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Old 03 March 2018, 22:28   #1
gazj82
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Code optimization.

Hi All,

I have put together another simple game. I can get it to work nicely on an A1200, but it is awful slow on an A500. Just wondering if anyone with better skills than me could look to see what optimisations can be made.

Not sure if I am hitting some sort of Blitz limit for moving stuff on screen but it seems unlikely, it is much more likely to be my poor skills.

EDIT: I have put a self booting adf in the zone. The source code is on the disk.

Cheers
Gary

Last edited by gazj82; 03 March 2018 at 22:40.
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Old 03 March 2018, 22:40   #2
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I have put a self booting adf in the zone. The source code is on the disk.
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Old 04 March 2018, 01:55   #3
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I've just had a quick look, and there's nothing really graphically intensive going on there so you shouldn't be hitting any limits like that. Without spending more time with it on a slow machine, my guess would be that you're just doing too many CPU-bound operations per frame. You've got lots and lots of Zone stuff going on, that all eats up CPU time with every check (and you're checking a lot with a busy zone table). A better approach might be to use some sort of simple map system, since the maze is essentially a grid anyway. Also, lots of QWrap commands within the main loop aren't a good thing - they're designed to work on quick type variables, and it might be faster to come up with your own word-based operation instead. You could use it as a macro to save repeating the code in your listing.

Also, a couple of tips: Indent all your loops and constructs. It will make the code a lot easier to read! There are block indent functions in the editor menus so you don't have to do each line by hand... Second, check out the Blitz manual, there's a piece about testing performance by poking the background colour so that you can see if a certain section is taking too long. It might come in useful, e.g. poking the background red before you test for collisions, then poking it black again. If you get a red background, then you know the collision detection is taking longer than the rest of the frame to execute.
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Old 04 March 2018, 02:04   #4
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As Daedalus managed to write while I was still reading the sources, profile your code by poking a different colour to $dff180 at the beginning of each subroutine.

You can possibly save a few cycles by making some extremely similar if…endif blocks into a Select…case clause. In other spots, you first check if this > that, then immediately afterwards check if this <= that. Replace the second check with an else instead.

Unrelated to optimisation, you can shorten your code by not calling Getashape tens of times at the beginning of the program. Move that code to another program and save the grabbed shapes to a file which you load or include in your main program.
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Old 04 March 2018, 12:42   #5
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I knew if anyone was going to take the time to help and painstakingly go through my disorganised code it was going to be you two. So thank you very much I do appreciate it.

Daedalus :-
I learn't quite a lot using the zone stuff. I think I did ask before on the best way to implement this and a few ideas were given. This was the one I found the easiest to understand at the time. Could you explain a map system a bit more if you don't mind. As I don't quite know what that means or entails.

There are a lot of qwrap commands, mostly in the counters section. Again my self taught hobby coding lets me down and I really don't know what you mean when you mention your substitute.

Yep my coding structure is god awful. I really do try with my indentation at the start of the project but I soon find it becomes very messy and hard to manage. I will look through the options in the editor as I have never looked at this, hopefully it will help.

The change in background is a great tip for trying to track these slowdowns. Thanks for that.

idrougge :-
Thanks idrougge, that background colour tip is great.

I knew there could probably be some improvements made here. I just didn't know what was best. i.e I didn't know case was quicker than lots of if/endif statements. Your definitely right about better use of else. I forget this as most of my previous xp is with C64 basic where else does not exist.

I have seen about saving and loading shapes in the Blitz manual and often thought I should be implementing it. I'm guessing the loading times may also be reduced against loading a whole fullscreen image too. Some of my failure to split this out is again related to my very monolithic C64 structure type where everything I did was under one listing. I must try to get away from this.
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Old 04 March 2018, 12:47   #6
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Daedulus :-

After another read I think I might know what you mean about a grid approach.

Every position is 32 pixels away from another one. I don't know what exactly the number are at the moment. But it is probably something like 10 horizontal positions and 8 vertical positions.

I think you mean I should store a 10x8 grid with data stored in each position of what directions are available in each. I guess this could be stored in a 4 bit word to cover all available positions.

