⮜ Blog

⮜ List of tags

Showing all posts tagged konngara- and gameplay-

📝 Posted:
🚚 Summary of:
P0205, P0206
Commits:
3259190...327730f, 327730f...454c105
💰 Funded by:
[Anonymous], Yanga
🏷 Tags:
rec98+ th01+ gameplay- boss+ mima-th01+ danmaku-pattern+ rng+ performance+ palette+ glitch+ jank+ konngara- meta+

Oh look, it's another rather short and straightforward boss with a rather small number of bugs and quirks. Yup, contrary to the character's popularity, Mima's premiere is really not all that special in terms of code, and continues the trend established with 📝 Kikuri and 📝 SinGyoku. I've already covered 📝 the initial sprite-related bugs last November, so this post focuses on the main code of the fight itself. The overview:


And there aren't even any weird hitboxes this time. What is maybe special about Mima, however, is how there's something to cover about all of her patterns. Since this is TH01, it's won't surprise anyone that the rotating square patterns are one giant copy-pasta of unblitting, updating, and rendering code. At least ZUN placed the core polar→Cartesian transformation in a separate function for creating regular polygons with an arbitrary number of sides, which might hint toward some more varied shapes having been planned at one point?
5 of the 6 patterns even follow the exact same steps during square update frames:

  1. Calculate square corner coordinates
  2. Unblit the square
  3. Update the square angle and radius
  4. Use the square corner coordinates for spawning pellets or missiles
  5. Recalculate square corner coordinates
  6. Render the square

Notice something? Bullets are spawned before the corner coordinates are updated. That's why their initial positions seem to be a bit off – they are spawned exactly in the corners of the square, it's just that it's the square from 8 frames ago. :tannedcirno:

Mima's first pattern on Normal difficulty.

Once ZUN reached the final laser pattern though, he must have noticed that there's something wrong there… or maybe he just wanted to fire those lasers independently from the square unblit/update/render timer for a change. Spending an additional 16 bytes of the data segment for conveniently remembering the square corner coordinates across frames was definitely a decent investment.

Mima's laser pattern on Lunatic difficulty, now with correct laser spawn positions. If this pattern reminds you of the game crashing immediately when defeating Mima, 📝 check out the Elis blog post for the details behind this bug, and grab the bugfix patch from there.

When Mima isn't shooting bullets from the corners of a square or hopping across the playfield, she's raising flame pillars from the bottom of the playfield within very specifically calculated random ranges… which are then rendered at byte-aligned VRAM positions, while collision detection still uses their actual pixel position. Since I don't want to sound like a broken record all too much, I'll just direct you to 📝 Kikuri, where we've seen the exact same issue with the teardrop ripple sprites. The conclusions are identical as well.

Mima's flame pillar pattern. This video was recorded on a particularly unlucky seed that resulted in great disparities between a pillar's internal X coordinate and its byte-aligned on-screen appearance, leading to lots of right-shifted hitboxes.
Also note how the change from the meteor animation to the three-arm 🚫 casting sprite doesn't unblit the meteor, and leaves that job to any sprite that happens to fly over those pixels.

However, I'd say that the saddest part about this pattern is how choppy it is, with the circle/pillar entities updating and rendering at a meager 7 FPS. Why go that low on purpose when you can just make the game render ✨ smoothly ✨ instead?

So smooth it's almost uncanny.

The reason quickly becomes obvious: With TH01's lack of optimization, going for the full 56.4 FPS would have significantly slowed down the game on its intended 33 MHz CPUs, requiring more than cheap surface-level ASM optimization for a stable frame rate. That might very well have been ZUN's reason for only ever rendering one circle per frame to VRAM, and designing the pattern with these time offsets in mind. It's always been typical for PC-98 developers to target the lowest-spec models that could possibly still run a game, and implementing dynamic frame rates into such an engine-less game is nothing I would wish on anybody. And it's not like TH01 is particularly unique in its choppiness anyway; low frame rates are actually a rather typical part of the PC-98 game aesthetic.


