Some good news – quite a few “bad” news.
Let’s start with the good news – so I can tear you down later on.
Good Thing – Overlays!
The overlays are finished! I have them here and they are beautiful!
IMHO – the most beautiful overlays I have seen for the Vectrex yet (and I think I have seen them all!). Many thanks go again to Jacek Selanski (for his artwork) and VectrexMad! (for having them printed).
Here the “full” thing:
And some close in “partials”:
And the corner with the box:
Bad thing 1 CRASH!
Stopping the sweet talk – down to business.
I don’t know who followed the beta-tester forum. But some serious trouble has been encountered in Vectorblade.
It crashes! Not often – and the “average” player might not even notice it. But amongst the beta testers some “hardcore” playing has been going on – and Vectorblade can crash sometimes. It might take between 20h-100h of gameplay. But it CAN happen. I have spent already many, many hours (a 3 digit hour number) hunting the “bug”.
I build numerous versions of Vectorblade, which “play” by itself. Found little things… but never THE cause.
It seems no emulator can reproduce the bug (I let Vide play literally for hundreds of hours). So by now I tend towards a “non programmer” bug.
Simple buggy code IMHO would have to be found by now – either from staring dozens of hours at the code, or by getting debug messages from my tryouts.
I added debug code to Vectorblade – and even quite “exotic” means to track what is happening.
What you see in the image is a Vectorblade setup, which has a NMI button attached – and upon a button press I can jump into a debugging display routine. Dumping registers etc.
But even that has so far not been able to clarify anything. The only crash that occured while that thing being hooked to the Vectres didn’t react on NMI.
Which is strange to begin with. The only thing that “overwrites” an NMI is RESET and HALT.
There seem to be some undocumented instructions (HCF – Hold & Catch Fire) – which might be the reason, or some other glitches, which destroy the NMI interrupt vector.
Anyway, this was just a straw for me to cling to. If I had read that the NMI occurred at location XXXX and the register dump showed YY values – I dunno if I had been the wiser – since I would only have seeen where the PC was, AFTER the crash, not what happened during the crash.
All those tests and reprogramming are quite tedious – since I have literally NO single byte in RAM left and in some banks only a couple of bytes.
So each time I added special additional code – I had to change VB in order for it to fit… Which made it:
b) it wasn’t the same programm anymore that I wanted to test
My latest straw to cling to is best described in an old blog entry of mine:
See… during my experiments I tested VB on one of my “other” vectrex – and it seems, that this Vectrex at some stage became “special” meaning, the VIA is now as “faulty” as described in the above blog entry. So Vectorblade crashed right from the start.
Somehow this crash reminded me of the current situation… and I thought…
“Hmmm… what if the other crash situations are somehow related? What if there are
– good VIA
– bad VIA
– VIA which are bad one in a million?”
I don’t know if that is “a thing” – but like I said – I am looking for straws to cling to.
Sooo at least I have a very easy test scenario – I have a completely faulty Vectrex. I reprogrammed all of Vectorblade (took only about 15hours) to be faulty insensitive (Vectorblade lost again in average a couple of hundred cycles speedwise – ARRRGHH – I am hating it).
I have to test the new version (meaning I have to play 100-200 hours… and see if a crash occurs) – if it doesn’t I won’t be much happier – but a tiny little bit more content.
If the crash occurs – I am back to square one.
Bad thing 2 Overlay!
The overlay is fantastic. But it also makes me scream in frustration. See – the opaque part of overlay seems to be a little “big” around the edges. Some of the game area can not be seen anymore.
Usually I look a little but “top down” on my Vectrex when I play:
You see what I mean?
While I could relocate the “EXTRA” (btw in the above screen it read XTRA” – hard to see – isn’t it?) – and also the score…
The play area doesn’t really fit well (imagine the UFO – which appears above the upmost enemy in the above setting).
You might say… “So what – just move everything down a bit, do a simple calibration with an Y-Offset”.
It is not that I can’t think of that on my own. Thing is – the only possible way to that kind of calibration is by adding an additional MOVE to every vectorlist that is displayed.
Yes – I can do that – but my first guess is, that would “cost” me another 1000 cycles at LEAST per vectrex round.
And I am really getting (I actually already am, with everything that has been necesssary of late) to a state, where I cannot afford to lose more cycles.
Vectorblade will soon start “to wobble” and be “flickery”.
I do not want that!
I don’t know yet, what I will do about this thing. One problem after another, first the crash, than the overlay.
But let me just say… Vectorblade stopped being fun quite some time ago. Nowadays it is just something, that I wish I had finished already.
If you look straight at it (or even a little “up”) it is not TOO bad :-(.