a rickety bridge of impossible crossing

btw i use arch (comma retro)

I watched an old video Jeff Gerstmann made about emulation on the steamDeck, which reminded me or maybe taught me for the first time that there's a version of retroArch on steam. I needed to reinstall retroArch anyway, because something had happened that corrupted the icons and every screen was full of giant black boxes. So I decided to give the steam version a shot, and it became apparent right away that this is the version I should've been using all along. It has the modern interface I see in videos, not the UI that's a clone of the playStation cross media bar thing (which is a relief --- on the old version, I had to go into the settings and disable the background animation and make the background look right every single time I reinstalled it. This version looks fine out of the box.) It came with a bunch of the most common cores built-in, and I once again have the ability to install new cores from within retroArch itself. I'm sure that if I login to retroAchievements again, they'll start working again.

I was a little concerned about how over-engineered everything is --- I'm running a launcher within a launcher, and steam retroArch (SRA) is a whopping 300MB, which is ridiculous for an emulator, I don't care how many cores it comes with. BizHawk can play all kinds of crazy crap and it's less than a quarter of that.1

But so far performance seems good. My last couple games of Donkey Kong Jr. have been with SRA. My scores haven't been great, but that's not the emulator's fault, it's been running fine. I tried once again to run a playStation game and once again it just failed to load. I'm pretty sure I have the BIOS installed in the right place but maybe not. I'll have to double-check.

Another advantage of the steam version is that I can install it to the steam library on my data partition, so when I have to reinstall my OS I won't have to reconfigure everything. Like I'm sure there's some way to choose a different location when you install from the apt store, but hell if I'm going to figure out whatever arcane command line bullshit I need to invoke to make it happen.2 Steam makes it very easy.

I almost want to try using steamOS as my primary desktop environment, even though they advise people not to, because as much as I hate to give credit to a corporation, valve clearly cares more about making a functional alternative to windows than anyone else in the game. Their incentive is 100% capitalistic, of course --- they want a future in which they can continue making lots of money with their store without being beholden to all the bullshit microSoft does with each iteration of windows. But even if I never buy another game on steam again, I can still benefit from their desire to use open-source software to create an alternative to the monopoly. That's essentially what happened with android --- google sucks, and I don't endorse using any of their products, but if it weren't for android I wouldn't be able to have a touchphone. When hegemonic corporate superpowers fight, sometimes we can win. A little bit 🦝


  1. I just visited the bizHawk website to check how big the most recent version is, and apparently there's a linux binary now?? I don't know how long that's been the case, and maybe I'm an idiot, but I've been fucking around with retroArch due to the assumption that bizHawk is windows-only. I'm going to try it when I get home and if everything works, I'm done with retroArch, I'll be so happy if I can go back to an emulator with a normal UI.↩

  2. "Just google it!" nope. Doesn't work. Whatever answer I find on stackExchange or whatever won't work when I try it, because something about my setup is different than what they're expecting. Every single time. Whatever I want to do, it's always a weird edge case, and sometimes if I spend an hour researching and looking at replies on a dozen different forums, I can figure out what the problem is and hack together a command that'll mostly sorta do what I want, but I'm so fucking sick of it↩

#games #tech