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GameCube and Wii emulator Dolphin got a big speed boost for Steam Deck

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GameCube and the Wii emulator Dolphin had a progress report posted up in late December, and it's looking really good, especially so with their performance optimization work.

As usual plenty of new features are coming in like support for WiiConnect24, a service for staying connected online but it was terminated by Nintendo (but alternatives like WiiLink and RiiConnect24 exist). Now Dolphin should work nicely with it.

More exciting though is that their team has been doing a lot of work with Vulkan lately including the use of the Vulkan Memory Allocator, which gives them better memory management. Their optimization continued, thanks to the release of the Steam Deck where they realised they could do better. One game in particular stuck out with Super Mario Galaxy (Wii) not performing like it should, and they ended up finding something they were doing eating up a lot of CPU time which as it turns out was a regression from two years ago. After sorting that, it was optimized even further and in their simulated Steam Deck testing they showed performance going from 85FPS to 140FPS.


Image Credit - Dolphin Forum

They also made it clear some direct Steam Deck testing showed a clear improvement too with "Super Mario Galaxy (and a little of Super Mario Galaxy 2)" performing now "at full speed and 2x Internal Resolution without any noticeable slowdown".

Overall, sounds like a nice performance win for all users but especially those on Steam Deck. On desktop though they said they saw Super Mario Galaxy games get an improvement of about "30%" even when running at "4x Internal Resolution" but not everything has a big jump, some games only saw a very small increase.

Lots more in their progress report like a reduction in stuttering with more optimization work going into the Ubershaders system, improvements to their FPS counter, an Android GUI refresh and so on.

Article taken from GamingOnLinux.com.
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9 comments

Pengling 10 Jan
Dolphin is a fantastic emulator in every possible way; It works excellently, and it's very well-documented too, including throughout the emulator itself. I used it to play through the Japan-only full retail version of Bomberman Blast recently and it was flawless - great to see even more improvements!

QuoteAs usual plenty of new features are coming in like support for WiiConnect24, a service for staying connected online but it was terminated by Nintendo (but alternatives like WiiLink and RiiConnect24 exist). Now Dolphin should work nicely with it.
I'm particularly curious about this, since there are some extensive fan-made mods such as Mario Kart Wii Deluxe, which can utilise the fan-made replacements for the online service (which, for clarity, was actually terminated by GameSpy, whose infrastructure it was built on) - if this update makes using those less of a hassle (if I'm remembering right, you used to need to create a firmware dump for this), that will be a big plus!


Last edited by Pengling on 10 January 2023 at 5:18 pm UTC
CyborgZeta 10 Jan
That's nice and all, but Vulkan on the Dolphin Flatpak has been broken for the past several months. Trying to use Vulkan just brings up a "failed to initialize video backend" and "failed to create Vulkan instance" dialog.
TiZ 11 Jan
Quoting: CyborgZetaThat's nice and all, but Vulkan on the Dolphin Flatpak has been broken for the past several months. Trying to use Vulkan just brings up a "failed to initialize video backend" and "failed to create Vulkan instance" dialog.
I don't see an issue for this on the Flathub package's issue tracker. Any particular reason you haven't filed a report if it has been broken for the past several months?
CyborgZeta 11 Jan
Quoting: TiZ
Quoting: CyborgZetaThat's nice and all, but Vulkan on the Dolphin Flatpak has been broken for the past several months. Trying to use Vulkan just brings up a "failed to initialize video backend" and "failed to create Vulkan instance" dialog.
I don't see an issue for this on the Flathub package's issue tracker. Any particular reason you haven't filed a report if it has been broken for the past several months?
I don't have a GitHub account, and I know jack about filing bug reports. People typically pull up the output in a terminal or something, yes? I don't know how to do that. All I can tell you is "Uh, it don't work".

There are discussions on Reddit that tell me other people have issues with failing to initialize Vulkan on Dolphin. Though I don't know what hardware or OS they're using. In those cases, it may be a driver issue, but the Flatpak build should be using the latest drivers. No clue.

Vulkan in Dolphin doesn't work on my desktop or my Steam Deck, so I don't think it's a hardware issue.


Last edited by CyborgZeta on 11 January 2023 at 4:47 pm UTC
melkemind 12 Jan
Quoting: CyborgZeta
Quoting: TiZ
Quoting: CyborgZetaThat's nice and all, but Vulkan on the Dolphin Flatpak has been broken for the past several months. Trying to use Vulkan just brings up a "failed to initialize video backend" and "failed to create Vulkan instance" dialog.
I don't see an issue for this on the Flathub package's issue tracker. Any particular reason you haven't filed a report if it has been broken for the past several months?
I don't have a GitHub account, and I know jack about filing bug reports. People typically pull up the output in a terminal or something, yes? I don't know how to do that. All I can tell you is "Uh, it don't work".

