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📝 Posted:
🚚 Summary of:
P0198, P0199, P0200
48db0b7...440637e, 440637e...5af2048, 5af2048...67e46b5
💰 Funded by:
Ember2528, Lmocinemod, Yanga
🏷 Tags:
rec98+ th01+ gameplay+ boss+ kikuri- blitting+ glitch+ danmaku-pattern+ cutscene+ pc98+ performance+ tcc+

What's this? A simple, straightforward, easy-to-decompile TH01 boss with just a few minor quirks and only two rendering-related ZUN bugs? Yup, 2½ pushes, and Kikuri was done. Let's get right into the overview:

So yeah, there's your new timeout challenge. :godzun:

The few issues in this fight all relate to hitboxes, starting with the main one of Kikuri against the Orb. The coordinates in the code clearly describe a hitbox in the upper center of the disc, but then ZUN wrote a < sign instead of a > sign, resulting in an in-game hitbox that's not quite where it was intended to be…

TODO TH01 Kikuri's intended hitboxTH01 Kikuri's actual hitbox
Kikuri's actual hitbox. Since the Orb sprite doesn't change its shape, we can visualize the hitbox in a pixel-perfect way here. The Orb must be completely within the red area for a hit to be registered.

Much worse, however, are the teardrop ripples. It already starts with their rendering routine, which places the sprites from TAMAYEN.PTN at byte-aligned VRAM positions in the ultimate piece of if(…) {…} else if(…) {…} else if(…) {…} meme code. Rather than tracking the position of each of the five ripple sprites, ZUN suddenly went purely functional and manually hardcoded the exact rendering and collision detection calls for each frame of the animation, based on nothing but its total frame counter. :zunpet:
Each of the (up to) 5 columns is also unblitted and blitted individually before moving to the next column, starting at the center and then symmetrically moving out to the left and right edges. This wouldn't be a problem if ZUN's EGC-powered unblitting function didn't word-align its X coordinates to a 16×1 grid. If the ripple sprites happen to start at an odd VRAM byte position, their unblitting coordinates get rounded both down and up to the nearest 16 pixels, thus touching the adjacent 8 pixels of the previously blitted columns and leaving the well-known black vertical bars in their place. :tannedcirno:

OK, so where's the hitbox issue here? If you just look at the raw calculation, it's a slightly confusingly expressed, but perfectly logical 17 pixels. But this is where byte-aligned blitting has a direct effect on gameplay: These ripples can be spawned at any arbitrary, non-byte-aligned VRAM position, and collisions are calculated relative to this internal position. Therefore, the actual hitbox is shifted up to 7 pixels to the right, compared to where you would expect it from a ripple sprite's on-screen position:

Due to the deterministic nature of this part of the fight, it's always 5 pixels for this first set of ripples. These visualizations are obviously not pixel-perfect due to the different potential, shapes of Reimu's sprite, so they instead relate to her 32×32 bounding box, which needs to be entirely inside the red area.

We've previously seen the same issue with the 📝 shot hitbox of Elis' bat form, where pixel-perfect collision detection against a byte-aligned sprite was merely a sidenote compared to the more serious X=Y coordinate bug. So why do I elevate it to bug status here? Because it directly affects dodging: Reimu's regular movement speed is 4 pixels per frame, and with the internal position of an on-screen ripple sprite varying by up to 7 pixels, any micrododging (or "grazing") attempt turns into a coin flip. It's sort of mitigated by the fact that Reimu is also only ever rendered at byte-aligned VRAM positions, but I wouldn't say that these two bugs cancel out each other.
Oh well, another set of rendering issues to be fixed in the hypothetical Anniversary Edition – obviously, the hitboxes should remain unchanged. Until then, you can always memorize the exact internal positions. The sequence of teardrop spawn points is completely deterministic and only controlled by the fixed per-difficulty spawn interval.

Aside from more minor coordinate inaccuracies, there's not much of interest in the rest of the pattern code. In another parallel to Elis though, the first soul pattern in phase 4 is aimed on every difficulty except Lunatic, where the pellets are once again statically fired downwards. This time, however, the pattern's difficulty is much more appropriately distributed across the four levels, with the simultaneous spinning circle pellets adding a constant aimed component to every difficulty level.

Kikuri's phase 4 patterns, on .

That brings us to 5 fully decompiled PC-98 Touhou bosses, with 26 remaining… and another ½ of a push going to the cutscene code in FUUIN.EXE.
You wouldn't expect something as mundane as the boss slideshow code to contain anything interesting, but there is in fact a slight bit of speculation fuel there. The text typing functions take explicit string lengths, which precisely match the corresponding strings… for the most part. For the "Gatekeeper 'SinGyoku'" string though, ZUN passed 23 characters, not 22. Could that have been the "h" from the Hepburn romanization of 神玉?!
Also, come on, if this text is already blitted to VRAM for no reason, you could have gone for perfect centering at unaligned byte positions; the rendering function would have perfectly supported it. Instead, the X coordinates are still rounded up to the nearest byte.

The hardcoded ending cutscene functions should be even less interesting – don't they just show a bunch of images followed by frame delays? Until they don't, and we reach the 地獄/Jigoku Bad Ending with its special shake/"boom" effect, and this picture:

Picture #2 from ED2A.GRP.

