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fredthezombie
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Emulation rig

by fredthezombie Fri Apr 24, 2020 7:58 pm

Hello, this is my first post here in ages! So I have a Raspberry Pi that I've adapted into an emulation console via retropie, been fiddling with this on and off for a few years so I'm fairly sure of most of what I'm doing. No matter how hard I try though, I can't adapt to the input latency. I know retroarch has a means of dealing with it with run ahead latency reduction though which the PI struggles with.
I want to upgrade, but have specific needs in my setup. Another single board computer like an Odroid xu4 or N2 could be a possible solution, but I wouldn't be opposed to building an emulation rig somewhere in the $300-$400 range using something lie a Ryzen 3 or 5. Though I've never built a computer from scratch. I don't want to spend the $ on a new setup unless I know it can do what I want.
It NEEDS to be able to run retroarchs run-ahead feature, though I know it would still be somewhat limited once getting to PSX or later, Specifically 8-16bit consoles and mame stuff for this is what I'm looking for.
It absolutely NEEDS to be able to emulate Sega Saturn (I know, a difficult console to emulate with modest hardware) but would love to be able to run beetlecore via mednafen, not much experience with yabause but willing to experiment. PS2 emulation would be nice but if GCN was the latest console I could emulate, I would be happy. Dreamcast of course, though I know redream is pretty darn good and pretty compatible on the various OS's
I know to run PS2 and Saturn isn't the easiest but I really would like to know of a possible list of parts I could get away with, or even frankenstein-ing a rig using an optiplex or something. I don't really care much about new games, I have a PS4 for that. I'm stuck in the 90's so future proofing isn't to important to me. As long as I can play Radient Silvergun, and Panzer Dragoon I would be so happy. Psychic Killer Tharumaru is pretty rad too :P
Thanks!
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Re: Emulation rig

by marurun Fri Apr 24, 2020 8:59 pm

What kind of pi you using? The new 3 is decently beefy, at least according to the specs.
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Re: Emulation rig

by samsonlonghair Fri Apr 24, 2020 11:13 pm

You’re not the only person who has complained about input lag on raspi.

PC is the way to go for solid emulation.

Good PC emulation isn’t hard to get. You’re going to want a fast processor. Don’t worry about multiple cores. They certainly don’t hurt, but they don’t seem to be much benefit for most emulators I’ve ever used. Clock speed seems to be the biggest factor. Sixteen gigs of RAM would be more than enough. You could probably get by with eight gigs.

I don’t think you need to worry about building your own computer from scratch. There are plenty of tiny form-factor PCs made for the office market. Look into a Lenovo Thinkcentre. Businesses buy ‘em up by the hundreds. See if you can snag one secondhand real cheap on eBay.
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Re: Emulation rig

by fredthezombie Sat Apr 25, 2020 1:06 am

samsonlonghair wrote:You’re not the only person who has complained about input lag on raspi.

PC is the way to go for solid emulation.

Good PC emulation isn’t hard to get. You’re going to want a fast processor. Don’t worry about multiple cores. They certainly don’t hurt, but they don’t seem to be much benefit for most emulators I’ve ever used. Clock speed seems to be the biggest factor. Sixteen gigs of RAM would be more than enough. You could probably get by with eight gigs.

I don’t think you need to worry about building your own computer from scratch. There are plenty of tiny form-factor PCs made for the office market. Look into a Lenovo Thinkcentre. Businesses buy ‘em up by the hundreds. See if you can snag one secondhand real cheap on eBay.
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Hey thanks for the reply! The only thing that is making me question the core count is the specifications I see listed on the site for Mednafen (Sega Saturn)
It says...

"Mednafen's Sega Saturn emulation is extremely CPU intensive. The minimum recommended CPU is a quad-core Intel Haswell-microarchitecture CPU with a base frequency of >= 3.3GHz and a turbo frequency of >= 3.7GHz(e.g. Xeon E3-1226 v3), but note that this recommendation does not apply to any unofficial ports or forks, which may have higher CPU requirements. "

...this is what has hung me up the most on figuring out what I need. Would a duel core be able to handle this? I know those thinkcentres could handle everything I wanted to play except maybe Saturn. I know I'm anal about the Saturn, totally a deal breaker though. One thing of note, I am able to run Saturn fairly well on my 2012 Macbook with a quad core that is only 2.6ghz, the fans go nuts but it seems full speed mostly. I dont know crap about computer specs, or how to read bench marks or the sort so please excuse my limited knowledge :P
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Re: Emulation rig

by fredthezombie Sat Apr 25, 2020 1:10 am

marurun wrote:What kind of pi you using? The new 3 is decently beefy, at least according to the specs.


