Dolphin Progress Report: September and October 2018

Since the Dolphin 5.0 release, Dolphin has had opt-in usage statistics reporting to help us determine what hardware and builds users are using. Recently, this feature was also added to Dolphin Android, letting us see that around 10% of our users on development builds are using the Android version of Dolphin. Obviously, Dolphin on Android isn't going to be a perfect experience for quite some time, but in the meantime we will continue to add features and try to make the Android experience as clean as possible, even if the hardware is going to struggle with emulating GameCube and Wii games.

As a part of that, a lot of the major GUI features from the desktop version of Dolphin have been ported over. Just this year, we've seen important features like INI support, INI configuration, auto-update support, and even statistics reporting. Unfortunately, trying to bring the desktop experience to phones has caused some confusion that would seem like second nature to desktop users. Savestates in Dolphin are not compatible between builds and a lot of phone users that had been solely relying on savestates were in for a rude awakening during the next auto-update.

An unfortunate series of events lead to some deserved negative reviews on the Appstore and other mediums. With the brand-new auto-update feature came a bunch of broken savestates for users with no warning whatsoever. Unlike the desktop builds, savestates are immediately available directly from the context menu during emulation without any warnings or other information. Regardless of auto-update, relying solely on savestates for your progress is a risky proposition and we highly recommend using in-game saves as a more permanent way to save your game.


"Updated without warning and my save states were completely lost. The game's save function broke, so those were the only saves I had. For a GameCube emulator on Android it was working really well, but losing all my progress because they couldn't make old save states work with the update was really disappointing." -- User review on the Dolphin App within the Google Play Store


Dolphin's design doesn't really allow for savestates to work between different builds safely, so we were left with a difficult decision. Users randomly losing their save data is not acceptable, but removing savestates on Android would be awful. So as a compromise, we've added an option to enable savestates in the configuration menu, with an explanation of how they are intended to be used so users can understand the risks. We're sorry to anyone who ran into issues in the meantime, but as Dolphin on Android becomes a more legitimate option in the future, we're likely to run into more of these growing pains. All we can do is ask users to be patient and continue to report issues as we go forward.

Now that we've got that out of the way, there's plenty of other notable changes to get through this month so let's start chewing through them!

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Dolphin Progress Report: August 2018

One of the most interesting challenges of developing an emulator is that both the target hardware and most of the target software start out as black boxes. As often mentioned within emulation circles, the first step to developing an emulator for a console is getting unsigned code running on real hardware. While running unsigned code on the GameCube can be a bit of a pain, requiring custom hardware or a mixture of the broadband adapter and certain games, the Wii has one of the most robust homebrew environments of any console. Just about anyone can download devkitpro, write their own homebrew, and run it on the Wii.

The truth is that Dolphin is mostly used as an emulator for retail games, but it can also be a useful step for testing homebrew and hacks. After all, when running in Dolphin, users can pause execution, dump RAM, and poke memory without the need for a USB Gecko. While the golden age of Wii homebrew has long passed, several game hacks are still under active development and the Wii remains one of the easiest game consoles to jump into and develop software. Because homebrew can rely on behaviors that games wouldn't ever want to do, even the simplest of projects can stumble into emulator bugs.

Developers kind enough to make their homebrew open source give Dolphin developers an interesting way of debugging issues. It's one of the rare cases where the software being debugged isn't a black box! This greatly cuts down how much effort and expertise is needed to debug what is happening in an issue - instead of mapping out what a game is doing through assembly, we can just look at the source code! Users who write tests that break Dolphin and provide source code give us a much easier look than trying to reverse-engineer what closed source software is doing.

This month, two bugs were discovered that, to our knowledge, do not affect any retail software! Thanks to homebrew projects, these bugs are now a thing of the past. In addition to that, Dolphin on Android has seen a myriad of improvements since our article earlier this month, and netplay saw some new features to make setting up games easier along with a new mode to reduce latency in three/four player matches!

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The Current State of Dolphin on Android

Dolphin on Android has had a bit of a checkered history since its inception. Users loved the idea of being able to take their favorite GameCube and Wii games on the go, but expectations and reality have never quite aligned. When Dolphin was first uploaded to the Play Store, developers tried to make it absolutely clear games wouldn't be playable, even going as far as calling it "Dolphin Emulator Alpha". Unfortunately, despite many warnings, many people got their hopes up the moment they saw Dolphin was on the appstore and were ready to play their favorite games, even if their device wasn't. While not everyone had false pretenses as to what should be possible, a lot of users blamed Dolphin for being poorly optimized rather than understanding that it wasn't even meant to run full speed yet.

The endless stream of poor ratings and angry comments eventually reached a breaking point and Dolphin was removed from the Play store mid 2016. That didn't mean development on Dolphin on Android had ceased, though. Instead, builds were provided on our download page, safely tucked away from the majority of users who may not understand the current state of the app.

Suddenly, earlier this month, the Official Dolphin Android app returned to the Google Play Store* complete with all the latest and greatest improvements featured in the Progress Reports!

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Dolphin Progress Report: July 2018

On July 13th, 2008, Dolphin went open source, now just over ten years ago. While it could be easy to drift off into how much things have changed... there's one particular feature that has never quite lived up to the hype despite debuting that very same year - netplay.

