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Skipping FDS license screen?

Skipping FDS license screen?
by on (#194816)
Edit: Problem has been solved, full solution below.


In this post ccovell described a way of bypassing the FDS license screen, and I'm having trouble getting it to work.

ccovell wrote:
Pokun wrote:
Edit: BTW there is a way to trick the BIOS to skip the Kyodaku screen so you can boot faster, but I haven't tried it and I didn't want to do it in a basic example template.

Once you have a working program and want to try it, make a new [CODE] file on the disk that gets loaded last upon bootup, whose load address is $2000. It should be about 256 bytes long, and have these 8 bytes repeating:

$90 00 00 00 00 00 00 00

The FDS BIOS/Copyright screen will be skipped.


I've been trying to implement this, but I haven't been able to get it to work. I built some tests on top of an example FDS project I made recently:

Attachment:
File comment: modified example with KYODAKU license
fds_example3b.fds [63.98 KiB]
Downloaded 457 times

This simply adds one more booting file like described. I see no change; the game still boots but the license screen appears too.

Attachment:
File comment: modified example with no KYODAKU license
fds_example3a.fds [63.98 KiB]
Downloaded 458 times

This adds the extra file, but removes the KYODAKU license file. Now the game fails to boot with a disk error 20, like usual with a disk missing its license screen.

The results are the same in emulators as they are with my FDS + loopy's FDSStick.

Has anyone else implemented this correctly? What am I missing? (What does this hack do, anyway? Is it trying to "hide" the screen by blanking $2001 during the test, or bypass the test entirely?)


Edit: I discovered hawken's pirate pops disk successfully suppresses the screen, and does not appear to have the KYODAKU license file. Its "HIJACK" file contains the repeating string [ $80 $80 $80 $80 $80 $80 $00 $00 ] instead... but after trying that in my own disk it doesn't seem to help, though.
Re: Skipping FDS license screen?
by on (#194825)
Maybe you could also look at the games by Super Pig, they bypass the license screen also.
Re: Skipping FDS license screen?
by on (#194826)
I've got it now. ccovell's description was incomplete. Here's the full solution:


Example ca65 project: GitHub repository


1. The last boot file should write one byte [ $90 ] to the CPU location $2000, and increase the disk's file count by one (without adding another file).

Normally NMI is disabled during disk access because it relies on an IRQ from the disk drive, but since this enables NMI by writing to $2000, eventually it will get interrupted by that. This will result in the NMI jumping to the NMI #3 vector ($DFFA). So, $DFFA is now the entry point into your program, i.e. it is really your RESET vector, and not your NMI #3 vector as the FDS normally expects.

The too-high file count will cause the boot loader to continue scanning to the end of the disk, giving the NMI ample time to fire before the end of boot is reached where the license text would be checked. (This was suggested by Loopy below.)

An alternative technique exists, instead creating a 256-byte file of [ $90, $00, $00, $00, $00, $00, $00, $00 ] repeating (mirrored writes to the PPU registers) without doing anything special to the file count. This works on some systems, but notably may fail on the PowerPak, which has a modified BIOS that may read through such a file too fast for an NMI to trigger.


2. Place your RESET vector at $DFFA, instead of the usual "NMI #3". After entry here, you should either write your real NMI routine vector to $DFFA, or write to $100 to make it use one of the other two NMI vectors instead.

The KYODAKU file is not needed, as the test is not executed. The "false reset" has taken control of the system before the test would happen (after the last boot file was finished loading).


3. To make sure resets go to your game, rather than reboot the BIOS write two bytes at $102/103:
  • $102 = #$35
  • $103 = #$AC

This will tell the BIOS' reset routine to jump to your RESET vector ($DFFC), rather than trying to reboot the BIOS and starting from scratch.


4. JMP ($FFFC). This will execute the BIOS' reset stub, which should put everything back to a "safe" starting state before jumping to your ($DFFC) reset vector. This does:
  • $2001 = #$10 ; disable NMI
  • Wait 2 frames (PPU warmup)
  • $4022 = #$00 ; disable IRQ timer
  • $4023 = #$00 ; disable disk and audio I/O?
  • $4023 = #$83 ; enable disk and audio I/O? (Might also "reset" it? See Loopy's post below.)
  • $FB-FD = #$00 ; initializes some ZP variables
  • $4016 = #$00 ; gamepad read strobe off
  • $4025 = #$2E ; stop disk drive motor, select horizontal mirroring (also written to $FA for BIOS readback)
  • $4026 = #$FF ; expansion connector? (also written to $F9)
  • $4010 = #$00 ; disable DPCM
  • $4017 = #$C0 ; disable APU frame IRQ
  • $4015 = #$0F ; enable APU sound
  • $4080 = #$80 ; reset FDS audio volume envelope
  • $408A = #$E8 ; initialize FDS audio envelope speed to specific valus
  • S = #$FF ; set up stack
  • $100 = #$C0 ; Select "NMI #3" (overwrite this if you haven't replaced $DFFA)
  • $101 = #$80 ; Selects IRQ routine (routine for $80 is $4030 read with delay)