Thanks for the reply! I've got a Pi 3B. I've been keeping an eye out since 3B+ and 4 came out but unfortunately they are still to weak for what I am wanting to do :(
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Re: Emulation rig

by Anapan Sat Apr 25, 2020 5:55 am

PC. I have solid 60 FPS with no lag on most emulators on an I3 2120 with 8 G ram. This is an easy goal. Dell Optiplex 390 with a Radeon HD 7400 because it was the cheapest crap that met my needs, and I built the computer part of it for under $100 CAD a few years ago . The system was a budget business system in 2011, the graphics card is from somewhere in 2012.

I have been trying to convert budget PCs into arcade cabs for shits and giggles since I always end up being given crap hardware after helping people upgrade, fix or buy new systems. I haven't sold any PC based arcade cabinets yet as the operating system I've been tweaking for years is not seamless and bugproof to my liking. Still, because of various attempts at lesser systems, I know exactly what can and can't be done at various price points. The price point keeps dropping! It's amazing how many games you can fit on an old mechanical hard drive.
This is the most relevant part you were asking about:
https://github.com/emu4crt/files
Mednafen modded. I didn't have any problems with this emulation of Saturn. I still regularly play my Sega Saturn, and the emulation is undetectable here hooked up to a CRT.
Other emulators have better solutions for solid 60FPS with no lag through RGB on an older system. I hate Retroarch, tho I do use it for some specific things. I bet it could replace a few of the emulators I regularly use. Luckily I don't need to use it.
Gamecube on Dolphin is okay, tho I'd need a beefier system for most PS2 and Wii games. On this budget system, you can't really do Dreamcast (some titles are playable on Redream). PSP games are mostly all working, tho on a SD CRT they have to be interlaced, so I'm using modelines to shape the displayed lines to a small 16x9 shaped window.
What I'm mainly working on now is getting indie PC games that were made to look retro actually running well on 240P. This computer can play most of these well, and it's so awesome to see them with real scanlines on an aperture grill display.

You might look into Lakka, as a boot and play solution - I think it can do 15Khz RGB to a CRT with no lag out of the box with lesser specs, but I have not tested it, only read stuff.

Image

Yeah, you really can - they keep optimising it! When it comes down to actual playability, you're limited and going to keep running into the limits when you're trying to enjoy a game. You can play Mario and Pac-Man. Those are also playable on a GBA without either system breaking a sweat. But just like a GBA, if you try to play a SNES game that used an enhancement chip on the cart, it's going to start lagging.

I have almost got a good short-list on what a raspberry pi 3 Model B can and can't do. Not interested in the Pi 4 for gaming yet, it's not compatible with the RGB-Pi. I did build a neat Midi synthesizer that loads Soundfonts and plays them almost lagless.
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Re: Emulation rig

by fredthezombie Sun Apr 26, 2020 11:46 pm

Anapan wrote:PC. I have solid 60 FPS with no lag on most emulators on an I3 2120 with 8 G ram. This is an easy goal. Dell Optiplex 390 with a Radeon HD 7400 because it was the cheapest crap that met my needs, and I built the computer part of it for under $100 CAD a few years ago . The system was a budget business system in 2011, the graphics card is from somewhere in 2012.

I have been trying to convert budget PCs into arcade cabs for shits and giggles since I always end up being given crap hardware after helping people upgrade, fix or buy new systems. I haven't sold any PC based arcade cabinets yet as the operating system I've been tweaking for years is not seamless and bugproof to my liking. Still, because of various attempts at lesser systems, I know exactly what can and can't be done at various price points. The price point keeps dropping! It's amazing how many games you can fit on an old mechanical hard drive.
This is the most relevant part you were asking about:
https://github.com/emu4crt/files
Mednafen modded. I didn't have any problems with this emulation of Saturn. I still regularly play my Sega Saturn, and the emulation is undetectable here hooked up to a CRT.
Other emulators have better solutions for solid 60FPS with no lag through RGB on an older system. I hate Retroarch, tho I do use it for some specific things. I bet it could replace a few of the emulators I regularly use. Luckily I don't need to use it.
Gamecube on Dolphin is okay, tho I'd need a beefier system for most PS2 and Wii games. On this budget system, you can't really do Dreamcast (some titles are playable on Redream). PSP games are mostly all working, tho on a SD CRT they have to be interlaced, so I'm using modelines to shape the displayed lines to a small 16x9 shaped window.
What I'm mainly working on now is getting indie PC games that were made to look retro actually running well on 240P. This computer can play most of these well, and it's so awesome to see them with real scanlines on an aperture grill display.

