing than previously thought when it comes to returning pseudo-registers from inline functions. A nice example for how this can improve readability can be found in this piece of TH02 code for polling the PC-98 keyboard state using a BIOS interrupt:

inline uint8_t keygroup_sense(uint8_t group) {
	_AL = group;
	_AH = 0x04;
	geninterrupt(0x18);
	// This turns the output register of this BIOS call into the return value
	// of this function. Surprisingly enough, this does *not* naively generate
	// the `MOV AL, AH` instruction you might expect here!
	return _AH;
}

void input_sense(void)
{
	// As a result, this assignment becomes `_AH = _AH`, which Turbo C++
	// never emits as such, giving us only the three instructions we need.
	_AH = keygroup_sense(8);

	// Whereas this one gives us the one additional `MOV BH, AH` instruction
	// we'd expect, and nothing more.
	_BH = keygroup_sense(7);

	// And now it's obvious what both of these registers contain, from just
	// the assignments above.
	if(_BH & K7_ARROW_UP || _AH & K8_NUM_8) {
		key_det |= INPUT_UP;
	}
	// […]
}

I love it. No inline assembly, as close to idiomatic C code as something like this is going to get, yet still compiling into the minimum possible number of x86 instructions on even a 1994 compiler. This is how I keep this project interesting for myself during chores like these. :tannedcirno: We might have even reached peak inline already?

And that's 65% of technical debt in the SHARED segment repaid so far. Next up: Two more of these, which might already complete that segment? Finally!