Which is rendered by the following code:

for(int i = 0; i <= boom_duration; i++) { // (yes, off-by-one)
	if((i & 3) == 0) {
	} else {

	end_pic_show(1); // ← different picture is rendered
	frame_delay(2);  // ← blocks until 2 VSync interrupts have occurred

	if(i & 1) {
		end_pic_show(2); // ← picture above is rendered
	} else {

Notice something? You should never see this picture because it's immediately overwritten before the frame is supposed to end. And yet it's clearly flickering up for about one frame with common emulation settings as well as on my real PC-9821 Nw133, clocked at 133 MHz. master.lib's graph_scrollup() doesn't block until VSync either, and removing these calls doesn't change anything about the blitted images. end_pic_show() uses the EGC to blit the given 320×200 quarter of VRAM from page 1 to the visible page 0, so the bottleneck shouldn't be there either…

…or should it? After setting it up via a few I/O port writes, the common method of EGC-powered blitting works like this:

  1. Read 16 bits from the source VRAM position on any single bitplane. This fills the EGC's 4 16-bit tile registers with the VRAM contents at that specific position on every bitplane. You do not care about the value the CPU returns from the read – in optimized code, you would make sure to just read into a register to avoid useless additional stores into local variables.
  2. Write any 16 bits to the target VRAM position on any single bitplane. This copies the contents of the EGC's tile registers to that specific position on every bitplane.

To transfer pixels from one VRAM page to another, you insert an additional write to I/O port 0xA6 before 1) and 2) to set your source and destination page… and that's where we find the bottleneck. Taking a look at the i486 CPU and its cycle counts, a single one of these page switches costs 17 cycles – 1 for MOVing the page number into AL, and 16 for the OUT instruction itself. Therefore, the 8,000 page switches required for EGC-copying a 320×200-pixel image require 136,000 cycles in total.

And that's the optimal case of using only those two instructions. 📝 As I implied last time, TH01 uses a function call for VRAM page switches, complete with creating and destroying a useless stack frame and unnecessarily updating a global variable in main memory. I tried optimizing ZUN's code by throwing out unnecessary code and using 📝 pseudo-registers to generate probably optimal assembly code, and that did speed up the blitting to almost exactly 50% of the original version's run time. However, it did little about the flickering itself. Here's a comparison of the first loop with boom_duration = 16, recorded in DOSBox-X with cputype=auto and cycles=max, and with i overlaid using the text chip. Caution, flashing lights:

(Note how the background of the ドカーン image is shifted 1 pixel to the left compared to pic #1.)

I pushed the optimized code to the th01_end_pic_optimize branch, to also serve as an example of how to get close to optimal code out of Turbo C++ 4.0J without writing a single ASM instruction.
And if you really want to use the EGC for this, that's the best you can do. It really sucks that it merely expanded the GRCG's 4×8-bit tile register to 4×16 bits. With 32 bits, ≥386 CPUs could have taken advantage of their wider registers and instructions to double the blitting performance. Instead, we now know the reason why 📝 Promisence Soft's EGC-powered sprite driver that ZUN later stole for TH03 is called SPRITE16 and not SPRITE32. What a massive disappointment.

But what's perhaps a bigger surprise: Blitting planar images from main memory is much faster than EGC-powered inter-page VRAM copies, despite the required manual access to all 4 bitplanes. In fact, the blitting functions for the .CDG/.CD2 format, used from TH03 onwards, would later demonstrate the optimal method of using REP MOVSD for blitting every line in 32-pixel chunks. If that was also used for these ending images, the core blitting operation would have taken ((12 + (3 × (320 / 32))) × 200 × 4) = 33,600 cycles, with not much more overhead for the surrounding row and bitplane loops. Sure, this doesn't factor in the whole infamous issue of VRAM being slow on PC-98, but the aforementioned 136,000 cycles don't even include any actual blitting either. And as you move up to later PC-98 models with Pentium CPUs, the gap between OUT and REP MOVSD only becomes larger. (Note that the page I linked above has a typo in the cycle count of REP MOVSD on Pentium CPUs: According to the original Intel Architecture and Programming Manual, it's 13+𝑛, not 3+𝑛.)
This difference explains why later games rarely use EGC-"accelerated" inter-page VRAM copies, and keep all of their larger images in main memory. It especially explains why TH04 and TH05 can get away with naively redrawing boss backdrop images on every frame.

In the end, the whole fact that ZUN did not define how long this image should be visible is enough for me to increment the game's overall bug counter. Who would have thought that looking at endings of all things would teach us a PC-98 performance lesson… Sure, optimizing TH01 already seemed promising just by looking at its bloated code, but I had no idea that its performance issues extended so far past that level.

That only leaves the common beginning part of all endings and a short main() function before we're done with FUUIN.EXE, and 98 functions until all of TH01 is decompiled! Next up: SinGyoku, who not only is the quickest boss to defeat in-game, but also comes with the least amount of code. See you very soon!

📝 Posted:
🚚 Summary of:
P0105, P0106, P0107, P0108
3622eb6...11b776b, 11b776b...1f1829d, 1f1829d...1650241, 1650241...dcf4e2c
💰 Funded by:
🏷 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
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:

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.