RetroArch |OT| Emulation Heaven

#1
Thread in progress, will be continually updated.

As taken from Wikipedia's article:

RetroArch is the reference implementation of the libretro API.[1] It is free, open source, cross-platform software, licensed under the GNU GPLv3.

It is described as a front-end for emulators, game engines and media players, designed to be fast, lightweight, portable and without dependencies.[2]

It implements the basic necessities needed for running libretro cores, namely a command-line interface, a few graphical user interfaces (GUI) optimized for gamepads (the most famous one being called XMB, a clone of Sony's XMB), several input, audio and video drivers, plus other sophisticated features like dynamic rate control, audio filters, multi-pass shaders, netplay, gameplay rewinding, cheats etc.


Put simply, Retroarch is a single program that covers pretty much every emulator you could wish for. While PC platforms are the main focus, official ports of Retroarch are available on the following devices:

  • Android
  • iOS
  • Blackberry
  • Nintendo 3DS
  • Nintendo GameCube
  • Nintendo Wii
  • Nintendo Wii U
  • PS3
  • PSP
  • Vita
As noted above, Retroarch works by loading emulator "cores" which are downloaded via the menu itself and providing a front-end to them. This provides cover all the way back to the Atari right up to the 3DS and GameCube with nearly everything you can think of inbetween. While some ports such as Android are lacking some cores due to spec requirements, the full list currently supported by the PC build is extremely extensive.

Retroarch also supports netplay, achievements, network support, and a vast range of incredible shaders:







While quite daunting to begin with for a new user, Retroarch is actually fairly simple to set up as long as you have some pointers - and I'll dedicate the first couple of posts in this thread as a quick-start guide. If you wish to get started straight away, refer to the official site - and stable builds can be found here, and nightly builds here.
 
OP
OP
Rich
Oct 28, 2017
259
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England
richretro.wordpress.com
#4
I'm an emulation freak, so I'm posting here just to keep in watch. Thanks, Rich!

Also, what are the shaders in the images, most specifically #3? Love that CRT bloom.
Not too sure right now, sorry! I simply took those off a search of the libretro site. I'll be updating with specific examples of shaders such as CRT-Royale, Easymode and the handheld shaders when I get more time, and post #2 will be a setup tutorial.
 
OP
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Rich
Oct 28, 2017
259
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England
richretro.wordpress.com
#6
nice thread. seems hard at first but once you get it down its as easy as any other. lottes crt filter for life!
I've used Retroarch since the start (when it wasn't even called Retroarch) and it's definitely easier now then ever. Download the latest build, switch to full screen and choose xmb layout, download the cores you want via the menu then configure your controls, directories and video settings. Done.

Of course for certain emulators you still need BIOS files, but that's easy enough to sort out too.
 
Oct 27, 2017
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#7
I've been playing around with emulation on my Vita and after spending hours getting it to work, I think I don't want to play portable games anymore. Must be why my Vita and N3DS have been untouched for years. Interested in revisiting some PS1 titles using emulation on a PC.
 
Oct 27, 2017
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#8
Hi.
Would this be a good way for PS1 emulation or are there better options?


I tried this but I couldn't get it to work, loading cores didn't seem to work. I also tried PCSXR but with terrible results, meaning basically unplayable. Framerates seemed ok, but everything looked worse than on original hardware, also lots of issues with menus and such.

I'm running PCSX2 (1.4) without any issues and x2 resolution though so I'm clearly doing something wrong with PS1 emu. :p

Any tips as for which PS1 emulator or retroarch build I should be using?

Fun fact I bought this laptop mainly for PS1 emulation, I didn't really expect it to be powerful enough for PS2 emulation.
i5 950m 8gb btw (I don't think it matters though since PCSX2 works basically flawlessly depending on the games)


Edit : like, should I download "1.6.7-x64-setup.exe" from the link in the op and be good to go? Or do I then still need a core and how? Anything else?
 
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Oct 25, 2017
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#9
Hi.
Would this be a good way for PS1 emulation or are there better options?


I tried this but I couldn't get it to work, loading cores didn't seem to work. I also tried PCSXR but with terrible results, meaning basically unplayable. Framerates seemed ok, but everything looked worse than on original hardware, also lots of issues with menus and such.

I'm running PCSX2 (1.4) without any issues and x2 resolution though so I'm clearly doing something wrong with PS1 emu. :p

Any tips as for which PS1 emulator or retroarch build I should be using?

