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’.

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!