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PostPosted: Thu Jul 26, 2018 8:34 am 
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Or just use save RAM? Why do we need to do that?


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PostPosted: Thu Jul 26, 2018 8:37 am 
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If a game doesn't already use RAM at $6000, you're adding the complexity and slowdown of using (say) MMC1 instead of UNROM, as well as a larger PCB and SRAM to the bill of materials. If a game already uses RAM but doesn't battery back it, you're adding a battery, passives, and an SRAM power controller IC to the bill of materials. And you're still not handling the case of multiple consoles or multiple TVs.


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PostPosted: Thu Jul 26, 2018 8:38 am 
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tepples wrote:
The practical problem with user configurability is that users would find reconfiguring everything every time the system is turned on tedious.

Is it really, though? I think you may be overstating this problem.
How tedious was SMB / Duck Hunt's menu?
How tedious is Asterix's language select?
How tedious is selecting 2 players in Contra?
How tedious is selecting Easy mode in Lizard?

I don't know what you're envisioning, but there's little reason a simple option menu can't be a snap to operate, and this kind of thing was done in all sorts of NES games already.

orlaisadog wrote:
Or just use save RAM? Why do we need to do that?

If your game already has a save feature planned (either through SRAM or Flash), there isn't even a theoretical issue here.

tepples wrote:
And you're still not handling the case of multiple consoles or multiple TVs.

Come on, you're really arguing that we need multiple saved option profiles on an NES cart because it's too "tedious" to change them? They already have to physically pull the cartridge out of that machine, put it in another, switch TV hookup etc. you think spending 2 seconds changing an option is a problem???


Edit: was too slow in my edit, moved to a subsequent reply.


Last edited by rainwarrior on Thu Jul 26, 2018 8:51 am, edited 3 times in total.

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PostPosted: Thu Jul 26, 2018 8:42 am 
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rainwarrior wrote:
tepples wrote:
The practical problem with user configurability is that users would find reconfiguring everything every time the system is turned on tedious.

Is it really, though? I think you may be overstating this problem.
How tedious was SMB / Duck Hunt's menu?

The menu in SMB/DH has two steps: 1. which game, and 2. how many players (or how many ducks). Full configurability for a game like this would involve setting scanline count (262 or 312), NMI scanline (241 or 291), DPCM glitch compensation (on or off), CPU:PPU ratio cycle ratio (3 or 3.2), emphasis (NTSC BGR, PAL BRG, or 2C03 none), and probably a bunch more differences mentioned previously. That's a lot more than two steps.


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PostPosted: Thu Jul 26, 2018 8:48 am 
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tepples wrote:
The menu in SMB/DH has two steps: 1. which game, and 2. how many players. Full configurability for a game like this would involve setting scanline count (262 or 312), NMI scanline (241 or 291), DPCM glitch compensation (on or off), CPU:PPU ratio cycle ratio (3 or 3.2), emphasis (NTSC BGR, PAL BRG, or 2C03 none), and probably a bunch more differences mentioned previously. That's a lot more than two steps.

Too quick for me to edit more into my previous post. :P

Yes, I started to wonder that maybe maybe you're thinking about like a full 240p suite of calibration or something, but even if you thought that was necessary and it was necessarily a tedious process, they only need to do that once/occasionally as a means to discover the correct settings. They don't need to do that every time once they know what settings they want. Or whatever, this is getting a bit theoretical, but there are a lot of ways to not make this "tedious", IMO.

If we're discussing real games with actual needs, I doubt there's a practical need for more than 1 or 2 settings. Maybe 3 if you're pushing it. You're really planning to make a game that relies on all of these things at once?? Why would you even want to do that? It sounds like you're making the game specifically about the "problem" of making the most problem out of the options.


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PostPosted: Thu Jul 26, 2018 9:06 am 
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The concrete use case I have in mind is rhythm games, which will become practical once key patents start to expire a year from now.

  • Controllers that would be useful for some music game concepts, such as the Power Pad and Arkanoid Controller, differ in their protocol between NES and Famicom.
  • The note chart in Guitar Hero is drawn like a road, and drawing barlines needs a raster effect like in 3D WorldRunner. This depends on CPU:PPU clock ratio, which differs between 2A07+2C07 and everything else.
  • In a game centered around music, the player might reasonably expect thicker instrumentation than nsf_classic (BotB's term for 2A03 without the DPCM channel) alone can provide, and if compatibility with an unmodified NES is expected, this means samples. Reading an Arkanoid Controller requires carefully working around a quirk of the 2A03's DPCM DMA. A workaround to avoid this quirk by using OAM DMA is available, but it should not be used on 2A07 because the 2C07 requires OAM DMA to occur early (finishing within 20 lines after NMI).
  • Music tempo depends on the PPU scan rate.
  • Relative pitch between samples differs between the 2A07 and everything else.
  • PAL has more vblank time. If not a lot of vblank time is available, the game might fall back to simpler background animations.
  • The method to unlock this extra vblank time differs between PAL NES and PAL famiclones.


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PostPosted: Thu Jul 26, 2018 9:16 am 
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Just to reiterate, I think that detecting between NTSC, PAL and DENDY timings for the purpose is can be very practically automated. I don't think this is error prone, or even really needs a user option as long as you're only adjusting timings with it. There are enough games out there that have ensured that almost all emulators and clones get that much right enough to use. That covers most cases of raster effects, music adjustment, etc.

