Vectrex development - Scalar Ownage
Last updated on February 21, 2012, 19:08 by Sebastian Mihai
Vectrex is a video game system distributed by GCE (General Consumer Electric). It is unusual because of two things: First, it has a built-in display, common only among handheld consoles. Second, the display is vector-based, whereas all other consoles were raster-based. The main difference between raster-based and vector displays is that the raster displays update "chunks" on the screen (such as sprites, background tiles), while vector displays draw lines.

When programming the Vectrex, you are essentially controlling a beam of light which starts out pointed at the centre of the screen, from there, you can start drawing lines, and moving the beam around. In Scalar Ownage, you can see how after each part of the screen is drawn, I bring the beam to the centre of the screen. Also, the coordinate system is Cartesian. The centre of the screen is (0,0), with positive x towards the right, and positive y upwards. Contrast this with all other consoles, where the top left of the screen is usually (0,0), with positive y downwards. Also, raster based consoles do not usually have a notion of negative coordinates, whereas Vectrex uses them regularly.

The video output is monochrome, with varying intensities of white. Vectrex games included and relied on coloured plastic overlays which were attached on top of the screen, to create more attractive backgrounds.

Scalar Ownage is more of a tech demo than an actual game. Keep shooting at the animated shapes until all are destroyed. It showcases things like reading the joystick, drawing, using different scales (which works nicely for animation), outputting text, and rudimentary collision detection.

The dev kit is quirky. It has the following annoyances:
- If you build and run your code from a console, you will notice you will get errors during compilations after the first. My solution was to execute build.bat from Windows Explorer (double clicking it).
- Loop counters break things when they are used as array indices. My solution worked for such a small scale program, but would not be appropriate for full-featured games; I chose to duplicate a few lines of code instead of using loops, just because the loops were predictable and tightly bounded.


- rom - the compiled rom. Play it in any Vectrex emulator.
- vectrexc devkit - (fixed broken link) Includes the source for Scalar Ownage. Also includes an emulator. Project makefiles assume that this dev kit is installed to C:\
- source code - good starting point for your Vectrex homebrew development. Requires the vectrexc dev kit.
- emulator - the VecXGL emulator


If you use the materials on this page, or any other page on this web site, you do so at your own risk. They are provided "as is". No warranty is provided or implied. I neither guarantee that the materials will work, nor that they will not be harmful in any way.

Electronic circuits - CMOS buffer

Electronic circuits - driving higher current loads through parallel port

Electronic circuits - interfacing a Nintendo NES from Snowdrop OS

Electronic circuits - 3-bit current buffered DAC

Electronic circuits - stepper motor driver controlled by Snowdrop OS

Electronic circuits - parallel port interface

Snowmine - a Minesweeper-like game for Snowdrop OS (in x86 assembly)

Storks - a matching game for Snowdrop OS (in x86 assembly)

Electronic circuits - interfacing with a 16x2 LCD via parallel port

Electronic circuits - square wave vs. sine wave (audio differences)

Electronic circuits - Catch That LED!

Electronic circuits - parallel port light show

Electronic circuits - the Annoizer (555 speaker circuit)

Intellivision development - Hotel Bunny

Coverage of my projects

Interviewed in the Retro Gamer magazine

My homebrew cartridges

ZX Spectrum development - Husband Chores (in Z80 assembly language)

No Snakes! - a multiplayer game over serial port

Sega Dreamcast development - Overbearing Burgers

Snowdrop OS - my operating system from scratch, in assembly language

libzx - ZX Spectrum game programming library (Z80 assembly language)

Compact Pong - game in C# for the Pocket PC (Windows Mobile 2003)

TOTP (time-based one-time password) authenticator in C# (.Net)

aSMtris - Tetris in assembly language (x86, 16-bit)

Balanced Diet (GBA) limited edition

Gameboy Advance development - Balanced Diet

Atari 7800 development - Poetiru

Arcade ROM hacking - Knights of the Round translation

PocketStation development - Pocket Worm

Sega Game Gear development - Burgers of Hanoi GG

Pokemon Mini development - Mini Cookie

Magnavox Odyssey2 development - Red Green

Sega Dreamcast VMU development - Raining Squares

Nintendo GameCube development - Mama Bear Puzzle

Nintendo Wii development - Groundhog Puzzle

Sega Saturn development - Saturnade

Atari Jaguar development - Jagmatch

Sega CD development - Blackjack CD

Nintendo 64 development - Don't Be Square

Commodore 64 development - Tube64

Sega 32x development - Eight Queens

WonderSwan (Mono) development - Swan Driving BW

WonderSwan Color development - Swan Driving

Animal Keeper - a JavaScript and HTML5 Canvas game

3DO development - Space Invaders Invaders

Sony PlayStation development - The 11th Power

Sony PSP development - Newton Voyage

Nintendo DS development - Geoincursion

Gold of the Kingdoms - an XNA/C# homebrew game

Blue Elf 2 309-in-1 JAMMA PCB - troubleshoot controls not working

Fractals in JavaScript and HTML5 Canvas

Angry Video Game Nerd (AVGN) theme song on the Gameboy Advance

Novice calligraphy - Gothic hand, with letter guide

Video compilation of my classic console homebrew games

Seven segment display circuit with the 4511 decoder and the 4029 counter

A simple Atari 2600 joystick tester circuit

555 timer and 4017 decade counter - traffic lights circuit

Catch That LED! - an electronic game circuit

Capacitor study circuit

BlackBerry PlayBook development - Sheepish Bearings (Native SDK, OpenGL)

Neo Geo Pocket Color development - NGCollector

Neo Geo development - Neo Thunder

Atari 5200 development - Shooting Gallery

ZX Spectrum development - simple input/graphics example

Vectrex development - Scalar Ownage

Nintendo Virtual Boy development - Real Danger

Gameboy Color development - Burly Bear vs. The Mean Foxes (GBC version)

Sega Master System development - Burgers of Hanoi

Colecovision development - Mowleco

TurboGrafx-16/PC Engine development - Alddee

Atari Lynx development - Catkanoid

Nintendo NES development - Invaders must die!

Atari 2600 development - Snappy (batari basic)

Super Nintendo development - Bucket

Gameboy Advance development - smgbalib library

Airplane Vegas slot machine

Sega Genesis development - Gen Poker

(2004) Project One - first university game programming club project

Gameboy development - Burly Bear vs. The Mean Foxes

(2006) RGB Overdose - university programming contest entry