Fun fact I bought this laptop mainly for PS1 emulation, I didn't really expect it to be powerful enough for PS2 emulation.
i5 950m 8gb btw (I don't think it matters though since PCSX2 works basically flawlessly depending on the games)


Edit : like, should I download "1.6.7-x64-setup.exe" from the link in the op and be good to go? Or do I then still need a core and how? Anything else?
I've lately been using Retroarch with the Beetle PSX core (Mednafen's name for the libretro fork), haven't had any performance problems so far. Once you run Retroarch, from the main menu choose Online Updater -> Core Updater and choose PlayStation (Beetle PSX). Retroarch will download and upack the core. You'll also need PS1 BIOS binaries which you should put in the "system" folder inside Retroarch's root folder. I've actually had some problems with this recently as Retroarch wouldn't load certain PS1 games until I realized that it was only the European games (just loaded into a black screen), so it seems the Beetle PSX core is a bit picky about which BIOS versions it wants. They also need to be named "SCPH5500.bin", "SCPH5501.bin" and "SCPH5502.bin", those being the JP, USA and EU versions respectively. I believe the actual BIOS versions that worked on Beetle PSX for me are listed here, near the bottom of the page under "Alternative BIOS files", namely the ps-30j, ps-30a and ps30e (versions 3.0). Won't post any links but you should be able to find some with the info in this post.
 
Oct 27, 2017
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#13
Has anyone mess with the x68000 core in retro arch? I installed it the other day on my windows PC but can't for the life of me get any controller input to work, the keyboard is also super weird, basically only asd keys worked. When I go into the switch menu (F12/L2) I can't get any key input to work at all, so I couldn't change disk or change settings.
 
Oct 25, 2017
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#14
I've been using retroarch for emulation and I liked it. Recommended.

It was easy to set up but I did find the documentation to be a little lacking. It took me a while to figure out how to persist game saves, for example. Also it took me a fair amount of time to figure out how to map buttons. It's in the menus, but the menus are fairly extensive and take a while to navigate if you don't know what you're doing.
 
OP
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Rich
#15
I've been using retroarch for emulation and I liked it. Recommended.

It was easy to set up but I did find the documentation to be a little lacking. It took me a while to figure out how to persist game saves, for example. Also it took me a fair amount of time to figure out how to map buttons. It's in the menus, but the menus are fairly extensive and take a while to navigate if you don't know what you're doing.
Yeah, it's intimidating to begin with - but then it's fine.

I still need to sort out some guides for the OP, but getting time to is proving hard. I'm off work for a week soon so I could do something then.
 
Oct 25, 2017
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#16
Do you guys use retroarch as a front end or do you use another front end over it? I'm dipping my toes into setting up LaunchBox on Windows and I am going to try out Arc Browser when my GPD XD arrives. I've played around with retroarch but I don't really like the UI, unless there's some way to set it up to be better that I haven't discovered yet.
 
Oct 25, 2017
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#17
Do you guys use retroarch as a front end or do you use another front end over it? I'm dipping my toes into setting up LaunchBox on Windows and I am going to try out Arc Browser when my GPD XD arrives. I've played around with retroarch but I don't really like the UI, unless there's some way to set it up to be better that I haven't discovered yet.
I've only really used Retroarch by itself, but I just need a list of games and their screenshots, so Retroarch's playlists work well enough for me. Would be nice to be able to filter by genres etc. but I don't think you can do that, apart from manually making a custom playlist for each genre. This is what a playlist looks like btw (the system icons are added on the right side and then you just scroll down through the games). You download the recognized games' art directly from the Retroarch options and you can choose to show either a screenshot or boxart:

 
Oct 29, 2017
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#18
I remember having a lot of trouble setting up PSX emulation, mostly with the BIOS files it needed. But when I finally got it to work I was very pleasantly surprised with how well the games ran. Using other emulators I'd always run into some issues that I had no idea how to fix, but with this one everything just worked perfectly.
 
Oct 25, 2017
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#19
I remember having a lot of trouble setting up PSX emulation, mostly with the BIOS files it needed. But when I finally got it to work I was very pleasantly surprised with how well the games ran. Using other emulators I'd always run into some issues that I had no idea how to fix, but with this one everything just worked perfectly.
Beetle (Mednafen) PSX HW is my core of choice for PSX games and they've never looked better.
 
Oct 26, 2017
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#22
If you sre using easymode-halation, there's an interlace toggle in shader parameters, needed for high res cores.
 
