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Creating dedicated console-style PC, need advice on startup launch


slvc
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Hi! I'm new here, but I've decided on Launchbox as being my front loader for emulation. First, if there is a great thread that dumbs it down to the basics for me regarding the below please link it and I'll remove this thread. Didn't find anything that answered my questions clearly enough. I own a large collection of older games that I want to revisit, but it is just too many systems and wires for me. So, I repurposed the first computer I ever built (untouched for 6 years!) to become a dedicated console equivalent. I've been researching how to have Launchbox load on startup, hiding the Windows interface completely, and I want to leave my computer connected to the TV. 1) What program should I use for controller navigation? I will ONLY be using a controller, no mouse or keyboard 2) What guide can I follow that clearly states how to boot straight into Launchbox's interface? The guides I found range from modifying shell commands or something to simply replacing files in the Startup folder 3) Has anyone done this successfully? How did it work out? Thanks!!
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I have a PC working doing exactly this at the moment that I built over the last month or so. I ran into no real major issues with it, but I do not boot directly into LaunchBox, but instead into Kodi for media playback, and then have an addon for Kodi that will open BigBox and switch back when I am finished playing games. The advantage with using Kodi is that it has nice shutdown commands for the PC, and also a file manager that works with a controller. I used a program called Launcher4Kodi that forces Kodi to keep focus on startup, otherwise it will go into the background and the controller will not work. This program will also replace the shell, but I have not done this yet, but I might in the future for a more streamlined experience. I am running Windows 10, and am using a couple of wireless Xbox 360 controllers. I have not needed to plug a mouse or keyboard in for normal use, and only need them for customising the backend setup in LaunchBox, like tweaking emulators and such. I don't use any outside programs for control, the controllers work perfectly in both Kodi and BigBox for navigation.
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For controlling the PC with a controller, Xpadder would work as you can emulate the mouse to the controller. Joy2Key and other keyboard to controller software might do that as well, but I know Xpadder for sure does this. However, it's not needed in LaunchBox as LaunchBox and BigBox both support controller's, BigBox being designed for that. I would still say to have a keyboard and mouse handy just in case you need to fix something. We have had several users do this successfully and no one can agree on how to do it because different people have different methods and some users are not comfortable editing the registry. You didn't specify what version of Windows you are using, I assume at least Windows 7 (but this should work for 8 and 10 as well:) http://www.windowsnetworking.com/kbase/WindowsTips/Windows7/AdminTips/Admin/ReplacingtheExplorerShellinWindows7.html This should work, however I haven't personally tested this specific method.
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CADScott said The advantage with using Kodi is that it has nice shutdown commands for the PC, and also a file manager that works with a controller.
BigBox has shut down commands for the PC as well now, so if a user just wants to boot straight in to LB/BB there is no need to add Kodi, unless of course the user wants Kodi functionality.
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Good to know, I haven't looked at BigBox's settings for a while. I did have issues with Windows 10 stealing focus from BigBox on startup in Windows 10 originally though, and the Launcher4Kodi solved that issue when using Kodi. I would probably advise going with Windows 7, most of the issues I had with getting things to work as I wanted were because of the way Windows 10 handles things.
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SentaiBrad said
CADScott said The advantage with using Kodi is that it has nice shutdown commands for the PC, and also a file manager that works with a controller.
BigBox has shut down commands for the PC as well now, so if a user just wants to boot straight in to LB/BB there is no need to add Kodi, unless of course the user wants Kodi functionality.
Thank you everyone for your responses!! Very very helpful. I'm not familiar with Kodi - since apparently BigBox now has the shutdown options, does this mean the additional functionality isn't necessary? I'm trying to keep the programs I use to a minimum. Also, in regards to Xpadder, is this convenient to set up and such? Will this have any effect when I'm playing games and the mouse is not needed?
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Kodi (formerly XBMC) is a media center app so if you want to have a gaming console that can play music movies and TV shows all with images and metadata then you may consider Kodi as something that will complement BigBox. If you just want a gaming console then you can just skip it.