There are discussions on Reddit that tell me other people have issues with failing to initialize Vulkan on Dolphin. Though I don't know what hardware or OS they're using. In those cases, it may be a driver issue, but the Flatpak build should be using the latest drivers. No clue.

Vulkan in Dolphin doesn't work on my desktop or my Steam Deck, so I don't think it's a hardware issue.

I just tried it with Vulkan, and it appears to be working on my system. There must be a way to work around whatever issue you're having, although I don't know what that is since I didn't do anything special.
CyborgZeta 12 Jan
Quoting: melkemind
Quoting: CyborgZeta
Quoting: TiZ
Quoting: CyborgZetaThat's nice and all, but Vulkan on the Dolphin Flatpak has been broken for the past several months. Trying to use Vulkan just brings up a "failed to initialize video backend" and "failed to create Vulkan instance" dialog.
I don't see an issue for this on the Flathub package's issue tracker. Any particular reason you haven't filed a report if it has been broken for the past several months?
I don't have a GitHub account, and I know jack about filing bug reports. People typically pull up the output in a terminal or something, yes? I don't know how to do that. All I can tell you is "Uh, it don't work".

There are discussions on Reddit that tell me other people have issues with failing to initialize Vulkan on Dolphin. Though I don't know what hardware or OS they're using. In those cases, it may be a driver issue, but the Flatpak build should be using the latest drivers. No clue.

Vulkan in Dolphin doesn't work on my desktop or my Steam Deck, so I don't think it's a hardware issue.

I just tried it with Vulkan, and it appears to be working on my system. There must be a way to work around whatever issue you're having, although I don't know what that is since I didn't do anything special.
I found the problem.

Just did a fresh install and re-enabled my settings one-by-one, testing Vulkan each time to see if it works. When I checked the box for "Enable API Validation Layers" in the Advanced tab, I got the problem I've been experiencing. That's why Vulkan never worked. Not sure why I ever had that checked. Well, at least that's one problem solved.


Last edited by CyborgZeta on 12 January 2023 at 11:20 pm UTC
whizse 12 Jan
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Quoting: CyborgZetaJust did a fresh install and re-enabled my settings one-by-one, testing Vulkan each time to see if it works. When I checked the box for "Enable API Validation Layers" in the Advanced tab, I got the problem I've been experiencing. That's why Vulkan never worked.
Thanks for sharing the solution!
Eike 13 Jan
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  • Supporter Plus
Quoting: CyborgZeta
Quoting: melkemind
Quoting: CyborgZeta
Quoting: TiZ
Quoting: CyborgZetaThat's nice and all, but Vulkan on the Dolphin Flatpak has been broken for the past several months. Trying to use Vulkan just brings up a "failed to initialize video backend" and "failed to create Vulkan instance" dialog.
I don't see an issue for this on the Flathub package's issue tracker. Any particular reason you haven't filed a report if it has been broken for the past several months?
I don't have a GitHub account, and I know jack about filing bug reports. People typically pull up the output in a terminal or something, yes? I don't know how to do that. All I can tell you is "Uh, it don't work".

There are discussions on Reddit that tell me other people have issues with failing to initialize Vulkan on Dolphin. Though I don't know what hardware or OS they're using. In those cases, it may be a driver issue, but the Flatpak build should be using the latest drivers. No clue.

Vulkan in Dolphin doesn't work on my desktop or my Steam Deck, so I don't think it's a hardware issue.

I just tried it with Vulkan, and it appears to be working on my system. There must be a way to work around whatever issue you're having, although I don't know what that is since I didn't do anything special.
I found the problem.

Just did a fresh install and re-enabled my settings one-by-one, testing Vulkan each time to see if it works. When I checked the box for "Enable API Validation Layers" in the Advanced tab, I got the problem I've been experiencing. That's why Vulkan never worked. Not sure why I ever had that checked. Well, at least that's one problem solved.

Sounds like Dolphin should try validation though?
BillFleming 16 Jan
Vulkan validation layers is a separate package that you need to install. On Steam Desk it certainly isn't included, and on typical arch gaming machine it just wastes SSD space. So that special dolphin option probably needs to be off unless you are a developer, on a developer machine.
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