The final piece of weirdness in this fight can be found in phase 1's hop pattern, and specifically its palette manipulation. Just from looking at the pattern code itself, each of the 4 hops is supposed to darken the hardware palette by subtracting #444 from every color. At the last hop, every color should have therefore been reduced to a pitch-black #000, leaving the player completely blind to the movement of the chasing pellets for 30 frames and making the pattern quite ghostly indeed. However, that's not what we see in the actual game:

Looking at the frame counter, it appears that something outside the pattern resets the palette every 40 frames. The only known constant with a value of 40 would be the invincibility frames after hitting a boss with the Orb, but we're not hitting Mima here… :thonk:
But as it turns out, that's exactly where the palette reset comes from: The hop animation darkens the hardware palette directly, while the 📝 infamous 12-parameter boss collision handler function unconditionally resets the hardware palette to the "default boss palette" every 40 frames, regardless of whether the boss was hit or not. I'd classify this as a bug: That function has no business doing periodic hardware palette resets outside the invincibility flash effect, and it completely defies common sense that it does.

That explains one unexpected palette change, but could this function possibly also explain the other infamous one, namely, the temporary green discoloration in the Konngara fight? That glitch comes down to how the game actually uses two global "default" palettes: a default boss palette for undoing the invincibility flash effect, and a default stage palette for returning the colors back to normal at the end of the bomb animation or when leaving the Pause menu. And sure enough, the stage palette is the one with the green color, while the boss palette contains the intended colors used throughout the fight. Sending the latter palette to the graphics chip every 40 frames is what corrects the discoloration, which would otherwise be permanent.

The green color comes from BOSS7_D1.GRP, the scroll background, and that's what turns this into a clear bug: The stage palette is only set a single time in the entire fight, at the beginning of the entrance animation, to the palette of this image. Apart from consistency reasons, it doesn't even make sense to set the stage palette there, as you can't enter the Pause menu or bomb during a blocking animation function.
And just 3 lines of code later, ZUN loads BOSS8_A1.GRP, the main background image of the fight. Moving the stage palette assignment there would have easily prevented the discoloration.

But yeah, as you can tell, palette manipulation is complete jank in this game. Why differentiate between a stage and a boss palette to begin with? The blocking Pause menu function could have easily copied the original palette to a local variable before darkening it, and then restored it after closing the menu. It's not so easy for bombs as the intended palette could change between the start and end of the animation, but the code could have still been simplified a lot if there was just one global "default palette" variable instead of two. Heck, even the other bosses who manipulate their palettes correctly only do so because they manually synchronize the two after every change. The proper defense against bugs that result from wild mutation of global state is to get rid of global state, and not to put up safety nets hidden in the middle of existing effect code.

The easiest way of reproducing the green discoloration bug in the TH01 Konngara fight, timed to show the maximum amount of time the discoloration can possibly last.

In any case, that's Mima done! 7th PC-98 Touhou boss fully decompiled, 24 bosses remaining, and 59 functions left in all of TH01.


In other thrilling news, my call for secondary funding priorities in new TH01 contributions has given us three different priorities so far. This raises an interesting question though: Which of these contributions should I now put towards TH01 immediately, and which ones should I leave in the backlog for the time being? Since I've never liked deciding on priorities, let's turn this into a popularity contest instead: The contributions with the least popular secondary priorities will go towards TH01 first, giving the most popular priorities a higher chance to still be left over after TH01 is done. As of this delivery, we'd have the following popularity order:

  1. TH05 (1.67 pushes), from T0182
  2. Seihou (1 push), from T0184
  3. TH03 (0.67 pushes), from T0146

Which means that T0146 will be consumed for TH01 next, followed by T0184 and then T0182. I only assign transactions immediately before a delivery though, so you all still have the chance to change up these priorities before the next one.

