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robwired

Emulator Cores - An open letter to the developers

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Launchbox is an amazing piece of software, a phenomenal front-end and I think it has the potential to be the best game emulator there is.

Yes, I know that it's not an emulator and there are those who would say that Emulator front-ends should stick to what they know like Hyperspin, RocketLauncher and MAME all being separate.

Let's dispel the notion that users actually want to have three separate programs or that it's necessary to keep front-ends, launchers and emulators separate.

On the Mac side, OpenEmu has done an incredible job combining these three together, all the while letting the emulator developers continue to work their magic and have found a model that gives credit to these developers. It's a win-win-win for users, the open-emu team and the emulator developers because there are probably a hundred times as many users than there would be otherwise and in some cases, it might be a thousand or ten thousand as many users, for example for a small system, how many users would actually take the time to search out a Fairchild system emulator.

So the magic is there and it's not because development of cores contained WITHIN OpenEmu was some huge technological challenge, it was because the approach for the OpenEmu team has been to determine how to get as many users using the system as possible. OpenEmu is dead simple in this regard as a user does NOT have to separately download an emulator core, it's contained right within the program as are new cores with each version update.

Yes, there would be a TINY amount of ONE-TIME work required to ask each of the Emulator developers to give permission for distribution, but fortunately, OpenEmu has already paved this road, so any developer that gave permission to OpenEmu would most likely not have an issue in giving it to LaunchBox.

If LaunchBox were to take this approach it would immediately become the 800 pound gorilla in the room of Front-Ends, pushing aside HyperSpin and setting the foundation for collaboration between the Mac, Windows and Linux communities in a way that has never existed before. With a potential user base of 10x, 100x or maybe even greater the Launchbox community would attract new volunteers.

It's all about the user experience. Emulator set up is just far too hard for many users, consuming hours and hours to set up each emulator. It's past time someone stood up and volunteered to lead. As a community we need our William Wallace and I would gladly contribute my $25/year in support of this well deserved cause.

Warm Regards,

Rob E.

 

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OpenEmu is using libretro cores is it not ? If it is not then please forgive my error, I don't own and never will own a Mac so I do not care to know about its software.

Now having said that everything I say here on out is based on what little I may or may not know about OpenEmu.

What you are proposing is a nice idea but you are now locking yourself into one single choice of emulators for each system and those are all governed by the cores that Libretro provides. Libretro does not support Gamecube, Wii, WiiU, Playstation 2, (Playstation 3 and Xbox 360 when those emulators become useful).

Launchbox as it is right now is the frontend and launcher in one. There is no need for RocketLauncher for Hyperspin (unless the user chooses to use it).

Not everyone wants to be locked into using a set emulator such as the libretro cores. For example while they do have N64 and PSP cores I will not use those cores. I use PJ64 for custom texture packs and the stand alone PPSSPP is far better. Another example is performance, while on my main gaming rig I can use the Playstation core and it's great but on my lower powered laptop which I have hooked up to the TV it cannot even look at the libretro PS core. For that I use ePSXe and it runs like a champ.

Now that's not to say Jason doesn't doesn't need to update the recommended emulators within Launchbox. Of course he does and he knows this and it is planned. Maybe though he could talk to the libretro guys about somehow integrating libretro into Launchbox and have it come pre-packaged and set up with it ready to go out of the box. This would be a great idea but I would certainly not sacrifice the option to use other emulators as I see fit.

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I can't say I agree with much of this to be honest with you.

The beauty of LaunchBox is its modular, do-what-you-want-with-it nature. You could literally use it as a front-end for... anything really. It doesn't even need to be emulation related, despite that being the obvious focus. That freedom is a strength, not a shortcoming. Flipping that on its head and saying that it needs to directly integrate emulators provided by various and sundry developers does literally nothing for it. Because you know what that's called? "Bloat." You can plug (or not) whatever you want into it. You laud OpenEmu for not having individual modules per platform as if that's praiseworthy, but I would argue to the contrary using your own example... how many people do care about emulating a Fairchild? So what, the fact that they get it regardless is somehow beneficial? What?

