For a newer version of this tutorial, visit the Romcenter Wiki "Getting started" page. This one will not be maintained any longer.
This tutorial was written in an effort to help Romcenter users understand how version 3 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.
1. Rom-management basic concepts for beginners (advanced users may skip this section)
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 actually contain floppy-disk or CD images and not 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.
2. Romcenter basic concepts
There are two main concepts in Romcenter, "database" or "datafile" and "rom path".
- A Romcenter "database" is where Romcenter stores info about all games and roms supported by a specific version of an emulator. Such info can be either found in a datafile or 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 datafile is a special 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. Romcenter can import those data too in 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 Romcenter supports only zip-compressed game files in a rom path. 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 faster but you;ll need a much larger storage space.
3. Start using Romcenter
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.
After the creation of the database is finished, all you have to do is 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 a few minutes to analyze all games in the rom path. 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 and roms.
4. 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. This color in a game under the "datafile" 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 or that some of the game roms exist but some others are missing. When you see that, you can be sure the game is not playable.
- Gray is used when a specific file or rom does not exist in the database. Gray files are not valid games supported by the selected emulator version. They may be files containing special info about the roms or any other info but they are not part of the game. They may even be roms that are supported by older or newer versions of the selected emulator. If you wish, you can delete them and be sure the game will not be affected.
5. Romset modes
Depending on the mode you choose in "File\Preferences\Romsets", roms bioses and samples are stored differently inside games.
- 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 the second best because there may be copies of the same bios in many roms which is a small waste of space. 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 waste of space.
- Split: common roms between a main and its clones are stored only in the main game 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 consumes the least 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 maybe 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.
- 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.
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\Preferences\Romsets\Samples merge mode" and then select the rom path that contains the samples from the list.
6. 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 search all open rompaths for missing roms 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 paths will be updated. Have in mind though that you may end up having the same game file in more than one rom path.