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It looks like Plex is now a player in the gaming front end race:

https://www.plex.tv/arcade/

I’ve been using Plex for a while and always thought it’d be a great platform for running retro games. Did not see this ever happening though. It definitely doesn’t have the eye candy of HyperSpin or Big Box, but the fact it uses libretro cores to launch adds a lot of extra functionality from within the frontend (I’ve never understood why other frontends don’t use libretro cores to bypass the whole extra layer of an ahk powered launcher). The ability to stream games is an intriguing feature too.

Why doesn’t Launchbox rely on libretro cores for game launching? It could still allow for the ability to add external emus, but use libretro cores by default. 

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12 minutes ago, tribe fan said:

It looks like Plex is now a player in the gaming front end race:

https://www.plex.tv/arcade/

I’ve been using Plex for a while and always thought it’d be a great platform for running retro games. Did not see this ever happening though. It definitely doesn’t have the eye candy of HyperSpin or Big Box, but the fact it uses libretro cores to launch adds a lot of extra functionality from within the frontend (I’ve never understood why other frontends don’t use libretro cores to bypass the whole extra layer of an ahk powered launcher). The ability to stream games is an intriguing feature too.

Why doesn’t Launchbox rely on libretro cores for game launching? It could still allow for the ability to add external emus, but use libretro cores by default. 

With the new Plex Arcade you still have to go and download the cores, so not really any different to Launchbox in that regard, this is due to licensing reasons, you cant supply retroarch or its cores with a paid product. Launchbox has a paid option, and in order to use the Plex Arcade you have to pay a monthly subscripion, $2.99 for existing Plex Pass users, or $4.99 if you don't have a Plex Pass subscription, so due to the license Retroarch uses it cant be provided with products that charge for there use.

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So Launchbox could still maintain the software as a paid service, but require users to download the cores externally? I don’t see that as a dealbreaker as long as the frontend itself was able to seamlessly manage the cores. The extra functionality like save state and controller management from within the front end makes it an intriguing option over what it is now: basically an emulator Swiss Army knife. I can imagine Launchbox being a simplified version of Retroarch with way more dumbed down menu options and all the eye candy we enjoy now. 

Edited by tribe fan
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The Retroarch team has been very clear that they do not want Retroarch used in this way. So basically, any company that does (including Plex) is doing so legally (at least *arguably* legally), but they're doing it against the wishes of the Retroarch team.

It's worth noting that we *did* reach out to the Retroarch team a while ago to discuss this as a possibility. They actively discouraged it.

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29 minutes ago, Starbuck said:

Just curious. Is there a way to mirror Launchbox to my television in another room and play?

Steam, Geforce Now, Parsec and Moonlight are all free options for in home streaming.

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2 hours ago, neil9000 said:

Steam, Geforce Now, Parsec and Moonlight are all free options for in home streaming.

Has anyone tried streaming Big Box using any of these methods? If so, how was your experience?

Edited by tribe fan
Grammar
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On 1/29/2021 at 10:56 AM, tribe fan said:

Has anyone tried streaming Big Box using any of these methods? If so, how was your experience?

I've used Steam which worked fine and when I had a Shield I used that as well which also seemed to work fine.

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  • 3 weeks later...
On 1/27/2021 at 10:29 AM, tribe fan said:

It looks like Plex is now a player in the gaming front end race:

Not quite. Plex is now alone in the personalized, curated collection Game Streaming race.

I can't think of anyone else that has precisely what they're offering, as they're different still than free streaming back ends like NVIDIA's, Moonlight, etc.. But their solution isn't merely for "front end" use. There are a lot of requirements and caveats that come with serving games off a streaming server, and IMO, their platform expansion isn't ready for prime time yet.

Edited by Pixelpiper
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On 1/27/2021 at 1:33 PM, Jason Carr said:

The Retroarch team has been very clear that they do not want Retroarch used in this way. So basically, any company that does (including Plex) is doing so legally (at least *arguably* legally), but they're doing it against the wishes of the Retroarch team.

It's not only legal, it's not even remotely against the terms of the GPLv3 license (IMO, Libretro team can suck it). It IS however kludgy as hell to have to use Retroarch itself to do the core downloading - but I suppose it's easier than telling people to go to github to pull cores manually. The RA front end exists as en example, others are supposed to make their own front ends, which is what Plex are doing, even if their current offering isn't full featured yet.

Edited by Pixelpiper
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21 hours ago, Pixelpiper said:

It's not only legal, it's not even remotely against the terms of the GPLv3 license (IMO, Libretro team can suck it). It IS however kludgy as hell to have to use Retroarch itself to do the core downloading - but I suppose it's easier than telling people to go to github to pull cores manually. The RA front end exists as en example, others are supposed to make their own front ends, which is what Plex are doing, even if their current offering isn't full featured yet.

