Hardware Sprites

Section 7 of this User Guide concentrates on the moving image. You will learn how to create, edit and control moving objects and backgrounds, how to make them react to one another and how to create professional animations.

AMOS Professional offers ,a choice of two moving-object systems, each with its own characteristics and benefits. Objects stored as part of the current screen are featured in the next Chapter. These blitter objects (Bobs) are easy to use, very fast and incredibly flexible. Unfortunately, they consume a lot of memory and tend to slow down on 32 or 64-colour displays.

By contrast, this Chapter deals with those graphical objects that exist independently from the screen, known as Sprites. You will discover how AMOS Professional shatters the limitations imposed by the Amiga on the number, size and colours of Sprites, and how to fully exploit their potential.

Normal hardware Sprites

Sprites are directly generated by the Amiga's hardware. Because they are completely independent from the screen, they can be moved at very high speeds over any type of screen, including the 4096-colour screens achieved in HAM mode. This makes hardware Sprites ideal for use in arcade games.

The Amiga offers up to eight hardware Sprites for instant display over any position on screen. They are supposed to be exactly 16 units wide, up to 270 scan lines high and feature three colours, with colour zero "transparent", allowing the background screen to show through. The computer's hardware can also combine pairs of Sprites, increasing the range of colours to 15, but halving the number of available Sprites to just four.

A choice between eight 3-colour and four 15-colour Sprites on screen is very limited, and quite unacceptable to the AMOS Professional programmer, so the old Rule Book has been torn up and rewritten for your benefit.

AMOS Professional computed Sprites

The AMOS Professional system takes the original hardware Sprites and combines them in a revolutionary way. The new "computed Sprites" are extremely powerful, they are perfect for the games programmer and they offer the following advantages:

In order to take full advantage of computed Sprites in practice, you will need some working knowledge of the theory behind them.

AMOS Professional computed Sprites rely on the fact that each original Amiga hardware Sprite is up to 270 units high. So if your required image is smaller than this, most of the Sprite area is effectively wasted. Look at the diagram below, which shows a single hardware Sprite positioned at the centre of a typical screen.

A 16 x 16 hardware sprite

A 16 x 16 hardware sprite

If this hardware Sprite is split into segments, and each segment is assigned to a separate image, the same memory area of this single Sprite can be used to display up to 16 simultaneous images. Fortunately, the Amiga's hardware allows each of these segments to be repositioned anywhere on the current line, as illustrated by the next diagram.

Computed sprites

Computed sprites

Because there are up to eight 3-colour or four 15-colour Sprites available for AMOS Professional to commandeer and use, you are given access to dozens of objects on the screen at the same time. However, there is still the size restriction to be overcome.

By displaying two or more 16-pixel Sprites side by side, larger objects can be created, up to a maximum width of 64 pixels for 15-colour and 128 pixels for 3-colour Sprites. Even if these width limits are exceeded, your programs will still run, although it is highly likely that your SPRITE command will be completely ignored!

When you use a mixture of 3-colour and 15-colour Sprites on the same screen, it is much safer to assume that the lower width limit totalling 64 pixels applies. Alternatively, the maximum total line widths of Sprites may be calculated as follows:

total width = (Width of all 15-colour Sprites)*2 + (Width of all 3-colour Sprites)

By assuming that the total width must always be less than 128 pixels, you will not cause any disasters.

Hardware Sprites versus computed Sprites

The greatest problem when using computed Sprites is that you never know precisely which hardware Sprite is going to be assigned to any particular object! Each computed Sprite can be instructed from a mixture of hardware Sprites, and the mixture changes every time the object is moved on the screen.

This can lead to major problems, especially if you need to animate objects that must stay visible in a wide range of Sprite combinations. In these circumstances it is useful to assign a specific group of hardware Sprites to a single object, and the SPRITE command allows you to allocate such Sprites directly by using an identification number between 0 and 7. For Example, the next line allocates hardware Sprite 2 to image number 1, and positions it at coordinates 200,100:

Sprite 2,200,100,1

After a Sprite has been grabbed in this way, it will be completely removed from the computed Sprite system, so there will be an inevitable reduction in the number of computed Sprites that can be displayed on screen.

