Flycast WinCE has merged into regular Flycast – only one core now! Plus – Switch port teaser!

So, flyinghead finally feels confident enough that we are at a stage where the WinCE branch can be merged into master.

This is a pretty big deal. This marks the first time that an open source Dreamcast emulator has Windows CE support in a mainline release, along with arcade Naomi support. Right now, the only other emulator that manages to emulate both these is a closed source emulator called demul. So this is a pretty big milestone for us.

So, what do you have to do from this point on?

– Go to the Online Updater, select ‘Update Cores’, and download ‘Flycast’.
– Remove the old Flycast WinCE core. It no longer serves any purpose, you can just download the Flycast core instead which was Windows CE support now built-in. If you have any games in your old playlists that still use the Flycast WinCE core, reset the core association and make it use the main Flycast core now.

This has been a tremendous undertaking and in the process, so many improvements have been made as a result:

* (Windows CE) The reason why the Windows CE build was separate before was that the addition of the MMU codepath would greatly hurt the performance of every non-Windows CE-based game. This is no longer the case thankfully. Instead, performance has actually improved over the non-Windows CE build from before (see the next point).
* (Optimizations / Performance) Thanks to SSA optimizations, performance is better across the board now for every game, whether it is a Windows CE-based game or not. We figure it’s about 30% faster on average give or take.
* (Libretro core-specific) Certain core options now get hidden depending on other settings that are turned on/off which they are dependent on. For instance – ‘Show VMU Display Settings’ – if you enable this and then leave the Quick Menu options screen and re-enter it again, it will show all the VMU display options. Turn this off and repeat the same process in order to hide all the VMU display-related options again. This will greatly unclutter the options list.
* (Libretro core-specific) A new setting that appears when Threaded Rendering is enabled – ‘Delay Frame Swapping’. This waits until the frame is rendered by the digital video encoder which means it’s being displayed on the screen. This helps avoid displaying bogus/empty frames that would not be shown on a real console. Without this option enabled, you can get heavy screen flickering with some games (such as South Park Chef’s Luv Shack and NFL Quarterback Club 2000).
* (Libretro core-specific) Auto-configuration of early input polling when threaded rendering is enabled. Threaded rendering needs early input polling configured or else input will be buggy. In the past, the user needed to do this manually on RetroArch, which greatly complicated things. Now instead, we do this behind the scenes through a private libretro API extension, so you no longer have to tediously configure this yourself. It was annoying and could mess with your configuration since for other cores you would really want to set it to late input polling for the best input latency.
* AICA sound emulation has greatly improved and can now be considered mostly feature complete. We have included a before and after comparison of Skies of Arcadia so you can get an idea of how much of an improvement it is – this is Skies of Arcadia before and after implementing the LPF (Low-Pass Filter) –

Before –

After –

So, in short, the low-pass filter has been implemented. This filter has an envelope, similar to the already implemented one for amplitude. It varies the cut-off frequency for attack/decay/sustain/release. The other thing added is the pitch LFO, which is used to create a vibrato effect. So far, the only sound inaccuracy I have noticed in a game is that certain music that is triggered upon events (such as in Resident Evil Code: Veronica) does not get properly faded out. Apart from that, sound accuracy has seen a tremendous improvement, really night and day in a lot of respects in games like Resident Evil 2 and Skies of Arcadia.

* (AMD) Per-pixel alpha sorting has been fixed on AMD GPUs. Previously ,it would look like this on Windows (at the main BIOS menu) –

Switch port teaser

Flycast Libretro is coming to RetroArch Switch courtesy of Datamats! For now it uses the interpreter core only, but m4xw is going to work on getting the dynarec working. No ETA and don’t bug the devs about it until it’s done!

RetroArch 1.7.8 (v3) released + big core updates! (bsnes HD, Flycast, Android, etc)

RetroArch 1.7.8 was a very ambitious release, and as a result, it is taking some time to iron out some of the kinks. Instaed of leaving you waiting for a month again to fix some crucial bugs, we’d rather release these point fix releases first instead so that we leave you with a rock-solid 1.7.8 in the end while we then shift our focus and attention to 1.7.9.

