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Emulator Front End Suggestions

emulation emulator front end software emulation master race

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#1 KeeperofLindblum OFFLINE  

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Posted Thu Aug 24, 2017 1:56 PM

The focus here would be getting input about a Front End for an Emulation Box.

 

I've opted to do a small PC rather than a RaspPi 3. I managed to find one pretty cheap and plan to do either Windows (if working on it) or installing Lakka (RetroArch OS basically)

 

That being said... I wouldn't mind some input on possible Front Ends to use. 

 

I have only used RetroArch, and it does pretty well and gets the job done. However it's not always my favorite and sometimes controllers can be a fit if you want to change up which controller you use. 

 

I've heard of EmulationStation and used it briefly with the RaspPi 3. It looks pretty nice on the outside, but I ran into issues getting some covers and the controller setup for it didn't always feel great. Granted the main problem I had with my RaspPi was getting the controller to work right. 

 

I heard about LaunchBox from MetalJesusRocks, and that one looks pretty great overall. Seems to have a wide variety of support... but it also costs if you want the full feature set. It's free to use , so I'll try it but wondered if anyone here had direct experience with it. 

 

https://www.launchbox-app.com/

 

 

I'll also probably give EmulationStation another try and see if it works better on top of Windows. 

 

http://emulationstation.org/

 

 

I also found a couple of random ones (top results when I searched). They all vary in type and quality, but I'm gonna link them with short descriptions of what they look like. I'll definitely be trying them when I get my setup in though. Will post up what I think of some of them.

 

So far I've found...

 

https://www.gameex.com/ - (GameEx)This one looks... kinda plain. It almost makes me think of Kodi but for games? Granted Kodi works great, so this could be a winner in an unflattering dress.

 

http://www.mgalaxy.com/ - (MGalaxy) Looks pretty close to LaunchBox but a bit less detailed. They offer a lot of the same features and is free unless you want their databases. Premium is yearly or forever. 

 

http://quickplay.sourceforge.net/ - (QuickPlay)This reminds me of MAME a lot. Not quite what I'm looking for a Front End. This one does have quite a bit of details though, so might be good if you aren't looking for fluff. 

 

http://lusspace.free.fr/modules/news/ - (LusSpace) looks to be even more like MAME. I'm assuming this is where someone informs me it's one of the same people working on it. This has more details than and fancy screenshots than QuickPlay does. 

 

http://scottrice.github.io/Ice/ - (ICE) Okay I actually recognize this one. I have a friend who uses it. It looks pretty nice overall, but it looks like it's going to piggyback on Steam. I got mixed feeling about that. 

 

http://www.hyperspin-fe.com/ -  (HyperSpin) This one is very colorful and just almost feels like too much. It also costs money which I was hoping to avoid... so gonna hard pass this one. 

 

http://feelfrontend.altervista.org/ - (FEEL) This looks to be another big contender. It doesn't look too over the top but just enough to work as a nice frontend. Might come down to what my emulator box (nothing fancy) can handle. 

 

http://emuloader.mam...ld.info/emucon/ - (Emucon) This uses a weird, simplistic database that seems to feature more picture than details. I can't describe it any better. 

 

http://attractmode.org/index.html - Another one focused for more of a media/game center look. Probably another one that I'll be more interested in since that's my focus. 

 

At the end of the day, they all seem to do the same thing, so I'll just have to run through them all and find what works best. I'll be sure to post up after I try things out. 

 

My main focus is a front end that displays well on a TV and interface that allows for multiple, different controllers. Ease of use as well as games supported will play decent parts as well. 

 

Again, if anybody has any inputs on any of these, please let me know! 



#2 Flojomojo OFFLINE  

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Posted Thu Aug 24, 2017 2:32 PM

I'm going to watch and see what you do. I have LaunchBox and have not been super impressed with it. Any of them seem to require a lot of geeking around to get things looking nice. I'm more into playing games than their presentation.

