RetroArch 1.7.8 – Released!

RetroArch 1.7.8 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.

It would be an understatement to say that version 1.7.8 is a pretty big deal. Two major landmark features are added for this version on top of numerous enhancements. In fact, there is so much to talk about again, we have been forced to split this release post up into several separate blog articles.

RetroArch AI Project

Welcome to the future! Sometime ago, a RetroArch bounty got posted proposing OCR (Optical Character Recognition) and Text To Speech services being added to RetroArch.

Some months later, and here we are – a bounty hunter valiantly took on the challenge and there is now a fully fledged AI Service up and running that works seamlessly with RetroArch!

You use the AI Service like this – you enable the AI Service (should be enabled by default), you then setup the server URL (could be a local network address if you have the server up and running in your own network, or a public IP/URL in case you’re going through a service). After that, you only need to bind a button or key to the so-called “AI Service” action. You can bind this key by going to Settings – Input – Hotkeys.

In this video, you can see each of the two modes that the AI Service currently is capable of doing –

Speech Mode – Upon pressing the AI Service button, a quick scan is done of the text, and the recognized text is then translated to speech. You can press the AI Service button at any time and it will try to process the current snapshot of the screen it made. This mode is non-interruptable, meaning the game will continue running when you hit this button, and the output speech will take as long as it takes for the server to respond to your query and pipe the sound to RetroArch.

Image Mode – In image mode, it tries to replace the text onscreen with the output text. For instance, in the video you see above, the game is played in Japanese, so when we hit the AI Service button, it tries to replace the Japanese text with English translated text. This mode is interruptable – this means that when you hit the AI Service button, it pauses the game and shows you an image with the replacement text UNTIL you hit either the AI Service hotkey or the Pause hotkey again, then it will continue playing.

We encourage everybody that wants to submit feedback to us on this amazing revolutionary feature to go to our Discord channel and in specific the retroarch-ai channel. We’d love to hear your feedback and we’d like to develop this feature further, so your input and feedback is not only appreciated but necessary!

Read the instructions on how to set this up here.

Also make sure to read our previous blog articles on this subject, available here.

RetroArch Disc Project

Real CD-ROM functionality is now included in RetroArch 1.7.8 for both Linux and Windows PCs. Please note that this functionality is far from finished and the performance you will be able to get out of this right now is very drive and OS-dependent. Generally it’s fair to say that Linux is the more fleshed out of the two platforms so far, and performance and reliability is best there for the moment.

The following cores have been updated with physical CD-ROM support:

  • Genesis Plus GX
  • Mednafen/Beetle PSX
  • Mednafen/Beetle Saturn
  • Mednafen/Beetle PCE/Fast
  • 4DO

We want to encourage people to test as many drives as possible that they have at their disposal, then report back to us on Discord (channel #discproject).

Also make sure to read our previous blog articles on this subject, available here.

RetroArch Android – now a hybrid 64bit/32bit build

Read this blog article here for more information on this important change. We apologize for the inconvenience but Google’s new store rules force our hand and it was necessary to add the 64bit version to the main release.

To be clear, the only place on which we can provide a 32bit-only version from now on will be our own site. Google’s rules on the Google Play Store requires each app to have both a 64bit and/or 32bit codepath, and on 64bit devices, it would auto default to the 64bit code, with no ability to switch to the 32bit version.

Enhanced core options

New core options: sublabels, localization support, selective hiding, etc.
New core options: sublabels, localization support, selective hiding, etc.

A big flaw of the libretro API was the lack of any internationalization support, or even just a sane way to add a default value without needing it to be the first in a sequential list.

Libretro and RetroArch now bode support for enhanced core options. Core options can now have sublabels, and they can be translated to every single language theoretically.

Core options can also be shown and/or hidden now.

Several cores have already received a Turkish translation of their options.

Audio device selection (Windows)

It is now possible to choose between available audio devices with the XAudio2/DirectSound/WASAPI drivers. You do this by going to Settings -> Audio and pressing left and/or right. You can also set audio_device inside your config file to either the index of the device or its actual name.