In light of that, we are releasing version 3 right now, which will be especially beneficial for Mac users. The future-proof Metal Mac version should now work flawlessly on Macs with an AMD graphics card (they previously produced heavy graphics glitches inside the menu). It has just been released! Grab it here.

If you’d like to show your support, consider donating to us. Check here in order to learn more.

For all other details surrounding version 1.7.8, we refer you to our original article here.

Changes

  • GLCORE: Ensure correct scaling of menu texture (with RGUI)
  • IPS: Soft-Patch any IPS size
  • METAL: Fix overlay issue – setup correct viewport before rendering overlay
  • METAL/STB: Fix font driver issue with AMD GPUs on MacOS.
  • MENU/RGUI: Correctly rescale menu when resizing window if aspect ratio lock is enabled.
  • OSX: Remove OSX suffix in window title
  • PSP: Fix audio conversion code
  • REMAPS: Fix analog remapping regression -analog remapping would break controls

bsnes HD – Released for Windows/Linux/Android, and soon iOS and Mac!

bsnes HD should now be available on Linux, Windows and Android for RetroArch users! It’s based on the latest version of bsnes, and it should be significantly faster than previous bsnes versions.

In this video, we show you some of the HD Mode 7 features that are unique to this version. They make for a fairly significant difference overall as we’re sure you’ll agree!

This core is not fully complete yet and might still have some omissions. Also, the ‘bsnes HD’ name is temporary, and we will be doing some house cleaning of the various bsnes cores we are maintaining soon. The plan is to have an improved Core Updater in later RetroArch versions that allows for better categorization and filtering in the future so that users can more easily manage their cores.

On Android for the first time!

This is the first time the latest version of bsnes will appear on Android, courtesy of Libretro/RetroArch! Our core version of this is called bsnes HD, and you can grab it from the Core Updater right now! Just make sure to update the core info files first (by going to Online Updater, then selecting ‘Update Core Info Files’). bsnes HD should be a fair bit faster than the other bsnes cores already available, plus it has enhanced overclocking features and the acclaimed HD Mode 7 features.

In this video you see it running on a Samsung Galaxy S10+ (Exynos model) with 3x HD Mode 7 scaling applied, and it runs at fullspeed all the way.

User and contributor harakari has reported that he can run HD Mode 7 at 4x scaling and still have games run at fullspeed on his iPhone XS Max, so if anything, expect even better performance on high-end iDevices!

Flycast – WinCE core now 30% faster on average and sound improvements!

The FlycastWinCE version should now be 30% faster on average for non-Windows CE games! We have figured out a way to have the Windows CE code additions no longer affect the main performance of the emulator. For that reason, after we have ironed out some of the final kinks, you can expect there to be only one Flycast core moving forward. On top of that, flyinghead has really gone to town with some much needed audio improvements on the AICA and DSP side. Witness this long standing audio sample bug that is now finally fixed with the game Resident Evil: Code Veronica. This and many other sound bugs (such as the audio samples continuing to be repeated during the battle loading scenes in Soul Calibur) have been fixed now.

World-first – Windows CE Dreamcast games running on Android!

The Flycast WinCE core is now available for Android users!

  • 30% speedup in non-Windows CE games thanks to extensive optimizations made to the dynarec by flyinghead. No more performance reduction of non-Windows CE games.
  • Windows CE support further improved.

It is now possible to play Dreamcast Windows CE games on Android! Please be aware that this is very CPU intensive and that you should probably expect 15 to 25fps on high-end Android phones right now.

Note that Windows CE games could still be unstable on Android, and that you need a real BIOS for Windows CE to work. It won’t work with the HLE BIOS.

NOTE: We anticipate that after the final kinks has been ironed out, that we will merge the Windows CE parts of this core back into Flycast, and that the separate Flycast WinCE core will disappear from there on. So this separate core is only a temporary thing for now. We will let you know when this will happen. Video was recorded on a Galaxy S10+.

Mupen64 Plus Next – No more 10 second startup times on Windows!