We already have Retroarch as the sort of catchall solution you're talking about and it integrates just fine into LB.

Also, $25 a year? Have you actually spoken with the audience that you're proposing this to? I'm not saying there aren't people out there that would agree to this, hypothetically, but generally speaking this is a pretty insane notion.

EDIT: Also, everything @lordmonkus said :P

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Considering that Jason is juggling developing LaunchBox, BigBox the LBGDB, recording live streams, helping on the forum, running his company and being a father and husband I just don't think that would even be considered possible. He is the sole developer and personallyI think he would be stretched way to thin in a scenario like this and that would be detrimental to all aspects of this project.

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I appreciate the feedback guys. You both make some great points.

1) Let's all agree that no one wants to lose the choice of using other emulators.

2) Emulators cores are VERY small so the additional space isn't really an issue, but I would agree that it should be easy to simply remove a core.

3) IF emulator cores are based on Libretro, which I don't know myself, then there wouldn't be much "bloat" in the code.

4) Retroarch is an absolute pain in the butt, its probably the hardest emulator to actually set up. Using it with Launchbox is like externally plugging a SCSI box into an iPad. It works but...

Hopefully that addresses any downsides while allowing an elegant solution for many more users.

Some people like to work on cars and I get that, but Launchbox seems like it's going for the turn-key approach rather than the build a car kit model.

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Retroarch is actually quite easy to set up. It's just that the UI is confusing at first.

Here is something else though. There is always gonna be some point where the end user is going to have to get their hands dirty. Once the end user wants to emulate any sort of system with a "bios" file such as the Famicom Disk System, Playstation, Playstation 2, Dreamcast, Saturn, TurboGrafx CD they will need to source their own bios. No one can provide those for them.

Brad has made videos on setting up Retroarch and I plan on doing my own in the near future. I want to make a video walking people through the whole process and getting it running the best it can be.

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I know that for most of the part, the Windows, Linux and Mac software environment are very different. On one hand you have the simplicity and closeness Mac gives you. On the middle side you have Windows and finally Linux with total control handed to the user. 

From what I read, is that you want LaunchBox to take a more Mac ish approach. I honestly don't know if I as a Windows user and a Linux noob want that to happen. Yes, this could be beneficial to some users, but I wouldn't like to loss the option of getting my hands dirty, learn and control the software. I have learned a lot using LaunchBox and it is thanks to that.

Edit: Learning is one of the most valuable things we have. And I prefer it over simplicity. Of course I only represent myself, I have no intentions of saying this is the correct approach for everyone.

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5 minutes ago, robwired said:

1) Let's all agree that no one wants to lose the choice of using other emulators.

Which is precisely what LB facilitates already.

6 minutes ago, robwired said:

2) Emulators cores are VERY small so the additional space isn't really an issue, but I would agree that it should be easy to simply remove a core.

Which is precisely how RA works currently. Want Genesis support? Click a button. Decide you don't want it? Click a button.

Just now, robwired said:

3) IF emulator cores are based on Libretro, which I don't know myself, then there wouldn't be much "bloat" in the code.

4) Retroarch is an absolute pain in the butt, its probably the hardest emulator to actually set up. Using it with Launchbox is like externally plugging a SCSI box into an iPad. It works but...

Now I see why you're proposing this in the first place... :P

Again, all of the sort of wide-ranging catch-all support that you're looking for is already present in Retroarch. If you're having trouble getting it setup, that's what we're here to help with, and we're happy to do so, but suggesting a complete and fundamental reworking of how LB is structured because you don't understand how to use Retroarch is a stretch in the extreme.

I get wanting a simplified solution. I get wanting to just hit a button and it work. Believe me, I really really do. But what you're suggesting just isn't going to be beneficial (or likely even feasible) in the long run.