For a slightly faster startup you might just do these things manually rather than using the BIOS' reset. In particular you should write to $4025 to stop the disk motor, and $4023 to re-initialize. The rest you can probably skip?

After your program begins you should make sure that either $100 is set to use one of the other NMI vectors, or make sure NMI 3 at $DFFA has been rewritten with a valid NMI handler. See: Wiki: FDS Pseudo-registers


I've tested this with FDS + FDSStick, Everdrive, PowerPak, and various emulators, all of which appear to support this technique. (See note about PowerPak above in step 1.)


Edited to incorporate further information provided by Loopy below.
Re: Skipping FDS license screen?
by on (#194849)
rainwarrior wrote:
1. The last boot file should write 32 copies of [ $90, $00, $00, $00, $00, $00, $00, $00 ] repeating, loaded at $2000. (256 bytes.)

Write just the one byte ($90) and increase the file count. NMI kicks in while BIOS is busy looking for the next file.
Re: Skipping FDS license screen?
by on (#194854)
loopy wrote:
rainwarrior wrote:
1. The last boot file should write 32 copies of [ $90, $00, $00, $00, $00, $00, $00, $00 ] repeating, loaded at $2000. (256 bytes.)

Write just the one byte ($90) and increase the file count. NMI kicks in while BIOS is busy looking for the next file.

I had tried a longer file, actually, but it's not the problem (256 bytes is plenty long enough). See my second post in this thread, above.

The problem was that you need to use NMI 3 like a "reset" vector. A regular NMI routine will finish and go back to the loading.
Re: Skipping FDS license screen?
by on (#194855)
Yes of course, you still need to replace the NMI vector. I'm just saying the 256-byte fill is unnecessary.
Re: Skipping FDS license screen?
by on (#194856)
Oh, I see. You were suggesting a size optimization. Yeah, I suppose that makes sense. The FDS will keep reading the entire disk side anyway, right?

Do you know whether this has any potential to produce extra IRQs? Is the FDS in a fully "safe to use" state right away or do I need to wait for the disk to finish before I could enable IRQs in my program?
Re: Skipping FDS license screen?
by on (#194859)
rainwarrior wrote:
Oh, I see. You were suggesting a size optimization. Yeah, I suppose that makes sense. The FDS will keep reading the entire disk side anyway, right?

To be clear - by "increase the file count" I mean the value in the File Amount Block, don't actually add another file. That gives the BIOS something to do (seek the next file) instead of end its disk load routine. It just spins until your NMI hits. You don't need to do anything else, the drive will spin to the end of the disk on its own.

rainwarrior wrote:
Do you know whether this has any potential to produce extra IRQs? Is the FDS in a fully "safe to use" state right away or do I need to wait for the disk to finish before I could enable IRQs in my program?

I don't think you need to wait for the disk to finish. FYI - in the fdsstick boot loader, I couldn't use timer IRQs until I wrote $03 to $4023. Without it I would get spurious disk IRQs even after the drive stopped.

FDSStick reset code
Code:
reset
        lda #%00010000          ;NMI off
        sta $2000
        lda #%00100110          ;stop drive, select v-mirror
        sta $4025
        lda #$03                ;stop disk irq?  Need this to use timer irq, disk irq seems to stay active...
        sta $4023
        lda #$80                ;select $DFF8 nmi vector
        sta $100
Re: Skipping FDS license screen?
by on (#194861)
Thanks for that information!

That's kinda curious about $4023. The BIOS doesn't seem to write to it except in its reset routine... though it does jump to the reset routine again at the end before it begins your game. In that case it writes $00 then $83 to $4023. Perhaps instead of just I/O enable it also has some sort of reset/acknowledge function?
Re: Skipping FDS license screen?
by on (#194890)
On another note, after testing on Everdrive and PowerPak as well, both methods worked on Everdrive, but I couldn't get the "256 byte file" method to work on PowerPak. Loopy's "extra non-existent file" method works there, though.