Thanks to an important bug fixed by mudlord, Mupen64 Plus Next should no longer take up to 10 seconds to start up any game on Windows.

Mupen64 Plus Next is an up to date version of Mupen 64 Plus with the latest GlideN64 renderer.

More progress reports on other cores soon

Cores are often updated on a daily basis, and a lot of the times, all the amazing enhancements and improvements they receive go underreported because we’re so busy with development. We feel it is time to shine more of a light on these changes, so we will be doing more periodic updates on core updates as they come along.

Flycast – Progress Report -HLE BIOS – no longer requires external BIOS!

New version will be available later today on the Buildbot!

Flyinghead has significantly improved HLE BIOS support to the point where 90% of Dreamcast games (both regualr and Windows CE-based games) should now be supported! Previously, compatibility with the HLE BIOS was quite abysmal, to the point where we couldn’t justify enabling it by default. So this marks an important point where users are no longer required to go seek out an external Dreamcast BIOS and can just run a Dreamcast game out of the box without needing to setup a specific BIOS!

A couple of notes:

  • ‘HLE BIOS’ is now enabled by default. If you wish to disable it and rely on a real external BIOS, you go to Quick Menu -> Options, and disable ‘HLE BIOS’ there.
  • The ‘Fast GD-ROM Loading’ option right now doesn’t work with the HLE BIOS. Disable ‘HLE BIOS’ if you want to make use of this feature.
  • Previous savestates are no longer compatible with this current version. Later on, compatibility with these older savestates will be restored. We will let you know when that happens. Until then, we recommend making new savestates.

When do I get to use this?

Today! Updated versions of both Flycast cores (regular and Windows CE versions) are being uploaded to the buildbot as we speak, so you’ll be able to play with this later today if all goes well.

More progress

  • Flyinghead intends to merge the regular and Windows CE versions into one version come September. The inclusion of Windows CE/MMU codepaths should no longer slow down regular non-Windows CE games. On the contrary, SSA and lots of optimizations done for Windows CE will benefit the non-Windows CE games as well, so you can expect this universal version later on to be a bit faster.
  • This closed source emulator recently added support for this – flyinghead has already been able to match this in his branch. Like the other emulator, it should result in Street Fighter III 3rd Strike being rendered correctly, along with in-game screen adjustment being possible. It should be noted though that more regression testing is needed first because changes like these can have an adverse effect on other games that are currently being rendered fine, like Metropolis Street Racer. We rather suspect not enough testing was done to check for regressions in this other emulator since flyinghead was able to see a bunch of regressions as part of this feature being added, so we’d rather not jump the gun.

Open source Dreamcast emulation has seen a tremendous boost ever since flyinghead appeared on the scene. Whereas open source Dreamcast emulators seemed previously hopelessly behind something like Demul from a compatibility and accuracy perspective, right now it seems we are well on track to matching it save for Flycast not being able to emulate certain specialized arcade systems like Naomi 2, which are technically not really Dreamcast/Naomi 1 anyway but its successor.

So, right now, Flycast is in a very good spot:

  • It allows you to run Sega Naomi games. Only other emulators that support this are DEmul and Makaron (both closed-source).
  • It allows you to run Windows CE games. Only other emulator that supports this is DEmul (closed-source).
  • There are no limitations on savestates and internal resolutions, there is no paywall to speak of. Savestate support was added years ago.
  • Modem support. DEmul only supports Broadband Adapter support, but Flycast supports actual modem support (32K/64K models).
  • There is built-in zero configuration online multiplayer support, that works cross-platform with real Dreamcasts as well. Flycast is currently the only Dreamcast emulator available so far that supports this.
  • You can enable VMU support and configure where the VMU screen gets displayed onscreen. Up to 4 VMUs at a time can be displayed onscreen.
  • It has a work-in-progress HLE BIOS implementation that has about a 90% compatibility rate. It even works with Windows CE games.
  • It runs on 32bit systems as well as 64bit systems, and is available for x86 and ARM.
  • It has been available on Android and iOS for years now.

We might even add real CD-ROM support soon to it, so that it can run CD-R based backup discs!