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Dolphin Progress Report: February and March 2021

Sometimes the introductions to the Progress Reports are the hardest part to write. The Dolphin Blog has been running for many years, and we've gone through hundreds of changes that affect thousands of titles. We've gone into detail on all kinds of games, from top sellers on the consoles to obscure titles that most of us wouldn't have known existed if not for some random bug report. Despite all of these exciting changes, despite seemingly seeing it all over the years, we still see things that amaze us. The GameCube and Wii library still have a few tricks up their sleeves and developers continue to come up with crazy new optimizations and features that keep pushing Dolphin forward.

It's hard to express how happy we are to not only be writing these articles, but still have interesting things to write about. In fact, we were working on a feature article spotlighting some new features, but things were unfortunately delayed. As such, this month's Progress Report is a little hurried. What exactly got delayed? Well, we'll have more on that later this month. For now... please enjoy this slightly belated Dolphin Progress Report!

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Dolphin Progress Report: December 2020 and January 2021

Welcome to the Dolphin Progress Report for December 2020 and January 2021! Things ended up running a little behind for this report due to some technical details that we needed to hammer out for a few of these entries. We on the blog team are familiar with the emulator, however there are a lot of technical details that are simply beyond our expertise. Going from things like the AArch64 JIT to GUI changes to IOS updates to game patches that go into low-level hardware behavior is enough to make anyone's head spin! More often than not, we rely on core developers and the authors of a specific change to help us understand what a pull request does so that we can express its purpose accurately here on the blog.

With Progress Reports coming at a mostly bimonthly schedule at this point, this means that sometimes authors have moved onto different things or aren't available to talk. As a blog about emulation, getting these details correct about the various changes and how the emulator works is one of our highest priorities. So, with that out of the way, we hope you enjoy this belated Dolphin Progress Report!

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Dolphin Progress Report: July, August, and September 2020

Kept you waiting, huh? This summer we had our longest break since we started writing these Progress Reports. Some other obligations came up and a bit of a lull in development gave us the opportunity to postpone things for an extra month. As it turned out, pushing things back might have been a bad idea, as the floodgates opened and now there's a gigantic backlog spanning three months to get through! To put things into perspective, since our last Progress Report, the last Nintendo Wii games were released, Dolphin Android had a huge user experience overhaul, and Nintendo's very own GameCube and Wii emulator hit the Switch with Super Mario 3D All Stars.

So without further delay, let's start getting through the backlog. This one is a bit of a doozy.

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Dolphin Progress Report: May and June 2020

We've got a lot to get through the past two months. Headlining it all is that we're happy to announce support for a new compressed disc format developed specifically for Dolphin: RVZ. This lossless format allows for near top of the line game compression without compromising the integrity of ISOs, while also maintaining performance and stability. But what good is compression if emulation isn't up to snuff? The past two months have been chock-full of emulation and usability fixes for both Android and Desktop Dolphin! There's a little bit of everything, from graphics emulation fixes, memory card and savestate compatibility changes, to obscure features like being able to report thermal data to games and homebrew!

Rather than delaying any longer, let's just dive in now! Please please enjoy the May and June Dolphin Progress Report!

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Dolphin Progress Report: April 2020

It feels like it's been some time since we've had actually had a monthly Progress Report. This is because there haven't been as many major changes landing, making it harder to fill out a substantial article. That isn't to say that things have slowed down, these smaller changes increase the quality of life for users and add up, especially when jumping from older builds to the latest. However, these changes are a lot harder to show and feature in a Progress Report compared to things that actually affect the core emulation and games. This time around, we had more than enough on our plate to write about, including support in the latest builds for a very interesting game: The Metroid Prime 3's E3 2006 Beta.

But before we get to the new changes, we need to cover something we missed last month. So, without further delay, please enjoy the mostly April Progress Report!

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Dolphin Progress Report: February and March 2020

We understand that the past few months have been trying for many of us across the world. Something like this can make what you do feel so very small in the grand scheme of things. Everyone has their ways of coping with isolation, using the internet, games, emulation, and much more as forms of entertainment to keep spirits up. To those of you relying on Dolphin Emulator, we hope that Dolphin Emulator makes your day a little brighter in these trying times.

In this Progress Report, you'll find that we've got a lot of changes affecting things outside of core emulation. For instance, Dolphin on Android and macOS see the return of Dark Mode, perfect for late night gaming without straining your eyes. But if we're going to talk about the main event, we have a new way to use your Wii Remotes that brings tremendous flexibility. People that were disappointed by the removal of Hybrid Wii Remotes, forced Wii Remote disconnections on Save/Loadstates, and other limitations of Real Wii Remotes should be very excited. With two months of changes to get through, it's about time we just dived in. Please enjoy the February and March Progress Report!

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Dolphin Progress Report: October 2019

We apologize for the late Progress Report, but at this point it's partially by design. There's been an ongoing issue with Dolphin's updater being recognized as a trojan by Window's Defender Cloud AI scanning. The good news is that Microsoft has acknowledged that Dolphin's updater isn't a trojan, however for now they have to manually whitelist our executables. In order to ensure that the monthly builds distributed through our update track aren't deleted by Window's antivirus, we've been verifying that the build we've chosen is whitelisted. If you're interested in learning more about how something like this happens, MayImilae researched the issue and wrote up a detailed report below on what is happening and where we stand on the problem for now.