If the required image is wider than 16 pixels, AMOS Professional will automatically assign additional hardware Sprites to this object. These Sprites will be allocated in consecutive order, starting from your original Sprite number.

Look again at the last example line above. Suppose that image number 1 contains a 30 by 20 picture in three colours. The SPRITE command will automatically grab Sprite number 3 as well as number 2, so any future attempt to display Sprite number 3 would fail, because it is already in use. You would then be restricted to assigning hardware Sprites 0,1,4,5,6 and 7 only, and greatly reducing the number of possible computed Sprites.

It is also important to understand that each 15-colour Sprite is actually displayed by using a pair of 3-colour Sprites. The Amiga's hardware allows you to combine matched pairs of Sprites in the following groups only:

0 and 1, 2 and 3, 4 and 5, 6 and 7.

So it is vital to assign 15-colour images to even Sprite numbers, or AMOS Professional will be forced to display your object using the next pair of Sprite numbers, which is a complete waste of a Sprite.

There is a trouble-shooting section at the end of this Chapter, which should answer the most common problems experienced with Sprites. Meanwhile, please load this ready-made program, which demonstrates the advantages of using computed Sprites over Bobs:

Load "AMOSPro Tutorials:Tutorials/Sprites_v_Bobs.AMOS"

The Sprite command


instruction: display a Sprite on the screen
Sprite Sprite number
Sprite Sprite number,hx,hy,image number

The SPRITE command assigns an image to a Sprite, and displays it at the selected hardware coordinates.

The Sprite number can range from 0 to 63. Normally, Sprite number zero is not available because it is already allocated to the mouse pointer. To ensure that you have the maximum number of Sprites at your disposal, remove the mouse pointer from the screen with HIDE ON. Sprite identification numbers from 0 to 7 refer to the eight hardware Sprites whose limitations have already been explained. You will probably want to make use of the AMOS Professional computed Sprites in your programs instead, and these are assigned the numbers from 8 to 63.

The hardware coordinates hx and hy set the position at which the Sprite will be displayed. Since Sprites are totally independent from the current screen, normal screen coordinates cannot be used for this purpose. Instead, all Sprites are positioned by special hardware coordinates as used by the mouse pointer and the SCREEN DISPLAY command. Hardware coordinates can be converted from normal screen coordinates by the X HARD and Y HARD functions, which are explained later.

The position of the Sprite is measured from a single spot related to that Sprite, known as the "hot spot". This is usually taken to be the top left-hand corner of the Sprite, but it can be placed anywhere you like using the HOT SPOT command. Hot spots are explained in detail near the end of this Chapter.

When the Sprite has been allocated an identification number and given its display coordinates, you must select an image for the Sprite to display. Images are created using the Object Editor (there is a guided tour of this process in Chapter 13.2) and deposited in the Object Bank, which is normally memory bank 1. Each image in this bank is assigned its own number, starting from one. To select an image for a Sprite to display, simply give the appropriate image number. Sprite images may be installed into your programs using the LOAD command, like this:

Load "Sprites.Abk"

Once images have been installed in this way they will be saved along with your AMOS Professional programs automatically.

The image number and coordinate parameters can be omitted after a SPRITE command, but the appropriate commas must be included.

For example:

Load "AMOSPro Tutorial:Objects/Sprites.Abk" Flash Off : Get Sprite Palette Curs Off : Cls 0 Sprite 8,200,100,1 Wait Key Sprite 8,,150,1 Wait Key Sprite 8,250,,1 Wait Key Sprite 8,,,2


instruction: delete an image from the Object Bank
Del Sprite number
Del Sprite first To last

The DEL SPRITE command permanently deletes one or more Sprite images from the Object Bank. To erase a single image, simply give the image number to be deleted, like this:

Del Sprite 2

Whenever an image is deleted, all the subsequent images in the Bank are moved up one place in the numerical order. For instance, if the Bank originally contained four images, the above example would remove image number 2 from memory, leaving a gap between images 1 and 3. This gap would be filled immediately, as the old image numbers 3 and 4 were shunted up one place, to become the new image numbers 2 and 3.

