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Atari 2600 Programming for Newbies

Session 14: Playfield Weirdness

By Andrew Davie (adapted by Duane Alan Hahn)

Table of Contents

Original Session

The diagram below shows the bizarre way that bits in the TIA playfield registers (PF0, PF2) map to the onscreen pixels in reverse order. We have already seen how PF1 worksit is shown in this diagram, too.

This strange backwardness (not to mention inconsistency!) is probably a result of the fact that it was simpler (cheaper) to design the hardware to operate in this fashion. Among other things, this layout of pixels in our TIA registers makes scrolling horizontally a major pain in the neck!

 

The bits marked with a cross are not used by the '2600 (including the low bit in the color registers), and you may write any value to theseit is ignored.

 

The diagram shows a shadowy 'right-side'where the 20 pixels of the left side are duplicated. Be aware that this right-side may also be mirrored, further complicating things.

 

 

 

 

 

Optional Exercises

  1. Confirm that PF0 and PF2 have reverse pixel to bit position ordering (Hint: using binary for your values will assist you to see exactly what pixel corresponds to what bit (ie: lda #%01000000, sta PF0)
  2. What happens if you write PF0, PF1 or PF2 in the middle of a scanline? What would you expect to happen? Can you see any use for this? (Hint: how do you think an asymmetric playfielda different pattern on the left and right of the screenis created?)
  3. Write some solid shape(s) to PF0, PF1, PF2 (ie: lda #%01011110, sta PF0, sta PF1, sta PF2) and then play with changing the playfield color several times during a scanline. How many color changes (maximum) do you think you can get on any line? Why is there a limit?
  4. How would a game do horizontal scrolling? This is a difficult questionbut I'm trying to get you to think about the implications of the odd playfield->pixel correspondence, and the implications for game writing.
  5. How would you make a 'wall' which was 8 scanlines high, full screen width, followed by left and right walls just 1 pixel wide each, at extreme left/right edges of the screen, 176 scanlines high, followed by another horizontal 'wall', full screen width and 8 scanlines high? Note: this would form a 'box' border around the entire playfield.

 

 

 

 

 

Summary

Next session we'll walk through exactly what all this playfield oddity is about.

 

See you next time!

 

 

 

Other Assembly Language Tutorials

Be sure to check out the other assembly language tutorials and the general programming pages on this web site.

 

 

< Previous Session

 

 

Next Session >

 

 

 

 

Session Links

Session 1: Start Here

Session 2: Television Display Basics

Sessions 3 & 6: The TIA and the 6502

Session 4: The TIA

Session 5: Memory Architecture

Session 7: The TV and our Kernel

Session 8: Our First Kernel

Session 9: 6502 and DASM - Assembling the Basics

Session 10: Orgasm

Session 11: Colorful Colors

Session 12: Initialization

Session 13: Playfield Basics

Session 14: Playfield Weirdness

Session 15: Playfield Continued

Session 16: Letting the Assembler do the Work

Sessions 17 & 18: Asymmetrical Playfields (Parts 1 & 2)

Session 19: Addressing Modes

Session 20: Asymmetrical Playfields (Part 3)

Session 21: Sprites

Session 22: Sprites, Horizontal Positioning (Part 1)

Session 23: Moving Sprites Vertically

Session 24: Some Nice Code

Session 25: Advanced Timeslicing

 

 

 

 

Useful Links

Easy 6502 by Nick Morgan

How to get started writing 6502 assembly language. Includes a JavaScript 6502 assembler and simulator.

 

 

Atari Roots by Mark Andrews (Online Book)

This book was written in English, not computerese. It's written for Atari users, not for professional programmers (though they might find it useful).

 

 

Machine Language For Beginners by Richard Mansfield (Online Book)

This book only assumes a working knowledge of BASIC. It was designed to speak directly to the amateur programmer, the part-time computerist. It should help you make the transition from BASIC to machine language with relative ease.

 

 

The Second Book Of Machine Language by Richard Mansfield (Online Book)

This book shows how to put together a large machine language program. All of the fundamentals were covered in Machine Language for Beginners. What remains is to put the rules to use by constructing a working program, to take the theory into the field and show how machine language is done.

 

 

6502 Instruction Set with Examples

A useful page from Assembly Language Programming for the Atari Computers.

 

 

6502.org

Continually strives to remain the largest and most complete source for 6502-related information in the world.

 

 

Guide to 6502 Assembly Language Programming by Andrew Jacobs

Below are direct links to the most important pages.

 

 

Stella Programmer's Guide

HTMLified version.

 

 

Nick Bensema's Guide to Cycle Counting on the Atari 2600

Cycle counting is an important aspect of Atari 2600 programming. It makes possible the positioning of sprites, the drawing of six-digit scores, non-mirrored playfield graphics and many other cool TIA tricks that keep every game from looking like Combat.

 

 

How to Draw A Playfield by Nick Bensema

Atari 2600 programming is different from any other kind of programming in many ways. Just one of these ways is the flow of the program.

 

 

Cart Sizes and Bankswitching Methods by Kevin Horton

The "bankswitching bible." Also check out the Atari 2600 Fun Facts and Information Guide and this post about bankswitching by SeaGtGruff at AtariAge.

 

 

Atari 2600 Specifications

Atari 2600 programming specs (HTML version).

 

 

Atari 2600 Programming Page (AtariAge)

Links to useful information, tools, source code, and documentation.

 

 

MiniDig

Atari 2600 programming site based on Garon's "The Dig," which is now dead.

 

 

TIA Color Charts and Tools

Includes interactive color charts, an NTSC/PAL color conversion tool, and Atari 2600 color compatibility tools that can help you quickly find colors that go great together.

 

 

The Atari 2600 Music and Sound Page

Adapted information and charts related to Atari 2600 music and sound.

 

 

Game Standards and Procedures

A guide and a check list for finished carts.

 

 

Stella

A multi-platform Atari 2600 VCS emulator. It has a built-in debugger to help you with your works in progress or you can use it to study classic games.

 

 

JAVATARI

A very good emulator that can also be embedded on your own web site so people can play the games you make online. It's much better than JStella.

 

 

batari Basic Commands

If assembly language seems a little too hard, don't worry. You can always try to make Atari 2600 games the faster, easier way with batari Basic.

 

 

Atari 2600 BASIC

If assembly language is too hard for you, try batari Basic. It's a BASIC-like language for creating Atari 2600 games. It's the faster, easier way to make Atari 2600 games.

Try batari Basic

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Disclaimer

View this page and any external web sites at your own risk. I am not responsible for any possible spiritual, emotional, physical, financial or any other damage to you, your friends, family, ancestors, or descendants in the past, present, or future, living or dead, in this dimension or any other.

 

Use any example programs at your own risk. I am not responsible if they blow up your computer or melt your Atari 2600. Use assembly language at your own risk. I am not responsible if assembly language makes you cry or gives you brain damage.

 

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