 

I just launch games from insides their individual emulators right now. Ugly but workable. 



#3 KeeperofLindblum OFFLINE  

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Posted Thu Aug 24, 2017 3:51 PM

I'm going to watch and see what you do. I have LaunchBox and have not been super impressed with it. Any of them seem to require a lot of geeking around to get things looking nice. I'm more into playing games than their presentation.

 

I just launch games from insides their individual emulators right now. Ugly but workable. 

 

That's what I was afraid of. I think most front ends are (funnily-enough) not very user friendly to get working.

 

It's fine once you have it set up, but you end up spending a process getting it working 100% how you want. 

 

Yeah I'm going to try a few of these on my main computer tonight and wait to attempt some of the others once I have the small PC on hand. 



#4 mr_me OFFLINE  

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Posted Thu Aug 24, 2017 4:39 PM

Emulationstation and launchbox both look nice out of the box. I've only used the free launchbox and like how you can reorganise games based on different fields on the fly. Launchbox keeps its own database of games; one more thing to maintain. That's why I'd probably go with emulationstation, no database, simple, less maintenance.

#5 KeeperofLindblum OFFLINE  

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Posted Fri Aug 25, 2017 12:53 AM

So I did a quick run through of each one... These are all quick opinions, and some of them I couldn't get to set up properly. 

 

The Good - The MVPs. Have the easiest user interface with EmulationStation being an exception to that.

 

LaunchBox - Honestly? This one comes out on top. It is all in one. It is the easiest to use of the group and offers a lot of features. It suggests emulators to use. It helps you download the images from a database. AND IT IS FREE! You can throw $20 for a year of updates or $50 for a lifetime of updates. Just great stuff here!

 

EmulationStation - This one kinda went in the NOPE pile. It's one of the better looking ones, but it requires a lotta setup. There's a reason you get RetroPie. Someone pre-configured this to work. Have to do it manually otherwise. Still one of the best ones if you are willing to work. 

 

mGalaxy - This guy here? This is surprisingly one of the better ones. It's really only second to LaunchBox. It does offer a lot of material, but it's not quite as straightforward as LaunchBox. Might try this if you abhore LaunchBox.

 

The Meh - These are okay but are going to require some work and reading.

 

Attract - It looks decent enough, but it requires a lot of legwork. 

 

Emucon - This one has a decent enough interface, but I don't think I could recommend it unless you had a limited number of roms. Complete sets will make this one feel like a nightmare.

 

QuickPlay - This one is kinda like Attract for me. It is okay, but I just can't be bothered to do a whole pile of setup for each one I want to try.

 

The Nope - Just ignore these...

 

FEEL - This one looks good, but it didn't offer any real explanation and seems mostly focused on MAME. 

 

ICE - Just seems silly adding roms to your Steam library. I couldn't get it working properly without consulting a large guide either. There are better choices.

 

GameEx - This is a hot pile of garbage. Barely ran and froze up. 

 

 

All of these clients I looked into require a full setup of your emulators. This means setting the emulator up outside of the software and then linking it to the Front End. If you want a full setup without having to do a 2-step every time, you're probably best sticking with RetroArch and get over the kinda plain interface. (You can add covers to it, but it doesn't look as fancy as many of the others.)

 

LaunchBox offered the nicest looking interface and the greatest ease of use. It even suggests emulators if you don't have them on hand. With $50 investment, you get free updates for life and some extras for the database (namely demo vids).

 

mGalaxy surprised me, but it's a couple spots less quality than LaunchBox.

 

Emulation Station is decent enough but going to have to do a lot of configuring even past the emulators themselves. 

 

 

Final note? I realize I'm lacking two items I listed above. I didn't feel like signing up for HyperSpin and I couldn't find a link for LusSpace. 

 

These were all quick review and I really only gave them enough time to configure and test run an emulator. If I couldn't figure it out in a couple of minutes, I gave up. 



