Introducing Reicast OIT libretro core + updated Reicast regular core

The Reicast libretro core has seen several big improvements as of late, and we thought it would be remiss of us if we did not take this opportunity to talk about it.

There are two cores now

There are now two Reicast cores:

  • Reicast regular
  • Reicast OIT

Reicast regular: Contains an OpenGL renderer that requires OpenGL 2.x on the desktop and GLES 2.x on mobile.

Reicast OIT: Contains an OpenGL renderer that requires OpenGL 4.3, and as a result is only available for Windows and Linux. Reicast OIT might have significantly increased system requirements, but in return you get much more accurate graphics which tend to fix nearly all the issues that plague Dreamcast graphics with the regular version.

How to get it

In RetroArch, go to Online Updater -> Update Cores. From there, Reicast and Reicast OIT should be available for the following platforms:

  • Linux
  • Windows
  • Mac (Reicast OIT is not available for Mac due to no GL 4.3 support)

What is new/improved in both Reicast versions?

Reicast regular

Reicast regular’s OpenGL renderer has received many improvements that greatly increases the graphics accuracy and squashes many graphics bugs that plagued games in the past.

Here are some of the Dreamcast’s GPU features that are now implemented:

  • Tile clipping support.
  • Fogging support.
  • Volume modifier shadow support.
  • Multipass rendering.
  • Render to texture buffer.
  • Log 2 depth buffer.

Some additional enhancements include a log 2 depth buffer, fixing much of the polygon glitching that could happen in the distant background in many games.

All of these additions to the existing GL2 renderer in Reicast regular come courtesy of flyinghead.

Reicast OIT

Reicast OIT uses an entirely new graphics renderer written by flyinghead targeting OpenGL 4.3. In addition to boasting all the features that Reicast regular also enjoys as of this date, it also has the additional advantage of incorporating Order Independent Transparency, so that we don’t have to do hacky and error prone alpha sorting hacks, which is our main resort in Reicast regular.

  • Tile clipping support.
  • Fogging support.
  • Volume modifier shadow support.
  • Multipass rendering.
  • Render to texture buffer.
  • Log 2 depth buffer.
  • Order independent transparency.
  • Two-volume mode support.

NOTE: This requires a compatibility context for OpenGL 4.3. You might encounter issues with Intel/AMD GPUs right now on Linux using Mesa drivers since they require core context. Core context cannot currently be used becasue there are still graphic bugs to be solved when using this.

Showcase of new emulated features

Flyinghead has a terrific fork of Reicast that dramatically increased the rendering accuracy of Reicast’s OpenGL renderer. We backported these features with the gracious help of flyinghead. All kudos goes to him.

Tile clipping support


The Dreamcast’s PVR2 had a tile clipping GPU feature that was used to obscure portions of the screen. It was cheaper to keep rendering portions of the screen that were not meant to be seen by the user and just clip them away instead of deciding not to render them at all. This was previously unimplemented, which led to all sorts of graphics glitches. This has now been finally implemented in both cores.

Fogging support


The Dreamcast had a 128-bit fogging table that games could take advantage of. Plenty did, such as Cannon Spike, Blue Stinger, Resident Evil: Code Veronica, Virtua Fighter 3tb, and more games. This is now finally implemented for both cores.

Volume modifier shadow support


The Dreamcast made use of volume modifiers in order to simulate shadows in many games. This was previously either completely unimplemented or very buggily rendered. Volume modifiers are now correctly implemented in both cores (Reicast and Reicast OIT). Performance costs should be minimal and you definitely notice the shadows being cast now by characters and other objects.

Multipass rendering


The game V-Rally 2 relies on multipass rendering for rendering the UI elements on top of the game screen. This has finally been emulated on both cores (Reicast and Reicast OIT).

Render to texture buffer


Not only has render to texture being reimplemented (leading to much faster performance), but certain games such as Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 1/2 would render to VRAM for rendering shadows. The upshot of this is that the shadow looks much more convincing vs. merely using volume modifiers in order to simulate shadows. This feature has been finally implemented in both cores.

