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Netplay is a defining feature of Dolphin: it allows you to connect any GameCube or Wii game for online play, without the problems or limitations of the Nintendo WiFi Connection or hassle of BBA. It is improving regularly, and while it is a bit finicky at the moment it is very playable and reliable with the right settings. This guide outlines what you need for reliable online play with Dolphin.

"The person I'm playing with seems to be moving around strangely but he says that I'm the one moving weirdly. What happened?"

This is a desync. Basically what both of you are seeing are two different games. See #Desync Troubleshooting

Requirements

Setting Up Dolphin

Memory card of any kinds must be copied across every computers that players intended to use for netplay. Memory Cards for GameCube can be synchronized or disabled, meanwhile players may have to copy SD card to other computers themselves. NAND, which is also home of Wii save files, are disabled as of 4.0-6512. This means users do not need to play online with different Wii NANDs any longer. Dolphin build 5.0-8478 introduced synchronization of Wii saves. It is currently not possible to synchronize the whole NAND yet.

Rule of thumb is that most settings should be set to default and you are expected to follow specific settings where the instruction (made by host or matchmaking websites) has told you to set before playing online.

General Configuration

General

Basic Settings
  • Enable Dual Core: ON
  • Enable Cheats: OFF
  • Speed Limit: 100%

Audio

DSP Emulator Engine
  • DSP HLE emulation

GameCube

Device Settings
  • Slot A: Memory Card
  • Slot B: <Nothing>
  • SP1: <Nothing>

Wii

Device Settings
  • Insert SD Card: OFF

Settings Synced

As of 5.0-8502 most settings that affect determinism will be synced to other clients, so only the host needs to ensure correct settings. Games which use EFB reads or EFB to RAM are likely to desync with mismatched graphics settings, therefore Strict Settings Sync should be used, which will additionally sync most graphics settings except for backend.

On older revisions, only these settings will be synced over:

Graphics Configuration

Enhancements

(No desync in most games)

Hacks

Embedded Frame Buffer
  • Skip EFB Access from CPU: ON
  • Store EFB Copies to Texture Only: ON

Controller Settings

Netplay Settings

How to set the Pad buffer

Because input on the GameCube and Wii are polled by non-frame intervals, buffer does not directly relate to frames and can even vary per game. Lower the buffer as much as possible without causing slowdown for an optimal experience, ideally in areas that insure there isn't computer related slowdown such as a menu. In most games, add 1 roughly pad buffer per 15ms of latency per client. Two players at 50ms latency would be roughly 3 - 4 buffer, where as three players at 50 and 65 ms would be roughly 7 buffer.

Assigning Controller Ports

By default, only players of the first port on each computers will be used. The host will be player one, and the first joiner will be player two, and so on. But the host can change the port order and invite the secondary players of the same computer. To do so, simply hit the "Assign Controller Ports" button, then add and/or order their names to the port number respectively.

Setting a Spectator

A Spectator is a connected computer that has no controllers assigned to them. This can be done by going to the "Configure Pads" window (only host has access to it) and remove the spectator's name from any of the controller ports. The spectator will not cause lag or latency but can still watch the netplay session.

Reduce Polling Rate

This option can significantly reduce network usage in some cases by polling the controllers only twice per frame instead of at the game's configured interval. This does not cause any issues in tested games, however testing was not comprehensive so edge cases may exist.

Host Input Authority

This gives the host control over when inputs are sent to the game, effectively decoupling players from each other in terms of buffering. This allows players to have latency based solely on their connection to the host, rather than everyone's connection. Buffer works differently in this mode. The host always has no latency, and the buffer setting serves to prevent stutter, speeding up when the amount of buffered inputs exceeds the set limit. Input delay is instead based on ping to the host.

This can result in smoother gameplay on unstable connections, as well as allowing players with much higher latency than others to play without increasing everyone's latency. However, this comes at the expense of latency fairness, which may make it not suitable for competitive play.

Desync Troubleshooting

Double check your settings and confirm if you and other players have good ISO dump. 4.0-6638 added the ability to detect desyncs. Watch the textbox for desync notifications, as very often it will be able to tell the game has desynced before the players and may help them pinpoint the problem.

Netplay has matured considerably in recent time, but still requires user competency and problem solving to get over some of the hurdles.

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