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Desert Strike development anecdote
Post Posted: Sat Mar 27, 2021 12:24 pm
I saw this in an old gamasutra article about game dev hacks which I’m sure I’d seen before, but I didn’t find it in the forums.

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Jamming the cartridge

Michael A. Carr-Robb-John, Monolith Productions

In 1993 I was finishing off Desert Strike; I was doing the conversion from the 16-bit Mega Drive / Genesis to its humble little brother, the 8-bit Master System. The game was exceeding the desired cartridge size by about 12K, and going to the next size cartridge was out of the question. Today, 12K sounds incredibly small, but back then it was a major deal. During development, I had budgeted and planned all the sound and graphic resources and they were within their limits. The only section I hadn't been so strict on was the code. In those days, games were written in assembly language -- in this specific case, Z80 assembly -- so I had only one option left. I spent a week going through and finding redundant code and rewriting things to use a smaller memory footprint (usually at the cost of being more processor-intensive.)

By the time I had finished, the game fit onto a cartridge with just 98 bytes! The game was burned onto ROM and tested for a few days by the chaps in QA before being submitted to Sega for certification. Unfortunately it didn't pass on the first time, and the required fixes pretty quickly used up those 98 bytes. I think when we did publish, there were only 6 bytes free!
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Post Posted: Sat Mar 27, 2021 8:41 pm
Thanks for the anectode! Desert Strike on the Master System is quite good, I had fun back at the time I´ve played it. They made a very good job, and I´m saying that as someone who doesn´t like military games that much.
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Post Posted: Sun Mar 28, 2021 7:37 am
Maxim wrote
I saw this in an old gamasutra article about game dev hacks which I’m sure I’d seen before, but I didn’t find it in the forums.

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The game was exceeding the desired cartridge size by about 12K, and going to the next size cartridge was out of the question.


That's strange because it is a 4 Mb cartridge, there is no higher capacity cartridge right ?
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Post Posted: Sun Mar 28, 2021 8:32 am
yogi_om wrote
Maxim wrote
I saw this in an old gamasutra article about game dev hacks which I’m sure I’d seen before, but I didn’t find it in the forums.

Quote
The game was exceeding the desired cartridge size by about 12K, and going to the next size cartridge was out of the question.


That's strange because it is a 4 Mb cartridge, there is no higher capacity cartridge right ?


Street Fighter II' is 8Mb cartridge.

https://www.smspower.org/Games/StreetFighterII-SMS
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Post Posted: Sun Mar 28, 2021 9:14 am
Game sizes were often predetermined and non-negotiable from Sega. These also determined the cost to manufacture, so maybe it would have been too expensive. Finally, I think 8Mbit SMS games were not an option at the time (even if there were plenty for Mega Drive by that time).
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Post Posted: Sun Mar 28, 2021 11:42 am
Aranya wrote
yogi_om wrote
Maxim wrote
I saw this in an old gamasutra article about game dev hacks which I’m sure I’d seen before, but I didn’t find it in the forums.

Quote
The game was exceeding the desired cartridge size by about 12K, and going to the next size cartridge was out of the question.


That's strange because it is a 4 Mb cartridge, there is no higher capacity cartridge right ?


Street Fighter II' is 8Mb cartridge.

https://www.smspower.org/Games/StreetFighterII-SMS


Thanks I didn't know that :) We had 5 and 6 Mb cartridge on Megadrive so possible on MS maybe...
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Post Posted: Mon Mar 29, 2021 8:32 am
Maxim wrote
I saw this in an old gamasutra article about game dev hacks which I’m sure I’d seen before, but I didn’t find it in the forums.

Quote
Jamming the cartridge

Michael A. Carr-Robb-John, Monolith Productions

In 1993 I was finishing off Desert Strike; I was doing the conversion from the 16-bit Mega Drive / Genesis to its humble little brother, the 8-bit Master System. The game was exceeding the desired cartridge size by about 12K, and going to the next size cartridge was out of the question. Today, 12K sounds incredibly small, but back then it was a major deal. During development, I had budgeted and planned all the sound and graphic resources and they were within their limits. The only section I hadn't been so strict on was the code. In those days, games were written in assembly language -- in this specific case, Z80 assembly -- so I had only one option left. I spent a week going through and finding redundant code and rewriting things to use a smaller memory footprint (usually at the cost of being more processor-intensive.)

By the time I had finished, the game fit onto a cartridge with just 98 bytes! The game was burned onto ROM and tested for a few days by the chaps in QA before being submitted to Sega for certification. Unfortunately it didn't pass on the first time, and the required fixes pretty quickly used up those 98 bytes. I think when we did publish, there were only 6 bytes free!


This is a great story. There's more than a few games on the SMS that make me wonder how they managed it, and this is one of them. Truly an excellent conversion!
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