As surprising as it may sound Dolphin Netplay has been around since the emulator went open source. For roughly a decade, users have tried their hand at taming the beast of synchronizing multiple instances of a GameCube and Wii despite their relative complexities. Netplay allows users to run the same instance of game on multiple computers by having two or more emulators in the exact same state, only transferring inputs between one another. By staying in lockstep like this, theoretically the emulators' states will never diverge assuming perfect determinism. This would allow people across the world to play a game together, even if it only featured local multiplayer on the console.

The problem has always been attaining that determinism. Back in the early days of netplay, it didn't especially matter what settings were used; Dolphin wasn't deterministic enough to stay in lockstep for very long. Then in the early days of the 3.0 era, it was finally possible to stay synced - if you were willing to sacrifice audio and performance. Early netplayers would hack up Dolphin to reduce requirements with 30 FPS hacks to Super Smash Bros. Melee, hacks to LLE audio to make it slow down less during attacks, and much more.

Despite the stutters and desyncs, some serious Melee players saw the potential and kept with the project. It wasn't until New-AX-HLE Audio (part 2) hit Dolphin that audio was both performant and deterministic enough to use in netplay. By the time Dolphin 4.0 rolled around, netplay had become a staple for Melee users and could be used by advanced users willing to suffer through some annoying quirks.

In the last few years, a focus has gone toward adding highly requested features to make netplay easier to use. Dolphin's STUN service allows some users who cannot port-forward play on netplay without issues, saves can be disabled to make synchronizing party games easier. But the one constant is that despite all these advances, simply getting netplay to work was a chore and crashes were common even if you did everything right.

Getting netplay into a more user-friendly state has been quite the process. In July, we saw some of the most drastic changes to netplay that we've seen in the past couple of years! Emulated Wii Remotes also saw huge usability improvements and some non-NVIDIA Android devices will finally be able to use Dolphin's Vulkan backend. If that wasn't enough, spycrab0 delivered some very big improvements to the DolphinQt GUI to give a new way to display your favorite games in the gamelist. Let's not delay any longer, please enjoy this month's Dolphin Progress Report.

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Myth Debugging: Is the Wii More Demanding to Emulate than the GameCube?

On the Dolphin Forums, one of the more common questions that come up is "How come I can emulate this Wii game just fine but this GameCube game is slow?" While those more knowledgeable about the intricacies of emulation may roll their eyes, it does warrant some explanation. Usually when stepping down from a newer console emulator to an older console emulator, the minimum requirements for emulation drop significantly. While there are some exceptions when dealing with exceptionally obtuse hardware, that concern doesn't hold up here: The GameCube and Wii, ...

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Dolphin Progress Report: June 2018

While we prefer to get these progress reports shortly after the turn of the month, sometimes things happen out of our control. June wasn't exactly a slow month, but it was backloaded with tons of changes that we weren't expecting to get merged so soon.



Sometimes delays are inevitable, but the notable changes that we were able to include thanks to extending the deadline should more than make up for the several day wait. You've been waiting long enough - without further delay, please enjoy this month's notable changes.

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Dolphin Progress Report: April and May 2018

Users of Dolphin may have noticed that things look a little bit different in the GUI. That's right, mid-April DolphinQt was unleashed to the masses as the default GUI! It hasn't been without some expected headaches and growing pains, but, overall most of the features are working and the transition is going along as smoothly as we could have hoped. For those having problems, the DolphinWx.exe is still included and will be updated with all the core changes.

Considering that we spent a whole monthly article on Qt, let's get into some actual emulator changes. In between the mountain of Qt changes has been an explosion of progress and fixes hitting everything from CPU edge-cases to Vertex Loader fixes! With that, please enjoy this month's notable changes!

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The Legend of Dolphin: A Lens Between Worlds

Chapter 1: The Will of the Old Gods

Within the Kingdom of Dolphin, a legend has been passed from generation to generation. While many of the facts have long turned to myth, fragments of this tale are echoed to this day.

This tale began way back in the ancient times known as "2003" when the Old Gods sought to create a wondrous tool that would allow denizens of the PC realm to peer into that of the GameCube dimension. Behind ...

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Dolphin Progress Report: February and March 2018

February came and went quietly, especially on the blog. While we do prefer to run a Progress Report every month, we were put into a bit of a bind. February saw a lot of interesting changes - but most of them were setting up for changes that weren't quite ready to be merged yet. Rather than rushing things or writing a Progress Report about things that would be coming soon, we decided to wait.

Well this Progress Report is no April Fools' joke - a lot of big changes landed! While a lot of what's important is under the hood, some of what has been finished has major user facing implications as well. If you were sad about missing a Progress Report for February, have no fear, this double report should more than make up for the lengthy delay!

Because so many of the changes rely on one another, we're going to be jumping around quite a bit between the two months. So hold on tight, and get ready. This is a big one.

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Dolphin Progress Report: January 2018

While a lot of our focus goes into the core emulation experience, we also recognize how important it is for users to be able to use the emulator. Dolphin now has several different User Interfaces (UIs) that are used across several platforms. A UI serves many purposes at the same time: from giving users access to the most important options, to relaying information to the users as they're using the program, and sometimes even communicating to developers what the program is doing at a given time.

This month, UI takes center stage, as DolphinQt, Dolphin Android, and even Dolphin Android T.V. UIs all saw big improvements!

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