RetroArch for Windows 98 SE/ME/2000 pre-release!

RetroArch for Windows 98 SE / Windows ME / Windows 2000 has just been released! Note that this will require cores specially made for it, and as of now there are none, so just consider this a pre-release for now!

Get it here!

Users should note: this is taking no time or resources away from the other stuff we are doing. Supermodel and PPSSPP cores are still being worked on, all our other work is still ongoing, so to repeat – this is not coming at the cost of other development!

Note that for these old operating systems, you might want to consider using the GDI video driver for optimal performance instead. Menu support is still premature though; XMB renders but with no textures and with dithered graphics, so for all practical purposes, the Direct3D driver is still the way to go here (with RGUI).

RetroArch 1.6.3 – Released!

RetroArch 1.6.3 has just been released! Grab it here.

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

General changelog

IOS: Fix GL regression – 32bit color format cores were no longer rendering
CHEEVOS: Add support for N64 cheevos and other small fixes.
CHEEVOS: Add ‘Achievements -> Achievements Verbose Mode’. Ability to display cheevos related messages in OSD, useful for RetroAchievements users.
AUDIO: Audio mixer’s volume can now be independently increased/decreased, and muted.
AUDIO: Mute now no longer disables/enables audio but instead properly mutes the audio volume. Mute is also independent from the audio mixer volume.
INPUT: Add mouse index selection; ability now to select between different mice
INPUT: Fix ‘All Users Control Menu’ setting
LINUX: Add a tinyalsa audio driver. Doesn’t require asoundlib, should be self-contained and lower-level.
LOBBIES: Announce the RetroArch version too
LOCALIZATION: Add Traditional Chinese translation
LOCALIZATION: Update French translation
LOCALIZATION: Update Italian translation
LOCALIZATION: Update Japanese translation
LOCALIZATION: Update Russian translation
MENU: Add ‘User Interface -> Views’. Ability to display/hide online updater and core updater options.
NETPLAY: Disconnecting one client shouldn’t cause everyone to disconnect anymore
NETWORK: SSL/TLS support, disabled by default
SCANNER: Fix PS1 game scanning
SCANNER: Move content list builder into scanner task with progress, fixes menu freeze with large playlists
SDL2: Fix ‘SDL2 driver does not see the hat on wired Xbox 360 controller”
SETTINGS: Fix regression ‘Custom Viewport is no longer overridable per-core or per-game’
VITA: Add cheevos support
VITA: Add support for external USB if mounted
WAYLAND: Fix menu mouse input
WII: Add support for single-port ‘PS1/PS2 to USB controller adapter’

Platform highlights

Windows

There are now installers available for the Windows version! We offer installers for both the Windows Vista and up version, and the Windows XP version.

RetroArch will be installed by default to your user roaming profile, however, you can change this to any particular directory you’d prefer instead. The reason why we do not try to install to “Program Files” by default is because RetroArch needs read/write permissions in order to write downloaded core files directly to its folders.

Our installer installs RetroArch in ‘portable’ fashion. What this means is that you can take the directory that RetroArch was installed in, deploy it to another drive, and it will still run, and the default paths will automatically change their paths.

Windows XP

So MinGW has broken backwards compatibility with Windows XP sometime ago. This was a problem for us, since Libretro/RetroArch treats backwards compatibility very seriously.

So, what we have done is make a separate version of RetroArch for Windows primarily targeted at people running Windows XP. Instead of MinGW, we are using Microsoft Visual Studio 2010 / MSVC 2010 as the compiler for this. We have also already ported at least 30+ cores over to MSVC 2010 so that they will run on this new Windows XP version.

We will not simply just stop at a Windows XP version – sometime later on next week, a Visual Studio 2005 version of RetroArch will be launched which will run on Windows 98 / ME / 2000! Where other projects are dropping older OSes and even entire architectures in order to cut down on maintenance and development time, we instead are adding even more platforms, and primarily because we both care about this and see the value in a platform/program that truly extends everywhere, and also because our infrastructure is set up in such a way that we can easily deal with any ‘maintenance’ burden this would otherwise entail for other projects.

Linux – Flatpak

RetroArch/Libretro has from Day One always treated Linux not only as a first-class citizen, but also pretty much as a reference platform. Unlike so many other projects that treat Linux simply as a quick and dirty port where they choose the path of least resistance and just use some middleware like SDL/WINE, RetroArch has custom audio, video and input drivers all written from scratch. It was one of the first programs outside of demo programs to support newfangled technologies like DRM/KMS, was very quick in adopting new rendering servers like Wayland, and unlike other software that simply uses middleware like SDL and/or PortAudio to provide sound, we have custom audio drivers written from scratch for ALSA/PulseAudio/JACK/OSS basically since Day One.

The problem with Linux though is that all of these features are highly distro-dependent, and each and every Linux distribution has enough differences that a traditional binary that runs on every Linux distribution is close to impossible. So, for now, we have simply left the responsibility of maintaining and packaging up RetroArch to individual distributions. Distributions like Arch Linux, Debian, and others have RetroArch and the various cores inside their package management repos, and they maintain it separately from us. Similarly, committers like sergio-br2 maintain Ubuntu repositories for RetroArch and its various cores.

But now, there are finally options for those who would like to try out RetroArch on Linux in a distro-agnostic fashion! Read all about it in our Flatpak article that we launched a few days ago. Within a few days, we will also be offering AppImage support.

iOS

A serious regression in the iOS version which made 32bit color format cores no longer render has been fixed. Also, a user has been helping us prepare for iOS 11 support.