I can then lookup this table every time an enemy / player needs to make a decision about where to go next. Hopefully this would be quicker than testing a huge zone table.
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Old 04 March 2018, 13:33   #7
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Another good speed trick is to minimize the amount of operations with NEWTYPE variables like " enemy(id)\x " , because they are lot slower than normal variables.

What I usually do in my own programs is that I have lots of temporary "alias variables" like x,y,speed,direction,energy, and so on, and use these in my game object loops.

So for example if I have a collision check loop that needs to check 10 collisions, which makes comparisons with Newtype variables "enemy(id)\x" and "enemy(id)\y" 10 times, then before the checks begin I put these two into temporary variables "x" and "y", and do all the collisions checks with them.

---

So instead of having 10 checks like this:

if Zone (enemy(id)\x, enemy(id)\y) > -1

...I would instead use:

x = enemy(id)\x
y = enemy(id)\y

And then make the 10 checks with those:

if Zone (x, y) > -1

...and if x and y can be changed during the loop, then in the end of the loop the original newtype variables of course need to be updated.

enemy(id)\x = x
enemy(id)\y = y


---

This method speeds up all operations a lot, and it should be used for all newtype variables that are used more than one time in the loop.

So even if you just have two lines like this:

enemy(id)\x + 1
enemy(id)\x + 1


Then this method is about 25 % faster:

x = enemy(id)\x
x + 1
x + 1
enemy(id)\x = x


And the more operations you make with the same newtype variable, the greater the speed benefit will be when you convert it to a normal variable first.

I believe that the slowness of the Newtype variables is caused by them being "references" to variables, rather than actual variables. So every time the program sees stuff like "enemy(id)\x + 1" it first needs to do some processing to get the actual variable behind that newtype reference, and then it does the + 1 operation, and after this it stores the result back to the location where the "enemy(id)\x" is pointing at, which I think causes a second dereferencing operation, and so most CPU time goes into solving those references.
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Old 04 March 2018, 14:31   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by gazj82 View Post
Every position is 32 pixels away from another one. I don't know what exactly the number are at the moment. But it is probably something like 10 horizontal positions and 8 vertical positions.

I think you mean I should store a 10x8 grid with data stored in each position of what directions are available in each.
Yep, that's it. It will also make it much easier to create new maps and levels in the future if that was a consideration. Have a routine to generate the bitmap based on a map that you load in.

Quote:
I guess this could be stored in a 4 bit word to cover all available positions.
Yep, one bit for each wall in any given square, and an array of bytes to store the map should work well.

Quote:
I can then lookup this table every time an enemy / player needs to make a decision about where to go next. Hopefully this would be quicker than testing a huge zone table.
Yep, it should be. Zones work well, but are much more fine-grained than you need really.

The code layout stuff is more for your own benefit really, it's something you'll curse when you go back to your code later and try to figure out how it works I recently recovered some of my old Atari 8-bit code from cassette, and it's horrendous! I have serious trouble understanding most of it. But your techniques are fine, some people struggle to display a sprite on screen so you're already doing well in that regard

Quote:
There are a lot of qwrap commands, mostly in the counters section. Again my self taught hobby coding lets me down and I really don't know what you mean when you mention your substitute.
Sorry, I mean instead of using QWrap, use a couple of If...Then statements to do the same thing with word types. Word and Long types take the same length of time (one transfer cycle) to transfer to/from RAM on an A1200, but on an A500 Long/Quick types take two transfers instead of just one for a Word type. So it can help a lot to limit operations to Word types. For example:


Code:
If var.w > 100
  var.w - 100
Else
  If var.w < 0
    var.w + 100
  End If
End If
I'm not sure how much speed it will gain in reality, but worth trying. Ideally you would replace that with assembly to have it super tight...


Quote:
Originally Posted by Master484 View Post
Another good speed trick is to minimize the amount of operations with NEWTYPE variables like " enemy(id)\x " , because they are lot slower than normal variables.
Quote:
I believe that the slowness of the Newtype variables is caused by them being "references" to variables, rather than actual variables. So every time the program sees stuff like "enemy(id)\x + 1" it first needs to do some processing to get the actual variable behind that newtype reference, and then it does the + 1 operation, and after this it stores the result back to the location where the "enemy(id)\x" is pointing at, which I think causes a second dereferencing operation, and so most CPU time goes into solving those references.
Hmmm... Well, I'm not so sure about this one. Newtype fields are actual variables, not references to them. The exceptions are strings and pointers of course, but that's a different story. If you dump the memory of a Newtype, you can see your actual data stored in there, and a simple check of the size of a Newtype when you change the type of one of the fields will show you that it changes to accommodate the new data type.

