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Getting started

This tutorial was written in an effort to help Romcenter users understand how version 4 works and how it can make their emulation-life easier. It is not aimed to replace Romcenter's help, it's just an explanation of some basic concepts and a step-by-step map on how to use it. If necessary, it will be updated with any major new concepts added to Romcenter in the future.

A tutorial on youtube can be found here:

Un tutoriel en francais est dispo sur le site arcadeHITS (pour rc 2)

Rom-management basic concepts for beginners

Romcenter (RC) is a rom manager, a program with which you can manage collections of games supported by an emulator. Its purpose is to give you the ability to:

  • View all games supported by an emulator plus all the games you have in your collection for it
  • Fix missing or bad-named games and roms in your collection (this will be analyzed later on) so they can be playable by the emulator

In emulation area, a “game” is a compressed file (usually in zip format) which contains the data extracted from the roms (computer chips) of the original game hardware. Each file contained in a compressed game is actually the extracted data from a specific rom-chip, that's why such a file is called a “rom”. For some emulators, games may contain floppy-disk, HDD or CD images and not actual roms.

Companies that have created the games supported by an emulator may use some common roms in all of their games. This type of roms is called a “bios”. Some games were originally created by a company but there may exist very similar games created either by the same company or by another one. Usually these are slightly modified versions of the original game that were customized for specific countries or may contain some minor differences. Those games are called “clones” and the original game is called “main”. There is always one main game but there may be many clones of it. Usually, many of the roms contained in clone games are also contained in the main game and only a few roms are different in the clone.

Romcenter basic concepts

There are a few important concepts in Romcenter, “datafile”, “database” and “rom path”.

  • A datafile is a file that contains info about all games and roms supported by a specific version of an emulator. Logiqx's site is a great datafiles resource. He creates and maintains datafiles for many emulators so there is a good chance you'll find what you need there.
  • A Romcenter “database” is where Romcenter stores info about all games and roms supported by a specific version of an emulator. A database can be created either from data retrieved from a datafile or data retrieved directly from an emulator (if it supports it).

MAME is an example of an emulator that when executed with a specific parameter, it displays all the games it supports and their contained roms. Romcenter can automatically retrieve and import that info into its database.

  • A “rom path” contains the actual game files a user may have. They may be stored anywhere, either in a hard-disk, a flash-drive, CD or DVD but in order for Romcenter to be able to fix any abnormalities it may find in them, they have to reside in a writable medium.

Currently, in a rom path Romcenter supports either uncompressed game files or zip and 7z. If you find it useful, a rom path may contain a subfolder for each supported game in which its roms will exist unpacked. In that case Romcenter may work somewhat faster, but you'll need a much larger storage space.

Downloading RomCenter

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The package contains english language and several translation.

The following datafiles are included (coming from these web sites):

  • AAE Alpha
  • Acorn Archimedes
  • Acorn BBC
  • Acorn Electron
  • Amstrad CPC
  • Apple 1
  • Apple II
  • Apple IIGS
  • Atari 2600 & VCS
  • Atari 5200
  • Atari 7800
  • Atari 8bit
  • Atari Jaguar
  • Atari Lynx
  • Atari ST
  • Capcom CPS-1
  • Capcom CPS-2
  • Capcom CPS-3
  • Capcom Play System 3 Emulator
  • Coleco ColecoVision
  • Commodore C128
  • Commodore C64
  • DSP
  • Emerson Arcadia 2001
  • FBA
  • M1
  • MSX
  • Magnavox Odyssey2
  • Mattel Intellivision
  • NEC - PC Engine - TurboGrafx 16
  • NEC - Super Grafx
  • Nebula
  • Neo-Geo
  • Nintendo 64
  • Nintendo DS
  • Nintendo Entertainment System NES
  • Nintendo Famicom Disk System
  • Nintendo Game Boy
  • Nintendo Game Boy Advance
  • Nintendo Game Boy Color
  • Nintendo Super Nintendo Entertainment System SNES
  • Philips VG 5000
  • Philips Videopac+
  • SEGA Model 2 Emulator
  • SNK Neo-Geo Pocket Color
  • Sega 32X
  • Sega Game Gear
  • Sega Master System - Mark III
  • Sega Mega Drive - Genesis
  • Sinclair QL
  • Sinclair ZX Spectrum
  • Sinclair ZX81
  • Sony PlayStation Portable PSP
  • Tangerine Oric-1 & Oric Atmos
  • WinKawaks
  • ZiNc

You can find up-to-date versions and more in these web sites

8 special plugins are also included.

Installing RomCenter

RomCenter is a 'clean' application, it does not spread files across your windows system folders. Registry and windows system folders are not used.

Windows installer version

  • Unzip the package
  • Launch the exe and follow the installation wizard

No-installer version

  • Unzip the installation package with folders. All required files are provided.
  • Settings are stored by default in the romcenter folder. To change this folder, edit romcenter/startup.ini, set a new location and copy your current romcenter\settings in the new location.

Creating a database

The first thing to have in mind is to MAKE A BACKUP OF YOUR ROMS BEFORE TRYING TO FIX THEM WITH ROMCENTER, especially if you are a beginner or using a test version. There is always a chance you do something wrong or a Romcenter beta has a bug that may ruin something.

After that, you need to create a new database containing info of the games supported by a specific emulator version. You can either import the contents of a datafile to it or extract all the necessary info from the emulator itself. So, in order to start, you either

  • a. Download a datafile, go to RC menu “File\New - Load games list from a datafile” and select it, or
  • b. Go to RC menu “File\New - Load games list from an emulator”, select an emulator's exe and RC will automatically extract the datafile from it. Currently this is supported only for MAME.