Multi-touch lightgun controls (Android/iOS)

With RetroArch 1.7.8, it is be possible to use your fingers as a lightgun on iOS and Android. Not only that, but it supports multi-touch too! (iPhone XS Max shown in this video) What you see here in this video is a demonstration of all the cores that include support for this new feature. The device being used here is an iPhone XS Max, and it’s plenty powerful enough to even run the likes of Mednafen/Beetle Saturn! Here is a list of the cores so far that support this (along with the systems they support):

  1. NES/Famicom (FCEUmm)
  2. Super Nintendo/Super Famicom (Snes9x)
  3. Sega Master System (Genesis Plus GX)
  4. Sega Megadrive/Genesis (Genesis Plus GX)
  5. Sony Playstation (Mednafen/Beetle PSX)
  6. Sega Saturn (Mednafen/Beetle Saturn) 7. Arcade (MAME)

Playlist Thumbnails Updater

This PR adds a new entry to the online updater: Playlist Thumbnails Updater

This opens a menu that displays all existing playlists. When one is selected, each entry of the playlist is scanned, and any missing thumbnails are downloaded.

This is a lighter alternative to using the huge thumbnail zip archives, and it should work on consoles etc. that have limited RAM. (It also saves disk space, since we only download what we’re going to use).

On-demand thumbnail downloading

This will auto-scrape thumbnails for a game when the user hovers over it inside a playlist. You can enable this option inside Online Updater and/or Settings – Network. NOTE: We have disabled this by default since this does do a HTTP request for every playlist entry that does not have thumbnails installed already.

Shader Usability Changes

Some bigger and some smaller changes have been made to shaders and the shader menu

You’ll notice the shader menu was tidied up a bit, all the save options are now in one “Save” submenu and new “Remove” options for auto-loading presets were added.

There’s a new option for a “global” auto-loading preset which, like you can imagine, applies to all content you load.

If you remember, shaders were actually saved automatically once they were loaded in the shader menu.

This had a lot of drawbacks, for example, it wasn’t really possible to have content which doesn’t use any shaders at all without having to turn shaders off completely.

It also meant that any content without any auto-loading preset would use the last menu-loaded shader, which was very unintuitive.

This is why shaders are now only saved manually, giving more control over what content uses which shader.

Under the hood, auto-loading presets have a new trick up their sleeves: the `#reference` directive

In practical terms, auto-loading presets can point to other presets, so if you load any shader preset or save it via ‘Save As’ and then immediately save it as an auto-loading preset, it will point to the original preset.

This is especially useful for presets you built yourself and are still tweaking, because you don’t have to resave them as auto-loading presets every time.

Saved shader presets now use relative paths, which make them portable across systems, allowing for easy sharing of your custom presets. Beware though: If you want to move presets into subfolders, the relative paths need to be readjusted as well.

If that was not enough, there is a also new `–set-shader` command line option, which works like an override for auto-loading presets.

With all these additions came one removal, which is the `video_shader` setting, because it didn’t really fit in into how auto-loading presets worked.

This is the basic gist of all the shader changes.

  1. The online documentation has been updated accordingly, you can find the new shader user guide here: https://docs.libretro.com/guides/shaders/

Miscellaneous

Read our CHANGELOG here.

  • New behavior for Escape key on keyboards – previously, pressing the Escape key would default to immediately exiting the program. Now, you need to press Escape (or any other key bound to “Quit RetroArch”) twice in order to quit. If you dislike this new behavior, go to Settings – Input and turn off ‘Press quit twice’.
  • If the user selects a core that requires a different video driver than the one he is currently using (for instance, the user is using the Direct3D 11 driver while trying to start a core that requires OpenGL), it will now warn the user about this after failing to load the core.
  • The following features have been enabled by default:
    • Per-content playtime logging – Last Played, How many hours/minutes played, etc.
    • Playlist sublabels, showing more information about each playlist entry.
  • Some refinements to the core loading system – after a core is loaded, it won’t show ‘Quick Menu’ until the core is actually running.
    • More refinements – when a core is running, the ‘Load Core’ option is hidden. The user needs to first select ‘Close Content’ before he has the ability to select another core from ‘Load Core’ again. This should lead to an overall stability increase in the program.
  • Ability to hand pick which settings categories get shown (Settings -> User Interface -> Views).
  • Windows/Linux/Mac: Better resizing of the menu graphics when resizing the window in windowed mode.
  • XMB: New settings that allow you to choose between a variety of fancy menu animation effects! Animation Horizontal Highlight, Animation Move Up/Down, Animation Main Menu Opens/Closes.

