Tuesday, 7 February 2017

Sound advice

Recently I've been looking at the Lode Runner sound issue (sound is all-but-muted when you enable the joystick) and last night I managed to solve it.

It took a bit to wrap my head around the correct configuration of the two PIAs for joystick and audio support, further muddied by the fact that the Coco has both 1-bit and 6-bit DAC sound generation. Fortunately I found a rather helpful block diagram that Tim Lindner put together that finally enabled me to visualise how all the bits work together.

I had originally assumed that my joystick sampling was inadvertently muting the sound. What should have tipped me off though was the fact that the sound was still there, just very much lower when joysticks were enabled. It turns out, however, that my problem was that I was not muting the sound; the circuit was mixing the 1-bit sound (which FTR can't be muted at all) with whatever state the joystick sampling left the DAC in and the result was barely audible sound from the game.

Once I muted the (DAC) sound during initialisation,the rather basic beeps and boops that are Lode Runner sound were perfectly audible, joystick or no (new release available on the download page linked to the right).

And since I had used the same routines for Knight Lore, it had the same issue - which has subsequently been fixed.

I have been thinking more about the release of Lode Runner (in particular) in the past week or so. When I first ported it I really wanted it to be a cartridge release; not to make any money but just to have at least one tangible Coco product to my name. My thinking was to create a flash cartridge with Lode Runner on it, that the buyer could also use for any other purpose.

However Jim Brain over at RETRO Innovations recently designed an 8MB Flash Cartridge for the Coco line of computers which also includes (and I may have suggested this) a serial EEPROM and (I definitely didn't suggest this) Orchestra 90 emulation.

Although this product is certainly overkill for Lode Runner, it's also - I feel - too expensive to sell as a game cartridge. I'd also like the Lode Runner cartridge to be housed in one of the new shells recently produced for the Coco, with its own "Lode Runner" label.

At the same time I don't want to re-invent the wheel, so in the last day or so I've had the idea to produce an EPROM-based cartridge with a small CPLD for banking and a small serial EEPROM for high score saves etc. Ideally such a cartridge would accept up to, say, 256KB EPROMs (although 1MB would be better) and would be suitable for my other current and future porting projects. The primary design objective is keeping it simple and cheap.

If that gets off the ground then Knight Lore should follow suit soon after.

Shortly I'll turn my attention back to Space Invaders, and finish off the coding for the hand-rotated version, which should have no trouble running at speed on the Coco3. I hope then to be able to add sampled sound, and I have always intended to release it - with source code - for free. Perhaps there'll even be a cartridge release for people that really want one?

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