Dolphin Progress Report: March 2017


In case you missed it, we had a special April Fools announcement on our Youtube Channel that blog writer JMC47 retired due to his failed bid to sing well in American Idol on Wii. If you want to catch up on the ridiculousness, the video is still up for all to gaze at in utter confusion.


April Fools 2017 - Retirement


With that out of the way, some delays to get everything ready have given us more time to tighten things up and bulk up what has been a relatively quiet month outside of a few mammoth changes. A group of Wii IOS changes were noteworthy enough to get their own article with the Wii Shop Channel finally getting compatibility in Dolphin. That's right, you can buy games from Nintendo within Dolphin, or, download titles you've purchased on your Wii in Dolphin, assuming you're using that Wii's NAND.

Other than that, the long awaited GPU Texture Decoders finally got merged for a broad performance increases and a new Bounding Box fallback path works on any machine that can run Dolphin. So we hope you can enjoy this breakdown of March's (and a little of April's) notable changes!

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Proof of Purchase: Wii Shop Channel Support


As of version 5.0-2874, Dolphin can do the unthinkable: you can now access the Wii Shop Channel from within the emulator.


System Menu Improvements Featuring Wii Shop Channel Support!


Dolphin can now download the free demos Nintendo made available on the system, as well as purchase Wiiware and Virtual Console games from the service. Because this feature is so new, it may take some time for the guides to get updated. The Wii Networking Guide will get ...

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Dolphin Progress Report: February 2017


As most of you know, Dolphin was born a GameCube emulator. A lot of its core design and concepts are based around assumptions made that it would only be a GameCube emulator. And, as a GameCube emulator, Dolphin performs admirably, with the ability to boot every single title and a large portion of the library having no major issues.

But, Dolphin isn't just a GameCube emulator. One of the more incredible things about its history is that it was modified into a Wii emulator around the time it went open source in 2008. While the core of the Wii is a supercharged GameCube, and things like CPU and GPU emulation were fairly easy to modify into working with only some minor details changing, there are a lot of quirks around it that have been problematic. Not only are there emulation challenges associated with the Wii that Dolphin side-stepped with some dirty hacks, it also struggled to add on all of the new features of the Wii. For many years, the Wii Remote, GameCube controllers configuration, and GameCube controller settings were completely split apart because Dolphin's UI was not designed with more than one primary input method in mind!


dolphincontrollers-old.png

UI Design 101: More menus = better.

dolphincontrollers-fixed.png

Putting all of the options in one place looks better and is easier to use.



In terms of actual emulation, the problems mostly come from the Wii's Starlet ARM coprocessor and everything it brings to the table. To give you an idea of how important Starlet and IOS (Internal Operating System) are on Dolphin, it controls features such as disc access, savegames, networking, USB, ES_Launch (aka, booting games,) and other features necessary for the Wii to function.

Last month, we saw a lot of IOS-HLE improvements, resulting in a big uptick in compatibility. But with these accuracy improvements have come some hiccups and regressions as well. When we fixed The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask by using proper, reverse-engineered values for some important IOS-related things, it brought out some regressions too.

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Dolphin Progress Report: January 2017


Sometimes, it's easy to forget how much work there is left to do on a refined emulator. While the rush of getting a new game to boot or discovering a crazy feature hidden within an obscure gem never gets old, those moments do tend to get further and further apart as accuracy increases. As if to defy fate itself, excitement reigned over the month of January as a plethora of ancient bugs were fixed and many unbootable titles finally saw their day of reckoning come to be!

Among the new recruits are the final Virtual Console game, a massive Wii MMO that installs itself to USB, two games where we're almost certain the developers purposefully put code in to defeat Dolphin, and two channels developed by the remnants of Factor 5.



This is a massive Progress Report, so buckle up and enjoy this month's Notable Changes.

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Dolphin Progress Report: December 2016


We have celebrated the 15th anniversary of the GameCube and the 10th anniversary of the Wii in the last few months. As the Wii's successor, and the brand lineage, has been discontinued in the run-up to the release of the Switch, it is a time for reflection. But, this doesn't mean an end for the GameCube and Wii; if anything, it's a new beginning.