Core News – PUAE (Amiga emulator) and VICE (Commodore 64)

sonninnos and rsn8887 made a lot of improvements recently to two home computer Libretro cores.

PUAE Amiga core improvements

PUAE Amiga Core IK+
PUAE Amiga Core IK+
  • fix two player controls (sonninnos)
  • Implement new core options with some small print explanations (sonninnos)
  • Implement hotkeys for status bar and virtual keyboard that can be remapped instead of using hardcoded buttons (sonninnos)
  • Combining mouse speed indicator and other status bar indicators (sonninnos)
  • Allow starting the emulated Amiga without content (sonninnos)
  • Add many core options, such as a cycle exact option (sonninnos and rsn8887)
  • Allow to load any single, bootable .hdf hard drive file directly via load content (rsn8887)
  • Allow disabling the use of system/WHDLoad.hdf via a new core option (rsn8887)
  • Fix quickmenu->disk control options for swapping disks on the fly (rsn8887)
  • Change defaults to more sensible values (sonninnos)
  • Add Switch version of the core (rsn8887)
PUAE Amiga Core on Switch
PUAE Amiga Core on Switch

PUAE can play IK+ with sound FX on Nintendo Switch. Prince of Persia plays well too. These games don’t work on standalone UAE4all2. To enable sound fx in IK+, use model type A500 and turn off compatible mode in Quick Menu-> Options.

To swap disks, select Quick Menu -> Disk Control -> Append to insert a new disk in drive df0. When this option is selected, the virtual tray is opened, the disk is inserted, and the virtual tray is closed again. This all happens automatically. A new index number is also created. The disk becomes associated with that number. The cycle tray option ejects the current disk. When the virtual tray is open, one can change the index number in Quick Menu -> Disk controls to choose a different disk index. The menu remembers a history of all appended disks within one session, and assigns index numbers to each disk as you append them one by one. This is useful for games that keep asking for disk swaps back and forth. After manually opening the tray and selecting the next index to insert, choose cycle tray again to close the tray. M3u files loaded as content also populate the index values in disk control options.

New PUAE Options
New PUAE Options

The core automatically switches between Amiga 500 and Amiga 1200 hardware configurations in case the content filename includes (Amiga 500) or (Amiga 1200).

The touch mouse with single-finger tap-to-click and two-finger tap-to-right-click also works on Switch with this core.

Vice C64/C128/C16/Plus4 core improvements

Vice C64 Core on Switch
Vice C64 Core on Switch
  • update to latest Vice version 3.3 (Sonninos)
  • savestates (rsn8887 & sonninnos)
  • fixed Autosave states, it now works as long as some content is loaded (rsn8887)
  • allow holding directions to move more quickly across the virtual keyboard (rsn8887)
  • switched to new core options API, now there are small print descriptions below the core options (rsn8887)
  • more virtual keyboard themes, including some with more transparency (sonninnos)
  • reSID resampling setting, can be set to fast for extra performance, useful on Vita (sonninnos)
  • turbo fire with adjustable speed (sonninnos)
  • datasette control hotkeys (sonninnos)
  • allow using physical cursor keys even when cursor keys act as joy input (sonninnos)
  • allow physical return key to push a button on virtual keyboard (sonninnos)
  • virtual keyboard is much more responsive now, keys can be held down (rsn8887)
  • x64sc core (more accurate) on all platforms (sonninnos and rsn8887)
  • xpet core on all platforms (sonninnos and rsn8887)
  • xplus4 core on all platforms (sonninnos and rsn8887)
  • xvic core on all platforms (sonninnos and rsn8887)
  • x128 core on all platforms (sonninnos and rsn8887)
  • Automatic joyport switching when rom filename ends in _j1 or _j2 like on C64 mini. Only works with extracted roms (sonninnos)
  • Virtual keyboard themes (in tomorrow’s nightly)(sonninnos)
  • Add Display Borders option for larger game screens (rsn8887)
  • Add Autostart Warp option for warping between load command and run command (rsn8887)
  • Fix colodore palette, it didn’t work at all before (rsn8887)
  • Fix issues with on-screen keyboard keys sometimes not working or producing wrong input (sonninnos)
  • Properly implement Quick Menu-> Controls, now users can enable/disable joysticks there (rsn8887)
  • Remove confusing Retrojoy option, use quickmenu->controls to set input to joystick/keyboard/disabled now (sonninnos and rsn8887)
  • Properly use RetroArch system directory, instead of home dir or root folder (rsn8887)
  • Display four joystick inputs instead of two in statusbar (sonninnos)
  • Implement holding down Warp Mode hotkey, however it maxes out at screen refresh rate unless Vsync is turned off in Retroarch->Settings->Video (sonninnos & rsn8887)
  • Allow mapping buttons to blank (unmapped) in quickmenu->options (rsn8887)
  • Implement more logical hotkey mapping in quickmenu->options (sonninnos)
  • Fix problem with up arrow key producing Run/Stop input (sonninnos)
  • Revamp on-screen keyboard layout to fit on one page (sonninnos)
  • Make on-screen keyboard much easier to use: no need to press select anymore to enable dpad control, no need to move a mouse pointer (sonninnos)
  • Add Drive Sound Emulation and Drive Sound Volume options (sonninnos)
  • Aadd Reset option (sonninnos)
  • Remove obsolete Vice Menu GUI, because that can all be configured using core options now (sonninnos)
  • Automatically force drivetype on loading d71 or d81 content (sonninnos)
Vice Core Switch, Bruce Lee
Vice Core Switch, Bruce Lee
Vice C64 Save New York on Switch
Vice C64 Save New York on Switch

