Steam Launch lineup revealed

So, it’s been a long time since we (prematurely) announced our intent to launch RetroArch on Steam. We’re nearing the finish line now however, so now is as good as any a time to start discussing how things are going to roll out.

Will launch on Windows first (Linux later)

We will be releasing on Windows first, with a release on Linux scheduled later (no ETA).

We are trying to limit our support burden at launch here since we are (understandably) concerned about the large amount of support requests and feedback we are bound to be receiving. Adding Linux right from the bat would further exacerbate that.

10 Cores Available On Launch Day

We are deciding to launch with 10 cores at launch. These cores have already been approved and uploaded on Steam. They are as follows:

There will be no ‘Core Downloader’ in RetroArch, or anything that is not hosted on Steam in fact. To obtain cores, you need to install cores separately that we provide as ‘DLC’. These are all free just like RetroArch itself.

NOTE: We need to stress – on its own, without installing any of the cores, the most you will be able to do with RetroArch is watch some movie files and playback music files through its builtin ffmpeg core. To make it do anything else, you will have to install cores.

Differences between regular RetroArch and Steam version

Apart from these aforementioned changes, there will be no substantial differences for now in the Steam version. We understand that even though we have consistently improved the User Experience and tried to make things more easily accessible that we will still be in for a lot of criticisms over the initial learning curve, so we’ve pretty much resigned to the fact that this will happen and will just brace for impact and try to do as much as what we can with the criticism that will inevitably be piling on. We will try to do our best to be as receptive to the feedback as possible with the thickest amount of skin possible, and try to suitably make some much needed UI changes.

This is also what helped inform our decision to go with 10 cores. We could have launched with over 60 cores, sure, but the ensuing fallout would have been a mess and it would have been near impossible to focus on bug reports and issues piling in. By focusing on 10 cores, we can do some much-needed Quality Control where issues inevitably get picked up, we can respond to it and in the process improve the quality of the core. This kind of isolated feedback time with a specific batch of cores is something we have found ourselves in the past always lacking, since it was always off to do the Next Big Thing as new features, cores, and other developments are made on an almost weekly basis. This gives us the much-needed time to focus on a specific batch of cores and polish them before we move on to the next batch of cores.

PCSX ReARMed now has dynarec support across multiple platforms!

If you can recall, a few days ago, Beetle PSX gained a dynamic recompiler based on Lightrec/GNU Lightning. We are happy to inform you that the latest version of PCSX ReARMed now available on the buildbot also has Lightrec support enabled for x86 (32bit and 64bit) and Aarch64 (64bit ARM).

How to get it

There are two ways to update your PCSX ReARMed core:

a – If you have already installed the core before, you can go to Online Updater and select ‘Update Installed Cores’.

b – If you haven’t installed the core yet, go to Online Updater, ‘Core Updater’, and select ‘PCSX ReARMed’ from the list. It will then download and install this core.

So what has changed?

Before, PCSX ReARMed only had a dynamic recompiler for 32bit ARM-based systems. Every other CPU architecture would instead have to revert to a CPU interpreter core. This mean that for every other achitecture, it would be far slower than the optimized 32bit ARM versions.

What has changed now is that x86 (32bit and 64bit) and Aarch64 (64bit ARM) now use the Lightrec dynamic recompiler. ARM 32bit will still use the Ari64 dynamic recompiler because it just happens to be much faster than Lightrec.

Other things important of note – the 32bit ARM version uses a different renderer, NEON GPU renderer. All the other versions use P.E.Op.S. Soft GPU. NEON GPU Plugin has an enhanced resolution which gives you a 4x upscaling, while P.E.Op.S. Soft GPU doesn’t have any such feature. We’d like to bring the NEON GPU Renderer over to the other platforms but right now, the C codepaths are pretty bad compared to the optimized 32bit ARM NEON codepaths. It would require a lot of work to bring it up to par and get rid of the graphics glitches, so Pete’s Soft it is for now.

Current limitations

  • Right now it won’t work with the HLE BIOS feature. The dynamic recompiler only works right now with a real BIOS.
  • Runahead won’t work reliably right now.
  • Right now, Lightrec in PCSX ReARMed uses the Cycle Timing Check mode. If you can recall from our earlier article on Beetle PSX, this is a dynarec mode with additional cycle timing checks, which makes it significantly slower than the ‘Max performance’ mode. Hopefully PCSX ReARMed can eventually use the ‘Max Performance’ mode soon, giving us an additional speed boost.

We hope these issues can be resolved soon.

Performance tests

Test hardware: Desktop PC – Core i7 7700k, Windows 10

Game Interpreter (No Dithering) Interpreter (With Dithering) Dynarec (No Dithering) Dynarec (With Dithering)
Final Doom 246fps 245fps 621fps 616fps
Resident Evil 250fps 248fps 642fps 639fps
Tekken 3 190fps 175fps 279fps 250fps