Oct 26, 2017
2,847
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#25
Did you apply them? Also, see if there's a higan core option to remove high resolution, I recall needing to turn that off for SGB games to not flicker
 
Oct 26, 2017
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#26
Did you apply them? Also, see if there's a higan core option to remove high resolution, I recall needing to turn that off for SGB games to not flicker
Yeah, i applied changes.
Resolution setting in core option helps me though (256x240/224 or 512х240/224), i just wonder why i need to set it manually =) And which games benefits from higher resolution (512x480/448) and what should i set for "everyday" gaming - 256x240 or 256x224 for example..
PS - i think Seiken Densetsu 3 uses high resolution for text in unusual manner..
 
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Oct 25, 2017
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#28
i just wonder why i need to set it manually =)
because the 480 vertical resolution has always been the default for the accuracy core to account for all the various snes resolution's displaying correctly without any changes.

so because the 240 vertical resolution simply doubles when this output is chosen it has the side effect of also doubling the effect of any shader used so they don't look right (which was likely your problem). so for them to display correctly you have to go into the core options and manually set it back to either 224 or 240 and then your shaders and filters will look correct.

what should i set for "everyday" gaming - 256x240 or 256x224 for example.
if you are using integer scaling then 224 and 240 will look exactly the same.
 
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Oct 25, 2017
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#30
Isn't that also dependent on shader used? I know many of them have problems with non-integer scaling, but easymode-halation doesn't seem to.
the way a shader is displayed is dependent on the video settings you have configured. what may look good with one setting may not work with another, like you say most shaders are designed with integer scaling in mind as most work on a per emulated pixel basis.

but the shader itself can not affect things like integer scaling, pixel ratios or aspect ratio etc etc that you have selected.
 
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Oct 27, 2017
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#32
Yeah, i applied changes.
Resolution setting in core option helps me though (256x240/224 or 512х240/224), i just wonder why i need to set it manually =) And which games benefits from higher resolution (512x480/448) and what should i set for "everyday" gaming - 256x240 or 256x224 for example..
PS - i think Seiken Densetsu 3 uses high resolution for text in unusual manner..
256x224 with the blur emulation core option enabled looks really good with high res text in SD3 and Marvelous, as well as transparency effects in Kirby's Dreamland 3.

As an aside, when the Higan core came out, I did a bunch of testing with it compared to Mercury Balanced and SNES9x. I ended up going with SNES9x. It has the lowest latency, since you can use both hard sync frames 0 and a fairly high frame delay setting. I feel like I have better control because of that compared to the other cores. Also, it's nice having that extra overhead so I can fast forward faster. And there aren't really any noticeable emulation problems compared to Higan in the games I play now. All it really needs is a high res blending option for KDL3.
 
Oct 27, 2017
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#34
Not too sure right now, sorry! I simply took those off a search of the libretro site. I'll be updating with specific examples of shaders such as CRT-Royale, Easymode and the handheld shaders when I get more time, and post #2 will be a setup tutorial.
Any chance this is still going to happen?

I'm going to have to watch some Youtube videos, I guess, because this emulator makes zero sense to me. Even simple things like the video shaders. I've got a ton of shaders in the root folder, but there's only like 10 or so that actually show up in the menu (and even they don't seem to stick if I select them).

EDIT: I take that back, if I try and select one of the very limited shaders available, it crashes and Windows closes it down:(

Playing Super Metroid with the Higan emulator (no filters) really kind of killed my enthusiasm for my Pi 3. I need to get this fully set-up so I can really compare the differences. My love of low power devices notwithstanding, I expect I'm going to have to put the Pi to use on something else.
 
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Oct 25, 2017
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#35
Any chance this is still going to happen?

I'm going to have to watch some Youtube videos, I guess, because this emulator makes zero sense to me. Even simple things like the video shaders. I've got a ton of shaders in the root folder, but there's only like 10 or so that actually show up in the menu (and even they don't seem to stick if I select them).

EDIT: I take that back, if I try and select one of the very limited shaders available, it crashes and Windows closes it down:(

Playing Super Metroid with the Higan emulator (no filters) really kind of killed my enthusiasm for my Pi 3. I need to get this fully set-up so I can really compare the differences. My love of low power devices notwithstanding, I expect I'm going to have to put the Pi to use on something else.
Are you using Retroarch on PC (I'm asking because I've never used RetroPie, which should be essentially the same, but I don't know if the UI is any different etc.)?