PSA: RetroArch 1.7.8 – Important changes for people using the Google Play build

Starting as of September, Google has started requiring app developers to update their apps with 64bit AArch64 support. Any app that fails to comply with this will no longer be able to upload any new APK to the Google Play Store.

Until now, the main RetroArch build has been built for 32bit ARM processors. This means that even on a 64bit device, if you were using this 32bit build, you would still have access to all the 32bit compiled cores.

This all changes now as a result. Under the new model, we are forced to build in both 32bit and 64bit support for the main RetroArch app. What this means is that 64bit devices will default now to the 64bit version, whereas 32bit devices will default to the 32bit version. It’s not possible to boot into 32bit mode for the Google Play Store version.

We unfortunately cannot do anything about this. What this means is the following:

  • Some of the cores available for 64bit ARM might lack a dynamic recompiler. As a result, cores like PCSX ReARMed and Picodrive might be significantly slower now as a result on a 64bit device. Fortunately, work is underway to backport a 64bit dynarec to PCSX ReARMed, and similar for Picodrive.

On the plus side, Aarch64 tends to have about a 10% performance boost in general for RetroArch vs. regular 32bit builds. So it’s not all bad news.

If you’d still like to use a 32bit only build, you can go to our buildbot and download the 32bit only version there. We just are not allowed to upload this version to the Play Store, since every app uploaded from now on has to work for 64bit as well.

Important news for people upgrading

If you are upgrading the app from 1.7.7 to 1.7.8, you might find that the core updater URL is still pointing to the 32bit cores, and you might find that a lot of the cores you downloaded will no longer work (because it boots you into 64bit mode now). 32bit cores cannot be ran on 64bit apps and vice versa. So, what you have to do is

  • First, make sure that you reset the Core Updater URL properly. Go to Settings -> Network, and scroll all the way down to ‘Updater’. Go to the entry ‘Buildbot Cores URL’, and long press. If done correctly ,it should reset the URL. Now exit the program and restart again.
  • From there, you will have to redownload the cores from the Online Updater.

Alternatively, if you don’t want to bother with all this, just reinstall the entire program from scratch, that way it will start out with sane defaults.

Other considerations

What this also means is:

  • The 64bit specific version on the Play Store is pretty much redundant now, and you might as well use the main Play Store version. We are unsure yet if we are going to delist the 64bit only version or have it remain up. Just know that it no longer serves a purpose.
  • RetroArch can now be built using Gradle/Android Studio. This should significantly reduce the barrier to entry for developers wanting to get to grips with RetroArch, but were unable to do so in the past as it required an old Android toolchain as well as tools like ant.
  • It might appear on Android TV soon for 64bit apps.

Hopefully this upgrade process will have as little bumps in the road as possible. We’re sorry for this inconvenience but this is really not our fault, and our hands are tied. As ever, if you want a 32bit version on your 64bit device, go to our buildbot, and download the latest dated version ending with ‘RetroArch_ra32.apk’.