I'm not sure of the cause, but I'd guess that the PowerPak's modified FDS BIOS or implementation is reading through the 256 bytes too fast for an NMI to trigger? (Error 20 is given.)

Both methods work on emulators I've tried, the FDSStick + FDS Ram adapter, and Everdrive, and Loopy's method works on PowerPak. I don't have a working FDS disk drive to test with, but I imagine it should work with both as well.
Re: Skipping FDS license screen?
by on (#195313)
Can someone explain this for dummies? So, do I just add $90 (3 characters?) before the header?

What is a reset vector?

Where do I change the number of sides?

Explain it to me like I'm five. I sorta know how to use a hex editor. That's about all.
Re: Skipping FDS license screen?
by on (#195328)
marioxb wrote:
Can someone explain this for dummies? So, do I just add $90 (3 characters?) before the header?

What is a reset vector?

Where do I change the number of sides?

Explain it to me like I'm five. I sorta know how to use a hex editor. That's about all.

Your questions indicate that you will need to learn a lot of things before you will be able to accomplish this.

I made an example FDS project here but it's intended as an example for people who understand NES development but don't know the FDS yet.

For you, though, I'd suggest finding an NES development tutorial (e.g. Nerdy Nights is the most popular), and come back to thinking about the FDS later once you're comfortable with the basics.

Alternatively you could explain the specific thing that you hope to do? Why are you asking about skipping the license screen on the FDS specifically?
Re: Skipping FDS license screen?
by on (#195331)
I didn't know I had to be a programmer to do this. I'm not trying to make my own games, just edit existing games. I have edited text and palletes via hex. I'm trying to do this for use on the NES Classic. I want to have games appear as though they are NES cartridges, rather than Famicom Disks. Can't someone just post a before and after example? Obviously not the whole rom, but the relevant sections.
Re: Skipping FDS license screen?
by on (#195335)
If you want to patch existing FDS files there's a bit more work involved. My example was for making a homebrew from scratch.

The FDS file format is outlined here: http://wiki.nesdev.com/w/index.php/Family_Computer_Disk_System

I think the NES classic uses a different "QD" format but it's mostly similar? I do not have documenation to provide for it though.


Anyway, you'd need to write an alternative bootloader file that responds to entry via NMI #3, and then replaces itself and restores what the original FDS disk would have loaded there during boot. Other than this addition, everything should be more or less like described above.

I think someone could theoretically write an automated tool to do this, but it is not quite trivial work.
Re: Skipping FDS license screen?
by on (#195401)
rainwarrior wrote:
On another note, after testing on Everdrive and PowerPak as well, both methods worked on Everdrive, but I couldn't get the "256 byte file" method to work on PowerPak. Loopy's "extra non-existent file" method works there, though.

I'm not sure of the cause, but I'd guess that the PowerPak's modified FDS BIOS or implementation is reading through the 256 bytes too fast for an NMI to trigger? (Error 20 is given.)

Both methods work on emulators I've tried, the FDSStick + FDS Ram adapter, and Everdrive, and Loopy's method works on PowerPak. I don't have a working FDS disk drive to test with, but I imagine it should work with both as well.


I took a look at the PowerPak's modified FDS bios diffed against the original, and it NOPs out a bunch of delay timers in the loading code. I think the intent was to have things load faster than they would have from disk. Anyhow, that explains why the "256 byte" method didn't seem to work for me. Interestingly, hawken's pirate pops appears to do that but it works on PowerPak, but I think it might just be luck about where its timing slice appears to fall.

Anyway, Loopy's suggestion to just use a too-big file count seems to work well everywhere I've tried it. Have amended my post to list it as the "primary" method.
Re: Skipping FDS license screen?
by on (#195407)
Maybe I misunderstand something, but I'm curious(I haven't really downloaded the project files so correct me if this has already been addressed):

1. Since during boot, the system will load file #1, #2, etc., until the number of files as depicted in offset #25 of Block 1, does the drive stops immediately after this file is read? Having the file count at least 1 higher than the number of boot files does this mean that offset #25 also has to be higher than the real number of boot files? Or just set offset 25 to the actual number of files loaded and the drive will continue spinning regardless, as long as the 2nd byte of Block 2 is set to a too-high number?