I wonder if you're maybe mistaking the Video Filters for the shaders (Settings -> Video -> Video Filter) which are indeed few.

You should have a "shaders" folder inside your Retroarch folder, and there should be at least two folders which are important in this case, "shaders_cg" and "shaders_glsl" (most of the same shaders but written in different shading languages). If you don't have them for any reason, you should go to the Main Menu, select Online Updater and select both "Update Cg Shaders" and "Update GLSL Shaders". That should download pretty much all of the shaders you need right now. Take note that there will be a bunch of cg, cgp, glsl and glslp files. Retroarch can have one or multiple stacked shaders (shader passes) (cg, glsl files) within a shader preset (cgp, glslp), and for the most part you will be loading the shader presets (you can load and mix different shaders, add or remove passes from a preset etc. but you don't really need that).

If/when you already have all that, you actually access the shader options once you choose a core/load a game, and they're placed in the Quick Menu -> Shaders. Choose "Load Shader Preset" and look for those cgp and glslp files to load the shader you want (lots of sub folders in there, check out the "shaders\shaders_glsl\crt" folder for example). Once you've loaded the shader preset, select "Apply Changes" and load/go back to the game.

Still, some cores don't play nice with some shaders, I think using glsl shaders is preferred in most cases, I know I've gotten a black screen using the Mupen64Plus core with some shaders (can't remember the specifics), so there's a bit of trial and error, but for the most part, you should be able to use shaders properly. Not sure what the limitations are when using an integrated GPU or playing on a Pi though. Hope some of this helps.
 
Oct 27, 2017
1,872
0
#36
Are you using Retroarch on PC (I'm asking because I've never used RetroPie, which should be essentially the same, but I don't know if the UI is any different etc.)?

I wonder if you're maybe mistaking the Video Filters for the shaders (Settings -> Video -> Video Filter) which are indeed few.

You should have a "shaders" folder inside your Retroarch folder, and there should be at least two folders which are important in this case, "shaders_cg" and "shaders_glsl" (most of the same shaders but written in different shading languages). If you don't have them for any reason, you should go to the Main Menu, select Online Updater and select both "Update Cg Shaders" and "Update GLSL Shaders". That should download pretty much all of the shaders you need right now. Take note that there will be a bunch of cg, cgp, glsl and glslp files. Retroarch can have one or multiple stacked shaders (shader passes) (cg, glsl files) within a shader preset (cgp, glslp), and for the most part you will be loading the shader presets (you can load and mix different shaders, add or remove passes from a preset etc. but you don't really need that).

If/when you already have all that, you actually access the shader options once you choose a core/load a game, and they're placed in the Quick Menu -> Shaders. Choose "Load Shader Preset" and look for those cgp and glslp files to load the shader you want (lots of sub folders in there, check out the "shaders\shaders_glsl\crt" folder for example). Once you've loaded the shader preset, select "Apply Changes" and load/go back to the game.

Still, some cores don't play nice with some shaders, I think using glsl shaders is preferred in most cases, I know I've gotten a black screen using the Mupen64Plus core with some shaders (can't remember the specifics), so there's a bit of trial and error, but for the most part, you should be able to use shaders properly. Not sure what the limitations are when using an integrated GPU or playing on a Pi though. Hope some of this helps.
Thanks! This definitely helps a ton.

I was confusing Video Filters for shaders.

This is on Windows. Windows is just similar enough to RetroPie for me to have gotten into trouble (cause they're definitely a bit different where it counts).

Also fixed my crashing issue by deleting the 1.6.7 build and downloading the latest 1.6.9 version.
 
Oct 25, 2017
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Downunder.
#39
That reply from Piko Interactive founder was patronizing as fuck. Sounds like an opportunist/capitalist whom wouldn't shy away from screwing just about anybody at the earliest opportunity.

Has any news outlet pick up this open letter and made a post about it? A cursory search on Eurogamer/Kotaku reveals nothing.

EDIT: There's one: https://www.gamingonlinux.com/artic...-companies-trying-to-make-a-quick-buck.10923/
 
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Oct 25, 2017
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#42
Great news, although I wish they'll update the PPSSPP core as well. The way it is right now, v1.4.2 of the core will still crash if I use Vulkan renderer.
Yep, I've been using the standalone version of PPSSPP until it gets updated.
 
Oct 27, 2017
278
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#43
What are the benefits of using the Vulkan renderer? Is it for more budget friendly builds? because I've never noticed any benefit from changing it and even some cores and games crash when using it. So I've just stuck with the GL instead and never noticed any issues.
 