Log 2 depth buffer


Thanks to the logarithmic depth buffer, many rendering bugs have been fixed. Some games have been completely fixed as a result, such as Cannon Spike, while others such as Soul Calibur no longer have the scenery in the background glitch out.

Note that this relies on gl_FragDepth being available. This might become an issue when we bring the Reicast libretro core to mobile, since it’s not a part of the GLES2 spec and might require either extensions or GLES3 support.

Order Independent Transparency

NOTE: This feature is exclusive to Reicast OIT, and is not available in the regular Reicast core.


Other improvements

Date/time saving is finally fixed


Finally you don’t have to keep inputting date/time again whenever starting a game with the Reicast cores.

Be sure to set a correct date/time, as entering a wrong date might lead to it not being able to save.

Analog triggers

The core finally supports analog triggers. The Dreamcast had analog L/R triggers, previously we only had digital trigger simulation, where the L1/R1 would simulate 50% press of the trigger and L2/R2 would be a 100% press of the trigger. While this mode is still available if you enable the option ‘Digital Triggers’, you can also now just take advantage of the new digital trigger capabilities.

In addition to this ,deadzone issues should be fixed now, so there should hopefully be no more analog input disparities between Xbox pads and PS4 pads.

Videos

RetroArch 1.6.7 -Released!

NOTE: This is a bugfixed and spit-and-polish update. The initial release notes below are still from the 1.6.6 release.

RetroArch 1.6.7 has just been released! Grab it here.

This latest version has also been uploaded to the Google Play Store.

General changelog

– SCANNER: Fix directory scanning.
– SCANNER: Fix file scanning.
– COMMON: Fix ‘Disk Image Append’ option.
– FREEBSD: Compatibility fixes for Video4Linux2 camera driver.
– GUI: (MaterialUI) Add disk image append icons.
– GUI: (MaterialUI) Improve word wrapping when menu icons are enabled.
– GUI: (MaterialUI) Add User Interface -> Appearance -> Menu Icons Enable. You can turn on/off the icons on the lefthand side of the menu entries.
– GUI: Performance optimizations for XMB menu driver – only calculates visible items.
– LOCALIZATION: Update Italian translation.

Core updates since previous version (1.6.6)

  1. Picodrive should hopefully work now again on Android after notaz‘ updates.
  2. Beetle PSX’s OpenGL renderer should now work on various AMD GPUs thanks to rz5‘s efforts. There were previously some black screen issues on certain non-Polaris AMD GPUs.
  3. Beetle PSX – Fixed bugs (geometry updates had max width and height unset, other ones) (by albertofustinoni).
  4. Beetle Saturn – Unloading game leaves core unusable fix (by albertofustinoni).
  5. Beetle Supergrafx – add turbo on/off for 2-button controller mode (by retrowertz).
  6. Prosystem – NTSC Color Palette updates and DB updates (by underball).

RetroArch 1.6.6 has just been released! Grab it here.

This latest version has also been uploaded to the Google Play Store.

General changelog

– 3DS: Fixes serious performance regression that affected every core; rewind was always implicitly enabled.
– AUDIO: MOD/S3M/XM sound should now be properly mixed in with the core’s sound.
– GUI: Visual makeover of MaterialUI.
– GUI: Added ‘Music’, ‘Images’ and ‘Video’ collection options to RGUI/MaterialUI.
– GUI: Allow the user to add ‘Favorites’.
– GUI: Allow the user to rename entries.
– GUI: Performance optimizations for XMB menu driver.
– LOCALIZATION: Update Italian translation
– INPUT: Overlay controller response – when we press buttons on the gamepad or keyboard, the corresponding buttons on the overlay will be highlighted as well.
– NETBSD: Silence some compilation warnings.
– COMMON: Fixed bug ‘Deleting an entry from a playlist would not update the list view inside XMB’.
– COMMON: Fix inet_ntop_compat on *nix

If you want to read about the latest bounty and core updates, read this post instead here.

Complete overhaul of the mobile User Interface! (MaterialUI)

On mobile devices, RetroArch uses the mobile UI, MaterialUI, by default. This interface is designed around touchscreen and pointer devices like a mouse/trackball.