Slowdown isn't something I'd noticed before, so I ran a quick test. It's in WinUAE with an A1200/030 setup, running in "cycle exact" mode, so I appreciate things could be a little screwy, but anyway... This was my test code:

Code:
NPrint "Press Enter"
x$=Edit$(1)

NEWTYPE .test
  dummy.l
  sec.l
End NEWTYPE

DEFTYPE .test test

framecount.l = 0

SetInt 5
  framecount + 1
End SetInt

test\dummy = 10
dmy.l = 10
sec.l = 0

framecount.l = 0
For i.l = 1 To 1000000
  test\sec = test\sec + test\dummy
Next i

NPrint framecount
End
It gave me a repeatable result around the 375-379 frames range. I then changed the loop to use the discrete variables instead:

Code:
For i.l = 1 To 1000000
  sec = sec + dmy
Next i
This is giving me consistent results in the 558-562 frames range. So the discrete variables actually appear *slower* for me. Am I missing something here? They're all longwords, so I expect the results would be much higher on 16-bit-bus Amigas, but as far as I can tell, there shouldn't be a difference code-wise. Perhaps the Newtype helped by clustering the variables together in a single, cacheable lump, in which case results may well be different on a plain 68000.

Hmmmm, more investigation needed... Anyway, if it does help speed things up in certain circumstances then great, I haven't noticed any issues myself using Newtypes in arcade-style code (my issues come from a lack of game design creativity ).

Last edited by Daedalus; 04 March 2018 at 14:41.
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Old 04 March 2018, 17:54   #9
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Quote:
This is giving me consistent results in the 558-562 frames range. So the discrete variables actually appear *slower* for me. Am I missing something here?
Hmm, that's interesting, I tested this in my own speed program, and I still got faster results for normal words and longs, than newtype words and longs. I use the classic Blitz 2.1, and on all WINUAE configs that I have tried normal variables are faster than newtype variables. Maybe the newer AmiBlitz versions have faster Newtype variables or something?

But in my post I mainly meant newtypes that are located in a List, so that the variables look like: test(list position)\variable

In these cases the speed difference is even more noticeable, when the method that I described is used.
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Old 04 March 2018, 18:31   #10
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I can't access the zone since I'm new etc and can't check the source so sorry if this isn't relevant but one thing you should remember on 68000 is that multiply and divide are really slow. You should always use a table for them in any realtime code if the values aren't massive (well, over 8 bits really or separate tables for some few fixed values) and you can't change the code to do with shifts. So a straight table lookup for multiply; table and shift down (maybe 16 bits or less depending on needed accuracy) for division.

Last edited by dodke; 04 March 2018 at 18:40.
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Old 04 March 2018, 20:02   #11
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Yes, I did notice some arithmetic to the lines of new_value = old_value + constant_value + (other_value * 2).
Any normal compiler will optimise x * 2 as x + x (addition is much faster than multiplication), but I'm not sure Blitz's braindead compiler does.
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Old 04 March 2018, 20:14   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Master484 View Post
Hmm, that's interesting, I tested this in my own speed program, and I still got faster results for normal words and longs, than newtype words and longs. I use the classic Blitz 2.1, and on all WINUAE configs that I have tried normal variables are faster than newtype variables. Maybe the newer AmiBlitz versions have faster Newtype variables or something?

But in my post I mainly meant newtypes that are located in a List, so that the variables look like: test(list position)\variable

In these cases the speed difference is even more noticeable, when the method that I described is used.
Ah yes, traversing a list is indeed much slower. Sorry, I didn't catch that aspect in your post. Yep, for speed critical things I would use pointers for a current list item - it's even faster than reassigning them to a temporary variable, and if you change the value you don't need to copy it back. Pointers can be a pain sometimes though...