2. Setting the number of files higher than the actual number to be loaded at boot may cause problem with games that require to load more files in-game. Normally, say for example, if there are 5 actual files on a side of the disk, and files #1 thru #3 are to be loaded during boot, whereas #4 and #5 are to be loaded at some point while playing a game, should we just set the total number of files to 6 and the drive will continue spinning after #3 is loaded during boot? Or it will just stop spinning when it hits file #4, which may not give enough time for the NMI to fire? In this case it could be complicated to have a boot side that supposes to be able to load more data while playing the game. I have a silly idea though, and I don't even know whether this works or not, which is to, instead of placing files #4 and #5 after the boot files, place them before files #1 to #3 and then load all the files in the side during boot, presumably contents of files #4 and #5 loaded earlier into RAM will be overwritten by the contents of #1 to #3.

I may try to hack my old test project to see whether this works, but I am not able to atm and that I have no means to test on the real system.
Re: Skipping FDS license screen?
by on (#195408)
As I understand it, files are loaded by ID, rather than their number. When it goes looking for a file, it will check the header of every file until it either finds one with the correct ID, or the file count is reached.

The boot loader is sort of an exception because it is searching for every file with an ID lower than the boot ID value, so it is required to check the header of every file on the disk. Having extra files past the [$90] -> $2000 bypass file should also be good enough to cause a delay long enough for an NMI to occur as well, so I don't think you necessarily have to have an invalid file count to pull this off, you just need a sufficient delay. (Your NMI will bring an end to the disk search though, so it doesn't actually end up going to the end of the disk.)

I think the negative consequences are:
  • A search for a nonexistent file will take longer to return with error, because it will search the entire disk rather than stopping after the last file.
  • When copying the disk you should must zero out the entire disk past the last file. This means copying the disk will take longer, since you have to write the whole surface.

Maybe the repeating bytes idea is good too, just you will need more than 256 bytes on the PowerPak. (Not sure how long a file would make it robust, would probably have to count the cycles by hand.)


I could be wrong about any of this, though, I haven't done any thorough testing of these behaviours.
Re: Skipping FDS license screen?
by on (#195409)
Yeah. I reread the wiki, and I think I understand it now, though the wording of the wiki is still confusing, and may need some revision.

In offset 25 of Block 1:
Quote:
Boot read file code
Refers to the file code/file number to load upon boot/start-up

It's referred to "file code" or "file number".
And the 3rd byte of Block 3 (i.e. header of a file) reads "file identification code" (or simply "file ID").
Which should be the same thing, but the difference in naming makes it very confusing, especially the "file number" part in Block 1, will make anyone mistaken it to be the physically file number instead of the ID.

Now I looked at the source of my test project and I indeed got it wrong, as the game loads 3 files at boot(and it does not contain any other files) I put the value 3 at offset 25 of Block 1. In fact I assigned ID #1 to all the files, so it sufficed to put just the value 1 at offset 25. It just worked without problems, for obvious reasons though. (Also, it's been a while since I touched that project, and I now see from the wiki that the purposes of many more bytes in various blocks are now more or less known, compared to what we knew back then).
Re: Skipping FDS license screen?
by on (#195410)
Gilbert wrote:
Yeah. I reread the wiki, and I think I understand it now, though the wording of the wiki is still confusing, and may need some revision.

It is definitely confusing and needs an overhaul.

Also:

Gilbert wrote:
I may try to hack my old test project to see whether this works, but I am not able to atm and that I have no means to test on the real system.

Emulators seem to be good enough for testing this stuff. FCEUX and Nintendulator and Nestopia all failed/passed the same tests as my FDSStick + FDS did. PowerPak is the one outlier because it has its own modified BIOS.
Re: Skipping FDS license screen?
by on (#195413)
rainwarrior wrote:
Emulators seem to be good enough for testing this stuff. FCEUX and Nintendulator and Nestopia all failed/passed the same tests as my FDSStick + FDS did. PowerPak is the one outlier because it has its own modified BIOS.

By testing I originally meant to have a game able to both bypass the license screen and load data in game though, which is pretty much irrelevant after the file number/ID confusion is cleared up. Maybe it's still worth testing though, in case there are some other unknown pitfalls this method may cause.

That also makes me think, as long as there are some files(e.g. data files to be loaded in game, or just some other large enough dummy file) in the disk after the last boot file(i.e. the one to make the NMI fire) I think we no longer need to make the total file count higher than the actual number, right?
Re: Skipping FDS license screen?
by on (#195414)
Gilbert wrote:
That also makes me think, as long as there are some files(e.g. data files to be loaded in game, or just some other large enough dummy file) in the disk after the last boot file(i.e. the one to make the NMI fire) I think we no longer need to make the total file count higher than the actual number, right?

Yes I think this is true.