[stella] my setup

Subject: [stella] my setup
From: "Andrew Davie" <adavie@xxxxxxxxxxxxx>
Date: Thu, 15 Feb 2001 23:31:41 +1100
Here's a description of my (latest) development environment...

I'm running Windows 2000, and developing with Microsoft Developer Studio
(Visual C++) as my IDE.  I've setup a project, and for the assembler file
I've made a custom build step (which is, to run DASM).  The debugger is
setup to run Z26 (or PCAE), so all I have to do when making a change to code
is hit F5, and it compiles and runs in one go.

Its a pretty good setup.  The only real problems I have are that DASM isn't
exactly the greatest at reporting errors as errors.  For example, have a
branch out of range, and it will quite happily assemble the file... without
telling you there are errors.  There are a few other niggly things, but
that's the main one I really really hate.  Another one is that the errors
aren't reported in a format that my IDE likes - but that's my problem.  I'd
be able to hit another key and go straight to the error if they were.  But,
don't look a gift horse in the mouth, as they say.

I've been noticing things are dog-slow under Z26, and so had preferentially
been using PCAE, which runs pretty fast.  I set all my timing so that it
looked good under PCAE - figuring that it was running full speed, and Z26
couldn't cope under the W2K environment.  But following several reports that
my game was dog-slow, I re-checked things and found that Z26 was rendering
at 350fps.  I couldn't understand what was happening (still can't).

Soooooo, time to run on actual hardware.  I dug my Supercharger out of the
cubpoard, and hooked it all up and now have a quite bizarre setup;  I hit
F5, and it builds a wav file (makewav from Bob Colbert - thanks Bob!), and
then plays the wav with Windows media player... which sends the file to the
supercharger which, of course, is hooked up to the sound output port on the
PC.  The supercharger downloads and starts playing the game.  The 2600
itself is outputting to my VCR, which is tuned (channel 26, of course) to
the 2600... and the VCR in turn is hooked up to TV-IN on my video
capture/display card (ATI all-in-wonder).  I watch/play the game in a window
on my monitor.

So, in essence, I have an integrated 2600 development system with actual
hardware... which displays on my PC monitor.  Its sweet, if somewhat zany.
I have to hit too many buttons, though....  Power ON/OFF the 2600, hit F5,
wait, playtest, close the wav player.

Now, when I got the actual hardware to run (after fiddling with timing of my
game to adjust for PAL), guess what.... dog slow!  I was quite surprised.
The strange thing, though, was that I confirmed (through 1 per frame score
increment) that it was running OK at 50fps (PAL).  But when I got the timing
looking good on the actual hardware - both PCAE and Z26 run a gazillion
miles an hour.  Obviously something is not letting those two emulators on my
machine know actual frame/time/synch/whatever rate.  Yes, I've tried the
switches and settings to get them to run at particular speeds, etc.  They
still run at incredibly high speeds.

So, I'm developing (for the while) on actual hardware.  I'm having to adjust
things for PAL, of course - and when I try to run it on the emulators it has
a right royal fit.  The nice thing about using actual hardware in a window
on my desktop is that I can do screen grabs (and AVIs) with ease.  And,
since its routed through my VCR I can make tapes of gameplay, too... which
is always fun to look back on (5 second grabs, every few days)... then play
it back in one go... you see your progress as if you were in a time machine.

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