Dolphin Progress Report: August 2015


If you count the number of notable changes throughout August, you may think it was a down month. Aside from a flurry of Dolphin ARM updates, there really wasn't much to choose from. A lot of the major projects remaining on the emulator are multi-month affairs, so contributors seemingly disappear from the progress reports for months only to return with a bang. Then there's Sonicadvance1, who keeps trucking on with Dolphin ARM on an almost daily basis. Despite the miniscule number of big additions, the big ones this month more than made up for the lack of volume. It's actually kind of nice for the blog staff to not have to fight over which changes get in once in a while, too!

With that, let's dig into this month's notable changes!

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The New Era of HLE Audio


In early 2013, Dolphin had began its first steps in a new focus on accurate emulation. The 3.5 release represented a shift in the emulator's focus, and as such, saw great improvements in terms of compatibility and accuracy over the previous release. But one area that stuck out like a sore thumb during this era was the quality of High Level Emulation (HLE) audio. Hundreds of games suffered from crashes associated to audio, and thousands had significant problems, with missing effects, incorrect volume, and random bursts of noise.

The problems of HLE were systemic, deeply rooted problems within its design, and would require a complete rewrite in order to solve. Rewriting HLE audio was always a priority, but the daunting task to reverse engineer, implement, and test kept most developers away. So instead they pursued Low Level Emulation (LLE) to great success. LLE audio worked so well, the developers were able to avoid the mess of HLE and more or less just tell users to dump a GameCube/Wii DSP-ROM and use that instead. The problem with that option is performance: LLE audio is incredibly demanding, especially when the DSP is being strained by many sound effects.

This situation finally changed right after Dolphin 3.5 when delroth merged New-AX-HLE-GC, a rewrite of the most common microcode (µcode) for GameCube games, AX-GC. Thousands of bugs disappeared over night and stability increased greatly. While previously there was argument among developers that HLE audio bugs could be ignored because of the option for LLE, as tens of thousands of users finally experienced accurate audio for the first time it became apparent just how important HLE audio truly was. Later in the year, the AX-HLE rewrite was expanded to Wii games in a second cleanup. The ability for users to use HLE audio for most games instead of LLE audio resulted in one of the greatest performance increases in Dolphin's history!


The Non-AX µcode Games

While over 99% of GameCube and Wii titles use the AX µcode, there are a small number of games that use a different µcode. The "Zelda µcode”, named after its exclusive use in Nintendo-created titles, represents only a tiny portion of the total games Dolphin can play; but those games are some of the most popular and interesting games on the GameCube and Wii.



The Zelda µcode games, in release order

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Dolphin Progress Report: July 2015


Since the release of Dolphin 4.0, things have advanced quite a bit. With compatibility rising to their highest levels yet alongside features that seemed impossible and extravagant, users have been asking about the next stable for almost a year now. For previous releases, including Dolphin 4.0, the staff mostly ceased work on new features while crashes and regressions were addressed. In the case of working toward Dolphin 5.0; there were just too many interesting and exciting features on the way to risk stalling out by asking developers to wait. So a release was delayed indefinitely.

So in mid-June, we decided to do things a little differently. Instead of slowing Dolphin down for a release, at 4.0-6727 we forked Dolphin into two branches. The development branch has continued forward as usual with all the bells and whistles without worrying about impeding the next release. Meanwhile, all commits relating to crashes, regressions, and other important fixes would not only be merged to master, but also to stable. This allowed the developers to continue developing the latest and greatest features, while still preparing a stable successor to Dolphin 4.0.

Today, we're happy to announce the first release candidate for Dolphin 5.0! Dolphin 5.0-RC is now on our Downloads page. These builds need to be heavily tested and any bugs; crashes or regressions found in Release Candidate builds should be tagged [RC] when reported to the issue tracker. While we will be switching issue trackers later this month, we intend to transfer all issues to a new tracker to make sure the hard work of our users throughout the years doesn't disappear.

Any future release candidates will be below the development builds on the download's page.

As to be expected until Dolphin 5.0 is complete, any non-essential crash fixes and features from this point forward will not be in the final release. For the latest and greatest features, the development builds are still your best option, and the Progress Report will keep on reporting what's new. With that, please enjoy this month's notable changes!

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Dolphin Progress Report: June 2015


As the twilight of the Dolphin 4.0 era approaches, code cleanup and regression hunting have become a high priority, fixing the serious and minor issues that have cropped up over the past year and a half that remain unaddressed. From remedial problems such as INI issues to Real Wiimotes issues on OS X, a lot of those important minor issues have been tackled. As if that wasn't enough, there are still exciting developments within several core features to keep users satiated in this month's Progress Report.

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Dolphin Progress Report: May 2015


After a slow April month, a chaotic May more than makes up for it. On top of working on an emulator, developers had their hands full with relicensing. It's always a good month when you can look back at the issues that were fixed and go "phew," hoping to never, ever encounter anything like that ever again.

A wide variety of issues, features and enhancements saw important updates this month that increase playability and make the emulator more robust. Please enjoy this month's progress report!

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Relicensing Dolphin: The long road to GPLv2+


Since its resurfacing as an open source project in 2008, Dolphin has been licensed under the GNU General Public License version 2 (GPLv2). This license, created in 1991, is still a fairly common license used in the open source world. But as with anything that deals with technology, times are changing at a rapid rate. More recent projects are using GNU Public License version 3 and Apache 2.0, for their additional freedoms, protections from outside liability, and improved inter-license compatibility. Unfortunately these newer licenses ...

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A Second Perspective: An In-Depth History of Stereoscopy in Dolphin


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Videogames are interactive experiences with emotional highs and lows, providing players with thrilling experiences alongside wondrous vistas. The greatest games can leave lifelong impacts on their players long after the controller is put down.

Emulators serve as a convenient way to relive those past experiences and rediscover hidden gems from one's childhood. But what if an emulator could not only recreate those moments, but enhance them by pushing the games you know and love to new heights? At what point do people say that the must-play experience of the game is not on the original console, but on an emulator?

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Dolphin Progress Report: April 2015


On the one year anniversary of the Dolphin Progress Report, we have a fairly slow month in terms of emulation development. While there are certainly some big things on the horizon, unfortunately development managed to hit one of the gaps where there were mostly some fix-ups and optimizations this month with only a few changes that users will notice.

With that, let's take a look at this month's notable changes.

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A Commemoration for Rachel Bryk

On Thursday, April 23rd, we lost part of our family. Rachel Bryk tragically died at just 23 years old.

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Dolphin Progress Report: March 2015

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Console add-ons and linking emulation are almost always difficult tasks. Worse yet, availability, software support, cost, and even popularity can limit the ability to get these hardware add-ons documented and emulated. While their are numerous examples spanning tons of consoles and their respective emulators, this month, we're talking about GameCube to Game Boy Advance Connectivity.

Timings and synchronization are a given on real hardware; games know how it's going to work and many expect it to always work perfectly. When it doesn't? Certain games break. Now imagine a synchronization task more complex than dualcore and netplay. That would be GBA to GCN connectivity.

When skidau took up the task of renovating Dolphin's connectivity to Visual Boy Advance-M, he knew that it would require not only work on the Dolphin side of things, but also VBA-M. Getting two completely different emulators to sync up (up to 5 instances!) and play nice was the heart of the issue. Months of prototype builds (over 60 total!) between Dolphin and VBA-M were tested and the best possible combination was chosen for high compatibility and reasonable performance. The result is Dolphin (and VBA-M) finally getting a taste of what this feature was like on console.

That, and much more, is featured in this month's progress report!

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