If you’d like to learn how to compile RetroArch for yourself on iOS for your non-jailbroken device, read this article here.

macOS / MacOS X

RetroArch has been updated for both macOS/OSX Intel (for 64bit) and for OSX PowerPC (for PowerMacs/Powerbooks that have OSX 10.5 installed). The version for PowerPC comes bundled with the cores since we don’t host these on our buildbot (yet?).

PS Vita

Not only has Cheevos support been added, but it’s also possible now to use external USB devices if they are mounted! In order to use RetroArch on Vita, you need a jailbroken PS Vita and/or PSTV. Instructions on how to do that can be found elsewhere and falls beyond the scope of this article.

Wii/WiiU/3DS/Gamecube/PSP/Android

RetroArch has been updated for all other platforms that we actively support.

PlayStation3

We have posted a DEX version. We hope that separate community members can convert this to CEX and then offer it to us so we can host it.

Updates on cores

A separate article will be posted later that will detail all the work that has gone into the various cores. Stay tuned for this! As always, you can always install the latest version of every core from RetroArch’s builtin ‘Core Updater’ (accessible from the menu by going to ‘Online Updater’ -> ‘Update Cores’.

What’s up next?

* We are working hard right now on getting the PPSSPP / Supermodel cores that we have promised ready.
* An AppImage version of RetroArch for Linux will be available soon.
* A Visual Studio 2005 version of RetroArch for Windows will be available soon, which will run on Windows 98/ME/2K.
* Lots of core work like we always do each week.
* More yet unannounced stuff? Stay tuned!

View this page if you’d like to explore donating to us. By popular demand, there is now the ability to send one-off donations through Bitcoin, and we have put up links so that you can directly send funds to the Bountysource bucket. You can also pledge to our Patreon.

More new cores: MelonDS, SameBoy, ARM Linux cores!

This week will be all about a dripfeed of new cores along with a version bump of RetroArch, which will be needed for some of the new cores that will be arriving this week.

MelonDS

This is an up-and-coming Nintendo DS emulator by StapleButter, and it now has a libretro port. Some of the things that are still not properly implemented is touchscreen/mouse support and multithreading for the software 3D rasterizer, but we will take care of that soon. This emulator might not yet be a replacement for DesMuMe, but it’s quickly progressing so definitely keep your eyes on it, as DesMuMe certainly needs some competition.

You can get this new core on our buildbot. Start up RetroArch, go to ‘Online Updater’, and check for ‘MelonDS’.

For more information on MelonDS, check out its official homepage here.

Available for

The MelonDS core is currently available for:

  • Windows (64bit/32bit)
  • Linux (32bit/64bit)
  • macOS
  • iOS
  • Android

BIOS instructions, etc. (required)

MelonDS requires a real BIOS file in order to work. 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.

The following three files are all required:

  • bios7.bin
  • bios9.bin
  • firmware.bin

 

SameBoy

SameBoy is an accuracy-focused Game Boy/Game Boy Color emulator in the vein of Gambatte. We now have a libretro core of it and its author has also helped us earlier with some implementation details, so that is very much appreciated!

Some features that are still missing is savestate support, but we intend to get that done soon.

For more information on SameBoy, check out its official homepage here.

Available for

The SameBoy core is currently available for:

  • Windows (64bit/32bit)
  • Linux (32bit/64bit)
  • macOS
  • iOS
  • Android

BIOS instructions, etc. (optional)

Here is a tiny convenience feature you added – normally SameBoy relies on reverse engineered Game Boy/Game Boy Color boot ROMs in order to load. You can load these instead of the real BIOS file. For this libretro core, instead of requiring you to put these homebrew boot roms somewhere so that the emulator can read them, we have baked these into the core itself. So you don’t even need to put them somewhere in your system directory.

However, if you’d like to override these, you can do that too. Go to your system directory (if you don’t know what this is, inside RetroArch, go to Settings -> Directories and read where your System Directory is located) and put these files there:

Game Boy boot ROM – ‘dmg_boot.bin’

Game Boy Color boot ROM – ‘cgb_boot.bin’

ARM Linux cores!

Our buildbot is now providing fresh new ARM Linux cores for hardfloat configurations! These cores could be used for instance on Lakka-based devices as well as the NES Mini!

You can grab them here:

https://buildbot.libretro.com/nightly/linux/armhf/latest/

Miscellaneous updates

  • Mednafen/Beetle Saturn has been updated to the latest version.
  • Updates to ParaLLEl N64 core.

What’s still coming up this week?

In no particular order:

  • Redream (new Sega Dreamcast emulator made by inolen)
  • OpenLara (Tomb Raider 1 game engine, in early alpha development stages but already promising)
  • Dolphin (will have Gamecube controls only at first, will work for both GL and Vulkan)
  • Citra

RetroArch 1.3.6 released

RetroArch keeps moving forward, being the reference frontend for libretro and all. Here comes version 1.3.6, and once again we have a lot to talk about.

Where to get it

Windows/Mac/iOS (build only)/Nintendo/PlayStation – Get it here.

Android: You can either get it from F-Droid or from Google Play Store.

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.

Usability improvements

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.

New Features

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.

Vulkan

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

TyrQuake

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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.

View the image gallery here.

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.

Go to this directory:

https://github.com/libretro/RetroArch/tree/master/pkg/apple

and open RetroArch_iOS10.xcodeproj inside Xcode.

Note – you will need to manually compile the cores, sign them, and drag them over to the modules directory inside Xcode.

Example –

1. You’d download a core with libretro-super.

A quick example (type this inside the commandline)

git clone https://github.com/libretro/libretro-super.git

./libretro-fetch.sh 2048

./libretro-build.sh 2048

This will compile the 2048 core inside /dist/ios.

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.