Yep, it's AmiBlitz I was using too, so you're right - there could be some sort of optimisation (or bug fix) it does that gives it an edge over the Blitz Basic compiler.

As for multiplication, that could indeed be another source of slowdown, and as idrougge says, I'm not sure Blitz is clever enough to optimise such things as multiply by two. A handy, fast alternative that works to multiply and divide by powers of 2 is bit-shifting. Provided you're happy to ignore any overflow or decimal places, shifting a binary number left multiplies it by 2 each digit, and shifting it right divides it by 2. Blitz has these operators, so for example, to divide by 8:

Code:
answer.l = src LSR 3
Since 2^3 is 8. Multiply by 2 is just:

Code:
answer.l = src LSL 1
This will help a lot when you're doing calculations in a tile-based world.
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Old 04 March 2018, 21:39   #13
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src LSL 1 is still slower than src + src. Shifts on the plain 68000 just aren't very fast.
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Old 04 March 2018, 22:14   #14
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Hmmm, good point... Bad example for just one shift, it's probably better suited to multiplying or dividing by 32 (the size of the OP's map blocks) for example.
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Old 05 March 2018, 10:57   #15
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Quote:
Yep, it's AmiBlitz I was using too, so you're right - there could be some sort of optimisation (or bug fix) it does that gives it an edge over the Blitz Basic compiler.
Or maybe the reason is the FPU code that I read some AmiBlitz commands use; maybe Newtype handling in AmiBlitz uses FPU but normal variables do not, which would explain why newtype variables are faster than normal variables?

Quote:
Yep, for speed critical things I would use pointers for a current list item - it's even faster than reassigning them to a temporary variable
That's right, I tested this and pointers actually beat normal variables too in normal operations as well.

So this code...

Code:
a = 0
x = 0

repeat
 x + 1
 a + 1
until a = 10000
...Becomes slightly faster with a pointer:

Code:
a = 0
x = 0
*variable1 = x

repeat
 *variable1 + 1
 a + 1
until a = 10000
And therefore this code in my earlier post:

Code:
x = enemy(id)\x
y = enemy(id)\y

if Zone (x, y) > -1
Would be faster with something like:

Code:
*x_pointer = enemy(id)\x
*y_pointer = enemy(id)\y

if Zone (*x_pointer, *y_pointer) > -1
And now there is no need to worry about putting the values back to newtype variables, because this method directly updates them.

---
---
---

Here are some other code optimization ideas:

1.
One easy way to measure speed in this program is to add "score = VPos" to the "hud" drawing routine, and then add "Gosub hud" just before the main loop VWait command. The "score" text will then tell the position of the display beam after all game logic has been done and only VWait remains. The lower the number, the faster the frame has finished.

Although this method can be somewhat inaccurate if the main loop takes several frames to finish; it only tells the beam position, not how many frames have passed. If you also want to know the amounts of frames passed, then you have to use a VBlank interrupt and put a frame counter there.

This too is quite simple to do, and the code that Daedalus posted actually shows how to do it, so you just put lines like this to your code before the main loop starts:

Code:
framecount.w = 0

SetInt 5
  framecount + 1
End SetInt
And also add "framecount = 0" after the main loop VWAIT, and now you can do a "print framecount" in the hud routine to know the amount of frames passed.

The vertical blank interrupt can also have other code in it, but don't put anything slow like Blits or lots of calculations there, because this will cause problems. But things like sprite display commands and joystick reads are OK to be put there, and this guarantees sprite movement at 50 FPS no matter how slow the game is. Although I don't think this game needs to go that far; a simple pacman game should always run at 50 FPS without relying on tricks like this.


2.
At the routine "pillupdate", I found this structure:

Code:
If pill(pid)\state=3
 pid+1
 Pop If : Goto pillupdate
End if
Which I think can be replaced with just:
Code:
If pill(pid)\state=3 then pid+1
Now correct me if I am wrong, but I think that the "Pop If" always terminates the current If...End If, and so the Goto instruction after it never gets executed.

Also I tested this change and it improved speed by several scan lines. So it also seems that the Pop instruction is very slow.

---

Also in the "spinnerupdate" routine there are more Pop If's used in this way, in a code that seems to check if anything is inside the spinning center piece, and if so it tries to make a "Pop If:Pop For:Return" to end the routine before the spinner update happens.

