Developer diary: plans and progress reports.

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A new month, a new build Tuesday 1st June 2010

Hello chaps! In time for the start of summer, here comes a new Boxer 1.0 build. The highlights for this version:

The big tentpole here is of course DOSBox 0.74’s improved emulation, which should make your games Just Work Better, especially the old ones. Besides that, everything else in Boxer is just that little bit shinier and nicer-smelling. So what are you waiting for? Head on over to BitBucket and grab the new build.

Behind the scenes

With every new build, it feels like the tectonic plates of Boxer's code shift dramatically underfoot; this time, much was rewritten to make the upgrade to DOSBox 0.74 go painlessly. To that end sdlmain, a megalith of DOSBox application code that was riddled with old Boxer hacks, has now been uprooted and cast into the sea: leaving a cleaner trimmer DOSBox to get on with the emulating, and a happier wiser Boxer to get on with the applicationing. Its expulsion made porting the rest of 0.74 an absolute breeze, and should also make my post-1.0 multithreading plans much easier to achieve.

That aside, much of the code rewrite came about from my whirlwind love affair with OpenEMU, a kickass Cocoa multi-emulator project with some really funky ideas and a commitment to being a first-class Mac citizen. I was delighted to find a kindred spirit, and to discover that they had implemented stuff I'd been longing to try for months: like CALayers for rendering and OpenGL shaders for filtering. So I promptly took them for all I could get.

My tumescence was quelled however by the realization after two weeks of labour that my layer-based rendering path was prohibitively slow, and the GL shaders prohibitively ugly at large scales. Reluctantly I retreated to Boxer’s old NSOpenGLView rendering path and DOSBox's software scalers; but I snatched some small victories along the way, and the rendering in the newest build is crisper and pleasantly faster.

The rest of my vain attempt is still lying dormant in the code, and I'll be revisiting it post-1.0: a layer-based approach is key to some of my future interface plans, and GL shaders have a lot of promise if I can get them looking nice and performing well on my modest little Macbook. For the time being though, it seems that Boxer 1.0 will launch with the renderer it’s got.

So what happens now?

Well, now I really have run out of things to rewrite, and I promise to get the hell on with some interface work already. I’m looking forward to bringing back game installation so I won’t have to make excuses anymore; once that’s in place, then Boxer 1.0 will finally be feature-complete and ready for a public beta.

Design by 40watt.