When it comes to easy emulation on the Steam Deck, there are really only two options, and recently, I have started getting more acquainted with RetroDECK. I am glad I did since the upcoming update for it is full of improvements that I am so excited to see.

The RetroDECK team shared an early look at the patch notes for their 0.8.0b update, which includes new emulators, new engine support, controller improvements, and many framework and emulator updates. This includes a special implementation of GZDoom with a new parser to make building modded versions of classic DOOM games significantly easier. And with the new controller scheme that is designed specifically for mods, controlling it has never been easier. The update also officially removes Yuzu and Citra following Nintendo's lawsuit against the Yuzu developers.

Here is what you can expect from the upcoming 0.8.0b update:

The update is currently in beta, and if you want to help test, head over to the RetroDECK discord server to apply!

GZDoom and Easy Modding With New .doom Parser

DOOM has an incredible and large history, giving us some of the first real tastes of the hardcore FPS genre, and it still feels great today. Thankfully, the community is amazing, and creating a feature-heavy port of the engines from the original Doom games, adding in OpenGL and Vulkan rendering and new scripting abilities, and packaging it into the aptly named GZDoom. And now, we will have full access to this engine in RetroDECK.

Doom Infinite - GZDoom Mod

So what does this mean for us? Well, it gives us access to the original Doom engines and allows you to create your own map pack that you can play similarly to Doom 1 or 2, but for gamers, the biggest advantage here is user-created mods. There are tons of different mods that can be downloaded to give us an unlimited amount of Doom-esque experiences, like Sonic: Lock & Load, Dragon Sector, and Project Brutality. The only problem would be installing these mods, which can be obnoxious by needing to copy and paste the path of each file required to compile the mod, and that is a pain. Luckily, the RetroDECK team has created a new parser to make the process so much easier.

Using the new parser, all you have to do is type the name of each mod file into a text file, and you are set. You can view exactly how to do it from RetroDECK's .doom file guide, but you will essentially just download the mod and put it into the new roms/doom/mods directory (You can put the mods anywhere in the roms/doom file, but I recommend creating a "mods" folder to store them in). Then, you will create a text file that lists all the IWADS and mod files, just putting in their names, and the parser will find and apply each one automatically. And yes, all these individual .doom files will be listed in ES-DE! You do need to provide your own IWADS of the original games from supported purchased titles, but you should be able to find them in the directory of the game.

M.U.G.E.N. and Other New Engines

On top of GZDoom, we do have new engines to expand the amount of games we can play. We have IkemanGO, which supports M.U.G.E.N. assets and games, which can be converted with this guide. M.U.G.E.N. is a 2d fighting game with mechanics similar to Marvel vs. Capcom 2 but supports custom stages, characters, and mechanics. We also have Solarus, which can make Action RPGs similar to The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past, and OpenBOR, which makes games similar to Streets of Rage 2.

M.U.G.E.N. Engine

Both of these will appear in the ES-DE frontend.

Ryujinx, Vita3K, and MAME Emulators Added

With this update, we will also see three new emulators added. These included the Nintendo Switch emulator, Ryujinx, the PlayStation Vita emulator, Vita3K, and the arcade emulator, MAME. These expand the content offerings massively, giving access to a large amount of new games from different systems that can be emulated.

With the removal of Yuzu and Citra, Ryujinx and the Citra Core from RetroArch have become the new defaults for Switch and 3DS emulation.

Massive Controller Improvements Across the Board

With this update, the main control scheme has been updated, and now radial menus for ScummVM and GZDoom have been implemented, as well as updated menus for the Wii/GC and MAME menus. There was also a specific GZDoom control scheme added, and the developer that made it was VERY proud of it since they prioritized mod controls instead of DOOM controls. This makes it much more accessible with modpacks rather than the original games, making them much easier to control.

We have many controller improvements, both for specific emulator/engine configurations and external controllers, and a new layout that simplifies the radial menu in the main configuration, making it easier for users who want a more streamlined way to control the important parts of emulators. You can check out the simple radial menu included here.

We also have external controller profiles, which means we will be able to control all emulator GUI, move the Wii pointer, and play Point and Click games with them. So far, there is confirmed support for generic controllers (most third-party controllers), the Switch Pro controller, Steam controller, DualShock 3 and 4, DualSense, Xbox 360, and the regular Xbox controller.

Framework and Emulator Updates

On top of all of those, we have some minor updates for both the RetroDECK framework and emulators. For the framework, we have new icons, controls, and options to download Vita3K firmware more easily. It can also now detect if the device is a real Steam Deck or Linux device, and some Wayland issues have been fixed for a more stable experience.

As for emulators and the front end, ES-DE has been updated to 3.0.1, and got updates across the board for Dolphin, Cemu, MelonDS, PrimeHack, Duckstation, PCSX2, RPCS3, PPSSPP, and Retroarch. There are also better bindings for players 2-4 across most emulators.

And that's the overview for this update. As mentioned above, you can help beta test the new update by heading over to the RetroDECK discord server! I am excited to see these changes, and can't wait to get into more DOOM modding with how easy the team made it.

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Noah Kupetsky
A lover of gaming since 4, Noah has grown up with a love and passion for the industry. From there, he started to travel a lot and develop a joy for handheld and PC gaming. When the Steam Deck released, it just all clicked.
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