This is when emulation and preservation becomes even more important. How many titles in previous generations would have been lost or forgotten if not for emulation? How many of your favorite games were first experienced in an emulator? With Nintendo's NES Classic and Virtual Console lines, it's very likely that the next generation of gamers are going to be more aware of emulation than ever. Favorite games and experiences are not only going to be passed from friend to friend, but across generations. And we here are going to do our best to make sure that not only are those popular games awaiting, but the entire library of highs and lows, knowns and unknowns.

On the note of software that most people probably haven't experienced, we decided to take a look at one of Nintendo's more interesting pack-in titles, The Legend of Zelda: Collector's Edition. Featuring emulation software for both the NES and N64 Zelda games (With A Link to the Past omitted only because they were trying to sell the Game Boy Player,) and a demo of Wind Waker, it's one of the more sought after GameCube games.


The Legend of Zelda: Collector's Edition - A Quick Retrospective


With all of that out of the way, we hope you enjoy this month's notable changes!

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Dolphin Progress Report: November 2016


The biggest news of the month regarding Wii emulation has nothing to do with Dolphin. The vehicle for many of our hardware tests and much, much more, The Homebrew Channel, has gone open source. In its heyday, it was stuffed to the brim with anti-reverse engineering code to prevent nefarious entities from selling the free program. Unfortunately, some of those tricks were also designed to prevent Dolphin from running it. This isn't due to a dislike of Dolphin; in recent years, we've even been tipped off to what we'd need to do to get past the anti-Dolphin checks.

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Dolphin Progress Report: October 2016


This month, we have a few very important things to go over before we get to our notable changes, so let's dig right into that.


NVIDIA Vulkan Support Update

Users may remember that we recommended using older versions of the NVIDIA drivers when using Vulkan. Well, this is no longer required as once NVIDIA was aware of the bug, they fixed it in a few minutes and the fix was rolled out in driver version 375.63. Users can now use the latest ...

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Bluetooth Passthrough


These days, most emulators use pre-configured mappings to allow any controller that uses xinput to be immediately mapped to whatever the original console used. But that is only possible because of the standardized button layout that has proliferated throughout consoles. Mapping older controllers, such as the SNES controller, to a modern controller is pretty much trivial. Even a PS2 controller can be mapped to an Xbox 360 controller without losing much.

For Dolphin, things get a bit more complicated. While the GameCube Controller has a few trouble spots, ...

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Dolphin Progress Report: September 2016


There was apparently some big deal this month about getting every GameCube game to boot. But, the increasingly more amusing part of this new found accuracy is emulating game crashes. When using MMU Enabled + Single Core, it should be impossible for a game to crash Dolphin, but, much more likely to emulate a game crashing in situations where it would on console. As such, booting all games is old news, Dolphin is now onto emulating crashes in all games. One infamous one that didn't work in Dolphin is known as the Gotcha Force "Force 20" game glitch.


Gotcha Force "Force 20" Crash

Though not specially highlighted this month, our applause has to go to aldelero5 for continuing to work on and renovate Dolphin's debugger. With Dolphin's increasingly accurate MMU emulation, it's actually become even more useful to poke at and prod games. They are making it so much easier to research and prod bugs like this to delve even deeper into the game logic!

While that was merged near the beginning of the month, we had another major change merged at the end of the month. Two hours before the progress report was originally scheduled. Dolphin now has another experimental backend, this time using the Vulkan API. Much like D3D12, it should be considered experimental, with a few features still missing from the backend, and many drivers having their own issues with Vulkan.

With that out of the way, let's get onto this month's notable changes!

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Booting the Final GameCube Game


Every single GameCube game can at least boot in Dolphin 5.0. Except one. Star Wars: The Clone Wars and its complex way of using the PowerPC Memory Management Unit rendered it unplayable in Dolphin up to this day. But finally as of Dolphin 5.0-540, this challenge has come and gone: Dolphin can finally boot every single GameCube game in the official library.


Star Wars: The Clone Wars Running in Dolphin


So what makes Star Wars: The Clone Wars so special? To truly understand what's going on, you need to have some knowledge on how the PowerPC's processor handles memory management and how Dolphin emulates it.

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