Vectrex Programming TOC

Optimization for Vectrex Programs

First, for some further information on this subject look at the 'vectors' section, the source for Vectrex Frogger and at the 'progger.txt' file included with Vectrex Frogger.

This will not be a full blown section of its own. I'll just give some tips and tricks I encountered/used. This is by no means complete. Perhaps some of it is even wrong, who knows, I'm not a profi, remember, I just write down some thoughts I have/had.

General optimization techniques apply, as searching for good algorithms to do something instead of making up something on the fly. General assembler techniques are not really looked into in depth. Look at an assembler book for that.

In all programming ever done you will encounter two ways of optimizing. One way for speed, the other for size. Both ways are usually mutual exclusive. I'll just go into the speed area a bit. The first vectrex programmers probably had to look after the size of their programs as well as the speed. But at RAM (ROM/EPROM that is) prices as they are today we don't really need to be concerned about space. We have 32KB we can fill with stuff. 32KB assembler programs for a 6809 processor really take some time to code.

First thing you might want to look for in your program are what sections need optimizing. There is, for example, no need to speed optimize the initialization code. It probably doesn't matter if you initialize the next level in a hundreths or a tenth of a second. This is usually a place where you might think of space optimization instead of speed.

The part of the code which has to run 50 times per second is another thing, here we are entering code that might be worth a second look. Even more interesting are sections of code which run many times per update round. Like vector positioning/drawing code. Perhaps collision detection stuff. Well, there is no general describtion of what code might be executed that is worth optimizing, you'll need some feeling for it. Don't worry, you'll know where to optimize once you start with your program.

The way I usually go about writting a program is:

- think about it
- program it in the most easy and intuitive way possibly
- test/change till it works allright
- start optimizing
- repeat the last two steps, till satisfied

There are probably many people who'll say, do it the right way (optimized) right at start. I don't think so, I find that very cumbersome.

Anyway, do what you want, as you will do so anyway. Here are some points I would like to share:

- once the code is stable remove JSR/RTS, especially where calledmany times per update round, each JSR/RTS takes 12 cycles

- use makros instead of subroutines, they are equal in easy changeability, but faster

- at the end of your program check if there might be some loop unroling be done, at places this might save you many cycles (vector lists, look at Vectrex Frogger for an example)

- if the last thing in a subroutine is the calling of another subroutine, you can as well jump there, this saves a couple of cycles (and space)

- if you can, avoid long branches, they take longer and take two bytes more of space, since their are second page opcodes

- if you can, avoid Y register usage, cause this one is too, a second page opcode, it takes longer and uses more space

- when finalizing your code, sort you code section, look where you access what RAM/VIA area most, and set the DP register accordingly, you can really save cycles this way and SPACE. I found it convenient to use a makro for changing the DP register, since you can place a 'direct' pseudo opcode within that makro

- if you can, do a LDD instead of LDA, LDB, it saves space and cycles, this often occurs when loading Y, X coordinates, and different values for PIA registers

- look at the *.lst file the assembler creates (with the correct options), you will cleary see where you waste cycles and space

- create a makro library of BIOS routines you use often, perhaps optimize the routines for your needs, the BIOS routines are quite broad in their functionality, you usually use only some parts of them, remove the unused part in you makros (look at the other documents, and Vectrex Frogger makros)

- at all costs, if possible avoid BIOS 'print_str' routines, they are born cycle wasters! One string printed can easily take 10,000 cycles!

- remember to switch of unused joystick stuff, each joystick direction test takes a few hundred cycles (or so)

- if not really neccesary, use digital joytick settings instead of analog

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