But the routine doesnt seem to work, and the player can get stuck inside the spinner walls. And I tried to comment out the entire check code, and nothing changed. So it seems that the routine does nothing, because everything after the Pop If's doesnt get executed, because the "Pop If" causes an instant jump out of the current "If...End if" structure.

I actually quickly tried to fix that routine, using a more simple method to end the loop:

- I added "a=0" at the start of "spinnerupdate".
- I deleted both "Pop If" lines in the two checks that follow, and replaced them with "a=1".
- I added a line "If a=1 then Return" right before the spinner draw routine starts.

Which theoretically should have caused some change, but it didnt seem to have any effect, the spinner still moved, and player could get stuck inside it.


3.
Also, about entering the BLITZ mode: the Blitz manual recommends that a VWAIT 250 should be used before entering BLITZ mode. This is a safety wait so that the disk drive has time to stop before BLITZ "shuts down" the operating system. Right now after loading the files the program goes to BLITZ mode right away without any waits, and this is why the disk drive motor keeps on running during the game.

Although it seems that almost no one cares about this BLITZ mode safety wait, including the official Blitz example programs.
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Old 05 March 2018, 17:48   #16
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I did a little bit more testing on the speed of pointers vs normal variables, this time comparing results on A500 and A1200.

Here are the test results for time consumed in 10000 increment operations:

---

A500

WORDS (.w)
Variables: 10 frames, VPos at 129
Pointers: 11 frames, VPos at 94

LONGS (.l)
Variables: 11 frames, VPos at 95
Pointers: 11 frames, VPos at 95

A1200

WORDS (.w)
Variables: 4 frames, VPos at 151
Pointers: 4 frames, VPos at 113

LONGS (.l)
Variables: 4 frames, VPos at 113
Pointers: 4 frames, VPos at 205

---

So when we use words, on A500 pointers are about 10 % slower than variables, but with longs the speeds are exactly the same.

And on A1200, when we use words pointers are about 5 % faster than variables, but when we switch to longs then the variables are suddenly faster.

These results are from the classic Blitz 2.1, with cycle exact ON.

The test configurations both had 2 MB of chip ram, with no Fast Ram. I tested with fast ram too, but it just made all cases faster, and otherwise the results were the same.

So I guess that it comes down to the differences of the processors...I think someone just mentioned that the 68020 is better suited for longs, and the 68000 works better with words. That would explain these somewhat strange results.
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Old 05 March 2018, 18:23   #17
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Yeah, the 68000 needs to transfer in 16-bit chunks which will make pointers slower (since they're 32-bit) than the 16-bit words, and also explains why pointers are the same speed as longs. I think the results are very tight when you're talking fractions of a frame, but interesting results all the same. I really must put some tests together on real hardware...

As for the FPU angle, I don't think that's it since I've used Newtypes successfully in AmiBlitz code that runs fine without an FPU.
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Old 05 March 2018, 22:36   #18
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Master484 View Post
The vertical blank interrupt can also have other code in it, but don't put anything slow like Blits or lots of calculations there, because this will cause problems. But things like sprite display commands and joystick reads are OK to be put there, and this guarantees sprite movement at 50 FPS no matter how slow the game is.
Be very careful what you put in Blitz interrupt routines. There are a lot of things which can't be accessed from there.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Master484
Now correct me if I am wrong, but I think that the "Pop If" always terminates the current If...End If, and so the Goto instruction after it never gets executed.
Quote:
Originally Posted by The manual
Pop Gosub I For I Select I If I WhileI Repeat
Sometimes, it may be necessary to exit from a particular type of program loop in order to transfer program flow to a different part of program. Pop must be included before the Goto which transfers program flow out from the inside of the loop.
Actually, Pop is only necessary to prematurely terminate Gosubs, Fors and Selects. If, While and Repeat have been included for completeness but are not necessary.
In other words, Pop If is not only harmless, it is even useless.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Master484
But the routine doesnt seem to work, and the player can get stuck inside the spinner walls. And I tried to comment out the entire check code, and nothing changed. So it seems that the routine does nothing, because everything after the Pop If's doesnt get executed, because the "Pop If" causes an instant jump out of the current "If...End if" structure.
As stated above, that's not how it works. Try it yourself:
Code:
a=1
If a>0
   Pop If
   NPrint "Hello"
EndIf
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Old 06 March 2018, 10:55   #19
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Quote:
In other words, Pop If is not only harmless, it is even useless.
Ok, I should have checked the manual before posting.

