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BBC Micro Elite

The local bubble of universe

The data structures used to simulate the universe around our ship
References: UNIV, FRIN, K%, XX21
  One of the most impressive aspects of Elite is how expansive the universe
  feels. The eight galaxies and 2048 systems no doubt have something to do with
  this, but while they might make you feel like nothing more than a pale blue
  dot in the background of a cosmic snapshot, the experience of flying around in
  system space is a lot more visceral. That feeling in the pit of your stomach
  when a group of pirates pings into view on the scanner, while you're busy
  surfing the sun's rays for precious fuel while trying not to boil the outer
  hull into stardust... there's a real sense of being there, out in the black.
  Clearly a 32K micro from the early 1980s can't actually be home to an entire
  solar system, so how does Elite simulate things closer to home?
  The answer is in the "local bubble of universe", which stores all the details
  of our immediate vicinity, along with the major bodies in the current system.
  The local bubble is made up of the following data structures:
    * The ship slots at FRIN
    * The ship data block lookup table at UNIV
    * The ship data blocks at K%
    * The ship blueprints at XX21
  Using these, the local bubble can store details on up to 13 (NOSH + 1) ships,
  including the planet, sun and space station. Note that to keep things simple,
  we call any object in the vicinity a "ship", whether it's a ship, or a space
  station, the planet, the sun, a missile, an escape pod, an asteroid or a
  cargo canister.
  Let's look at these structures in more detail.
  The ship slots at FRIN
  Each ship in our local bubble of universe has its own "ship slot" in the table
  at FRIN. Ships get added to slots by the NWSHP routine, and when they get
  killed or fly too far away to be in the bubble, they get removed from the
  table by the KILLSHP routine, and the whole table gets shuffled down to close
  up the gap. This means that the next free gap is always at the end of the
  table, assuming it isn't full (if it is, NWSHP returns with a flag to say that
  no new ship was created).
  The local bubble always contains the planet, plus either the sun or the space
  station (but not both). The first two slots are reserved for this purpose as
  The first ship slot at location FRIN is always reserved for the planet. It
  contains 128 or 130, depending on the type of planet:
    * 128 for a planet with an equator and meridian
    * 130 for a planet with a crater
  The second ship slot at FRIN+1 is always reserved for the sun and the space
  station. They can share the same slot because we only ever have one of them in
  our local bubble of universe at any one time - the sun disappears when we
  enter the space station's safe zone, and it reappears when we leave it again.
  This slot always contains one of the following:
    * 8 (#SST) for the space station
    * 129 for the sun
  Any actual ships in our local bubble start at slot FRIN+2. There can be up to
  11 ships in the local bubble, and for each of these, there's a slot containing
  the ship type. Ship types correspond to the blueprint numbers in the lookup
  table at XX21, and as this table has 13 entries, the ship type will be a value
  from 1-13 (though this part of the slot table never contains an 8, as we have
  already reserved the second ship slot at FRIN+1 for the space station). Some
  ship types have corresponding configuration variables that make the source
  code a bit easier to follow - such as #COPS for the Viper - but not all of
  them do. There is also one ship, the Cobra Mk III, that comes in two flavours:
  a ship type of 5 is a bounty hunting Cobra, while a ship type of 7 is a more
  peaceful trader. Both ships use the same blueprint when drawn on-screen, but
  their tactical behaviour is quite different.
  The 13 ship types are as follows, along with the configuration variables where
  they exist:
    1.  Sidewinder
    2.  Viper (COPS)
    3.  Mamba
    4.  Python
    5.  Cobra Mk III bounty hunter
    6.  Thargoid (THG)
    7.  Cobra Mk III trader (CYL)
    9.  Missile (MSL)
    10. Asteroid (AST)
    11. Cargo (OIL)
    12. Thargon (TGL)
    13. Escape pod (ESC)
  If a ship slot is empty, it contains 0.
  The ship data block lookup table at UNIV
  For each occupied ship slot in Fthe table at FRIN, there is a corresponding
  address in the lookup table at UNIV that points to that ship's data block.
  The ship data blocks are stored in the K% workspace, and the addresses in
  UNIV map to the ship slots in FRIN just as you would expect:
    * UNIV points to the ship data block for the planet in slot FRIN
    * UNIV+1 points to the ship data block for the sun or space station in slot
    * UNIV+2 points to the ship data block for the ship in slot FRIN+2
    * UNIV+3 points to the ship data block for the ship in slot FRIN+3
  ...and so on up to UNIV+12. Because each ship data block is always the same
  size (36 bytes), the addresses in the UNIV table are hard-coded and don't
  The ship data blocks at K%
  As noted above, the local bubble of universe can contain up to 13 (NOSH + 1)
  ships, one for each slot in FRIN and address in UNIV. Each of those ships has
  its own ship data block of 36 (NI%) bytes that contains information such as
  the ship's position in space, its speed, its rotation, its energy levels and
  so on. It also contains a pointer to that ship's ship line heap which is
  where we store details of all the lines that aee required to draw the ship
  on-screen, so that it's easy to remove the ship from the screen by redrawing
  the exact same shape again (see the deep dive on "Drawing ships" for more
  These 13 blocks of ship data live in the first 468 bytes of the workspace at
  K% (&0900 to &0AD4), while the ship line heaps are stored in descending order
  from the start of the WP workspace. This is the layout of the ship data blocks
  and ship line heaps in memory, shown when we are in the process of adding a
  new ship to the local bubble in the NWSHP routine:
    +-----------------------------------+   &0F34
    |                                   |
    | WP workspace                      |
    |                                   |
    +-----------------------------------+   &0D40 = WP
    |                                   |
    | Current ship line heap            |
    |                                   |
    +-----------------------------------+   SLSP
    |                                   |
    | Proposed heap for new ship        |
    |                                   |
    +-----------------------------------+   INWK(34 33)
    |                                   |
    .                                   .
    .                                   .
    .                                   .
    .                                   .
    .                                   .
    |                                   |
    +-----------------------------------+   INF + NI%
    |                                   |
    | Proposed data block for new ship  |
    |                                   |
    +-----------------------------------+   INF
    |                                   |
    | Existing ship data blocks         |
    |                                   |
    +-----------------------------------+   &0900 = K%
  If we want to update a ship's data, which we want to do when moving the ship
  in space during the main flight loop, then instead of working with the data in
  the K% workspace, we first copy the whole block to the INWK workspace. This
  "inner workspace" is in zero page, where it is much quicker and more efficient
  to access mempory locations. When we are done updating the ship's data, we
  copy it back to the relevant location in K%, as pointed to by the UNIV table.
  See the deep dive on "Ship data blocks" for details of the 36 bytes and the
  information that they contain.
  The ship blueprints at XX21
  Each ship type has an associated ship blueprint that contains fixed data about
  that specific ship type, such as its maximum speed or the size of the target
  area we need to hit with our lasers to cause damage. The blueprints also
  contain data on the ship's vertices, faces and edges, which are used to draw
  the ship on-screen.
  The table at XX21 contains the blueprint addresses for the various ship types.
  See the deep dive on "Ship blueprints" for more details of the blueprints and
  the information that they contain.