If more than one image is to be removed from the Bank, you can set the range from the first image to the last after a DEL SPRITE command. The following example would delete Sprite images 4,5,6 and 7:

Del Sprite 4 To 7

After the last image has been deleted from the Object Bank, the entire Bank is erased automatically.


instruction: insert a blank Sprite image into the Object bank
Ins Sprite number
Ins Sprite first To last

INS SPRITE inserts a blank image at the numbered position in the current Object Bank. All of the images after this numbered position will then be moved down one place in the numerical order. The second version of this command allows you to create several spaces in a single operation, by giving the range of new gaps between the first and last image numbers that you specify.

Any of these new image spaces are completely empty, and so cannot be allocated to a Sprite Or displayed directly on screen while they are still blank. An actual image must first be grabbed into the Object Bank, using a GET SPRITE or GET BOB command. If this is not done, the appropriate error message will be given as soon as you try to access the empty image.

Both DEL SPRITE and INS SPRITE are provided to be used with the GET BOB and GET SPRITE commands. They allow you to modify and adjust your Sprite images from inside AMOS Professional programs, with complete freedom.

The Sprite Palette

Although Sprites are independent of the screen, the colours that they use are definitely not! So before displaying a Sprite image it is essential to grab the correct colours. All colours are taken from the standard 32 colour registers provided by the Amiga's hardware, but the precise registers to be used depend on the type of Sprite.

15-colour Sprites. These use colour registers 16 to 31, which may not be needed by 16-colour screens, but are vital when 32-colour and 64-colour modes are in use, ensuring that these Sprite images are.totally consistent with the screen background.

If you employ background screen graphics created with a commercial drawing package such as Deluxe Paint, you must ensure that your Sprite images use exactly the same colour values as the screen image. This presents no problem to AMOS Professional, and is achieved as follows.

Load the colour palette from an IFF file of the screen image directly into the AMOS Professional Object Editor, using the [Grabber] option to select any part of the picture. Please see Chapter 13.2 for full details. The correct colour values are copied directly to the Sprite Bank, and will be saved along with your images automatically.

It is also possible to display 32-colour image files on a 16-colour screen. Because the Bob and Sprite palettes are completely separate, colours 0 to 15 can be reserved for Bobs and colours 16 to 31 for Sprites.

3-colour Sprites. Things are a little more complex when using these, because each pair of Sprites uses its own set of colour registers, as follows:

Hardware SpritesTransparentColour registers
0 and 11617,18,19
2 and 32021,22,23
4 and 52425,26,27
6 and 72829,30,31

Note that for each pair of Sprites there is one register that is assumed to be transparent, and three colour registers.

As has been explained, the hardware sprites used to create computed sprites will vary during the course of your program, so it is vital that the three colours used by each pair of hardware sprites are exactly the same. A procedure is provided to accomplish this, and it may be found along with a host of other useful procedures, in Appendix C.


instruction: grab sprite colours into screen
Get Sprite Palette
Get Sprite Palette mask

This command copies the colour values used by your Sprite and Bob images and loads them into the current screen. It is an intelligent instruction, so if 16-colour screens are in use, values are automatically copied into colour registers 16 to 31. This means that you can use the same images for either Bobs or Sprites with no risk of colour clashes! Here is an example:

Load "AMOSPro Tutorial:Objects/Sprites.Abk" Curs Off : Flash Off : Cls 0 Get Sprite Palette Rem Set computed Sprite at hardware coords 128,50 using image 1 Sprite 8,128,50,1 Wait Key

The optional mask parameter allows the colour selection to be limited. Each colour is represented by a single digit in a 32-digit bit mask. If the appropriate digit is set to 1, the colour is copied from the Object Bank. Any colours to be omitted (masked) should have their digit set to 0. The following example copies colours 0 to 3 from the Object Bank into the screen:

Get Sprite Palette %0000000000001111

Because the mask is entered as a normal number, either hexadecimal or decimal modes can also be used:

Get Sprite Palette $FFFF0000

Please note that the GET BOB PALETTE and GET OBJECT PALETTE instructions perform an identical task to the GET SPRITE PALETTE command.


instruction: grab screen image into the Object Bank
Get Sprite image number,x1,y1 To x2,y2
Get Sprite screen number,image number,x1,y1 To x2,y2

Use this command to grab images directly from the screen and transform them into Sprites. Simply define the new image number, then give the coordinates, from top left-hand to bottom right-hand corner, of the rectangular area to be loaded into the Sprite Bank. The image will be grabbed from the current screen unless an optional screen number is specified.

