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Gameboy Programming and Gameboy Advance Development

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Gameboy Programming and Gameboy Advance Development

Programming for handhelds is probably the most fun and rewarding programming you can do. You don't have to worry about some complex API (like Win32 or DirectX) and you can program right down to the metal. Writing code to pass things right to registers directly. On top of all that, you get to see your code running on an actual commercial console. How often does that happen? Another great thing about GBA development is its done in C/C++, and there are a lot of great freeware compilers out there.

Tutorials

There is a lot of information about the GBA out there. Programming for the gameboy is not extremely difficult, but there is a small learning curve in getting acquainted with the compiler and the some of the graphics registers. To help out, we have two excellent tutorials on gameboy programming.
  • Gameboy Advance Programming this tutorial covers Nintendo's newest system. It takes you through the steps to download the compiler, set it up, compile your first rom, and then after all the it introduces you to the simpler graphics modes on the gba, along with lots of sample code.
  • Original Gameboy this is a step by step tutorial like the one above but this one is a bit outdated. It is for the original Gameboy (non advanced or color).
  • Finally, we provide a link here to one of the larger resources on the web for gameboy advance programming the The Pern Project. This tutorial doesn't talk much about getting the compiler, so we recommend the above tutorial and then go here for more in depth information. This covers everything from putting pixels on the screen, to doing DMA copies, having interrupts, and timers.

Games/Demos with Source Code

There are a lot of games and demos out there. The problem is that most don't come with source code. How are you supposed to learn? To answer that question we have a couple sample games/demos complete with source code for the hobbyists like yourself to look at.
  • Tank GBA a mode 4 game where you drive a tank and avoid falling bombs.
  • Skiing Advance a mode 4 game where you ski down a hill avoiding trees.
  • GBA Caster a very simple, and very slow 3D ray casting engine. This is the same method used to make the original Wolfenstein. If your interested in learning how they "faked" 3D in older games like Wolf3D or Doom you can check out this demo.

COMPiLERS

The most commonly used compiler is put together by Jason Wilkins, you can get it at Unofficial GameBoy Advance Software Development Kit page.

Emulators/Hardware

Our personal favorite emulator would have to be VisualBoy Advance. From the download page you can get the SDL version, and also the GDB Insight/Share files, and have your very own source level debugger for free. Which is really amazing. The other thing you might want to pick up would be a flash linker and cartridge which is about $120 dollars.

WEB RESOURCES

The best place to go for news on the latest development information is GBADev. You should probably check in there weekly to get the latest demos. Also you should keep your eyes open for competitions. You could win some cool prizes like a free flash writer. Other sites include Devrs GBA and GBA Emu. For more information on the web you can look at the resource list located at the bottom of our GBA programming tutorial.
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20 April 2014