PlayStation Emulation on the Pi: Enhancing the Experience with the Options Menu – Part Three: Analogue Controllers

Retropie’s PCSX-ReARMed PlayStation emulator supports analogue controls, however enabling support is a little unintuitive, although not difficult. There are a few small limitations and quirks, most of which are easily circumvented, as discussed below.

Hardware Setup

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PlayStation Controllers. Images: softicons.com

For the most authentic experience, a genuine PlayStation DualShock analogue controller is recommended, or a functionally equivalent device (for instance I also use a wireless Xbox 360 controller). I am also assuming the use of a USB controller adaptor, such as a Mayflash or Wise unit (see my earlier post entitled What is RetroPie? System overview, software and hardware).

For analogue (and digital) controls a suitable joystick configuration file is required. Unfortunately controller setup can be nontrivial, and is beyond the scope of the current post; I am, however, planning to cover this topic in the near future.

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Wise 3-in-1 Joy Box SS/PS/DC USB Adaptor
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Mayflash SS/PS/N64 USB adaptor

Enabling Analogue Input via the RetroArch/Libretro Menu

With appropriate hardware in place, along with controller mappings, enabling analogue input requires access to the RetroArch/Libretro menu. For a little background, and further details, please see the following related posts:

Access to the menu is, by default, via the F1 key whilst the emulator is running.

From the main menu, first select the Options sub menu. Next, select the Core Options sub menu:

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Libretro Menu - Main Menu - Options Menu Selected
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Libretro Menu - Options Menu - Core Options Selected

From the Core Options menu, set the Pad 1 Type entry to Analog. Repeat for Pad 2 Type as required. The entry for Pad Type defaults to standard, that being a digital-only controller.

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PlayStation Emulation on the Pi: Enhancing the Experience with the Options Menu – Part Two: Graphics

Accessing the RetroPie PlayStation Emulator’s High Resolution Mode

PlayStation. Ridge Racer Type 4. Bridge. Standard Resolution, Bilinear Smoothing
PlayStation. Ridge Racer Type 4. Bridge. Standard Resolution, Bilinear Smoothing
PlayStation. Ridge Racer Type 4. Bridge. Enhanced Resolution, Bilinear Smoothing
PlayStation. Ridge Racer Type 4. Bridge. Enhanced Resolution, Bilinear Smoothing

This post builds upon the information in the preceding article PlayStation Emulation on the Pi: Enhancing the Experience with the Options Menu – Part One: Basic Features and Save States , and the introductory piece entitled RetroPie Emulation: RetroArch, Libretro, and the Power of the Options Menu.

Many of the entries on the RetroArch/Libretro main menu screen lead to sub menus, most of which contain numerous entries, and further sub menus. Discussed here are a couple of entries within the Core Options sub menu of especial interest to PlayStation emulation.

Core Options – Enhancing the Graphics Resolution

It is possible to force RetroPie’s PCSX-ReARMed PlayStation emulator to render graphics in a resolution considerably higher than the native modes available on the genuine console’s hardware. I should note that whilst this can make stunning visual improvements to many games on the system, unfortunately the Raspberry Pi 2 lacks enough CPU power to reliably run all games at full speed.

PlayStation. Ridge Racer Type 4. Out of Blue. Standard Resolution, Bilinear Smoothing
PlayStation. Ridge Racer Type 4. Out of Blue. Standard Resolution, Bilinear Smoothing
PlayStation. Ridge Racer Type 4. Out of Blue. Enhanced Resolution, Bilinear Smoothing
PlayStation. Ridge Racer Type 4. Out of Blue. Enhanced Resolution, Bilinear Smoothing

Rendering the output in enhanced resolution incurs significant processing overhead. The emulator in its current form is only able to utilise one of the four CPU cores present on the Pi; perhaps a future (radical) enhancement to PCSX-ReARMed will unlock the full potential of the system.

All is not lost, however, and gaining additional processing power by running the Pi with maximum stable overclocking is definitely recommend – see my earlier posts on this topic for information on enabling and testing overclocking: Overclocking and Stability Testing the Raspberry Pi 2 – Part 1: Overclocking in Depth

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PlayStation Emulation on the Pi: Enhancing the Experience with the Options Menu – Part One: Basic Features and Save States

The Libretro Options Menu – the Key to Enhanced PlayStation Emulation

PlayStation. Rage Racer, In Game. Standard Resolution - Smoothed
Libretro Menu - Core Options submenu
PlayStation. Rage Racer, In Game. Enhanced Resolution - Smoothed

 

This post builds upon the information in the preceeding article entitled RetroPie Emulation: RetroArch, Libretro, and the Power of the Options Menu.

Edit: This post has been extended to account for differences in RetroPie 3.6’s version of RetroArch/Libretro. The PlayStation emulator remains the same in both the 2.x and 3.x RetroPie revisions (Pcsx-ReARMed r22). The original post was based on RetroPie 2.x

Topics Covered In Part 1

PlayStation Emulation on PiPlay and RetroPie

As noted in the aforementioned post, before discovering RetroPie I’d been running PiPlay on the Raspberry Pi 2, which provides a broadly similar emulation platform to RetroPie. Whilst the graphical emulator selection front-end is different to Emulation Station, many of the same emulators are in place; however all is not as simple as it appears.

