Half a year after RetroArch 1.3.6 was released, now comes the next big stable! Version 1.4.1 is by any yardstick a big massive advance on the previous version. There are about 5000 commits or more to sift through, so let’s focus on a few big main standout features that we want to emphasize for this release.
We are calling this release an ‘Open Beta’ because we want people to put the massively improved Netplay features through its paces! All of your feedback and issues will be taken onboard so that 1.5.0 (which we intend to ship somewhere beginning of March) will deliver on all the promises we have made for netplay.
Netplay has seen a big massive improvement since version 1.3.6.
To set up a netplay game, you have two options: Manual or automatic connection.
Naturally, the automatic way is easier:
To host, just load a core and launch some content as usual and, once the game is running, go back into the ‘quick menu’ (the default keyboard shortcut is F1) and scroll down to the ‘netplay’ submenu. From there, choose ‘Start netplay host’ and it will announce your game to the lobby server for other users to join. You can go ahead and start playing and new players can jump in at any time. That is, RetroArch no longer stalls out until clients join.
Joining an existing session is just as easy. From the main menu, navigate over to the netplay tab (the icon looks like a wifi symbol), scroll down to ‘Refresh Room List’ and hit the ‘accept’ key/button (the default keyboard shortcut is the ‘X’ key). RetroArch will fetch the current list of available hosts and display them right there in the netplay tab. From there, just pick the host you wish to join and RetroArch will cycle through your playlists searching for a content match. If it finds a match, you’ll jump right into the host’s game already in progress.
To use manual connection, the host does the exact same steps. The client must load the same core and game first, then choose the “connect to netplay host” option from the netplay menu. You will be prompted for the IP address of the host. Enter it to connect.
To keep your games private, the host may set a password, required to connect, in the network settings menu.
We want your feedback and input on netplay, and the aim is that we take your feedback into consideration for 1.5.0 (which we will launch early March) to put the final finishing touches on netplay in general. Things like chat, friend lists and so on will all need to be implemented still.
Multi-language support/Japanese language support
We have added UTF-8 support and we have added translations for several languages now. Of these, Japanese is probably second to English in terms of being the most complete translation.
In addition to this, the new onscreen keyboard also has multilingual support, and supports Japanese fully (Hiragana, Katakana).
Free homebrew Bomberman clone game – Mr.Boom
Mr.Boom is a Bomberman clone. It supports up to 8 players and features like pushing bombs, remote controls and kangaroo riding.
Right now, this core works for Mac/Windows/Linux/ We are still working on Android support!
Mr. Boom currently requires at least a minimum of 2 players. There is no singleplayer mode (yet). It can not yet be used with netplay but that is our ultimate aim! Free 8-player easy Bomberman-like gameplay for everybody! We will make an announcement later when netplay support is fully working for this core!
New menu graphical effects
In addition to the ribbon effects, we have added some new menu effects : Bokeh, and Snow.
Check the accompanying video to see them in action. You can access these menu effects by going to
Settings -> User Interface -> Menu and setting “Menu Shader Pipeline” to any effect of your choosing.
NOTE: These two new menu effects are not yet available for Vulkan and Cg. Ports would have to be made first of these menu effects, since they are completely shader-based.
Quality-of-Life improvements to the menu
We have taken all the criticisms of the menu UI to heart and we really pushed ourselves to make the menu much more pleasant to deal with.
We have gone to the painstaking effort of making sure that nearly every menu entry now has a small description below it.
Loading content has been massively streamlined. There is no longer a separate ‘Load Content’ and ‘Load Content (Detect Core)’ option. You simply select a starting point directory, you then select your game and you decide which core to use.
There is a new onscreen keyboard made for the menu which is compatible with touch and the mouse. It not only supports traditional western characters but thanks to improved multilingual support it will also support Japanese (Kanji, Hiragana, Katakana and Romaji).
In fullscreen mode, the mouse cursor inside the menu will only show for about 5 seconds. If there is no mouse activity it will disappear from the screen until you move the mouse again.
Improved error handling
Cores should now report an error message back to RetroArch in most instances where a ROM/content fails to load. We went over most cores and we are reasonably comfortable in that we took care of most of the trouble spots.