#6 Flojomojo OFFLINE  

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Posted Fri Aug 25, 2017 7:28 AM

So, you like LaunchBox better than the competition, but do you like it better than no frontend at all? 



#7 KeeperofLindblum OFFLINE  

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Posted Fri Aug 25, 2017 8:09 AM

So, you like LaunchBox better than the competition, but do you like it better than no frontend at all? 

 

If I could get a frontend set up 100% how I like, I'd totally like it better. Have everything in one place to launch whatever I want!... BUT If I'm being 100% honest... I'm probably going to go with RetroArch. It's kinda plain jane, but it's already got a way to get emulators for it built in and you configure the controller in it as well rather than configuring individual emulators (which you also can do but don't have to as much). I think you can theme it up and make it look a little better.

 

Once I get my emulation box settled (old PC), I'll try LaunchBox first. If it doesn't work or feel worth the hassle, I'll probably revert to RetroArch. 

 

Other than that, I'm sticking by with my statement that LaunchBox is the better and easier one. You drop $50 for some premium items like TV mode and it's basically perfect comparative to most.

If I was more patient, I'd probably do EmulationStation. 

 

Technically I'm using RetroArch regardless of anything because I keep forgetting that these options are all FRONTENDS... Not all-in-one emulation stop. lol Just nice to make it look a bit better. 



#8 Flojomojo OFFLINE  

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Posted Fri Aug 25, 2017 8:16 AM

I agree 100%. I see videos of beautiful Hyperspin setups (surprised that wasn't on your list) and they look great, but the level of work required is too much for me. And yet I seem to keep running into people for whom RetroPie is too much work! Life is a rich tapestry. 

 

I feel like LaunchBox goes on sale a lot, possibly in partnership with X-Arcade controls. YMMV. 

 

Yeah, barebones RetroArch gets it done for me, but I might try LaunchBox again ... just taking care to use clean ROMsets, or perhaps just my favorites. Row after row of unmatched crap is nasty to look at. 



#9 racketboy OFFLINE  

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Posted Fri Aug 25, 2017 12:39 PM

Thanks for sharing this!  I like the looks of EmulationStation, but as I get older, the easier setup seems more and more appealing :)

 



#10 Flojomojo OFFLINE  

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Posted Fri Aug 25, 2017 12:56 PM

Thanks for sharing this!  I like the looks of EmulationStation, but as I get older, the easier setup seems more and more appealing :)

 

ERMAGERD the Racketboy is here and posting! Averaging one post on AtariAge per year!! I love your site, but you should hang out here more often. 



#11 racketboy OFFLINE  

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Posted Fri Aug 25, 2017 1:58 PM

 

ERMAGERD the Racketboy is here and posting! Averaging one post on AtariAge per year!! I love your site, but you should hang out here more often. 

 

 

haha -- I should!  I was actually pretty absent from my own forum for a lot of the last few years and I'm getting back into the scene and getting active writing (I just pushed out a new site design this month too).

But I'll admit you guys are so on top of your game here, I feel a little inadequate talking about Atari stuff here.   I'm learning :)



#12 Flojomojo OFFLINE  

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Posted Fri Aug 25, 2017 2:01 PM

Too humble! You know you're awesome!

 

I love the "games that defined the [platform here]" features on racketboy.com. 



#13 Trebor OFFLINE  

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Posted Sat Aug 26, 2017 5:34 AM

Having been a Game Launcher user for well over a dozen years, it was finally time to move on as that front-end had not been updated since 2003, was occasionally experiencing intermittent functionality issues starting with Windows 8, and with Windows 10, the frequency of issue occurrences increased.  
 
I wanted something easy to get up and running while looking good, but certainly did not have to be a spectacle of awe and amazement.  I tried the following:
 
Attract-Mode
EmulationStation
GameEx
LaunchBox
mGalaxy
 
Most I found to be cumbersome, cluttered, or/and too bloated to get up and running for the plethora of emulators and respective systems I wanted to launch through the front-end.
 
