Drunken Coder

Gameboy development environment

Posted 01/31/2013

I do a lot of weird code stuff. Recently, I was writing a ROM for a Gameboy hardware-platform.

Here is how I set it up my dev environment on Mac OS 10.8.2.

A lot of “old-timers” I talked to would have serious issues with my advice, but this made my preferred language work on my preferred OS using good tools, with as little fuss as possible. I am an older-timer, and I think it’s good advice, as a general problem-solving approach.

I shouldn’t have to use ASM, in Windows 98 to get things working the way I want. This is 2013, for God’s sake. Let’s try something better.

First install Xcode, so you can compile stuff. Install the command-line tools (fuzzy on this, did it a long time ago.)

Basically make and gcc should be in your path.

  • GBDK: I downloaded a pre-compiled version, and extracted to /opt/gbdk
  • RGBDS: I used rgdbs-linux, and just ran make, seemed to work great. copied the whole folder into opt, so it was with the gbdk.
  • Emulator: I used visualboy advance. It doesn’t have a debugger, but seems to run games ok. it associates with .gb and .gbc ROM files.
  • DOS tools: I got the wave tool and Advanced PCX2GB from dos-tools extract them to /opt/dos
  • Windows Tools: I installed Wine Bottler and got no$gmb (32bit version, without sound) and all the windows tools from Windows Tools to run, in a single prefix. This adds color image map/tile support, font support and more. no$gmb has a debugger, which is pretty rad, but I couldn’t get the sound working. I bottled all the apps, so they have nice icons, and installed them all to one winebottler prefix, to save space.

Now, install DOSBox and add a mount command & tools to path in your autoexec. Do this by editing the bottom of ~/Library/Preferences/DOSBox 0.73 Preferences to look like this:

@echo off
mount H /Users/konsumer
mount D /opt/dos
set PATH=D:\;%PATH%

Replace “konsumer” with your username. Now you have access to your home dir (H:) & dostools (in path, D:)

I keep my projects in ~/Documents/Projects. Here is how I make an image:

use gimp to make a PCX image 160x144 named in Documents/Projects/coolgame/logo.pcx fire up dosbox

type these:

cd Documents/Projects/coolgame
pcx2gb o d logo.pcx logo_tile.c logo_map.c

Looking at DOSBox Usage I think you could add stuff that works from command-line, directly, but I didn’t bother (it’s not super-common that I need to make images or whatever.)

Then, I made a directory with a Makefile that looks like this:

GBDK = /opt/gbdk
CC   = ${GBDK}/bin/lcc -Wa-l -Wl-m -Wl-j
RGB = /opt/rgbds/rgbfix

BINS   = mygame.gb

all:   $(BINS)

%.o:   %.c
   $(CC) -c -o $@ $<

%.s:   %.c
   $(CC) -S -o $@ $<

%.o:   %.s
   $(CC) -c -o $@ $<

%.gb:   %.o
   $(CC) -o $@ $<

%.gbc:   %.o
   $(CC) -o $@ $< && ${RGB} -vcs -l 0x33 -p 0 $@

   rm -f *.o *.lst *.map *.gb *.gbc *~ *.rel *.cdb *.ihx *.lnk *.sym *.asm

Make a file called mygame.c, that looks like this:

#include <gb/gb.h>
#include <stdio.h>

#include "logo_tile.c"
#include "logo_map.c"

void main() {
    // load logo
    set_bkg_data(0,255, tiledata);
    VBK_REG = 1;
    VBK_REG = 0;
    set_bkg_tiles(0,0,20,18, tilemap);


    printf(" \n\n\n\n\n\n\n\nYour game goes here.\n");

Now, you can run make, and it will compile mygame.c to mygame.gb. This is a basic boilerplate, you can do lots of other stuff, read docs on rgbfix for setting ROM title, etc.

As a sidenote, I used Sublime Text, a great code-editor. You should get something that syntax-highlights.

It’s also handy if you have a bunch of c files, you can run:

make testsound.gb, and it will compile testsound.c to testsound.gb

type open testsound.gb to run it.

You just made yer first gameboy game. Yer an “old-timer”.


Easy dev environment, on any computer

If you are like me, you want a full LAMP stack on your box while developing, and don’t want it to mess with your other stuff.

David KonsumerWritten by David Konsumer who lives and works in Portland and makes rad stuff. You should follow him on Twitter & Github