Vulkan N64 and PSX now works on Android!
To read more about these projects, read our past articles here –
ParaLLel (Nintendo 64 core with Vulkan renderer) and Mednafen PSX HW should now work on Android devices that support Vulkan!
Unfortunately, GPU is currently not the bottleneck here. In the case of both of these emulators, more work is required before they will start to run at fullspeed on Android devices. We need to get the LLVM dynarec working on ARM devices.
In the case of Mednafen PSX HW, the interpreter CPU core is the main bottleneck which prevents the emulator from reaching playable speeds right now. An experimental dynarec was written a year ago but it still needs a lot of work before it could be considered ‘usable’.
Lots of other miscellaneous stuff
(Linux) DRM/KMS context driver should be more compatible now
(Linux) The GLX context driver now uses GLX_OML_sync_control when available, leading to much improved swap control. Potential video tearing and frame time deviation will be way lower in general.
(Linux) Attaching a PS4 gamepad will allow you to use the audio headphone jack to route sound to your headphones if you use the ALSA audio driver. It will now query the available audio output sampling rates that an audio device supports, and if the recommended output sampling rate that we use in RetroArch doesn’t match, we will use a sampling rate that the audio device DOES support instead. The PS4 pad only works with 32Khz audio, hence why we need to switch to it on the fly in order to get sound working with it.
(Android) Should fix a longstanding touch input bug that might have prevented touch from working altogether on certain devices.
(Android) GLES3/3.1 support, the fancy ribbon effect and Snow/Bokeh should also be available on Android now.
(Linux/Wayland) Full input support, keyboard and mouse.
Too much stuff to mention
Also read our companion article for more information here –
RetroArch has now been ported to Windows 98SE/2000 as well as DOS. These are very early work-in-progress ports but in their current state do allow you to start up RetroArch and load a core/game.
For Windows, the current releases and nightly builds do not support XP or below due to changes in the msys2/mingw toolchain. While older Windows versions are indeed supported by the RetroArch codebase, they need to be manually compiled with Visual Studio (Express or Pro) to run properly. For XP and above, Visual Studio 2010 is supported. The solution/project file is located in the pkg/msvc folder of the source along with older msvc solutions. For Windows 98/2000, we support Visual Studio 2005. A DirectX 9.0c SDK is also required, and in order to target 98, a version no newer than December 2006 must be used.
The Windows 98/2000 port may work with our existing OpenGL driver if your graphics card supports a high enough version of OpenGL, but this has not yet been tested. So far 98/2000 has only been tested against a new experimental GDI video driver which does not require hardware acceleration like OpenGL or DirectX (the GDI driver works on newer Windows versions as well). With the GDI driver, the RGUI menu is fully supported and there is also preliminary support for XMB with minimal (text-only) rendering.
For input/joypad and audio support on 98/2000, the DirectX 9.0c runtime should continue to work as it does with newer Windows versions. Windows 98SE requires a DirectX runtime no newer than December 2006, and Windows 2000 can go up to February 2010.
Cores for 98/2000 will also currently need to be compiled manually due to the mingw toolchain used by the buildbot. It’s possible that we may setup a new buildbot target for the older Windows ports at a later date.
The DOS port requires DJGPP to compile (we cross-compile from Linux), and also requires the CWSDPMI server included with that toolchain to access 32-bit protected mode. An experimental “Mode 13h” VGA driver is implemented to provide 320×200 video with 256 colors. Keyboard input support is currently very minimal, only the A/B/X/Y, Start/Select and arrow keys work. There is also no audio support yet.
Cores for DOS will need to be compiled manually, as well as statically linked with RetroArch itself, similar to how our console ports work. This means that a compiled RetroArch EXE file will correspond to just one specific built-in core. FCEUmm and Snes9x2010 are known to work, but due to the default timer tick in DOS being 18hz, gameplay is currently very slow. Work is ongoing to reprogram the interrupt timer which should allow full speed gameplay.
No release yet! You have to compile from source, and things are still very much a Work-In-Progress!
Compilation instructions will be added at a certain point on our Documentation site.