You might look into Lakka, as a boot and play solution - I think it can do 15Khz RGB to a CRT with no lag out of the box with lesser specs, but I have not tested it, only read stuff.

Image

Yeah, you really can - they keep optimising it! When it comes down to actual playability, you're limited and going to keep running into the limits when you're trying to enjoy a game. You can play Mario and Pac-Man. Those are also playable on a GBA without either system breaking a sweat. But just like a GBA, if you try to play a SNES game that used an enhancement chip on the cart, it's going to start lagging.

I have almost got a good short-list on what a raspberry pi 3 Model B can and can't do. Not interested in the Pi 4 for gaming yet, it's not compatible with the RGB-Pi. I did build a neat Midi synthesizer that loads Soundfonts and plays them almost lagless.


Hey thanks for the reply! You know, as none of these parts are easily available to me(outside online) it seems like it may be worth me just saving up a bit more for something a little less ghetto. Been watching ETA Prime talk about this one kit
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FjbB-ogun_I&t=2s
Don't know much about the stuff but it sounds like I could get away with a Ryzen 3 and 8gb ram. Paired with Launch Box and a big ass SSD I think I'd be happy as a clam.
Thanks for the info on the CRT stuff! I could probably fit an old-school dell monitor into my upright cabinet! Vampire Savior for days!
I honestley havent thought much about CRT's in awhile. After a handful of moves, by myself, I was pretty sick of lifting and storing them, I tossed a couple Trinitrons a few years ago :( Nothing fancy like a PVM but the hd retrovision cables looked AMMMMAaazing on them! Out of curiousity, if your emulating with a CRT, have you had any success with using light guns? House of the Dead would be rad, but I should probably ask about Model 2 emulation in that case.
It kind of surprised me that you think Dreamcast would be more difficult to run. I was under the impression redream was 90%ish compatible and on lower end systems. I've seen it run on lesser than my wimpy Mac even!
That Midi synthesizer sounds sick! How does that work?
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Re: Emulation rig

by Anapan Tue Apr 28, 2020 1:22 am

That guy knows his stuff pretty well. I have found that he was a little hasty in dismissing some hardware without trying to tweak some settings in the drivers, but he is after all making a lot of videos so he doesn't have much time to spend on each part of every system.

I've been planning to build a fair/good system on a MicroATX mobo for a bartop cab to use up one of the 13-15" CRTs my brother keeps bringing me. I think with one of those and a vulcan-capable AMD card I could actually emulate Scott Pilgrim Vs the World for Xbox-360 if I built it all on Windows 10.

If you use a VGA CRT monitor, you can display 240p on it without the emulator sending a 480p with scanlines by changing the output refresh rate to 120hz. The picture is just very skinny scalines (HD capable PVM Style) unless you get an old enough one with a low dot-pitch, or defocus the beam (most CRTs have a potentiometer hidden inside). If you make use of the defocus, you can get a great picture on old and new games by changing the focus on the fly.

I have not tried to interface a light gun in emulation aside from pairing a wiimote and using it in mouse-mode; The PC version of House of the Dead would've worked with that had I tried it. I think I remember seeing some arcade parts stores have an emulation-compatible gun interface for tri-sync monitors - very expensive, tho now there are several solutions that will work on any monitor after proper calibration.

