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📝 Posted:
🚚 Summary of:
💰 Funded by:
[Anonymous], Blue Bolt
🏷 Tags:
rec98+ th04+ th05+ gameplay+ bullet- micro-optimization+ glitch+ uth05win+ tasm+

Back to TH05! Thanks to the good funding situation, I can strike a nice balance between getting TH05 position-independent as quickly as possible, and properly reverse-engineering some missing important parts of the game. Once 100% PI will get the attention of modders, the code will then be in better shape, and a bit more usable than if I just rushed that goal.

By now, I'm apparently also pretty spoiled by TH01's immediate decompilability, after having worked on that game for so long. Reverse-engineering in ASM land is pretty annoying, after all, since it basically boils down to meticulously editing a piece of ASM into something I can confidently call "reverse-engineered". Most of the time, simply decompiling that piece of code would take just a little bit longer, but be massively more useful. So, I immediately tried decompiling with TH05… and it just worked, at every place I tried!? Whatever the issue was that made 📝 segment splitting so annoying at my first attempt, I seem to have completely solved it in the meantime. 🤷 So yeah, backers can now request pretty much any part of TH04 and TH05 to be decompiled immediately, with no additional segment splitting cost.

(Protip for everyone interested in starting their own ReC project: Just declare one segment per function, right from the start, then group them together to restore the original code segmentation…)

Except that TH05 then just throws more of its infamous micro-optimized and undecompilable ASM at you. 🙄 This push covered the function that adjusts the bullet group template based on rank and the selected difficulty, called every time such a group is configured. Which, just like pretty much all of TH05's bullet spawning code, is one of those undecompilable functions. If C allowed labels of other functions as goto targets, it might have been decompilable into something useful to modders… maybe. But like this, there's no point in even trying.

This is such a terrible idea from a software architecture point of view, I can't even. Because now, you suddenly have to mirror your C++ declarations in ASM land, and keep them in sync with each other. I'm always happy when I get to delete an ASM declaration from the codebase once I've decompiled all the instances where it was referenced. But for TH05, we now have to keep those declarations around forever. 😕 And all that for a performance increase you probably couldn't even measure. Oh well, pulling off Galaxy Brain-level ASM optimizations is kind of fun if you don't have portability plans… I guess?

If I started a full fangame mod of a PC-98 Touhou game, I'd base it on TH04 rather than TH05, and backport selective features from TH05 as needed. Just because it was released later doesn't make it better, and this is by far not the only one of ZUN's micro-optimizations that just went way too far.

Dropping down to ASM also makes it easier to introduce weird quirks. Decompiled, one of TH05's tuning conditions for stack groups on Easy Mode would look something like:

case BP_STACK:
	// […]
	if(spread_angle_delta >= 2) {
The fields of the bullet group template aren't typically reset when setting up a new group. So, spread_angle_delta in the context of a stack group effectively refers to "the delta angle of the last spread group that was fired before this stack – whenever that was". uth05win also spotted this quirk, considered it a bug, and wrote fanfiction by changing spread_angle_delta to stack_bullet_count.
As usual for functions that occur in more than one game, I also decompiled the TH04 bullet group tuning function, and it's perfectly sane, with no such quirks.

In the more PI-focused parts of this push, we got the TH05-exclusive smooth boss movement functions, for flying randomly or towards a given point. Pretty unspectacular for the most part, but we've got yet another uth05win inconsistency in the latter one. Once the Y coordinate gets close enough to the target point, it actually speeds up twice as much as the X coordinate would, whereas uth05win used the same speedup factors for both. This might make uth05win a couple of frames slower in all boss fights from Stage 3 on. Hard to measure though – and boss movement partly depends on RNG anyway.

Next up: Shinki's background animations – which are actually the single biggest source of position dependence left in TH05.

📝 Posted:
🚚 Summary of:
P0099, P0100, P0101, P0102
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:
P0078, P0079
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:
P0072, P0073, P0074, P0075
4bb04ab...cea3ea6, cea3ea6...5286417, 5286417...1807906, 1807906...222fc99
💰 Funded by:
[Anonymous], -Tom-, Myles
🏷 Tags:
rec98+ th04+ th05+ gameplay+ blitting+ bullet- micro-optimization+ uth05win+

Long time no see! And this is exactly why I've been procrastinating bullets while there was still meaningful progress to be had in other parts of TH04 and TH05: There was bound to be quite some complexity in this most central piece of game logic, and so I couldn't possibly get to a satisfying understanding in just one push.

Or in two, because their rendering involves another bunch of micro-optimized functions adapted from master.lib.

Or in three, because we'd like to actually name all the bullet sprites, since there are a number of sprite ID-related conditional branches. And so, I was refining things I supposedly RE'd in the the commits from the first push until the very end of the fourth.

When we talk about "bullets" in TH04 and TH05, we mean just two things: the white 8×8 pellets, with a cap of 240 in TH04 and 180 in TH05, and any 16×16 sprites from MIKO16.BFT, with a cap of 200 in TH04 and 220 in TH05. These are by far the most common types of… err, "things the player can collide with", and so ZUN provides a whole bunch of pre-made motion, animation, and n-way spread / ring / stack group options for those, which can be selected by simply setting a few fields in the bullet template. All the other "non-bullets" have to be fired and controlled individually.

Which is nothing new, since uth05win covered this part pretty accurately – I don't think anyone could just make up these structure member overloads. The interesting insights here all come from applying this research to TH04, and figuring out its differences compared to TH05. The most notable one there is in the default groups: TH05 allows you to add a stack to any single bullet, n-way spread or ring, but TH04 only lets you create stacks separately from n-way spreads and rings, and thus gets by with fewer fields in its bullet template structure. On the other hand, TH04 has a separate "n-way spread with random angles, yet still aimed at the player" group? Which seems to be unused, at least as far as midbosses and bosses are concerned; can't say anything about stage enemies yet.

In fact, TH05's larger bullet template structure illustrates that these distinct group types actually are a rather redundant piece of over-engineering. You can perfectly indicate any permutation of the basic groups through just the stack bullet count (1 = no stack), spread bullet count (1 = no spread), and spread delta angle (0 = ring instead of spread). Add a 4-flag bitfield to cover the rest (aim to player, randomize angle, randomize speed, force single bullet regardless of difficulty or rank), and the result would be less redundant and even slightly more capable.

Even those 4 pushes didn't quite finish all of the bullet-related types, stopping just shy of the most trivial and consistent enum that defines special movement. This also left us in a 📝 TH03-like situation, in which we're still a bit away from actually converting all this research into actual RE%. Oh well, at least this got us way past 50% in overall position independence. On to the second half! 🎉

For the next push though, we'll first have a quick detour to the remaining C code of all the ZUN.COM binaries. Now that the 📝 TH04 and TH05 resident structures no longer block those, -Tom- has requested TH05's RES_KSO.COM to be covered in one of his outstanding pushes. And since 32th System recently RE'd TH03's resident structure, it makes sense to also review and merge that, before decompiling all three remaining RES_*.COM binaries in hopefully a single push. It might even get done faster than that, in which case I'll then review and merge some more of WindowsTiger's research.