Provided that the given coordinates lie inside of existing screen borders, there are no limitations to the area that can be grabbed in this way.

If there is no existing Sprite with the selected number, it will be created automatically. Similarly, the Sprite Bank will be reserved by AMOS Professional, if it is not already defined.

It should be noted that the GET BOB instruction is identical to GET SPRITE, making them interchangeable.


instruction: set maximum height of Sprites
Set Sprite Buffer number

This command allocates extra memory for hardware and computed Sprites to work within. Although each hardware Sprite can be up to 270 lines in height, AMOS Professional reserves sufficient memory for 128 lines, as the default allocation.

If you are using computed Sprites, it is more practical to extend the SET SPRITE BUFFER number to a larger value. This is economical on memory, since each line only consumes 96 bytes. Thus a maximum height value of 256 would require about 12k of extra memory.

Be warned that this command erases all current Sprite assignments, as well as re-setting the mouse pointer, so it must be used at the beginning of your programs! For example, the following line would be placed at the start of your listing:

Set Sprite Buffer 256

Sprite Commands


instruction: control Sprite movements
Sprite Update
Sprite Update Off
Sprite Update On

The SPRITE UPDATE family of commands provide total control of Sprite movements. Normally, when a Sprite is moved its position is updated automatically during the next vertical blank period. Please see WAIT VBL if this needs explaining. However, when many Sprites are moved with the SPRITE command, updates will happen before all of the Sprites have been successfully repositioned, which can result in jerky patterns of movement. In these circumstances, the automatic updating system can be turned off with a SPRITE UPDATE OFF command.

When the Sprites have been moved successfully, a call to SPRITE UPDATE will reposition any Sprites that have been moved since the last update. Alternatively, SPRITE UPDATE ON returns to the default status of automatic updating.


instruction: remove Sprites from screen
Sprite Off
Sprite Off number

The SPRITE OFF command removes all sprites from your display, and all current Sprite movements are aborted. To re-start them, the movement pattern must be initialised again. (Please see the AMAL facilities explained in Chapter 7.6). If an optional Sprite number is given, only that Sprite will be de-activated and removed from the screen.

Please note that Sprites are de-activated every time the AMOS Professional editor is called up. Sprites are automatically returned to their original positions the next time Direct Mode is entered.


function: return x-coordinate of a Sprite
x=X Sprite(number)

This function returns the current x-coordinate of the Sprite whose number is given in brackets. The Sprite number can range from 0 to 63, and positions are given in hardware coordinates. Use X SPRITE to check if a Sprite has passed off the edge of the screen.


function: return y-coordinate of a Sprite
y=Y Sprite(number)

This gives the vertical position of the specified Sprite, measured in hardware coordinates.


function: return current image number of a Sprite
image=I Sprite(number)

This function returns the current image number being used by the specified Sprite. If the Sprite is not displayed, a value of zero will be returned.

Conversion Functions


function: convert hardware x-coordinate to screen x-coordinate
x=X Screen(xcoordinate)
x=X Screen(screen number,xcoordinate)


function: convert hardware y-coordinate to screen y-coordinate
y=Y Screen(ycoordinate)
y=Y Screen(screen number,ycoordinate)

These functions transform a hardware coordinate into a screen coordinate, relative to the current screen. If the hardware coordinates lie outside of the screen, both functions will return relative offsets from the screen boundaries. An optional screen number may be included, in which case the coordinates will be returned relative to that screen.


function: convert screen x-coordinate into hardware x-coordinate
x=X Hard(xcoordinate)
x=X Hard(screen number,xcoordinate)


function: convert screen y-coordinate into hardware y-coordinate
y=Y Hard(ycoordinate)
y=Y Hard(screen number,ycoordinate)

These functions convert screen coordinates into hardware coordinates, relative to the current screen. As with X SCREEN and Y SCREEN, an optional screen number can be given, and coordinates will be returned relative to that screen.