All this stuff about configurable number of scanlines, length of vblank, somehow needing an Arkanoid controller for a rhythm game, etc. whatever. If you want to make Configuration Hell: The Game, fine. I'm not trying to give advice to the person who's determined to create an intractable compatibility problem.


For another thought about designing around the idea that the options are tedious. You could even make it part of the game somehow. How about a room early on in your game where you're instructed to "walk toward the red light" and there's a light that comes on, enabling red emphasis as you get close, and a second one that's the same but green? ;)


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PostPosted: Thu Jul 26, 2018 9:34 am 
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That idea could actually work as a game- simple 3D graphics like that where that is the first level.


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PostPosted: Thu Jul 26, 2018 5:23 pm 
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tepples wrote:
The practical problem with user configurability is that users would find reconfiguring everything every time the system is turned on tedious. To atttempt to avoid that, you'd have to 1. make your mapper self-flashable, 2. exhaustively test that your configuration saving won't overwrite the game, and 3. hope the user doesn't regularly use two or more consoles or TVs with different characteristics.
Other possibility: Add switches into the cartridge. One switch controls auto/manual, and the other switches select the settings in manual mode.

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PostPosted: Thu Jul 26, 2018 6:58 pm 
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That's actually a very good idea!


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PostPosted: Fri Jul 27, 2018 4:08 pm 
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Yeah only the cartridge needs a bit more work than normally, and emulation would get more complicated since you modify a standard mapper.

rainwarrior wrote:
All this stuff about configurable number of scanlines, length of vblank, somehow needing an Arkanoid controller for a rhythm game, etc. whatever. If you want to make Configuration Hell: The Game, fine. I'm not trying to give advice to the person who's determined to create an intractable compatibility problem.
Hahaha


I don't know so much about Famiclones but I think there are several UMC clones and not all of them swaps duty cycle settings for example, so simply having a "Dendy mode" probably only catches the classic Dendy and Pegasus based on Micro Genius IQ-501 and IQ-502. Also I heard Dendy and Pegasus are somehow modified for PAL no? I mean Micro Genius is Taiwanese, an NTSC country.

I think the tediousness is worst for quick or simple games that does not save. Like "I feel like going for a quick round of Tetris! Oh crap all these options again, now where did the manual go?".


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PostPosted: Fri Jul 27, 2018 5:58 pm 
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Pokun wrote:
I don't know so much about Famiclones but I think there are several UMC clones and not all of them swaps duty cycle settings for example, so simply having a "Dendy mode" probably only catches the classic Dendy and Pegasus based on Micro Genius IQ-501 and IQ-502. Also I heard Dendy and Pegasus are somehow modified for PAL no? I mean Micro Genius is Taiwanese, an NTSC country.

I think the tediousness is worst for quick or simple games that does not save. Like "I feel like going for a quick round of Tetris! Oh crap all these options again, now where did the manual go?".

Yes, duty swap is something that's known to be inconsistent across clones, and I don't think it's possible to test for without human interaction. ...though at the same time, swapped duty isn't something that would make a game unplayable* either, so it's not necessarily a problem you need to solve. If you've got an options menu, maybe not too tough to throw in, but automatically swapping duty for Dendy-style timings I think is going to have many false positive cases. (Sort of funny counterpoint, but many Dendy owners who were used to the music sounding a certain way had requested being able to intentionally swap duties in NSFPlay, so maybe also consider that sometimes the "wrong" thing is still desirable.)

When I said NTSC / PAL / DENDY, I meant the three timing styles. I've never heard of a clone or emulator that doesn't fall into one of these 3 timing categories, aside from some experimental overclocking.

Dendy is a 50hz machine intended for PAL regions, but very compatible with games made for NTSC assuming the 17% slowdown is acceptable. (Has same cycles per scanline as NTSC NES, just compensates with extra blank scanlines at the end of the frame where they will rarely do harm.) It was made for pirating NTSC region games, not the official PAL games.


* Please don't contrive some silly example of using inverted channels to completely cancel phase on some sound effect that is somehow mission critical.


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PostPosted: Fri Jul 27, 2018 7:37 pm 
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rainwarrior wrote:
Yes, duty swap is something that's known to be inconsistent across clones, and I don't think it's possible to test for without human interaction.
Actually maybe you can test it if you really wanted to; if it is a Famicom cartridge then the audio goes through the cartridge, so it may be possible to detect.

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PostPosted: Sun Jul 29, 2018 5:40 am 
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I guess that would require some special hardware in the cartridge though, but yeah I guess.

Well if duty cycle really is the only thing that's inconsistent it may not be such a big problem. It's not like the duty cycle swap makes the song go out of tune or anything, I guess that's why the cloners didn't notice the mistake in the first place. Regarding people growing up with the wrong duty, it wouldn't really apply to a newly produced homebrew though. If I made a song I may want people to remember it with the qualities I choose, preferably as consistent as possible for all players. I included a "tuning fork" in the options menu that plays a square channel at 440 Hz and with 50% duty cycle so the user can check pitch and duty of his machine himself. Now the problem is how to explain how 50% vs 25% duty sounds in the manual.

rainwarrior wrote:
* Please don't contrive some silly example of using inverted channels to completely cancel phase on some sound effect that is somehow mission critical.
That's Tepple's job.


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