June 9, 2011

Getting Dolphin Emulator to Run on an Intel Video Card

Back in 2007 when I have only a Pentium 4 rig, Gamecube emulation was believed to be impossible on my current specs. N64 (emulated by Project 64) and Playstation 1 (emulated by epsxe) were the most stressing applications for my p4. DS was able to run but is so slow some games are unplayable.

Now, armed with a dual core 2.4 Ghz, 2gb RAM, Intel GMA 3100, and SATA HDD, N64 and PS1 emulation is a piece of cake. DS runs at full speed with room for turbo boost. With this power, a question has risen if it's now possible to emulate Gamecube or even PS2 on this machine. I'm also longing to play some GC action like Super Smash Bros. Melee, and Harvest Moon. Curiosity has led me to research if it is possible to emulate Gamecube at my current specs.

Getting the ISO of the game is out of the list since I already have them (though downloading from the net is possible, it might take long with ISOs ranging from a few megabytes to two or three gigabytes). I downloaded a copy of Dolphin 2.0 on the official website and then fired it up.

Then, halted by an error message.

OpenGL Dialog box in Dolphin
I searched the internet for the answer. The reason for this error is because your video card does not support OpenGL 2.1. I tried setting the video plugin to software render to no avail.

Many suggested trying the DirectX video plugin. But the said plugin does not appear in my list of plugins. Some said cgd3d9.dll must be on the Dolphin directory. It's already there but still no plugin. Some said use an older version/revision of Dolphin. I did but the plugin still not present. I even tried copying the N64 video plugin but it didn't appear on the list.

I was losing hope on getting the emulator to run. But a quick search on youtube shows some people being able to run it on an Intel video card. One can even run it on his laptop. So the search is still on.

Someone suggested to use chinese-hacked compilation of Dolphin designed for Intel chipsets. But the interface is just gibberish (and the plugin was not listed). I tried updating the video card drivers but the problem is still there.

Now I'm giving up and just accept the fact that my video card is a piece of shit. But I haven't tried the final solution. I updated DirectX. I ignored this suggestion at first because I'm using Windows 7 and therefore using the latest version (DirectX 11). But what they meant was to install DirectX SDK from Microsoft website.


Direct3D on Dolphin Emulator

It was a success!

I booted up SSBM and after a few error messages, it started and so I tried to play a test match.

Glitchy Graphics on Dolphin

The graphics were glitchy and the game at a slow 7 FPS (15% speed). There must be a way to speed this thing up. Disabling the audio helped a little by having 25% speed. But it is still slow and not so enjoyable. I now changed some settings on the video plugin and it seemed to work. I got the game to 50% speed which is already fast enough for play. The graphics are still glitchy but it is playable.

Next, I want to see which hardware can handle Dolphin and Super Smash Bros Melee. I tried it on my laptop. Here are the specs:

Processor: Intel Atom N550 (1.6 Ghz)
Video Card: Intel GMA 3150

The game started but it is very slow (8 fps).

I also tried it on my aging Pentium 4 system. Here are the specs:

Processor: Pentium 4
Video Card: Intel 82845G Graphics Controller

The game didn't play at all!

After a couple of experiments in the setting of the video plugin, I have fixed most graphic glitches while running a decent speed:

-Turned off 'enable CPU -> EFB access'
-Checked 'Disable Fog' /EDIT: I tried this setting enabled and it has no significant performance drop
-Unchecked 'Enable EFB Copy'
-Checked 'Safe Texture Cache' and set the cache mode to 'fast'

And now:

Fixed Graphics on Dolphin Emulator SSBM