I think the Dreamcast emulation just has to do with how budget this system I'm working on is. It was never supposed to play 480P capable games even, and there is some issue with the DC emulators I tried and the interlaced video modes I have imposed on the OS through driver mods so my CRT can display everything a program throws at it. The CPU in it puts Naomi MAME right out - I was getting about 8 frames a second. The CPU problem aside, GroovyMAME can emulate everything - generating modelines on the fly to make my consumer SD CRT perfectly emulate the displays of all obscure PCs and shitty consoles like CD32, 3DO and CD-i

If I wanted to emulate Dreamcast, I'd hook up another display, but the the goal is to make use of the mostly-free parts after all. The fun is in the journey. Once I have Burn Cycle running well, I will not be attempting to complete it. I just want to see if I can squeeze that ability out of the hardware.

Midi-box:
Following a few guides:
https://medium.com/@rreinold/how-to-use ... eb79e309ce
http://andrewdotni.ch/blog/2015/02/28/m ... spberry-p/
https://www.raspberrypi.org/forums/view ... p?t=235717
http://tedfelix.com/linux/linux-midi.html
Using a Raspberry Pi 4 because I have no better use for it (yet).
Added the budget hi-fi-berry hat and case
Two small Micro-sd cards with a SD-card selector. Not sure if I'll epoxy it in and run a larger external switch or just leave as-is. One card runs Pianoteq - ARM, the other launches Fluidsynth.
I'm currently trying to debug a script that waits for 30 seconds for keyboard input - a filename (i've made 4-5 character acronym's of about 40 of the best Soundfonts In my collection). Otherwise it launches with the largest file off of https://sites.google.com/site/soundfonts4u/

Midi input is through one of those cheap chinese DIN-USB adapters. Audio gets rerouted back into the keyboard audio input port. It plays through the internal speakers or an external amplifier (if plugged in). The Budget DAC makes use of the keyboard volume knob as the DAC has Line level RCA output only.

This Pi changed a discounted budget liquidation-store 88-weighted keys Casio keyboard into something truly impressive. I've been helping my nephew learn to play some Zelda and Mario songs using original instruments.

If you're into such things, people have made the Raspberry PI emulate nearly perfectly the legendary midi boxes from the dos years - MT32, SC88 etc.
I decided I didn't want the headache (I still do not like Linux much), and instead just loaded an old PC laptop with the midi software and roms. I have shortcuts on my laptop that activate the various emulations, or change all realtime midi input to GM equivalents of any of the various FM synth computer chips or console game franchises (Megaman X, Squaresoft, Bomberman, Sonic the Hedgehog), so when I boot my DOS PC, click on the right shortcut and load a game, the midi signals are sent and real-time synthesized in my old spare laptop, and the audio is fed back into the line input mix of my DOS PC's soundcard to mix with the digital output. This also works with the midi keyboard, but again, I'm trying to make otherwise useless hardware useful. Also, the raspberry pi is small and cable management is easier than the mess of splayed wires coming out of a fully-loaded laptop sitting on a stool with wires splayed out of every edge.
Phil's computer lab actually did a video on this a couple of years ago: https://youtu.be/vSk9S1bkRS8
There are easy guides on making is all fit in an Altoids mint box.
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Re: Emulation rig

by fredthezombie Tue May 05, 2020 1:05 pm

Anapan wrote:That guy knows his stuff pretty well. I have found that he was a little hasty in dismissing some hardware without trying to tweak some settings in the drivers, but he is after all making a lot of videos so he doesn't have much time to spend on each part of every system.

I've been planning to build a fair/good system on a MicroATX mobo for a bartop cab to use up one of the 13-15" CRTs my brother keeps bringing me. I think with one of those and a vulcan-capable AMD card I could actually emulate Scott Pilgrim Vs the World for Xbox-360 if I built it all on Windows 10.

If you use a VGA CRT monitor, you can display 240p on it without the emulator sending a 480p with scanlines by changing the output refresh rate to 120hz. The picture is just very skinny scalines (HD capable PVM Style) unless you get an old enough one with a low dot-pitch, or defocus the beam (most CRTs have a potentiometer hidden inside). If you make use of the defocus, you can get a great picture on old and new games by changing the focus on the fly.

I have not tried to interface a light gun in emulation aside from pairing a wiimote and using it in mouse-mode; The PC version of House of the Dead would've worked with that had I tried it. I think I remember seeing some arcade parts stores have an emulation-compatible gun interface for tri-sync monitors - very expensive, tho now there are several solutions that will work on any monitor after proper calibration.