The Libretro Project (comprised of Libretro, Lakka, and RetroArch) is now on Patreon! We hope this Patreon will enable us to accelerate development and be able to serve users in lots of benevolent ways!
This Patreon covers the Libretro, Lakka, RetroArch projects. And another, soon to be disclosed project as well.
Right now we are at $230 as of this minute. We thank every Patron so far that has helped us get to this stage in such short time, suffice to say you won’t be let down! Let’s go over some of the goals as they stand!
$150 – Bounty for core work every month! Reached!
Already the $150 goal has been reached which will allow us to place bounties for core work to be done! We allocate a total of $50 / month that will go towards bounties.
$200 – ProjectFuture Greenlight! Reached!
I will be revealing soon what this project is about. Let’s just state it’s going to be an even bigger and more expansive project than RetroArch has been so far, and it’s one of the main reasons why we finally went ‘why not?’ with regards to the Patreon. Stay tuned!
This is going to take months and months of work, and will take other considerable resources in order for us to be able to see it to completion, and it’s definitely one of those ‘flying very close to the sun’-type endeavors, but as with everything with this project, ‘dreaming big’ and ‘foolhardy’ are comfortable bedfellows.
$400 – Netplay/matchmaking server!
We want RetroArch users to be able to play online multiplayer games with each other through the RetroArch interface. We are going to allow for PSN/XBLA-like features, except free of charge! The prospect of true crossplatform free netplay from an easy and console UI-style interface is soon to be within reach once we hit this target!
The aim is that every user will be able to quickly and easily setup a netplay game from within RetroArch without the need of a keyboard/mouse! We want console-style netplay ease of use !
$500 – Stability checks, Quality Assurance, etc!.
It’s no secret that for years we have relied on volunteer work in order to get where we are. This entire project entails a maddening amount of work that we have to put in on a daily basis to keep the entire show up and running, and the amount of work keeps growing every time we add another platform port or add a new core.
Once we hit our $500 target, we are going to be paying a couple of developers whom have been loyal towards the project to keep tabs and checkups on RetroArch and various libretro-related cores on a bi-monthly basis. This way, bugs and regressions are easily spotted and we can instantly fix them.
$600 – Development bounties!
We are going to be posting bounties for various remaining issues (whether it be RetroArch or cores), and any developer will be able to fix these issues and claim the reward!
Finally we can start claiming bounties for some of the things that RetroArch and Lakka might still be missing! Good developers don’t grow on trees, neither do contributors. We hope that through these bounties we will be able to significantly improve the software and get to our goals much quicker!
NOTE: The amount of money that will be allocated for this is variable and decided at our own discretion.
I have been following the events on a few libretro related threads in reddit and I find it quite disappointing to see the amount of hatred directed to a project that has done nothing but do what end-users wanted for more than three years now. I also find it terrible (but interesting none the less) that the social media post is more active than the actual highlight.
Disclaimer: this represents my own experiences and my points of view with regard of the situations that surround our project.
A bit of my personal history with the project:
Let’s look back all the way to 2013. RetroArch was still called SSNES, a fairly small commandline program with just a few cores, a launcher that could be used to adjust options and that’s it. No bells or whistles, just a few nice cores implemented under one frontend with a common feature set. I hadn’t really been using emulators since the zSnes days other than a few tries with mobile emulators on my WinCE device.
I just had built a game-room / tv-room. So I setup XBMC and loved it. Soon I started looking for emulators that would work nicely with my setup. I installed Nestopia and some XBMC plugin that acted as a launcher with worked mostly fine. I liked the emulation but I also like the fact that I could set hotkeys to save, load, and it presented nice OSD messages on non-game actions and I could drive the whole thing with my gamepad only. I hoped other emulators would have the same features but I was let down almost instantly. Regardless I pursued my objective with a miriad of tools (Pinnacle Game Profiler, Xpadder, Joy2Key, batch files, Daemon Tools to name a few).
An Emscripten port of RetroArch has existed for years, but until recently, we never had a good opportunity to launch it in a state we felt comfortable with. Well, until now that is.