I don’t think it’s a huge deal having to manually download the cores. There’s even third party software like stellar updater that can automatically pull all the core updates from the repository for you. My bigger issue is with the way Plex is using libretro if it is in fact against their wishes. If I’m understanding correctly, they don’t want libretro cores used outside the RetroArch ecosystem?

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14 minutes ago, tribe fan said:

 If I’m understanding correctly, they don’t want libretro cores used outside the RetroArch ecosystem?

No, that's not it. Libretro is a cross-platform API (in their own words), with Retroarch as the reference Front End (it shows what can be done). RA is not the end-goal of Libretro, it's a concurrent project that makes use of Libretro but anyone can implement the API and use cores into their own front ends without Retroarch. That's entirely the concept of the project.

Commercial products can't use the Retroarch front end because its license is GPL v3.  But licensing for the Libretro API is MIT, which absolutely allows commercial use.

Plex should not be using Retroarch at all, even if they're not providing it - It's not against the terms of the GPLv3, but definitely goes against the spirit in that its use (by the customer) is supporting someone else's paid/commercial venture. But they can (and should) use Libretro cores and API.

Edited by Pixelpiper
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1 hour ago, Pixelpiper said:

No, that's not it. Libretro is a cross-platform API (in their own words), with Retroarch as the reference Front End (it shows what can be done). RA is not the end-goal of Libretro, it's a concurrent project that makes use of Libretro but anyone can implement the API and use cores into their own front ends without Retroarch. That's entirely the concept of the project.

Commercial products can't use the Retroarch front end because its license is GPL v3.  But licensing for the Libretro API is MIT, which absolutely allows commercial use.

Plex should not be using Retroarch at all, even if they're not providing it - It's not against the terms of the GPLv3, but definitely goes against the spirit in that its use (by the customer) is supporting someone else's paid/commercial venture. But they can (and should) use Libretro cores and API.

That really begs the question as to why it’s not implemented by more frontend projects. There’s a libretro core for virtually every retro console imaginable now. I don’t know anything about the coding aspects, but it would seem to greatly enhance the functionality of the frontend. Launchbox is incredible at what it does now, but I’d think implementing libretro cores directly would allow for more seamless game launching and the potential for other features native to the frontend (save states and input control to name two). I imagine it being an emulator GUI on steroids while simplifying a lot of retroarch’s more complex features (input lag, filters, etc.).

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5 minutes ago, tribe fan said:

That really begs the question as to why it’s not implemented by more frontend projects.

There are a number of projects with support, including Kodi.

https://docs.libretro.com/development/frontends/

I think availability or lack thereof comes down primarily to one thing: The enormous amount of work.

If you're thinking of an Open Source project, then you have existing ones to compete with for manpower. If you're going it alone, it's a lot less work to write patches for existing projects than to start your own. And if you're going it alone, you're also not likely to be able to handle a commercial project at the scale needed - unless you have deep pockets to hire help. But then, see above regarding competition from free projects. :)

Edited by Pixelpiper
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4 minutes ago, neil9000 said:

You would lose those as that is handled by Retroarch, not the libretro cores directly.

I think he means it would allow a developer to implement their own, so it would all be integrated, rather than relying on another layer like with RA today. A LOT of work.

Edited by Pixelpiper
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Just now, Pixelpiper said:

I think he means it would allow a developer to implement their own. A LOT of work.

Yeah, a lot of work for no reason when a user can simply unzip Retroarch anywhere on there PC and direct Launchbox at it, no need to spend that time and money on re-inventing the wheel.

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11 minutes ago, Pixelpiper said:

There are a number of projects with support, including Kodi.

https://docs.libretro.com/development/frontends/

I think availability or lack thereof comes down primarily to one thing: The enormous amount of work.

If you're thinking of an Open Source project, then you have existing ones to compete with for manpower. If you're going it alone, it's a lot less work to write patches for existing projects than to start your own. And if you're going it alone, you're also not likely to be able to handle a commercial project at the scale needed - unless you have deep pockets to hire help. But then, see above regarding competition from free projects. :)

That all makes sense. I’m probably misunderstanding/underestimating how much of the heavy lifting retroarch is managing in conjunction with the cores. I’ve checked out Ludo frontend (which is similar to what I’m describing), but it’s very visually minimalistic. Would be cool to see that project evolve into something more closely resembling Big Box. Could another nonstarter for this kind of project be the potential for negative attention from the big game developers? They can’t argue against developers writing software that emulates their old hardware, but I could see where they’d take issue with software that emulates their hardware AND borrows their art assets. Maybe keeping the frontend software separate from the emulation software is how all of this has managed to stay out of legal crosshairs?

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