So...Space Assault is a clone of the well known arcade hit Space Invaders, produced for the Tandy Color Computer by The Image Producers, (written by Lou Haehn?) and released in 1981. Some time ago, Darren Atkinson took it upon himself to disassemble the Space Assault ROM image for the CoCo and to do a binary translation of the 6809 code into a version for the 6803-based Tandy MC-10. The MC-10 version plays very much like the CoCo version, with modifications from Darren to accommodate use of the MC-10 keyboard in place of the CoCo joystick.
It occurred to me that this bit of MC-10 magic might be a good candidate for porting to my Micro Chroma 68 (uchroma68), so I sent Darren an email requesting access to his MC-10 Space Assault source. Darren was nice enough to oblige, so I immediately checked his source into a git repository and set about to making the initial superficial changes necessary to reproduce his MC-10 Space Assault binary using my chosen assembler, the old Motorola Freeware BBS assembler.
6803 > 6808
Working MC-10 code seems like a good place to start for a uchroma68 port, but some more preparation work is still required. The problem is that not all code that runs on the 6803 CPU in the MC-10 will also run on the 6808 CPU in the uchroma68. The 6808 (and the related 6802) execute the same instruction set as the earlier 6800, without any additions. But the 6803 (and the related 6801) use a somewhat improved architecture that supports a number of instructions that are not supported by their 6800/6802/6808 cousins. Not only are these extra instructions quite useful, they also make the 6803 a bit more like the 6809 architecturally. It is no surprise to learn that Darren used a number of these new instructions when porting Space Assault from the 6809 to the MC-10's 6803. Porting the MC-10 version of Space Assault to run on the uchroma68's 6808 will involve replacing these 6801/6803 instructions with 6800/6802/6808-compatible sequences.
Several of the new 6801/6803 instructions involve an architectural change that allows the 8-bit A and B accumulators to be grouped together as the 16-bit D accumulator. Instructions like "LDD" and "STD" are easily replaced with "LDAA/LDAB" and "STAA/STAB" combinations, just as "ADDD" is easily replaced with an "ADDB/ADCA" combination. Using a macro processor (either built-in to an assembler or something external like m4) should make these substitutions trivial, requiring no changes to the source code at all. But as I am using the quite primitive assembler from Motorola, I simply made these changes directly in the source code -- the triviality made this more worthwhile than introducing an m4 pass in the Makefile.
Some of the other new 6801/6803 instructions are not so easily replaced. Equivalent instruction sequences are lengthy, and require allocation of memory for temporary storage of registers used in those sequences. Instructions such as "PSHX", "PULX", and "ABX" are in this category, and they are so useful that again it is no surprise that Darren makes hearty use of them in his MC-10 port of Space Assault. In this effort, I found that replacing these instructions with equivalent subroutine calls provided good results while only requiring six bytes for temporary storage of the D, X, and S registers and a few bytes for a temporary stack. (The S register storage and the temporary stack were required to avoid data corruption in a couple of places where an emulated "ABX" was required within a routine that was using S as a pointer for data movement.)
EMUSAVS rmb 2 ; temp storage of S for 6801/6803 emu
EMUSAVX rmb 2 ; temp storage of X for 6801/6803 emu
EMUSAVD rmb 2 ; temp storage of D for 6801/6803 emu
EMUSTACK rmb 3 ; temp stack for 6801/6803 emu calls
EMUSTKTOP rmb 1
stx EMUSAVX ; save X
staa EMUSAVD ; save A & B
ldaa ,x ; get return address from stack
pshb ; push return address onto stack
psha ; - also adjusts stack pointer
ldaa EMUSAVX ; retrieve X value
staa ,x ; save X value onto stack
ldaa EMUSAVD ; restore A & B
ldx EMUSAVX ; restore X value
staa EMUSAVD ; save A & B
ldab 3,x ; get X from stack
staa EMUSAVX ; save X
pula ; get return address from stack
pulb ; - also adjusts stack pointer
stab 3,x ; save return address onto stack
ldaa EMUSAVD ; restore A & B
ldx EMUSAVX ; set new X value
Perhaps the most complicated new 6801/6803 instruction is "MUL", which of course multiplies the 8-bit accumulators A and B to produce a 16-bit product in the D accumulator. I anticipated coding a lengthy routine to emulate this instruction, but I found that the code was only doing a multiply by a fixed value of 5! Two left shifts and a single add produced equivalent results, so "MUL" was no longer an issue... :-)
More To Come
I think that covers the remaining "prep" work for the uchroma68 port of Space Assault. At this point, I have code for a machine that does not exist: an MC-10 with a 6800 CPU. The result, of course, will run on a normal MC-10 -- but that would be a pointless objective. I would show a demo video here, but the result is virtually indistinguishable from Darren's original code. Hopefully you can just trust me -- it works. ;-)
The next step will be accounting for differences between the board-level architectures of the MC-10 and the uchroma68. This involves differing locations for video memory, and for where the code and data are loaded and stored. It also involves accounting for I/O differences, such as reading inputs from the keyboard and possibly making sounds. It will all be very much "in the weeds", of course...stay tuned!