So what is RetroArch Web Player? It’s a port of RetroArch that runs inside your web browser, powered by emscripten and asm.js. Most modern browsers available today should be compatible. That being said, we strongly recommend you use Google Chrome right now for smooth v-synced gameplay with no audio crackling.
Linux: Since RetroArch is included now on most mainline Linux distributions’ package management repository systems, we expect their versions to be updated to 1.3.6 shortly.
I will release versions for MacOSX PowerPC (10.5 Leopard) and 32-bit Intel MacOS X 10.6 (Snow Leopard) later on, maybe today or tomorrow.
Windows Drag and Drop support
Courtesy of mudlord, with the Windows version, you can now drag and drop a ROM (or any other content) onto RetroArch’s window, and it will attempt to load the correct core for it. If there is more than one core available for the type of content you dragged and dropped, it will present you with a slidedown list of cores to select from.
Vastly improved content downloading features
Starting with v1.3.6, RetroArch users can download compatible freeware content, such as the shareware release of Doom, right from the app. This video goes through the steps, which include fetching the core from the online updater, fetching the content from the repository and then launching the core and content we just downloaded.
Menu customization and aesthetics – XMB and MaterialUI
RetroArch v1.3.6 adds support for a number of themes in the default mobile menu, including both bright and dark themes.
There’s also the ability now to set a custom wallpaper in XMB and be able to colorize it with a color gradient. To do this, you go to Settings -> Menu, you set a wallpaper, and from there you have to set ‘Menu Shader Pipeline’ to OFF. You can then choose from one of the color palettes in ‘Color Theme’ in order to shade the background wallpaper, or just select ‘Plain’ in case you don’t want to colorize it.
Undo Load/Save State
Have you ever gotten through a tough part of a game and wanted to make a savestate only to hit the “load state” button instead and have to do it all over again? Or maybe you were practicing a particularly difficult maneuver–for a speedrun, perhaps–and accidentally saved a bad run over your practice point because you hit “save state” instead of “load state”? While savestates are considered one of the great advantages to emulating retro games, they can also lead to these frustrating situations where they wipe out progress instead of saving it, all because of one slip of the finger. RetroArch now has the ability to undo a save- or load-state action through some automatic state-shuffling that happens behind the scenes, so you never have to worry about these situations again.
Undo Load State – Before the ‘current’ state is altered by e.g. a ‘Load Savestate’ operation, ‘current’ is saved in memory and ‘Undo Load State’ restores it; you can also undo this option by using it again, which will make you flip-flop between 2 states.
Undo Save State – If there was a savestate file that was overwritten, this option restores it.
The main event of RetroArch 1.3.6 is obviously the fact that it makes it possible to run the N64 Vulkan core, paraLLEl. Previous versions of RetroArch will not be able to run this because of the new extensions to libretro Vulkan which we had to push to make this renderer possible.
Async compute core support – ready for ParaLLEl
It was already possible to run Vulkan-enabled libretro cores, but with this release, a few crucial features have been added. Support for queue transfers was added and a context negotiation interface was added.
With this we can now use multiple queues to overlap compute and shading in the frontend level, i.e. asynchronous compute. ParaLLEl would certainly not have been as fast or as effective were it not for this.
ParaLLEl now joins triple-A games like Rise of the Tomb Raider and Doom in heavily relying on Vulkan’s async compute capabilities for maximum efficiency. A test core was also written as a proof of concept for this interface.
If you want to read more about ParaLLEl, we have a compendium blog post for you to digest here.
Supports Windows, Linux, Android equally well now
The previous version already had Vulkan support to varying degrees, but now we feel we are finally at the point where Vulkan driver support in RetroArch is very much mature across most of the supported platforms.
Vulkan should work now on Android, on Windows, and on Linux, provided your GPU has a working Vulkan driver.
On Linux we now support even more video driver context features, such as VK_KHR_display support. This is a platform-agnostic KMS-like backend for Vulkan, which should allow you to run RetroArch with Vulkan without the need of an X11 or Wayland server running.
On Windows and Android, we include Vulkan support now. Vulkan has been tested on Android with NVIDIA Shield Tablet/Console, and both work. Be aware that there are some minuscule things which might not work correctly yet with Vulkan on Android. For instance, orientation changing still doesn’t work. This will be investigated.
