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The Woebegone Trail: DevLog - Day 2 - Dev Tools


Torq

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Woebegone: An “The Oregon Trail” Homage - DevLog: Day 2 (05/13/24) - "Development Tools"

 

Choosing Development Tools & Environments

 

I’ll start here by saying that my original, nostalgia-soaked, thought was to do this build on actual Atari hardware and software (nominally MAC/65) – just as I would have done if I had undertaken this as 12/13 year-old back in 1982.  The attendant nostalgia/purist factor would, however, come at the cost of being tied to a desk.  Not tenable with my travel proclivities and schedule.

 

Running emulators via one of my laptops, and using native Atari software within them, was the next obvious option.  And it would easily be fully portable.  I dabbled with that for a bit, and it both worked and retained a good deal of the nostalgic elements.  Sadly, the novelty factor wore off; in terms of me getting things done - as much fun as it is, it just doesn’t compare to the interface-fluidity and capability of modern systems.

 

Thus, it was with a definite twinge of … oh … I don’t know what the right word is … maybe melancholy … I came to the realization I was going to need to find tools that would work natively in a modern computing environment (huge screens, running multiple editors and, potentially, emulator instances, with gesture-based inputs and multi-layer programmable keyboards).

 

This would be complicated, somewhat, by the fact I run macOS.

 

Assemblers

 

Finding a suitable Assembler was the easy part.  I tried ca65 first (which is part of the cc65 C-compiler package), and had that running, and the resultant (simple code) built and executing in Atari800MacX in less than 10 minutes.  Couple that with Sublime Text, and a few scripts, and I had a nice, lightweight, portable, mini-environment ready to go.

 

Then I gave MADS a try, as it appeared to be the closest thing to a de-facto standard for Atari 8-bit homebrew work.  I liked this even more, especially once I found the (not quite current, but more than good enough,English documentation), and I found its use pretty intuitive.  It’s an excellent solution and builds for macOS natively as well.

 

Also, it gives me a good reason to learn Polish.

 

IDEs/Editors etc.

 

Finding MADS lead to me trying the excellent WUDSN-IDE.  I like this a lot, though I am not a big Eclipse fan.  WUDSN-IDE is very capable.  The syntax highlighting is a godsend. And it ts packaged with an array of current Assemblers and the Altirra Emulator, and once setup (which I did manually) switching between them is very easy.

 

My long-held Eclipse frustrations did keep me looking for a bit, and I came across a  very nice extension (via the author, @RetroCoder‘s thread, here) for Visual Studio Code, for ATASM and Altirra called “Atasm Altirra Bridge”.  With some very responsive back/forth with the author, another user (@freetz) and various updates/scripts it was possible to get this all to run on macOS as well.

 

So … where does this leave things?

 

My last post said “finalize” development tools/environment.  I’m not there yet; it was a naïve statement – I probably won’t have a “final” determination until I’ve done serious work in various tools – possibly not until the end of this particular build.

 

However, I do have enough to get to work, properly, and in that I’ll be using the following:

 

  • Assembler: MADS
  • IDE: Both WUDSN-IDE and VSC w/ the “Atasm Altirra Bridge” (for slightly different parts of the work).
  • Emulator: Both Altirra via Wine (especially for debugging) and Atari800MacX.
  • Testing: Altirra, Atari800MacX, THE400 Mini, and real Atari Hardware (likely 800XL).

 

Lots to look at on the “utilities” front still (I am pretty sure Graph2Font and Atari Graphics Studio will factor into that), still, but I will do that as specific needs arise.  I’ll update/make posts on such things if/as/when they happen/change.

 

I tinkered about a bit the last couple of days building a “Font 2 Data” converter tool in between other tasks (takes .FNT files and creates various .BYTE/.HE/dta/DATA statements for the character data for various assemblers and Atari BASIC, as well as letting you graphically preview a font in the terminal).  I might do a post on that – or I might drop it in a regular thread, we’ll see.  Yes, I know there are lots of tools like this; but per my original post … sometimes I just build things because I want them to work in a specific way rather than me adapting to how an existing tool behaves.

 

But I’m ready to move to the next step, so right now I’m focused on the next step: re-assessing my 6502/Atari 8-bit technical currency as I build what will likely become the game’s “Travel Screen”, in a manner that exercises every technical trick and capability I will need to use to deliver this the way I have it in my head.

 

Housekeeping

 

  • It’s a coincidence that I’m currently making daily posts.  It’s not by design, and I doubt it’ll continue as I get into the build proper.
  • As I spend more time with these tools, I may spin up separate posts/threads on my experiences, and if useful perhaps the setup and overall environment configuration, scripts, etc. I've done/written as I go to make things more seamless and fluid.

 

 

 

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