Merkelapp-arkiv: driver

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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Ubershaders: A Ridiculous Solution to an Impossible Problem


When you're playing your favorite game on Dolphin with a powerful computer, things should run fairly well. The game is running full speed, there are no graphical glitches, and you can use your favorite controller if you want. Yet, every time you go to a new area, or load a new effect, there's a very slight but noticeable "stutter." You turn off the framelimiter to check and your computer can run the game at well over full speed. What's going on?

The slowdown when loading new areas, effects, ...

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Hacked Up: The Vertex Streaming Hack

Update: There is an issue with the Nvidia drivers that kept buffer storage from being utilized properly on Windows: they do not report the driver version. Since the Linux version of the driver reports its version correctly, the Dolphin devs assumed that the nvidia drivers would report it and used a version check to make sure ARB_buffer_storage was only utilized on drivers that actually support it. Because of this issue, even the latest drivers that support the function failed the version check and Dolphin didn't use buffer_storage on Windows. And thanks to an unrelated bug discovered later, the lack of buffer_storage wasn't detected in the initial testing. As of 4.0-722 the version check was removed and buffer storage is confirmed to be working correctly.

Unfortunately, that version check was there for a reason. Some driver versions tell Dolphin that they support buffer_storage, but actually don't. Any user caught in that situation will encounter a blackscreen. If you do, update your drivers.



One of the constant struggles in modern emulation is the battle between performance and accuracy. Throughout Dolphin's history, developers have added various tricks to get more performance out of computers - one of them being the Vertex Streaming Hack, formerly known as Hacked Buffer Upload. It drastically improves OpenGL performance on Nvidia GPUs. However, as of 4.0-615, the Vertex Streaming Hack has been removed from Dolphin.

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Dolphin Emulator and OpenGL drivers - Hall of Fame/Shame

Dolphin Emulator and OpenGL drivers - Hall of Fame/Shame

In light of the recent announcements by NVIDIA and AMD in support of Linux for their graphics drivers, we would like to share with the world some of the experience we had developing our open source project, Dolphin, a GameCube and Wii emulator for Windows, Linux, Mac and recently Android.

At the beginning of this year, after the successful release of Dolphin 3.5, Markus Wick (degasus) and Ryan Houdek (Sonicadvance1) started working on a rewrite of Dolphin's OpenGL backend in order to be compliant to the OpenGL ES 3.0 standard. While this rewrite was needed for other reasons (it provides the foundations for very cool optimizations), compatibility with mobile devices and the future Android port of the emulator (now in beta) was one of the key goals. This rewrite was merged into the main Dolphin codebase a few months back and started to be used by tens of thousands of Dolphin users, either on OS X and Linux where it is the only viable graphics backend, or on Windows where it is available alongside our D3D11 graphics backend.

Sadly, using recent, advanced OpenGL features also meant we got to discover how bad some graphics drivers actually are at doing their job. It turns out very few applications use some parts of the OpenGL standard we need to rely on to accurately emulate a GameCube GPU. More than that, on Android, OpenGL ES 3.0 support is extremely recent and only a couple applications on the Play Store use ES 3.0 features.

Here is basically our hall of shame of graphics drivers, sorted by the number of issues we found, how hard it is to report issues to the company and how many bugs were actually fixed.

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