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The Southsider

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Signs of Life

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OK, I know I said that the last entry would be my last update for a while. However, I couldn't resist tweaking the PoP code just a little more before I leave! I came up with a nice way to animate the objects in the game, so this update contains flickering torches and bubbling potions. The sprites were done in a hurry and will be improved later, but you should get the idea. I have done some initial work on the spikes in this version (see screenshot): they spring up when you get near, but they don't yet drop down again unless you leave the screen. I have also started the first phase of code cleaning, and the program data is now defined in external macros. This will make it much easier to move the data around in the code. The next step is to optimise the code itself as it is getting rather tight for space now, and there is a lot of klunky code in there. On another note, I won myself a Vectrex console on eBay and it arrived today! Up until about a year ago I had never even heard of this machine. However, reading through various classic gaming sites (such as this one) I came across the name repeatedly and it became clear that this machine was held in high regard in the community. After doing some research, I was not surprised that I had never heard of it, as it was only sold for a couple of years and never really took-off in the UK. Nonetheless, it was apparent that the machine had a significant following, and an active homebrew scene, much like the 2600. post-4398-1103591999_thumb.jpgThe problem was that I didn't know anyone who had a Vectrex, and the prices that they fetch on eBay were rather high. But out of curiosity, I put a low bid on a boxed console a few weeks ago, and amazingly I won the auction. I wasn't holding out too much hope as the machines are rather fragile, and I had read stories on the web about broken screens and duff controllers. However, I was pleased that the machine arrived in great condition and with a perfect controller. After a few hours of play I can see why the machine generates so much enthusiasm The vector display is amazing, and is very similar to the old arcades such as Asteroids. The games also have a pure-arcade quality about them, and the sound is surprisingly good. I'm not too keen on the screen overlays, but at least they are optional. The screen flicker is much less pronounced that I was expecting, and only becomes apparent when there is lots going on. I have only got 3 games at the moment, but hopefully I will be able to obtain some more at the vgXpo. Anyway, if you haven't seen this console before, then I would definitely recommend it. I think that after I finish PoP I am going to have to have a go at homebrewing for the Vectrex!Chris

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There is definitely an active Vectrex homebrew scene, but I'll warn you that programming one is very different than programming the 2600 (or 7800 or anything else really).

 

Yah see, you have two basic options when it comes to drawing stuff on the Vec. Either you use the built-in ROM routines (which work, but are slow and you have to deal with their input/output requirements) or you roll your own (not an easy task, you really need to get into the nitty-gritty of the hardware).

 

It's also 6809 based, which is a big plus since you get a bigger & better register set plus more opcodes & addressing modes. But it'll make you weep when you have to go back to the 6502.

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There is definitely an active Vectrex homebrew scene, but I'll warn you that programming one is very different than programming the 2600 (or 7800 or anything else really)

<snip>

But it'll make you weep when you have to go back to the 6502.

 

The Vectrex sounds like an interesting machine to program for, but I'm not sure that I will have the necessary time to do anything about it. Also, the emulators don't seem to be as well developed as the 2600. I definitely don't intend to abandon the 2600, as there is a lot more that I want to do, and I still feel that I have a lot to learn.

 

Chris

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Also, the Vectrex emulators don't seem to be as well developed as the 2600.

It's not that they aren't well developed, but the Vectrex has a big whack of analog electronics which are difficult to simulate with the correct amount of inaccuracy. :-) It's kinda like the 7800. The emulators are respectable, but you can't trust them completely when developing from scratch. Even on the 2600 there are still some minor grey areas left, but fortunately they're way off the beaten path.

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Hi there!

 

I also feel the urge to branch out to another system from time to time. First it was the O2, then the Intellivision (in fact I still have an Intellicart sitting here) and currently it's the Coleco...

 

Yet I'm never done with the 2600 it seems :)

 

Greetings,

Manuel

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PoP is looking magnificent!

 

Congratulations on getting a Vectrex!

 

I also won a Vectrex on eBay, not too long ago, and I also am planning on doing a few productions. Good luck, it will be nice to have somebody else going down that road.

 

I agree, that the Vectrex emulators are not as well developed, having a debugger like we now have in Stella would be a great bonus. I'd like to take a shot at adding a debugger to one of the Vectrex emulators... Isn't there a Vectrex emulator in MESS and doesn't MESS sorta have a debugger maybe?

 

Which is the Vectrex emulator of choice for homebrew authors?

 

Anyway, once again, let me tell you that I am incredibly impressed with the PoP that you have accomplished so far. Wow.

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Hi there!

 

I also feel the urge to branch out to another system from time to time. First it was the O2, then the Intellivision (in fact I still have an Intellicart sitting here) and currently it's the Coleco...

 

Yet I'm never done with the 2600 it seems :)

 

Greetings,

Manuel

The only other console that has attracted me is the Channel F, mostly because this one is really bizarre. It doesn't have things that we normally take for granted. No program counter? No address bus? When I first thought about programming the 2600, I was taken back by the 128 bytes of RAM... But compared to not having a PC or an address bus, the RAM limitation seems trivial.

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The only other console that has attracted me is the Channel F, mostly because this one is really bizarre.  It doesn't have things that we normally take for granted.  No program counter? No address bus?  When I first thought about programming the 2600, I was taken back by the 128 bytes of RAM... But compared to not having a PC or an address bus, the RAM limitation seems trivial.

 

I read through this thread on the Channel F a while ago, and it looks really nasty - too hardcore for me! With the 2600 the designers clearly tried to make things easier, e.g. hardware collision detection, though they failed in some areas, e.g. strobe registers, but with the Channel F looks like it was designed deliberately to be a pain!

 

Chris

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Which is the Vectrex emulator of choice for homebrew authors?

Anyway, once again, let me tell you that I am incredibly impressed with the PoP that you have accomplished so far. Wow.

 

It seems that MESS is the best emulator for the Vectrax (at least under Linux which I use). Thanks for the complements - there is still a lot to do with Pop, but it seems to be coming together nicely.

 

Chris

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