Oct 25, 2017
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#44
What are the benefits of using the Vulkan renderer? Is it for more budget friendly builds? because I've never noticed any benefit from changing it and even some cores and games crash when using it. So I've just stuck with the GL instead and never noticed any issues.
It likely depends on your graphics card, but there are significant speed improvements with the vulkan renderer, especially with something like PPSSPP. Beetle PSX HW is another emulator that looks and runs amazing with it. Not all emulators support it yet, and Retroarch has had some issues that cause crashes when it fails to gracefully switch from one renderer to another.
 
Oct 27, 2017
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#45
It likely depends on your graphics card, but there are significant speed improvements with the vulkan renderer, especially with something like PPSSPP. Beetle PSX HW is another emulator that looks and runs amazing with it. Not all emulators support it yet, and Retroarch has had some issues that cause crashes when it fails to gracefully switch from one renderer to another.
I've got a 1080Ti.
 
Oct 27, 2017
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#48
I'm really not being lazy, I've searched: Is there some documentation for this? Specifically I'm looking for controller hotkeys. It's such a user-friendly shock switching from Retropie to this. The documentation is horrible (or hidden really well). I'm being driven insane by the DKC mines and would like to enable rewind, but I can't for the life of me get any controller hotkeys to work, figure out what the defaults are, are how to enable configuring them from within a menu (like in Retropie).

What's hilarious is I set the Video filter earlier (thinking it was shaders) and couldn't even find out how to disable all filters (could only choose a different one). So google returned a hit from someone who had a similiar issue. And the dude was all pissy about things and had a real attitude towards the guy with the question. Documentation FTW, dude. It's effing awful.
 
Oct 25, 2017
404
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#49
I'm really not being lazy, I've searched: Is there some documentation for this? Specifically I'm looking for controller hotkeys. It's such a user-friendly shock switching from Retropie to this. The documentation is horrible (or hidden really well). I'm being driven insane by the DKC mines and would like to enable rewind, but I can't for the life of me get any controller hotkeys to work, figure out what the defaults are, are how to enable configuring them from within a menu (like in Retropie).

What's hilarious is I set the Video filter earlier (thinking it was shaders) and couldn't even find out how to disable all filters (could only choose a different one). So google returned a hit from someone who had a similiar issue. And the dude was all pissy about things and had a real attitude towards the guy with the question. Documentation FTW, dude. It's effing awful.
I've actually never used the rewind feature so this came as a nice excuse to try it out!

Enable Rewind: Settings -> Frame Throttle -> Rewind Enable (set to ON) (Rewind Granularity is basically the rewind speed)
Set Rewind Button: Settings -> Input -> Input Hotkey Binds -> Rewind (default keyboard key "R")

It takes a bit of getting used to and I agree that it probably needs at least some better starter guides and some fixes (like, I'm still not 100% sure if the only way to have no shaders whatsoever is to change the Shader Passes within the current active shaders settings to 0). They also change and add things all the time, and it's a pretty gargantuan project, so it's good that it's gotten to where it is now, and it can always get better from here.
 
Oct 27, 2017
1,872
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#50
I've actually never used the rewind feature so this came as a nice excuse to try it out!

Enable Rewind: Settings -> Frame Throttle -> Rewind Enable (set to ON) (Rewind Granularity is basically the rewind speed)
Set Rewind Button: Settings -> Input -> Input Hotkey Binds -> Rewind (default keyboard key "R")

It takes a bit of getting used to and I agree that it probably needs at least some better starter guides and some fixes (like, I'm still not 100% sure if the only way to have no shaders whatsoever is to change the Shader Passes within the current active shaders settings to 0). They also change and add things all the time, and it's a pretty gargantuan project, so it's good that it's gotten to where it is now, and it can always get better from here.
You helped me find that hot key page at least. Can you not bind combos, though? Like with Retropie, by default, the select and start button would exit your game and take you to the game select screen. And for rewind, I could bind say: Select + Up.

When I try and bind more than one button, it just chooses one. And obviously this makes functionality kind of useless on a controller since single button presses generally have in game purposes and you need combos for this.

Sorry for being so dense. I really love how great the games look and sound. Higan + awesome shaders + overlays + super low lag is amazing. I just wish they took a little inspiration from how Retropie (which I maybe incorrectly assumed is using Retroarch) handled settings.