RetroRGB's MaLa Front End - Easy Setup 

Warning:  All pages in the Arcade / MAMEsection are still a work in progress!  I've tested the instuctions on multiple systems and haven't had any trouble, but it will take time before enough people confirm their results to remove this warning.  If you follow these instructions, please let me know how they worked for you.

This page describes how to create a Windows-based front end for your MAME arcade games, as well as other emulators.  This front-end can be used with a controller, or a keyboard and mouse.  This will also include generic layouts that are compatible with all common resolution screens (240p, 480p, 720p, 1080p) that will make your arcade cabinet or gaming machine look awesome!  It's not as flashy as other front ends, but it's basic and easy.

This page is the "easy setup", which includes a zip file containing a pre-configured MaLa setup.  If you'd like to perform every step yourself, I suggest taking a look at the Manual Setup page.

 

Pre-installation notes:
-
 I highly recommend starting with a bare installation of Windows 7. Windows 8 may work, but it's untested. Windows XP will work, but I've had issues with USB controller configuration in XP.

- I recommend a 32-bit installation of Windows, however it has worked on Windows 7 64-bit.

- If possible, try and choose a controller before starting this project, as the majority of the work in this guide is setting up controller mappings. People using X-Arcade controllers will have the easiest time, since there is already a config file available for MAME.

- It's easiest to configure MaLa in a resolution that's higher than 240p. If you plan on using your setup in 240p, it's best to configuring everything in 640x480 (or higher), test the setup, then switch to 240p as the final step.

 

Please download the following before continuing:

- RetroRGB's MaLa Front End (This is for personal use only! Do not attempt to sell this, or include it on systems you sell!!!)

- Combined Codec Pack (for preview videos)

- EmuMovies download service (free, but I recommend a subscription)

- A Zip utility called 7-Zip.  Install this, even if you already have a zip program - it will not interfere.

- If you're using an X-Arcade controller, download this file.

  

Installation / First Launch:
- Start by extracting the RetroRGB MaLa Front End to the C:\ drive of your computer. After installing, the path should look like this: C:\Arcade\ not  C:\Arcade\Arcade.

- If you're using an X-Arcade controller, extract the configuration file to the "C:\Arcade\mame\ctrlr\" directory. That file's full path should now be: "C:\Arcade\mame\ctrlr\X-Arcade.cfg"

- Launch the MaLa shortcut that is included in the C:\Arcade directory.

- If you get an "MSVCP100" error when launching MaLa, install this file:
http://www.microsoft.com/en-us/download/confirmation.aspx?id=5555

- MaLa will launch in 640x480 mode. Just leave it this way for now.

- Use your keyboard up and down arrows to select a pre-installed game and hit the number 1 key to launch. As an FYI, I included a few free MAME games to use for testing.

- At this point, MAME should launch; It will ask you to type "OK" to continue, then hit any key to launch the game.

- If it works, the installation is successful and you can continue with controller configuration. Hit Escape to exit MAME and return to MaLa.

If MAME did not launch, please check the directory paths mentioned above. If it still doesn't launch, I'm not sure what the problem could be.

 

MaLa Configuration / Controller Configuration:
- It's best to plug in the controller you plan on using before launching MaLa (I actually recommend attaching the controller before even powering on the machine).

- Launch MaLa.

- Right click anywhere inside MaLa and hit "Options / Configuration".

- Click on the "GUI" tab.

- In the box on the right, select the layout that matches your screen resolution (320x240, 640x480, 720p, 1080p).

- Click on the "Controller" tab, then the "Joystick" sub-tab.

- Check off "Use Joystick".

- Click on the "Check" tab, to test your controller and write down which buttons correspond to each number. If you're using an X-Arcade, this may not work; The buttons on the X-Arcade may show up as keyboard buttons. If so, uncheck the "Use Joystick" box you just selected and go to the "Controller\Keyboard" tab.

- Go back to the "Basic" tab and select the buttons you want to use (or the "Controller\Keyboard" tab, if you're controller shows up as a keyboard).

- I suggest making the "Menu Select" and "Exit Menu/MaLa" buttons the same that you'll want to use for select and exit in your arcade games.

- I also suggest making "Start Game" and "Menu Select" the same button, as it'll make things easier.

- Hit "OK".

You should now be able to use your controller (as well as the keyboard) to control MaLa. As an FYI, Hitting "Exit Menu/MaLa", then "Menu Select" will exit MaLa.

- Select any game and launch it.

 

MAME Controller Configuration:
FYI: X-Arcade controllers should already be configured for MAME, but I still suggest X-Arcade users read this section for info on how to customize buttons.

- After launching a MAME game, press TAB on your keyboard and the MAME config menu should pop up.

- Select "Input (general)" to configure the global control options.

- Select "User Interface"

- Make sure to map the following buttons and write down your configuration!

Config Menu:  This is the same menu you're in now. I like to keep this mapped to "TAB", as well as a button on my joystick. You can do that by mapping twice:

- Highlight "Config Menu" and hit enter.

- Hit escape (to clear the configuration)

- Hit enter again

- Hit tab

- HIt enter again

- Hit the button you'd like to map.

