Day 13 - Backgrounds

Published: 2005-Jul-22, Updated: 2010-Dec-19
Author: Mike Huber


You should know what a background is, it's the stationary picture that the sprites move around on and possibly collide with. The background isn't too hard to make, but the lack of tools for the NES (a real big problem) makes BGs a pain in the you-know-what to make.

Making The BG

To make the BG, open your "our.bkg" in Tile Layer Pro and draw some tiles. Now, make a map out of the tiles on paper with the tile numbers, how do we get the tile numbers? It's quite simple actually, starting with the first tile is #0 it goes like this (assuming you have Tile Layer at 16 tiles per line):

    $0  $1  $2  $3  $4  $5  $6  $7  $8  $9  $A  $B  $C  $D  $E  $F
    $10 $11 $12 $13 $14...

So if #$1 was the top-left 1/4th of a smile face, #$2 is the top-right, #$11 is the bottom -left and #$12 is the bottom right 1/4th, you would write on the paper or in a text file:

1  2  0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
11 12 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0

Note: The NES Screen is about 32x32 tiles.

The next thing you probably want to do is make that map into a binary file so that you can load it to PPU memory like you did with the palette.

I've written a small program in VB to take a map file like the above (without the '...') and make it into a binary file for the above purpose. You don't need all 32 lines, unless you want them.

Download it here just run it and type the name of the map file (text) in the first box and the name (not extension) of the file you want it to create in the second box. If the map file contains alot of map data, the program may make more than 1 file.

Name Tables

Name Tables is what originally made me avoid NES Assembly, I just couldn't get it from the sparce and vague and overly technical docs that currenty exist.

To put it simply "Name" means Tile Number and "Table" basically means Map, so the Name Tables is where we want to put our map in PPU memory. There are two Name Tables; typically you'll want to use the first one so we will too. Name Table #1 is at $2020 in PPU memory, OK... that's a lie, it actually starts at $2000 in PPU memory, but since US NESs (and most emulators) don't display the first line (and last for that matter) we have to start the load at $2020.

Making The Code

I'm going to assume that you already have a source file that has the basic things such as:

  1. Bank 1 with the $FFFA stuff (Reset, VBlank etc...)
  2. Bank 2 incbin(ing) the 2 files "our.spr" and "our.bkg" in the right order.
  3. Bank 0 ORGed at $8000, with code to setup the PPU and load the palette.
    1. The binary palette file incbin(ed) after the infinite loop.

Now that you have all those things it's time to add the stuff to make the BG appear on the screen.

Add the following code after the palette loading loop:

;;--- CODE START ---;; lda #$20 sta $2006 ; give $2006 both parts of address $2020. sta $2006 ldx #$00 loadNames: lda ourMap, X ; load A with a byte from address (ourMap + X) inx sta $2007 cpx #64 ; map in previous section 64 bytes long bne loadNames ; if not all 64 done, loop and do some more ;;--- STOP COPYING ---;;

And right after the INCBIN of the palette add this:

;;--- CODE START ---;; ourMap: .incbin "" ; assuming is the binary map file. ;;--- STOP COPYING ---;;

Assemble and run!

Some other things

If map2bin.exe made more than one file, you'll need one loop and one .incbin for each file, make sure to use different label names for each incbin and loop. If there's more than one file, make each loop run $FF times by making "cpx #64" into "cpx #$FF".

MAP2BIN, because it's written in VB, makes every file 2 bytes too big because VB always adds a newline to writes to files.

There's also something called Attribute Tables, we'll get to those in a later Day.

This Day In Review

I realize that wasn't too good, hopefully I'll be able to make it better later.

Happy coding!,
-Mike H a.k.a GbaGuy