We have given this menu interface a significant overhaul now for version 1.6.6! We are aware that there is a significant percentage of people that to date have been completely unsatisfied with the current state of the menu system on mobile devices like Android and iOS. Our menu UI improvements in version 1.6.6 is our first step to try to remedy this. In later releases, we might follow it up with more elaborate animations, more advanced widgets, etc.

The menu should look less monotonous now due to the usage of context-specific icons. We have also made some other UX improvements:

– The opacity of the game’s image clashed quite badly with the ingame menu before. This has been rectified.
– We have added ‘Music’, ‘Image’ and ‘Video’ playlists to the ‘Favorites’ tab.

Music, Video and Images which have previously been loaded in RetroArch can be easily accessed from the Playlists tab now.
Music, Video and Images which have previously been loaded in RetroArch can be easily accessed from the Playlists tab now.

– The file browser is easier to read now because files show up with specific icons to indicate what they are. For instance, music files have a music icon, a directory has a folder icon, selectable content files show up as a plain file, etc.

The file browser is easier to read now because files show up with specific icons to indicate what they are. For instance, music files have a music icon, a directory has a folder icon, selectable content files show up as a plain file, etc.
The file browser is easier to read now because files show up with specific icons to indicate what they are. For instance, music files have a music icon, a directory has a folder icon, selectable content files show up as a plain file, etc.

Usability tips

You can customize the color theme of the menu in MaterialUI at any time.

1 – Go to User Interface.
2 – Go to Views.
3 – Go to ‘Menu Color Theme’ and set it to the color theme you want.

General menu improvements

Favorites

You can now add a game to a ‘Favorites’ list for easy access! This has been an often-requested feature for years, and in the past we always felt that ‘Load Recent’ was good enough. However, if you load a lot of content, that can easily get cluttered over time.

To add a game to the Favorites list, do the following:
1 – Once a game is running, go to ‘Quick Menu’.
2 – Select ‘Add To Favorites’.
3 – Once added, you can now start the game at any time from the Favorites list.

On RGUI – go to Load Content -> Favorites.
On MaterialUI – go to the Playlists tab -> Favorites.
On XMB – go to the Favorites tab.

To add a game to the 'favorites' list, inside Quick Menu, select 'Add To Favorites'. It should now be added to the Favorites list. You can access the 'Favorites' list inside MaterialUI by going to the Playlists tab. On RGUI, you go to Load Content -> Favorites. On XMB, you go to the Favorites tab instead.
To add a game to the ‘favorites’ list, inside Quick Menu, select ‘Add To Favorites’. It should now be added to the Favorites list. You can access the ‘Favorites’ list inside MaterialUI by going to the Playlists tab. On RGUI, you go to Load Content -> Favorites. On XMB, you go to the Favorites tab instead.

Renaming entries inside playlists

You can now rename an entry from any playlist!

To do this, do the following:

1 – Go to a playlist of any type (it can be the history list, a system playlist, favorites, music/video/images playlists, etc).
2 – There should be an option called “Rename”. Select it. If you are using MaterialUI and/or XMB, an onscreen keyboard will now pop up. Input the new title for the entry and then hit either the Enter key on your keyboard ,the Start button on your gamepad or press the ‘Enter’ key on the onscreen overlay in order to confirm the changes.

You can now rename any entry! Say for instance you loaded a Quake data file. Instead of the playlist showing 'PAK0.PAK', you can rename it to Quake 1 instead.
You can now rename any entry! Say for instance you loaded a Quake data file. Instead of the playlist showing ‘PAK0.PAK’, you can rename it to Quake 1 instead.

Overlays show button presses

Previously, overlays would only show button presses if they were actually being clicked on by either the touchscreen or the mouse.

A user submitted a bounty to make onscreen reactions possible through the gamepad and/or keyboard. A bounty hunter has now successfully completed this bounty and has been paid out. We have enabled this feature by default. If you want to turn it off, you can do so by doing the following:

1 – Go to Onscreen Display -> Onscreen Overlay.
2 – Go to ‘Show Inputs on Overlay’. Set this to off if you don’t want the overlay to react to keyboard/gamepad input, turn it on if you want this to happen (turned on by default).