Max swapchain images – driving latency even lower with Vulkan and friends
RetroArch already has built up quite a reputation for itself for being able to drive latency down to very low levels. But with new technologies, there is always room for improvement.
Max amount of swapchain images has now been implemented for both the DRM/KMS context driver for OpenGL (usable on Linux) and Vulkan now. What this entails, is that you can programmatically tell your video card to provide you with either triple buffering (3), double buffering (2) or single buffering (1). The previous default with DRM/KMS was 3 (triple buffering), so setting it to 2 could potentially shave off latency by at least 1 frame (as was verified by others). Setting to 1 won’t often get you single buffering with most monitors and drivers due to tearing and they will fall-back to (2) double buffering.
With Vulkan, RetroArch can programmatically infer to the video card what kind of buffering method it likes to be able to use, a vast improvement over the nonexistent options that existed before with OpenGL (from a platform-agnostic perspective).
What Vulkan brings to the table on Android
Vulkan has been tested to run on Android devices that support Vulkan, like Shield Tablet/Console. Latency has always been very bad on Android in the past. With Vulkan, frame times are significantly lower than with OpenGL, and we no longer have to leave Threaded Video enabled by default. Instead, we can turn off Threaded Video and letting RetroArch monitor the refresh rate dynamically, which is the more desirable solution since it allows for less jittery screen updates.
Audio latency can also be driven down significantly now with Vulkan. The current default is 128ms, with Vulkan we can drive it down to 64 or even 32ms.
Couple this with the aforementioned swapchain images support and there are multiple ways to drive latency down on Android now.
OpenGL music visualizer (for FFmpeg-enabled builds)
Versions of RetroArch like the Linux and Windows port happen to feature built-in integrated FFmpeg support, which allows you to watch movies and listen to music from within the confines of RetroArch.
We have added a music visualizer now. The scene is drawn as a cylindrical mesh with FFT (Fast Fourier Transform) heightmap lookups. Different colors are shaded using mid/side channels as well as left/right information for height.
Note that this requires at least GLES3 support (which is available as well through an extension which most GPUs should support by now).
Improvements to cores
User leileilol contributed a very cool feature to TyrQuake, Quake 64-style RGB colored lighting, except done in software.
To be able to use this feature, you need to create a subdir in your Quake data directory called ‘maps’, and you need to move ‘.lit’ files to this directory. These are the lighting map files that the Tyrquake core will use in order to determine how light should be positioned.
From there on out, you load up the Tyrquake core, you go to Quick Menu -> Options, you enable Colored Lighting. Restart the core and if your files are placed correctly, you should now see the difference.
Be aware that in order to do this, the game renderer shifts to 24bit color RGB rendering, and this in turn makes things significantly slower, although it should still be fairly playable even at higher resolutions.
To download this, go to ‘Add Content’ -> ‘Download Content’. Go to ‘Tyrquake’, and download ‘quake-colored-lighting-pack.zip’. This should extract this zip to your Downloads dir, and inside the Quake directory. From there, you can just load Quake and the colored lighting maps should be found providing the ‘Colored Lighting’ option has been enabled.
SNES9x emulator input lag reduction
A user on our forum, Brunnis, began some investigations into input latency and found that there were significant gains to be made in Super Nintendo emulators by rescheduling when input polling and video blitting are being performed. Based upon these findings and after some pull requests made to SNES9x, SNES9x Next, and FCEUmm, at least 1 to 2 frames of input lag should be shaved off now.
Do read this highly interesting forum thread that led to these improvements here.
News for iOS 10 beta users
There is now a separate version for iOS 10 users. Apple once again changed a lot of things which makes it even more difficult for us to distribute RetroArch the regular way.
Dynamic libraries cores cannot be opened from the Documents directory of the app anymore in iOS 10. They can be opened from the app bundle, as long as they are code-signed. This reverts back to the previous behavior of RetroArch, where the cores need to be in the modules directory of the app bundle.
2. Move the contents of this directory over to the ‘modules’ directory inside the RetroArch iOS 10 Xcode solution. It should presumably handle signing by itself.