I think the Dreamcast emulation just has to do with how budget this system I'm working on is. It was never supposed to play 480P capable games even, and there is some issue with the DC emulators I tried and the interlaced video modes I have imposed on the OS through driver mods so my CRT can display everything a program throws at it. The CPU in it puts Naomi MAME right out - I was getting about 8 frames a second. The CPU problem aside, GroovyMAME can emulate everything - generating modelines on the fly to make my consumer SD CRT perfectly emulate the displays of all obscure PCs and shitty consoles like CD32, 3DO and CD-i

If I wanted to emulate Dreamcast, I'd hook up another display, but the the goal is to make use of the mostly-free parts after all. The fun is in the journey. Once I have Burn Cycle running well, I will not be attempting to complete it. I just want to see if I can squeeze that ability out of the hardware.

Midi-box:
Following a few guides:
https://medium.com/@rreinold/how-to-use ... eb79e309ce
http://andrewdotni.ch/blog/2015/02/28/m ... spberry-p/
https://www.raspberrypi.org/forums/view ... p?t=235717
http://tedfelix.com/linux/linux-midi.html
Using a Raspberry Pi 4 because I have no better use for it (yet).
Added the budget hi-fi-berry hat and case
Two small Micro-sd cards with a SD-card selector. Not sure if I'll epoxy it in and run a larger external switch or just leave as-is. One card runs Pianoteq - ARM, the other launches Fluidsynth.
I'm currently trying to debug a script that waits for 30 seconds for keyboard input - a filename (i've made 4-5 character acronym's of about 40 of the best Soundfonts In my collection). Otherwise it launches with the largest file off of https://sites.google.com/site/soundfonts4u/

Midi input is through one of those cheap chinese DIN-USB adapters. Audio gets rerouted back into the keyboard audio input port. It plays through the internal speakers or an external amplifier (if plugged in). The Budget DAC makes use of the keyboard volume knob as the DAC has Line level RCA output only.

This Pi changed a discounted budget liquidation-store 88-weighted keys Casio keyboard into something truly impressive. I've been helping my nephew learn to play some Zelda and Mario songs using original instruments.

If you're into such things, people have made the Raspberry PI emulate nearly perfectly the legendary midi boxes from the dos years - MT32, SC88 etc.
I decided I didn't want the headache (I still do not like Linux much), and instead just loaded an old PC laptop with the midi software and roms. I have shortcuts on my laptop that activate the various emulations, or change all realtime midi input to GM equivalents of any of the various FM synth computer chips or console game franchises (Megaman X, Squaresoft, Bomberman, Sonic the Hedgehog), so when I boot my DOS PC, click on the right shortcut and load a game, the midi signals are sent and real-time synthesized in my old spare laptop, and the audio is fed back into the line input mix of my DOS PC's soundcard to mix with the digital output. This also works with the midi keyboard, but again, I'm trying to make otherwise useless hardware useful. Also, the raspberry pi is small and cable management is easier than the mess of splayed wires coming out of a fully-loaded laptop sitting on a stool with wires splayed out of every edge.
Phil's computer lab actually did a video on this a couple of years ago: https://youtu.be/vSk9S1bkRS8
There are easy guides on making is all fit in an Altoids mint box.


Dang, light gun emulation has a ways to go, that is promising to hear that there is capable hardware that can do it though, I just wonder how close to arcade a console it would really be. The Dolphin bar looks cool but still to weird and finicky.

I don’t really see myself using a CRT again anytime soon. They are monsters, if I was it would be a really nice made-for arcade quality.

The midi box project sounds amazing. I go through stints listening to Kraftwerk! Theres this other interesting one i found out about recently to, Silver Apples. I don’t know how much midi synth those bands used or if I even really have a great knowledge of what all entails midi synthesizing. but making sounds with a keyboard like you mentioned sounds like to much fun, definitely gonna check those links out.
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Re: Emulation rig

by fastbilly1 Sun Aug 30, 2020 11:19 am

fredthezombie wrote:The midi box project sounds amazing. I go through stints listening to Kraftwerk! Theres this other interesting one i found out about recently to, Silver Apples. I don’t know how much midi synth those bands used or if I even really have a great knowledge of what all entails midi synthesizing. but making sounds with a keyboard like you mentioned sounds like to much fun, definitely gonna check those links out.


Silver Apples predates Midi by over a decade. They did alot of stuff with a crazy contraption of audio gear and oscilliascopes:
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