Next up: The final boss of TH01 decompilation, YuugenMagan… if the current or newly incoming TH01 funds happen to be enough to cover the entire fight. If they don't turn out to be, I will have to pass the time with some Seihou work instead, missing the TH01 anniversary deadline as a result. Edit (2022-07-18): Thanks to Yanga for securing the funding for YuugenMagan after all! That fight will feature slightly more than half of all remaining code in TH01's REIIDEN.EXE and the single biggest function in all of PC-98 Touhou, let's go!

📝 Posted:
🚚 Summary of:
P0153, P0154, P0155, P0156
Commits:
624e0cb...d05c9ba, d05c9ba...031b526, 031b526...9ad578e, 9ad578e...4bc6405
💰 Funded by:
Ember2528
🏷 Tags:
rec98+ th01+ gameplay- boss+ konngara- danmaku-pattern+ waste+ rng+

📝 7 pushes to get Konngara done, according to my previous estimate? Well, how about being twice as fast, and getting the entire boss fight done in 3.5 pushes instead? So much copy-pasted code in there… without any flashy unused content, apart from four calculations with an unclear purpose. And the three strings "ANGEL", "OF", "DEATH", which were probably meant to be rendered using those giant upscaled font ROM glyphs that also display the STAGE # and HARRY UP strings? Those three strings are also part of Sariel's code, though.

On to the remaining 11 patterns then! Konngara's homing snakes, shown in the video above, are one of the more notorious parts of this battle. They occur in two patterns – one with two snakes and one with four – with all of the spawn, aim, update, and render code copy-pasted between the two. :zunpet: Three gameplay-related discoveries here:


This was followed by really weird aiming code for the "sprayed pellets from cup" pattern… which can only possibly have been done on purpose, but is sort of mitigated by the spraying motion anyway.
After a bunch of long if(…) {…} else if(…) {…} else if(…) {…} chains, which remain quite popular in certain corners of the game dev scene to this day, we've got the three sword slash patterns as the final notable ones. At first, it seemed as if ZUN just improvised those raw number constants involved in the pellet spawner's movement calculations to describe some sort of path that vaguely resembles the sword slash. But once I tried to express these numbers in terms of the slash animation's keyframes, it all worked out perfectly, and resulted in this:

Triangular path of the pellet spawner during Konngara's slash patterns

Yup, the spawner always takes an exact path along this triangle. Sometimes, I wonder whether I should just rush this project and don't bother about naming these repeated number literals. Then I gain insights like these, and it's all worth it.


Finally, we've got Konngara's main function, which coordinates the entire fight. Third-longest function in both TH01 and all of PC-98 Touhou, only behind some player-related stuff and YuugenMagan's gigantic main function… and it's even more of a copy-pasta, making it feel not nearly as long as it is. Key insights there:

Seriously, 📝 line drawing was much harder to decompile.


And that's it for Konngara! First boss with not a single piece of ASM left, 30 more to go! 🎉 But wait, what about the cause behind the temporary green discoloration after leaving the Pause menu? I expected to find something on that as well, but nope, it's nothing in Konngara's code segment. We'll probably only get to figure that out near the very end of TH01's decompilation, once we get to the one function that directly calls all of the boss-specific main functions in a switch statement.
Edit (2022-07-17): 📝 Only took until Mima.

So, Sariel next? With half of a push left, I did cover Sariel's first few initialization functions, but all the sprite unblitting and HUD manipulation will need some extra attention first. The first one of these functions is related to the HUD, the stage timer, and the HARRY UP mode, whose pellet pattern I've also decompiled now.

All of this brings us past 75% PI in all games, and TH01 to under 30,000 remaining ASM instructions, leaving TH03 as the now most expensive game to be completely decompiled. Looking forward to how much more TH01's code will fall apart if you just tap it lightly… Next up: The aforementioned helper functions related to HARRY UP, drawing the HUD, and unblitting the other bosses whose sprites are a bit more animated.

📝 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:

8×16 half-width section of font ROM, with the characters in the Shift-JIS lead byte range highlighted in red

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…

Visible differences between the kanji and graph modes on PC-98 DOS
(Yes, that g in the function row is how NEC DOS indicates that graph mode is active. Try it yourself by pressing Ctrl+F4!)

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:
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:

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.