So then this code that I pointed out earlier...

Code:
If pill(pid)\state=3
 pid+1
 Pop If : Goto pillupdate
End if
..Actually just needs to delete the Pop If, and the Goto should remain. So ignore my previous suggestion that the whole structure should be replaced with a single "if then" line, hehehe.

---
---

But I got more advice for you.

I tested the speed of the "Zone()" instruction, and I was shocked how slow it is. The "SetZone" is fast, but the actual "Zone()" check is mega slow.

I tested on both A500 and A1200, with the following results:

A500: 1 zone() check takes 38 scan lines.

A1200: 1 zone() check takes 9 scan lines.

This means that just 10 zone() checks will take an entire frame on an A500. And even A1200 could handle just around 30 checks in a frame, if it had nothing else to do.

The size of the Zone in my test was 100*100, and I had pre-defined 5 Zones, but checked only one.

Making the Zone area smaller made it slightly faster, but not much. Also lowering the amount of the zones had a small effect, but not much. It's the Zone() check itself that is super slow.

To put things into perspective, 38 scan lines wasted on A500 is equal of making 60 division operations.

So definitely get rid of the Zones; they are the number one reason for the slowness of the game.

And if you don't want to make a new tile map based collision system, then probably the easiest way would be to replace the Zones with RectsHit.

So have something like this:

collision=0
if RectsHit(player_x, player_y, 1, 1, zone_x, zone_y, zone_width, zone_height) then collision=1

Or make a Gosub where you put a big Select Case structure which has all the zones in 31 Cases (I think the game had 31 zones).

So have something like:

Code:
X_to_check = player_x  ; variables for zone check
Y_to_check = player_y
HitZone_to_check = 24  ; zone number
Gosub checkzones
if collision=1 then do stuff
And then the checkzones gosub looks like this:

Code:
.checkzones

collision=0

select HitZone_to_check

case 0
if RectsHit(X_to_check, Y_to_check, 1, 1, ZONE_0_START_X, ZONE_0_START_Y, ZONE_0_WIDTH, ZONE_0_HEIGHT ) then collision=1

case 1
if RectsHit(X_to_check, Y_to_check, 1, 1, ZONE_1_START_X, ZONE_1_START_Y, ZONE_1_WIDTH, ZONE_1_HEIGHT ) then collision=1

case 24
if RectsHit(X_to_check, Y_to_check, 1, 1, ZONE_24_START_X, ZONE_24_START_Y, ZONE_24_WIDTH, ZONE_24_HEIGHT ) then collision=1

end select

Return
The RectsHit checks for collisions of rectangular areas, but by putting "1, 1" as the width and height we can check for just one pixel.

And all those ZONE variables (ZONE_24_START_X, ZONE_24_START_Y, ZONE_24_WIDTH, ZONE_24_HEIGHT) you just replace with the corresponding SetZone values.

This way you should be able to use RectsHit as a direct replacement for the Zone() commands. You'll have more lines of code, but it'll be considerably faster, because 1 RectsHit was about 50 times faster than Zone() when I tested it.

Last edited by Master484; 06 March 2018 at 13:37. Reason: fixed a code mistake
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Old 06 March 2018, 13:34   #20
Daedalus
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Wow... I knew the Zones were slow, but that's very slow! I can only guess that it's doing some sort of full mathematical analysis of the zone, instead of taking easy shortcuts. RectsHit is a good alternative, and an even simpler version just for a single pixel might avoid some overheads within RectsHit for dealing with two rectangles:

Code:
If x >= zonex1
  If x <= zonex2
    If y >= zoney1
      If y <= zoney2
        collision = True
      End If
    End If
  End If
End If
Longer code but might be quicker than RectsHit (though I haven't tested it). It could be put in a macro for speed and neatness, and the x and y checks could be swapped if the zone is very tall and narrow for more improved speed, as it's less likely to have to check all sides.
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