With all four of the above functions, sensible values can only be returned when the relevant screen has been fully initialised. Both the SCREEN OPEN and SCREEN DISPLAY commands only come into effect from the next vertical blank, and the following examples demonstrate that the correct coordinate values (in this case 128,50) are only returned after a WAIT VBL command.

Screen Open 0,320,255,16,Lowres Print X Hard(0,0); Y Hard(0,0)

Now try the correct version:

Screen Open 0,320,255,16,Lowres Wait Vbl Print X Hard(0,0); Y Hard(0,0)

The default screen is initially located at hardware coordinates (128,50), and if you find the whole business of hardware coordinates and screen coordinates tiresome, you can bypass the entire conversion system.

By setting the HOT SPOT of your Sprite images to (-128,-50), the reference point for all position calculations is removed to the far corner of the display. Once an image has been prepared in this way, it can be assigned to a Sprite and moved around using normal screen coordinates. For example:

Hot Spot 1,-128,-50: Rem Set up hot spot Sprite 8,160,100,1 : Rem Sprite 8 to screen coords 160,100

The Hot Spot

Whenever an image is drawn on screen using the SPRITE or BOB command, it is positioned using an invisible reference point known as the "hot spot". This reference point is then used for all coordinate calculations.


instruction: set reference point for all coordinate calculations
Hot Spot image number,x,y
Hot Spot image number,pre-set value

The HOT SPOT command sets the hot spot of an image stored in the current Object Bank. The hot spot x,y-offset is measured from the top left-hand corner of the image, and is added to those coordinates before use, as illustrated in the following diagram:

sprite at central hotspot

It is perfectly legal to position the hot spot outside of the current screen display. This can be used for automatic conversion of all screen coordinates, as explained above, or to set up a games sequence with Sprites appearing from off-screen.

There is another version of this instruction, allowing automatic positioning of the hot spot to any one of nine pre-set positions. These positions are shown in the following diagram, with the central point of the Object image represented by the value $11. The value for a pre-set hot spot at the top right-hand corner of the image is $20, for the bottom left-hand corner $02, and so on.

Hot Spot values

The Sprite Doctor

The final part of this Chapter contains some instant diagnoses and remedies for common Sprite illnesses!

Problem: I can't display hardware Sprite zero. It does not want to appear.
Remedy: Hardware Sprite zero is already allocated to the mouse pointer. Use HIDE ON to remove the mouse pointer from the screen, and try again.

Problem: Whenever the distance between my computed Sprites exceeds about half the screen, the lower ones vanish.
Remedy: Although hardware Sprites can be a maximum of 270 units high, the default setting is 128. Increase the height using SET SPRITE BUFFER by placing the following line at the start of your program:

Set Sprite Buffer 256

Problem: How do I display 15-colour Sprites on a 32 or 64-colour screen?
Remedy: Create your images in 32-colour mode, and draw your Sprites using colour numbers 16 to 31. When these images are loaded into your program, the Sprites will be displayed correctly.

Problem: When I try to move Sprites with AMAL, some of the objects disappear at random.
Remedy: The total width of your Sprites exceeds the maximum of 64. You should read the User Guide more thoroughly! Replace some of your larger Sprites with Bobs to free up as many component hardware Sprites as possible. Alternatively, reduce the total number of Sprites on the screen and try using a small number of fast objects instead of a large number of slower ones.

Problem: When I move the screen with SCREEN OFFSET and SCREEN DISPLAY, my Sprites go most peculiar.
Remedy: There is a hardware confrontation between the Sprite system and the Display system, probably because AMOS Professional is stretching your Amiga to its absolute limits! Reduce the load on the system as follows. At the start of your program, just after the SET SPRITE BUFFER command, define hardware Sprites 6 and 7 using the SPRITE command. Now assign these Sprites to negative coordinates, and position them off the screen. It is now impossible to use them for computed Sprites, and if they are never displayed on the screen during your scrolling operations, your problem is solved.