In both cases, a database will be created which will contain all games that are supported by the version of the datafile/emulator you selected. You will be able to see all supported games under the “datafile” branch of the tree at the left side of Romcenter's main window.

Multiple databases may be created for different systems and loaded in parallel. RC will load each database in a separate tab of the main window.

Adding rom files

After the creation of the database is finished, go to RC menu “File\Add rom path” (or press CTRL+O or drag-drop the path from windows explorer in the tree area at the left panel in RC) and select the path in which all your game files exist. It may take some time to analyze all games in the rom path, the actual time depends on how fast your computer is. It's usually a few minutes.

When the process finishes, the rom path will appear under the “rom files” branch of the tree. You may select it and see the status of the contained games.

Game and rom colors

Depending on the status of a game or rom, its color may be either red, yellow or green.

  • Green means that everything is OK with the game/rom. The game file contains all the roms it's supposed to contain (depending on the mode you have chosen in menu “File\Preferences\Romsets”).
  • Yellow indicates that something is wrong, but Romcenter can fix it. This color in a game under the “database” branch, usually means that something is missing but the game may still be playable. This color in a game under the “rom files” branch means that there is a problem fixable by Romcenter (usually a bad rom name or a missing rom that exists in another game). An explanation of rom problems is shown in the “info” column in the area right of the tree, when a specific path or game is selected.
  • Red means that either the whole game file is missing (in “database” branch) or that some of the game roms exist but some others are missing (in a “rom path”). That means that the game is not playable.
  • Gray (in a “rom path” only) is used when a specific file or rom exists inside a game zip but does not exist in the database. Gray are not valid game files for the selected database. They may contain info about the roms or any other info (i.e. “readme.txt”) but they are not part of the original game. They may even be roms that are supported by older or newer versions of the selected emulator but not by the emulator version that the datafile was created for. If you wish, you can delete them and be sure the game's playable status will not be affected.

Romset modes

Depending on the mode you choose in “File\Preferences\Romsets”, roms bioses and samples are stored differently inside games.

  • Unmerged: For each game (main or clone), a separate file exists which contains all necessary roms (bios, main game roms and if it's a clone, the specific clone game roms only). This is the least efficient mode in terms of disk-space because bios roms and main game roms exist in all clone files but it gives the advantage of having all necessary roms in each game file, so in order to play a game, all you need is a single file.
  • Merged: all necessary bioses/roms of a game and its clones are stored in a single zip file. This will result in game files containing all roms needed for a main game and all its clones. In terms of disk space efficiency, it's better than “Unmerged” mode because there is only one copy of the roms that are common between the main game and its clones. It has the advantage of having all necessary roms of a game and its clones in a single file, so in order to play a main game or one of its clones, all you need is this single game file. The disadvantage of it: if for instance you want to have a small collection of main games only, having all clone roms of a game in the game file is simply a huge waste of space.
  • Split: common roms between a main game and its clones are stored only in the main game zip and not in each clone file. Also, bioses are stored in separate files (if “split bios” mode is selected) and not inside the main or clone files. This mode is supported by many emulators (MAME for instance) and is the suggested one to use. It requires the least amount of disk space of all modes because each rom exists in one file only (bios, main or clone game file) but it means that in order to play a game (a clone for instance), you will need the clone game file, the main game file and possibly a bios file. This may seem a little complex but Romcenter's new UI is a great assistant in such tasks and it makes things easy.

Specifically for samples, you may have them in a separate folder if you wish. In order to manage them, open that folder in Romcenter as a normal rom path, select “split” in “File\Advanced settings\Samples merge mode” and then select the rom path that contains the samples from the list.

Fixing games

Having in mind all the information described above, if yellow files exist in a rom path, just select it from the tree and press the “fix” button. For Romcenter, “fixing” means renaming roms to their correct names, creating dummy roms where needed and in general all options you can see in menu “File\Preferences - Fix”. Romcenter will do everything that can be done with your roms in order for them to be playable. It just can't create missing roms that are not “bad dumps”. You have to provide those yourself.

You have the ability to add more than one rom paths if you wish. If you select one rompath and press “fix”, Romcenter will try to fix all roms in that rompath. It will search all open rompaths for available roms missing from the selected rompath but it will update game files only in the selected rom path. If you wish to fix all rompaths, select the “rom files” tree branch and then press “fix”. In that case, all open rompaths will be updated. Have in mind though that you may end up having the same game file in more than one rom path.

Fixing a rompath may take quite some time (even several hours for paths with very large amount of games that need fixing). The whole pack-unpack process is very CPU-intensive and constant file reading-writing is very HDD-intensive, so having a fast CPU and SSD will reduced the required fixing time.

Hint: If you have a very large amount of files in a rom path, it may help if you move your games to a separate folder. Then gradually add some games to the rom path, fix them and then add some more, fix them again and repeat the process until all games are in the rom path and fixed. That way each fixing step will take much less time and you will have complete control of the games that are fixed. You can also easily span the fixing process between several days if necessary. This carries a small risk that some games may be fixed several times because they may need files from other games that at a given time may have not yet been added to the rom path. This could be avoided by also adding the “separate folder” as a rom path but never “fix” it.

getstart/menu.txt · Last modified: 2021/01/27 08:13 by wanderer

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