Welcome to the first of a multi-part series:
Creating Animation and Games: Chapter 1 Getting Started

This series will dive into using Propeller microcontroller based systems to create your own graphics, animation, and video games. I'll assume that you only have a very basic knowledge of microcontroller programming and take you step-by-step from beginning with a single dot to the creation of several video games which will provide you great examples for getting started with your own ideas.

Required hardware:

Almost any Propeller based microcontroller board will work with this material. I'll provide instructions which will be applicable to Propeller boards with TV output, and VGA output. I'll also show you a way to interface to multiple control devices, including basic keyboard, or game controllers.

Naturally, there are a couple *recommended* configurations which are my personal favourites:

The Propeller Experimenter's Board (PMC 2014)

Designed to be compatible with the VGAplus256/PMC 2013 kit, this completely compatible kit provides VGA output capable of either 64 or 256 color output depending on it's configuration. Stereo right/left channel audio, PC keyboard input, IR port, a Wii Classic Controller/Nunchuck port, as well as an Breadboard Experimenting Area with I/O. As of August 2014, this board is available at Propellerpowered/Tindie and is highly recommended.

The VGAplus256 w/Quickstart combination

Otherwise known as the Pocket Mini Computer Kit, it features a lot of bang for the buck with dual mode VGA output capable either 64 or 256 color output depending on it's configuration. Stereo right/left channel audio, PC keyboard input, IR port, a Wii Classic Controller/Nunchuck port, as well as plenty of I/O connections for those who want experiment with adding/adapting other unusual or retro gaming controls. This is the board you'll see used in many examples. This kit was replaced by the Propeller Experimenter's Kit in 2014. (see above paragraph)

The software I'll be using in this material is compatible with TV, 64 color VGA, and 256 color VGA. While you can use either of these three video systems with this material, for best results use the VGAplus256 hardware I'm using in my examples. Compared to TV output, VGA is twice as nice. Add to that the ability to display 256 colors instead of 64 and the creative juices will start flowing.

The best news of all is that all of the designs I've mentioned are Open Source with their designs and schematics published. You can literally "roll your own" favorite board with your own custom controller and go crazy. The sky is the limit!!

Step 1: Introducing Spin

The Parallax Propeller can be programmed in three common languages:
  • C
  • Assembly
  • Spin
The C language which tends to be most common in microcontroller circles was recently added to the available languages.  Propeller Assembly provides extremely fast access to the chip when every cycle counts.   The Spin language tends to feel like a cross between Pascal, and BASIC.  It is a great balance between power and ease of use, and I'll be using it in all my code examples.   

If you've never programmed a stitch of Spin in your life, don't worry, I'll provide explanation along the way.  Since I arrived at Spin myself as BASIC programmer, I'll use examples which will help you if you've ever programmed in BASIC.   No coding experience?  Again, don't sweat it, Spin is a great language to get started in!

Want to really crack into the Spin language?  

Download a copy of the Propeller Manual and give it a look!  
Be warned, this isn't light reading, and is not required for this series. 

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