Archiwum taga: progress report

Dolphin Progress Report: November 2018

Even though the Wii's official library is mostly set, both the GameCube and Wii are entering a new golden age as a popular environment for randomizers, full-game mods, incredible cheat codes, and much more. Stalwarts like the Super Smash Bros. Brawl Mod, Project M have been around for years, but now there are many other communities around various games breathing new life into them. You can find codes to help balance games like Mario Party 5, content mods for Kirby Air Ride that add tons of new rides and hundreds of songs, and trackpacks for Mario Kart Wii that add hundreds of custom tracks to the game. Wiimmfi's also provides their own backup Wi-Fi servers for many unmodified games and their Mario Kart mods!

While most of these mods can be enjoyed on a hacked Wii, many users rely on Dolphin in order to play them. Emulating these mods can be quite the challenge, as they often will do things in ways that game developers would not. Assumptions that Dolphin makes can often be broken and certain features that mod developers use can be extremely slow or downright unreasonable to emulate. In the case of Wiimmfi's Mario Kart Fun Packs, the mod creators have put in work over the years to improve their experience in Dolphin and even support emulated users playing alongside console users online... so long as you're willing to dump and use your Wii's NAND. Earlier this month, a slight change to Wiimmfi's online networking broke Dolphin support without affecting real Wii Consoles. Not wanting to leave their emulated users high and dry, they reported the bug to us.

delroth quickly took up the mantle of investigating the bug with assistance from the Wiimmfi team. Within a few hours, the cooperation paid off as the list of probable causes was narrowed down to one annoying feature: The Instruction Cache. Dolphin pretty much has no ability to emulate the GC/Wii CPU data cache and likely never will due to the performance implications, but Dolphin does have some ability to emulate the instruction cache, though it's best to avoid testing the emulator. This is normally not a problem with retail games because it's rather bad form for a game to rely excessively on cache quirks, unless they were intentionally trying to break an emulator. There are occasionally games that inadvertently rely on cache behavior, that's something to tackle on another day. Dolphin's emulation of the instruction cache is normally good enough and almost nothing relies on data cache.

Mods are different; developers are usually working on a blackbox and don't have the same level of familiarity with the hardware. Unless they specifically tested codes on both Dolphin and Wii, there's a chance they wouldn't even know something was broken. There have been many issues reported around mods that, while Dolphin is at fault, we really don't have any recourse for the users afflicted. If a mod doesn't care about running on Dolphin and uses dcache or perhaps another annoying feature, there isn't much we can do but shrug it off.

In the case of Wiimmfi's server, through cooperation from both sides, we were able to find the cache coherency issue and fix it serverside! Users who already have the latest version of the mod don't have to do anything except try to connect. If you're looking for a more detailed explanation of what was going wrong (as it's rather interesting,) you can find delroth's full writeup on the issue tracker.

In order to track down behavior like this in the future, delroth also added game quirk reporting to Dolphin's data collection service, so Dolphin will now automatically let us know what games are instruction cache sensitive in the manner that broke this particular mod. With that, we also have a lot of other exciting changes this month, so now it's time to dive into this month's notable changes!

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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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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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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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Dolphin Progress Report: November and December 2017

After the massive Hybrid XFB article that hit late November, we at the blog staff went into a bit of a hibernation. But after a short holiday break, we're back and ready for more. Before we get to the rest of November and December's changes, make sure you check out the absolutely massive Hybrid XFB article and the accompanying video.

With both Ubershaders, Hybrid XFB, and many of the other targeted features for the next release merged, a lot of users have started wondering when our next release will be announced. The answer to that is not soon. With these huge changes have come a lot of frustrating and annoying regressions that can't easily be solved without a lot of work. If we enter a feature freeze to work on those regressions, we'd be stagnating Dolphin and delaying the other large new features that are still being worked on without any guarantee that the regressions will be sorted out.

So for now, the plan is to just keep moving and wait for a better opportunity to start the release process.

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Dolphin Progress Report: October 2017

The October Progress Report is here! ...A little late, but, all here in one piece. While on the outside it may have looked like October was a slow month, the blog staff and devs have been busy behind the scenes. A big feature (and blog article) was being worked on right up until the end of the month... and then we realized it wasn't going to be done in time. We shifted gears a bit too late and resulted in a tardy Progress Report. Fortunately, there are still many very important changes that arrived this month. With all that in mind, we hope you enjoy this month's Dolphin Progress Report.

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Dolphin Progress Report: September 2017

While an emulator's primary job is to emulate, there's usually a lot more that goes into a good emulator. For Dolphin, it may feel like a lot of work has gone toward luxury features and optimizations rather than improving accuracy and compatibility. For example, Ubershaders is a wonderful, game-changing feature, but it can't fix any bugs in emulation. With another of those huge features on the brink, it's important to highlight that no one has forgotten about Dolphin's weaknesses - it's just getting harder to fix them. Most of the games that no longer work in Dolphin either require better timings (which slow emulation and need to be hardware tested,) or rely on undocumented behaviors that have to be painstakingly sought out, rather than stumbled upon.

Case in point, fixing one of those cases could require weeks of devotion and every development tool in our arsenal just to locate the bug. With Red Steel, developers ended up having to reverse engineer why an engine bug affected Dolphin but not the Wii.

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