Unfortunately, with the build of PiPlay I was using I ran into problems with various emulators; virtually all Megadrive / Genesis games I tried had corrupted sound, many would freeze at random, and there was no support at all for the 32X. The PlayStation emulator initially appeared to be excellent, however as I tried more titles I uncovered a number of shortcomings; I’m planning a future post on this topic, as the same emulator in RetroPie has a few different issues, and I became obsessed with understanding the problems in a bid to have the best of both worlds.

PiPlay Emulator Selection Menu
PiPlay Emulator – Main Menu
Emulation Station - Main Menu - PlayStation Focused
Emulation Station – Main Menu

I should note that, being impatient to see if the Raspberry Pi was a solid emulation platform, I quickly switched to RetroPie and have not subsequently installed any newer PiPlay images; nonetheless the PiPlay distribution has many sound ideas, and is definitely worth further investigation.

One core feature which the PiPlay incarnation of the PlayStation emulator has is a comprehensive in-built options menu, accessed via the Escape key. This allows access to various settings, affecting the graphical and audio output, save states, controllers, and more. The following screen grabs show the native menu being accessed whilst a title is running:

PiPlay PCSX ReARMed Native Menu - Advanced
PiPlay PCSX ReARMed Native Menu – Advanced
PiPlay PCSX ReARMed Native Menu - Controls
PiPlay PCSX ReARMed Native Menu – Controls

Coming to the RetroPie version of the same emulator, I was surprised to find that this menu no longer existed; at the time I had no knowledge of the unified environment shared by Libretro-enabled emulators, but found various references to the ‘core menu’ in forums. As I was to discover, and as detailed in the preceding post, RetroPie’s PlayStation emulator implements the standard Libretro menu system.

Note: the terms Libretro menu and RetroArch menu appear to be used as synonyms in documentation and in forum posts.

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RetroPie Emulation: RetroArch, Libretro, and the Power of the Options Menu

What is the Libretro Options Menu, and Why Does It Matter?

consoles and home computers
RetroArch Menu - Welcome Screen
RetroArch logo

For a while after installing RetroPie, this question plagued me. I found references to the ‘Options Menu’ seemingly everywhere, but as to where it resided or how it manifested, that seemed some closely guarded secret.

Why was I looking for the elusive menu? Well, the Options Menu holds the secret to really getting the most out of many of the RetroPie emulators, from tweaking the controller settings to switching graphics rendering engines.

In my earlier post ‘What is RetroPie? System overview, software and hardware’ I provided a brief description of RetroPie, which contains numerous home computer and console emulators, up to and including the N64. As noted in that post:

RetroPie can be thought of as a framework which wraps and extends other software components, ultimately handling the loading of a selected game image into the relevant video game emulator.

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Libretro Logo

Many of the console emulators included in RetroPie are what are known as Libretro cores; these ‘cores’ are existing emulators, modified to utilise the Libretro API, which provides a common interface and experience across multiple systems:

Again, from the aforementioned earlier post:

The system also provisions management and configuration of numerous elements, including:

  • Loading button and axis (analog) control maps, matching upon detected Usb controller(s)
  • Setting video resolution
  • Applying filtering and video overlay effects
  • Providing state management (providing loading and saving of in-progress games)

The Libretro page on the emulation-general.wikia.com site describes Libretro in the following terms:

Libretro is an lightweight C/C++ API designed for emulators… It specifies how to write a library, called Libretro core, so that it can be loaded by a frontend supporting Libretro API like RetroArch… Libretro API can be used for example to strip emulator of it’s GUI components and convert it into dynamic library called Libretro core. (sic)

On the Libretro forum, user hunterk expands on the concept of retrofitting an emulator with the Libretro API:

Libretro porting is generally a case of mapping/wrapping the emulator/game/whatever’s internal API to the corresponding libretro functions and/or callbacks. So, many ports are very shallow and require little-to-no modification of the existing core code.

Thus, the RetroArch framework brings a set of consistent features to a broad range of emulators which were written entirely independently. All ‘core’ enabled emulators feature a common menu, the elusive Options Menu, which can be accessed and navigated via keyboard or a suitably configured control pad.

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Overview of Raspberry Pi and retro-gaming system hardware

The Raspberry Pi installation to which all of the current blog posts (at time of writing) relate is as follows:

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Core System Components

Raspberry Pi 3 Model B
Raspberry Pi 3 Model B (RS Components)

Raspberry Pi 3 Model B - Image: RS Components
Raspberry Pi 3 Model B – Image: RS Components

Raspberry Pi 2 Model B
Raspberry Pi 2 Model B (RS Components)

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Raspberry Pi 2 Model 2

The Pi 2 has been overclocked to extract the maximum performance possible, as many video game system emulators push the hardware to the limits. Please see the series of posts on overclocking and stability testing, beginning with part one, for further details.

Power supply: 5 volt, 2 amp micro usb
Official Raspberry Pi Power Unit (RS Components)

Micro SD memory card
SanDisk SDSDQUN-032G-FFP-A Ultra microSDHC UHS-I Class 10 Memory Card
SanDisk 32GB micro SD (Amazon)
I’ve had mixed success with compatibility of cards in the Pi 2 – most have worked; one 16Gb card was unstable under Noobs and Raspbian, but fine with the RetroPie image

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