Attract-Mode is hands down my choice.  I found it to be very easy to setup.  It is free, open source, cross-platform, and portable with a relatively small footprint.  A slew of example emulator configurations provided and a breeze to customize them or create your own.  More features and details are stated at the homepage "About" section.    
 
DOSBox, MAME, Daphne, Supermodel, Stella, Altirra, Virtual Jaguar, blueMSX, Project64, puNES, ePSXe, Kega Fusion, bsnes, Ootake, Mednafen, VisualBoyAdvance, and more...all setup smoothly and with very little effort.  Attract-Mode builds the game-ROM list automatically with either reading the name of the ROMs (/) files in the folder(s) provided or through custom lists.
 
There are several layouts to select from, but “Attrac-Man” is my favorite. Here are two captures of my simple customization from it:
 
Attract Mode1-Tiny.png Attrack Mode2-Tiny.png


#14 ClassicGMR OFFLINE  

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Posted Sat Aug 26, 2017 9:00 AM

Just throwing out my $0.02 :)

I completely disagree with your assessment of GameEx. I've used it exclusively since 2010. There's a ton of user-made skins, it's supported actively and has run on every pc I have owned in the last 7 years.

I have tried Hyperspin multiple times - waaay too complicated just to play games on. Beautiful? Hell yes. Worth it? Nope.

I have recently retried LaunchBox again on a recommendation for an older laptop. I hate the interface. I like that it goes out and gets artwork all by itself but hate that you can't make it use your existing library of snaps, artwork and videos.

I haven't tried Attract Mode yet. It looks like it might be very good. Just no time right now to go through it. Maybe next week. :)

Never heard of mGalaxy. Will look at that one at some point!

@trebor Game Launcher was awesome wasn't it? Seems like you got it to work far longer than I did though. Bugged out on me years ago.

#15 Trebor OFFLINE  

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Posted Sat Aug 26, 2017 10:48 AM

@trebor Game Launcher was awesome wasn't it? Seems like you got it to work far longer than I did though. Bugged out on me years ago.

 

It was awesome.  :)

 

Once upgrading to Windows 7, I had to switch Game Launcher's resolution to match my desktop, despite the full-screen mode enabled, for it to launch and exit properly.  After the upgrade to Windows 7 exiting and restoring the desktop become an issue 10-15% of the time.  After a Windows 8 'upgrade', that bumped up to more like 25-30%.  Finally with Windows 10, I was experiencing half the time or more, issues with exiting and too much stuttering, when paging through the list of titles.

 

I sincerely tried the other front-ends mentioned in my prior post, but they are too time consuming to get everything to an acceptable usability level for me.  Attract-Mode was a breeze and had all my emulators setup in no time.  What I love too is it can be an easy setup for a system/emulator, or made much more elaborate, when/if I have the time.  

 

It too provides the option to setup any key (combination) to exit any emulator.  So if I have most emulators default exiting by 'Esc' or whatever key combination, but there are a few that force map another key, Attract-mode takes care of it.



#16 racketboy OFFLINE  

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Posted Sat Aug 26, 2017 3:50 PM

Too humble! You know you're awesome!

 

I love the "games that defined the [platform here]" features on racketboy.com. 

 

:)  I actually just published a new Xbox one a week or two ago 

http://www.racketboy...-microsoft-xbox



#17 KeeperofLindblum OFFLINE  

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Posted Sun Aug 27, 2017 1:27 AM

 

Having been a Game Launcher user for well over a dozen years, it was finally time to move on as that front-end had not been updated since 2003, was occasionally experiencing intermittent functionality issues starting with Windows 8, and with Windows 10, the frequency of issue occurrences increased.  
 
I wanted something easy to get up and running while looking good, but certainly did not have to be a spectacle of awe and amazement.  I tried the following:
 
Attract-Mode
EmulationStation
GameEx
LaunchBox
mGalaxy
 
Most I found to be cumbersome, cluttered, or/and too bloated to get up and running for the plethora of emulators and respective systems I wanted to launch through the front-end.
 