Bugfixes/other miscellanous things
Stability/memory leak fixes – We subjected RetroArch to numerous Valgrind/Coverity/Xcode Memory leak checks in order to fix a plethora of memory leaks that had reared their ugly heads inbetween releases. We pretty much eliminated all of them. Not a sexy feature to brag about, but it involved lots of sweat, tears and effort, and the ramifications it has on the overall stability of the program is considerable.
There were some problems with Cg and GLSL shader selections which should now be taken care of.
ScummVM games can now be scanned in various ways (courtesy of RobLoach)
Downloading multiple updates at once could crash RetroArch – now fixed.
Several cores have gotten Retro Achievements support now. The official list of systems that support achievements now is: Mega Drive, Nintendo 64, Super Nintendo, Game Boy, Game Boy Advance, Game Boy Color, NES, PC Engine, Sega CD, Sega 32X, and Sega Master System.
You can now turn the supported extensions filter on or off from the file browser.
Effort to addressing user experience feedback
I think a couple of things should be addressed first and foremost. First, there is every intent to indeed make things like a WIMP (Windows Icons Mouse Pointers) interface around RetroArch. To this end, we are starting to make crossplatform UI widget toolkit code that will make it easy for us to target Qt/GTK/Win32 UI/Cocoa in one fell swoop.
We have also spent a lot of time plugging some of the rough edges around RetroArch and making the user interface more pleasurable to work with.
Youtube libretro channel
Hunterk/hizzlekizzle is going to be running the libretro Youtube channel from now on, and we’ll start putting up quick and direct Youtube videos there on how to be able to use RetroArch. It is our intent that this will do a couple of things:
1. Show people that RetroArch is easy to use and has numerous great features beneath the surface too.
2. It allows users to give constructive criticism and feedback on the UI operations they see and how they think they should be improved.
3. We hope to engage some seasoned C/C++ coders to help us get some of these UI elements done sooner rather than later. Most of RetroArch development mostly relies on a handful of guys – 5 at the most. It is a LOT of hard work for what amounts to a hobbyist project, and if we had a lot more developers seasoned in C/C++, stuff could be done quicker.
4. There is no intention at all to make RetroArch ‘obtuse’ for the sake of it, there is every intention to make it more accessible for people. Additional help would go a very long way towards that.
Regarding the current UIs and their direction, it is obviously meant to be a console-like UI experience. This might not be what desktop users are used to on their PCs but it is what we designed menu drivers like XMB to be. It is true that keyboard and mouse are mostly seen as afterthoughts in this UI but really, we wrote the UI with game consoles and something where a gamepad is the primary input device at all times, particularly since a keyboard to us is a poor way of playing these console-based games anyway.
Anyway, menu drivers like XMB and MaterialUI will never have any WIMP UI elements. HOWEVER, in upcoming versions, we will be able to flesh out the menubar and to allow for more basic WIMP UI elements.
RetroArch is meant to be a cutting-edge program that is ultra-powerful in terms of features. With that comes a bit of added complexity. However, we have every intent of making things easier, and with every release we put a lot of time and effort into improving things. But again, more developers would help out a substantial lot in speeding up certain parts that we are working on.
Our vision for the project involves an enormous workload and we’re considering differnt ways of generating additional support. If a Patreon might allow us to get more developers and get more stuff done faster, we might consider it. But we want such things to be carefully deliberated by both our internal development staff and the users at large. I hope you’ll be able to appreciate the relative rough edges around the program and appreciate the scope and the craft we have poured into the program. Please appreciate that we are pouring a lot of blood, sweat and tears into the program and that mostly we try to maintain an upper stiff chin when faced with all the criticism, but we do care and we do intend to do better. Volunteer coders are very welcome though, by people who have some time to spare and who want to make a difference. We ask for your understanding here, and we hope that by finally speaking out on this, users can gain a better understanding of our intent and be able to appreciate the program better in light of that.
Go to RetroArch, go to Online Updater, go to ‘Update Cores’, and download ‘PlayStation (Mednafen PSX HW)’. You might need to update your core info files first before this will show up properly. To do this, go to ‘Online Updater’, and select Update Core Info Files’.