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I actually started thinking about this when I saw the work that Jason was putting into in having Launchbox go through the trouble of recommending, downloading and attaching emulators to Launchbox. It's clear that there is an understanding there that the process should be simple but the amount of work in supporting all those steps and having to make videos explaining how to do it is not as elegant as simply including the cores and I'm not sure in the long run that it even saves any time.

Of course no one is suggesting that roms or bios files be included but having a place on the cores screen where a user could drag and drop them is nice. I wouldn't say that this is any harder or gets my hands dirtier than dragging and dropping a game though.

The real work is in configuring each emulator, it's frankly a pain in the butt and while many here are very tech savvy, this limitation on enjoying Launchbox shouldn't exist. Think of the children ;)

I assume that ease of use and elegance aren't features that some users would be willing to pay for, but there are users who would be happy to contribute financially, users that aren't even using Launchbox yet!

Even Linus Torvalds uses his Mac hardware for Linux ;)

 

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Here's another key difference between OpenEmu on a Mac vs every other emulator on Windows.

With OpenEmu they know precisely what hardware is in each and every Mac, there is no guess work. On the PC side of things different emulators can require much more tweaking based on each PCs hardware.

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We don't want to give the children food we want to teach them how to fish for themselves

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2 minutes ago, lordmonkus said:

Here's another key difference between OpenEmu on a Mac vs every other emulator on Windows.

With OpenEmu they know precisely what hardware is in each and every Mac, there is no guess work. On the PC side of things different emulators can require much more tweaking based on each PCs hardware.

That's actually a big factor, yes.

Not only on the hardware side, but even the software. The amount of different tweaking you can do to your Windows can provoke some bugs or malfunctioning in LaunchBox/emulators. Like disabling some services and things like that.

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I mean if Jason could somehow swing it so that Launchbox came with and pre configured for libretro cores then that would be awesome. But I won't even try and guess at how much extra work that would be.

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someone mentioned earlier about open emu being based of libetro cores isn't it the other way around though and there are actually open em cores in RA. I don't own I Mac myself and I would light my money on fire 1st before I ever bought one so I don't have any actual knowledge of this just thought I saw open emu cores in the online updater for RA.

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Just to clarify to robwired, this is not a brigade against you or your main post. The reality is that most of us are Windows users and we are used to things as they are. I hope you don't feel attacked or anything.

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Do I feel like I'm in the corner of your mom's basement holding up my shiny white iPhone as a cross to ward off a bunch of Lindows guys who are mad that I'm suggesting that we let a few of the pretty people join our birthday party?

 

A little...

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1 minute ago, DOS76 said:

someone mentioned earlier about open emu being based of libetro cores isn't it the other way around though and there are actually open em cores in RA. I don't own I Mac myself and I would light my money on fire 1st before I ever bought one so I don't have any actual knowledge of this just thought I saw open emu cores in the online updater for RA.

I said that but I also I don't know for sure. I think it's just built off the cores like how Retroarch is. It's a weird little mess that I try and understand. The way I understand it is that libretro cores are all open souce and people can do what they want with them as long as they follow the open source licensing. OpenEmu is basically the Mac version of Retroarch, sort of like how EmulationStation is for Linux and Raspverry Pis. Again that's my understanding, I could be completely wrong.

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1 minute ago, robwired said:

Do I feel like I'm in the corner of your mom's basement holding up my shiny white iPhone as a cross to ward off a bunch of Lindows guys who are mad that I'm suggesting that we let a few of the pretty people join our birthday party?

 

A little...

No one is mad, just explaining the problems with what you are saying.

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RetroArch supports Mac and iOS itself though also. I think (I should probably research)

Edited by DOS76

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4 minutes ago, robwired said:

Do I feel like I'm in the corner of your mom's basement holding up my shiny white iPhone as a cross to ward off a bunch of Lindows guys who are mad that I'm suggesting that we let a few of the pretty people join our birthday party?

 

A little...

Mmmmkay.

What you should feel like is someone who burst into someone else's birthday party and said "Chocolate cake sucks. I want carrot cake".

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