Attract-Mode is hands down my choice.  I found it to be very easy to setup.  It is free, open source, cross-platform, and portable with a relatively small footprint.  A slew of example emulator configurations provided and a breeze to customize them or create your own.  More features and details are stated at the homepage "About" section.    
 
DOSBox, MAME, Daphne, Supermodel, Stella, Altirra, Virtual Jaguar, blueMSX, Project64, puNES, ePSXe, Kega Fusion, bsnes, Ootake, Mednafen, VisualBoyAdvance, and more...all setup smoothly and with very little effort.  Attract-Mode builds the game-ROM list automatically with either reading the name of the ROMs (/) files in the folder(s) provided or through custom lists.
 
There are several layouts to select from, but “Attrac-Man” is my favorite. Here are two captures of my simple customization from it:
 

 

 

Makes me want to give it a second chance... I'll have to look into it again if the PC I bought for my emulation setup is having issues with the LaunchBox.

 

Thanks for your input kind sir! :)



#18 Flojomojo OFFLINE  

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Posted Sun Aug 27, 2017 7:34 AM

:)  I actually just published a new Xbox one a week or two ago 
http://www.racketboy...-microsoft-xbox

Good article. It amuses and pleases me no end that 3 of these (KOTOR, Jade Empire, Munch Odyssee) are playable on mobile.

#19 zzip OFFLINE  

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Posted Mon Aug 28, 2017 7:36 AM

The focus here would be getting input about a Front End for an Emulation Box.

 

I've opted to do a small PC rather than a RaspPi 3. I managed to find one pretty cheap and plan to do either Windows (if working on it) or installing Lakka (RetroArch OS basically)

 

That being said... I wouldn't mind some input on possible Front Ends to use. 

 

I have only used RetroArch, and it does pretty well and gets the job done. However it's not always my favorite and sometimes controllers can be a fit if you want to change up which controller you use. 

 

I've heard of EmulationStation and used it briefly with the RaspPi 3. It looks pretty nice on the outside, but I ran into issues getting some covers and the controller setup for it didn't always feel great. Granted the main problem I had with my RaspPi was getting the controller to work right. 

 

I heard about LaunchBox from MetalJesusRocks, and that one looks pretty great overall. Seems to have a wide variety of support... but it also costs if you want the full feature set. It's free to use , so I'll try it but wondered if anyone here had direct experience with it. 

 

https://www.launchbox-app.com/

 

 

I'll also probably give EmulationStation another try and see if it works better on top of Windows. 

 

http://emulationstation.org/

 

 

I also found a couple of random ones (top results when I searched). They all vary in type and quality, but I'm gonna link them with short descriptions of what they look like. I'll definitely be trying them when I get my setup in though. Will post up what I think of some of them.

 

So far I've found...

 

https://www.gameex.com/ - (GameEx)This one looks... kinda plain. It almost makes me think of Kodi but for games? Granted Kodi works great, so this could be a winner in an unflattering dress.

 

http://www.mgalaxy.com/ - (MGalaxy) Looks pretty close to LaunchBox but a bit less detailed. They offer a lot of the same features and is free unless you want their databases. Premium is yearly or forever. 

 

http://quickplay.sourceforge.net/ - (QuickPlay)This reminds me of MAME a lot. Not quite what I'm looking for a Front End. This one does have quite a bit of details though, so might be good if you aren't looking for fluff. 

 

http://lusspace.free.fr/modules/news/ - (LusSpace) looks to be even more like MAME. I'm assuming this is where someone informs me it's one of the same people working on it. This has more details than and fancy screenshots than QuickPlay does. 

 

http://scottrice.github.io/Ice/ - (ICE) Okay I actually recognize this one. I have a friend who uses it. It looks pretty nice overall, but it looks like it's going to piggyback on Steam. I got mixed feeling about that. 