Nintendo 3DS regression fix – all cores were running slower

A serious issue has been fixed in the Nintendo 3DS RetroArch port which compelled us to push this release sooner rather than later.

It appears that by mistake, rewind was always forcibly enabled in the 3DS port, which led to a halving of performance. This should now be fixed.

What’s next?

The new cores

We are still determined to get the promised cores like PPSSPP into your hands before the end of the month. We just felt it very important to get this release out of the door so that people can see that we are determined to improve the menu on mobile, and also so that the 3DS RetroArch port is repaired again.

Wii input fix

Finally, after years of struggling with this very pesky issue, it seems we are on the verge of a breaktrhough here that could lead to this random input issue finally being fixed –

https://github.com/SuperrSonic/RA-SS/commit/29d6467d28a835136b8ab87e209feb34421983ff

it seems there was a regression in libogc at some point which lead to this input regression. Superssonic reports that going back to an older version of Wiiuse fixes the issue. What we are probably going to do is make a custom baked-in libogc version for the Wii port for the next release.

New core: Redream (Windows/Linux)

Redream is now available as a libretro core! This is a new Sega Dreamcast emulator by developer inolen and is already progressing rapidly.

If you’d like to know more about the project, please visit its site here. Please try to support inolen’s efforts! Open-source Dreamcast emulation still leaves much to be desired, and this project is one of the most promising ones to date that is actively worked on.

Available for

The Redream core is currently available for:

  • Windows (64bit)
  • Linux (64bit)

Further requirements: This core requires OpenGL 3.3 or higher in order to work. If your GPU driver doesn’t support that, you’re out of luck unfortunately.

Note for macOS users: There is currently no ‘working’ macOS version available. This is because this core requires OpenGL core 3.3 context, and RetroArch on macOS currently does not support this. We will have to add support for this to a future version of RetroArch on macOS before this core will start to work on it. Please be patient and keep the faith, we have not forgotten about macOS users and we have not relegated them to second-class citizen either. Just going to take a little bit of time before we sort this out.

How to get it

  1. Start RetroArch.
  2. Go to Online Updater -> Update Cores.
  3. Download ‘Sega Dreamcast (Redream)’ from the list.

BIOS instructions, etc. (highly recommended)

Redream can use either a real BIOS boot ROM, or a high-level emulated version that has been baked-in to the emulator. We highly recommend you use a real BIOS for the best overall compatibility. These need to be placed inside your System directory. If you don’t know where your System directory is, inside RetroArch, go to Settings -> Directories and read where your System Directory is located.

Create a directory called ‘dc’ inside your system directory. Inside it, you should put the following files:

  • boot.bin / dc_boot.bin
  • flash.bin / dc_flash.bin

You can tell that Redream has used the real BIOS if you see the Dreamcast logo swirl at the beginning. If you don’t see this, it means that it’s using the HLE BIOS. Compatibility will be far lower then.

Important!

  • This core requires that you use OpenGL as the video driver. Go to Settings -> Driver. If ‘video driver’ is set to ‘vulkan’, switch it back to ‘gl’, and then restart.

 

Tempering expectations

Please note that Redream, like its subtitle itself states, is a ‘work-in-progress Dreamcast emulator’. Don’t expect it to be better right now than Reicast. There will be sound issues, general compatibility issues, and a general rougher experience right now than say Reicast.

However, what is important is that inolen is rapidly making progress on this emulator, whereas Reicast’s development has stood still for years. For that reason alone, it should be heavily supported.

Other notes:

  • Redream right now has experimental CDI image support. However, many CDI images that run on Reicast might not run yet on Redream. GDI images should work fine however though.

Unimplemented

There are still some things which are not fully implemented in this version.  Some examples include:

  • Save states are not implemented. And savestates don’t seem to be implemented in upstream either, so not much that can be done about it at this stage.

Still coming up!

Still yet to be released shortly (in the next few days) are:

  • OpenLara (open-source Tomb Raider game engine clone, work-in-progress)
  • Dolphin (Gamecube/Wii emulator, with Gamecube-only controls at first)

Stay tuned!