Until further notice, please keep reporting these erroneous detections so our builds can be whitelisted by Microsoft until they get their AI sorted. Thank you. Without further ado, let's jump into a smattering of significant changes that hit this month, including a way motion features in some of your favorite controllers.

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Dolphin Progress Report: August and September 2019

Earlier this month, an interesting development within the Wii reverse engineering scene was announced as Fullmetal5 revealed that they had hacked the Wii Mini via a Bluetooth exploit. This bookends a flurry of a Wii Mini hacking, including rigorous hardware modding by DeadlyFoez. You may be wondering, "Wait, wasn't the Wii hacked over a decade ago?". That's true, but the Wii Mini stubbornly remained unhacked all the way into 2019.

This resiliency came from the Wii Mini's cut down nature: it physically lacks the attack vectors that were used against the original Wii. In total, the Wii Mini was missing GameCube support, with no GameCube controller ports or Memory Card slots, lacked internet and browser support, and they completely removed the SD card slot. With so few attack surfaces, hackers have had to get inventive. DeadlyFoez created "FrankenWiis", mixing Wii Mini hardware and standard Wii hardware, to create exploit options and dump the Wii Mini firmware. This was as far as anyone could go, until Fullmetal5 found the holy grail: an exploit in the standard Wii Mini configuration, through the Bluetooth stack! This exploit completely opens the Wii Mini, allowing for arbitrary code execution to dump and/or load data over the Wii Mini's USB ports. The exploit is currently not public, but when it is released, users will be able to run homebrew on the Wii Mini just like any other Wii console, without any hardware mods. If you're interested at all in the Wii Mini and its many differences, feel free to checkout some of DeadlyFoez's videos of their efforts. It's a very strange little machine.

Update: During the writing of this article, the exploit was released!.

With the Wii Mini Menu dumped, the main question for us was... does it run in Dolphin?

The Wii Mini Wii Menu running in Dolphin!
Here is a normal Wii Menu for comparison. The Wii Mini lacks the Wii Shop, all internet channels, and the SD Card.

The answer is yes! In addition to that, Fullmetal5 also adjusted Dolphin to correctly detect Mini Wii Menu versions. While there isn't much practical use for running this cut down Wii Menu in Dolphin, it was exciting to finally see one of the last unhacked pieces of Wii hardware fall. We'd like to wholeheartedly thank everyone involved for their efforts toward Wii hacking and preservation.

With that out of the way, we have a few changes of our own to go through. While the end of the summer was a bit slow, there are still some essential fixes for several popular games and finally EFB Access is working correctly on Adreno devices... at least in Vulkan. Let's jump into August and September's Notable Changes without further delay!

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Dolphin Progress Report: June and July 2019

As seems to be happening annually, due to a short summer lull, we decided to combine the June and July Progress Reports. As you may have noticed, we're a few days into August at this point and things ended up running a bit late. That's actually a consequence of how we do these Progress Reports - we sometimes will go through big changes, test them, and get developer input on how they work in order to better explain them. In late July, a mixture of late changes, unexpected behaviors, and an extremely subtle game bug forced us to delay things while we sorted everything out. In this case, the end result didn't actually affect Dolphin, but does make for a better read as everything finally came full circle.

While we apologize for things being late, we do have a rather wide variety of changes that hit over the last two months to make this Progress Report extremely well-rounded. Whether you're looking for GUI updates, Android, fixes to ancient bugs, and even one feature inspired by a developer who saw Dolphin being used during Summer Game's Done Quick!

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Dolphin Progress Report: December 2018 and January 2019

While there are a lot of notable changes to go through from the past two months, there's some notable news for the general Wii community. By the time this article is up, the Nintendo Wii Shop will be closed. Purchasing will be entirely disabled so all remaining Wii Points will be rendered useless, and even downloading of purchased games will be disabled at an undefined date in the future. While this may not seem like very big news for an emulator, Dolphin does actually support connecting to and buying games off of the Wii shop.

More distressingly, it's likely only a matter of time before the Wii Nintendo Update Servers (NUS) themselves go down. Dolphin relies on the NUS servers for installing a fully updated Wii System Menu in Dolphin. Users with unscrubbed Wii discs can rely on them as well to install the System Menu after they go down, but, depending on when the game was released, it may not be fully updated.

It's also rather disappointing that the many unique titles released on WiiWare can no longer be legally purchased by users. Say what you will about the average quality of WiiWare releases, these titles are a part of the Wii's legacy, one that is slowly being locked out to those who would want to experience them in the future.

Now that we've gotten that out of the way, we have a lot of big changes that hit over the past two months that we need to get through. The sun may be setting on Nintendo's revolutionary console, but on the emulation front we still have a long road ahead of this. We hope that everyone enjoy's this month's notable changes!

For the convenience of our Android users, we've decided to cluster up a ton of important Android changes together after the more general changes. If you're on Android 9 or are a big fan of Paper Mario, you definitely won't want to skip out.

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