- It should now say something like "Config Menu Tab or Joy 1 Button 6"

UI Select:  To keep things easier, you should map this to the same key you selected for "Menu Select" in MaLa. I also use this same button for 1-Player-Start, but that's a matter of preference. Once again, to double-map, follow the instructions above.

UI Cancel:  This is the button you'll use to exit MAME. To keep things easier, you should map this to the same key you selected for "Exit Menu/MaLa" in MaLa. Once again, to double-map, follow the instructions above.

- Configure any other button, then hit escape to go back to the "Input (general)" menu screen.

- Select Player 1 controls.

- Map every button for player 1. I suggest mapping "P1 Start" to the same button as "UI Select", but it's your preference.

- Hit escape when you're done and map any other player controllers you'd like.

- When you're totally done, keep hitting escape (or whatever you mapped to "UI Cancel") to go back to the game, or exit.

As an FYI, you can map controls for individual games by hitting TAB, then "Input (this game)". Most arcade games only use a few buttons, so using basic "button 1 / button 2" configurations is fine. That being said, games like Mortal Kombat and Street Fighter need the correct button layout, so you'll want to map the proper buttons for each of those games.

 

Loading ROMS:
- Copy all your MAME roms to the "C:\Arcade\mame\roms" directory. This setup package uses MAME v0.153b, from April 2014, so make sure the roms you download are compatible with this version.

- I suggest your MAME roms be .zip. If they are .7z, they might cause problems launching. If so, simply copy this file to the "C:\Arcade\mame\roms" directory and run it (7-zip must be installed for it to work). That file will convert all the roms to ".zip", so please make sure you have a backup of them, just in case something goes wrong.

- Launch MaLa

- Right click anywhere on the screen and hit "Refresh Main Game List". This will take at least one full minute.

- If you see an error that says "No Controls.ini file set", just hit okay and wait until it finishes.

- All of your games should now appear. Any time you add or remove a game, you'll need to hit "Refresh Main Game List".

 

Adding artwork (optional, but highly recommended):
- Install the EmuMovies software and download the necessary art files and videos for your games. A subscription is optional, but I recommend it, since videos are only available with a subscription and there's a download limit for free users. Follow these instructions exactly as they are written to make sure the files are downloaded properly:

- Launch the EmuMovies service and log in.
- Make sure all options are not checked off.
- Select MAME from the drop-down menu (do this first)
- Select "- All Artwork -" from the other drop-down menu.
- Browse to "C:\Arcade\mame\roms" for both folders
- Hit "Go!"


- After it finishes, select "Video_MP4" from the Available Media drop-down menu.
- Hit "Go!" a second time.

 

Advanced Tips:
- Drag your Windows taskbar to the top of the screen (instead of the bottom like normally). Then set it to "auto-hide". This will prevent it from popping up and requiring a mouse to run your arcade machine.

- If your preview videos don't play, make sure you installed the Combined Codec Pack.

- You can set MaLa to shutdown your computer on exit, which is perfect for arcade cabinets. Just go to the "Options \ GUI \ MaLa Exit" tab and select your preferred exit method from the drop-down menu.

- There is pretty much zero support for MaLa on the internet. If you're looking to do anything special with it, you're pretty much on your own: Just keep poking around and hope you can figure it out. Also (and I'm sorry to say this), but please don't email me about MaLa support...there's just too much going on in each installation, making it almost impossible for me to support.

- If you're using a VGA monitor, I recommend setting it to 640x480, as it'll be the correct aspect ratio and closest resolution to the original.

- If you're using an RGB monitor, I recommend either getting a 240p-compatible video card for your PC, or using a downscaler (such as the Extron Emotia) to change the resolution from 480p to 240p. If you need more information, this section will explain in more detail: http://www.retrorgb.com/vgatorgb.html

- In my setup, I loaded a ton of games and created favorite game lists for each one. This is a pain to figure out, but might make things easier for you. Honestly though, a better way is to only load the games you'll use.

 

Other Emulators:
I included two multi-system emulators in the RetroRGB MaLa Front End package called MESS and Mednafen. I pre-configured Atari 2600 and Virtual Boy, so all you'll need to do is copy roms to their respective directories in the "C:\Arcade\mess\roms" folder, then refresh the game list in MaLa to play them.

You can also add artwork just like you did with MAME, by following the same instructions and just selecting the correct system...just remember to use the proper path in EmuMovies for each system, or it won't work (click on picture for the full-size view):
"C:\Arcade\mess\roms\2600" / "C:\Arcade\mess\roms\Virtual Boy"

I only use Mednafen for systems MESS doesn't emulate (such as Virtual Boy), since MESS is configured the same exact way you configure MAME (which, in my opinion, makes things easier). In fact, after you finish configuring MAME, you can simply copy the "C:\Arcade\mame\cfg\default.cfg" file to "C:\Arcade\mess\cfg" (if the "cfg" directory doesn't exist yet, just create it). All the same UI controls will work and you'll just need to map controls for each individual system, the same way you'd map controls for individual games in MAME.

One thing to note is mapping controllers in Mednafen is totally different than MESS. You have to hit "alt-shift-1" to bring up the controller config menu and it's kind of a pain.

For more information on MESS and Mednafen, please check out my Other MaLa Emulators page.

If you're done, please head back to the main Arcade / MAME page for more information.