 

http://www.hyperspin-fe.com/ -  (HyperSpin) This one is very colorful and just almost feels like too much. It also costs money which I was hoping to avoid... so gonna hard pass this one. 

 

http://feelfrontend.altervista.org/ - (FEEL) This looks to be another big contender. It doesn't look too over the top but just enough to work as a nice frontend. Might come down to what my emulator box (nothing fancy) can handle. 

 

http://emuloader.mam...ld.info/emucon/ - (Emucon) This uses a weird, simplistic database that seems to feature more picture than details. I can't describe it any better. 

 

http://attractmode.org/index.html - Another one focused for more of a media/game center look. Probably another one that I'll be more interested in since that's my focus. 

 

At the end of the day, they all seem to do the same thing, so I'll just have to run through them all and find what works best. I'll be sure to post up after I try things out. 

 

My main focus is a front end that displays well on a TV and interface that allows for multiple, different controllers. Ease of use as well as games supported will play decent parts as well. 

 

Again, if anybody has any inputs on any of these, please let me know! 

 

I wrote my own and improved it over the years.  That way I know it will have the features I want.   I recently ported it to Raspberry Pi, but just working on improving performance on Pi. 



#20 Lordmonkus OFFLINE  

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Posted Thu Aug 31, 2017 2:13 PM

I have recently retried LaunchBox again on a recommendation for an older laptop. I hate the interface. I like that it goes out and gets artwork all by itself but hate that you can't make it use your existing library of snaps, artwork and videos.
 

You can use your existing media with Launchbox. You can either just drop it into the appropriate folders within Launchbox itself or you can tell Launchbox where to look for the media on a per platform basis.

 

Full disclosure here, I am a mod over on the Launchbox forums so I do have a bias towards it but I am in no way paid for my efforts over there.

I really love the front end, I tried out pretty much most every other one out there and the biggest issues I had with all of them was they were either way too much effort to just get it working, actual game management was a pain or both. The biggest downside to Launchbox is that you do need to be using Windows 7 or newer to use and depending on your PC you may have performance issues with some of the heavier themes.

 

50$ for the lifetime license is a bit steep for front a end but you don't need to buy the 50$ lifetime license to get the BigBox features, just buy the 20$ 1 year license. You will still get full functionality after the year is up, you just won't get access to any updates beyond that. Also if you do buy a license and you find that Launchbox is not for you Jason will refund your money. I suggest for anyone really interested in emulation discussion or have any questions about Launchbox to come on over to the forums or the Discord channel, both are very active and always have people willing to help out with any questions or problems.


Edited by Lordmonkus, Thu Aug 31, 2017 3:00 PM.


#21 KeeperofLindblum OFFLINE  

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Posted Wed Sep 13, 2017 12:31 AM

It is super delayed, but I went ahead and took some screenshots of LaunchBox!
 
I bought the Premium version, so I have Big Box. Screenshots vary from the program itself in plain jane mode (which is still pretty good), and a few shots of the Big Box mode showing off a couple of themes. 
 
I took only a handful of screenshots, but I'll try and upload more at a later time.
 
 
Now for a few select shots for those who don't care about a small album...
 
LaunchBox "Plain Jane" mode - I still really like this. Nice simple interface that you can customize the view a bit. I haven't messed much with it, but you can view by cover/box, by cart/disc, and they have some 3d images available for these as well. 
 
SZgOwOx.png
 
d9HRe83.png
 
4CwAs90.png
 
Now for a couple select Big Box Mode stuff. I'll only link the more default look, but I've also tried out an "EmulationStation" theme I found. (I realize this is silly, but I do like EmulationStation's layout overall.)
 
LUy06TA.png
 
8hRv0Hk.png
 
x4DXMHM.png

Edited by KeeperofLindblum, Wed Sep 13, 2017 12:32 AM.






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