I'm a recovering programmer who has been designing video games since the 1980s, doing things that seem baroquely hardcore in retrospect, like writing Super Nintendo games entirely in assembly language. These days I use whatever tools are the most fun and give me the biggest advantage.
james.hague @ gmail.com
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100,000 Lines of Assembly LanguageI occasionally get asked about writing Super Nintendo games. How did anyone manage to work on projects consisting of hundreds of thousands of lines of 16-bit assembly language?
The answer is that it's not nearly as Herculean as it sounds.
The SNES hardware manual is a couple of hundred pages. I don't remember the exact number, so I'll shoot high: 400 pages. Add in a verbose 65816 assembly language book and combined we're talking 800 or 900 pages tops. That's eight percent of the total I came up with for having a complete understanding of an OS X based computer: nearly 11,000 pages.
Sure, there are whole classes of errors that you can make in assembly language that are invisible in C. For example, here's some old-school x86 code:
But all this talk of programming languages and hardware is backward. Jordan Mechner designed and built the original Prince of Persia on an Apple II. The game and the editor for laying out the levels are written in assembly code for the 8-bit 6502. He kept a journal while writing the game.
You might expect the journal to be filled with coding philosophies and 6502 tricks, but there's little of that. Sure, he's doing difficult tech work behind the scenes, but that's not what he's writing about. They're the journals of a designer and a director, of someone living far away from home after graduating from college, with long detours into his screenwriting aspirations (and don't let that scare you off; they're fascinating).
He may have had second set of coding journals, but I like to think he didn't. Even if he did, he was clearly thinking about more than the techie side of things, in the way that a novelist's personal journal is unlikely to be filled with ramblings about grammar and sentence structure.
(If you liked this, you might enjoy The Pure Tech Side is the Dark Side.)