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If you are going with Windows 7, then you should have no issues with running BigBox alone. I do not use Xpadder, from what I know it is only needed to emulate a mouse and keyboard for functionality outside BigBox (And with some odd emulators), so you may not need that at all. I would advise you to setup Windows 7, install LaunchBox and BigBox and add some games and emulators, ensuring that you setup the controller to be able to exit the emulators in BigBox. Then set BigBox to run on startup and play with it for a while to see if there are any problems. If it all works as you hope, then either leave it as is, or replace the shell in windows with BigBox for a more seamless system. For interest, what level of system are you trying to emulate? If it is just the lower end stuff, up to N64 and Playstation, then you should be able to do nearly everything with Retroarch as your emulator, which makes the setup even easier, because you can use the controller for changing all your settings on the fly. If you are wanting the higher end machines like Gamecube, Wii and PS2 then you will need separate emulators, and a keyboard and mouse to get everything running perfectly, but when it is done you shouldn't need anything but a controller.
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CADScott said ... For interest, what level of system are you trying to emulate? If it is just the lower end stuff, up to N64 and Playstation, then you should be able to do nearly everything with Retroarch as your emulator, which makes the setup even easier, because you can use the controller for changing all your settings on the fly. If you are wanting the higher end machines like Gamecube, Wii and PS2 then you will need separate emulators, and a keyboard and mouse to get everything running perfectly, but when it is done you shouldn't need anything but a controller.
Everything through Gamecube, Wii and PS2. I'm hoping my old computer can handle it - I believe I actually tried the PS2 emulator and Dolphin on it years ago and they worked okay. I can always hook up a mouse and keyboard to play with the settings and such but the majority of the time I would just like it to sit next to my TV. EDIT: Using Windows 7, yes
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As long as your PC is not too old you should be able to run those without much issue, especially if you don't bump up the original rendering resolution. If your PC is a bit faster and you can tweak the graphics, it is very much worth it, the PS2 and Gamecube / Wii look amazing in high rez! My dedicated box is a i5 3570K with a GTX670 video card and 4GB ram, and I can run PS2 and Gamecube/Wii at 3x resolution and anti-aliasing without any frame drops. This is pretty close to full HD and looks amazing on my TV. Make sure you have LOTS of storage, it is very easy to run out of space quickly once you start collecting roms, especially the PS2 ones, they can be massive! It has taken a bit of tweaking to get things smooth and reliable, but now it boots fast and straight into Kodi, and plays all games I have tried so far, exits perfectly from a game to BigBox and all with an xbox360 controller. It may take you some time to get things working as you want them, but it should work, and it is worth it! There are a few people on here who have done similar setups, so if you run into issues there will be someone here to help.
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The tweaking is what worries me :( I'm not so knowledgeable on emulator settings even after having used them in forever. Basically, everything I'm doing is so new - I need to learn how to change startup programs, kodi, set up a mapper for my controller, tweak individual settings for each and every emulator. The good news is that I have multiple internal drives I can use for this haha My specs are as follows:
Spoiler
Motherboard: GA-945GCM-S2L CPU: Intel Core 2 Duo E7200 Wolfdale Dual-Core 2.53 GHz RAM: G.SKILL 2GB (2 x 1GB) MicroATX case + PSU Potential GPU: Radeon 5670
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That is not too bad a machine for emulation purposes, you should be able to bump the graphics up a little. Don't worry about tweaking at first, most emulators will run at their default settings just fine, and only when you have everything working well, then you can look at graphical tweaks. The good thing with most emulators is that they are portable apps, so every setting is stored in their install directory. This is great for tweaking, because you can zip up the entire directory and save it somewhere, then muck around with settings and if you stuff anything up, just delete the directory and replace it with the one from your zip file, and you are back to a perfectly working setup. I, and many others on these forums can help you out with the setup of the individual emulators, and there are also many great YouTube clips on high end tweaks for Dolphin and PCX2, which are where I got most of my information to start with. Just get the basics done first, then worry about the nice to haves once you are sure everything is running well.
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In terms of controls, first and foremost its much easier to use Xbox controllers (or programs that simulate Xbox controllers IE. DS4Windows, Playstation 4 controllers). Comes down to personal preference, PS4 has better D-pads, but more setup. Both of these options can be sort of a pain on windows 10 (From personal experience.) With native windows support, either of these options will be plug and play with LaunchBox/BigBox (Front End), and Kodi if you go that route. There are also some emulators that are plug and play with an xbox controller on windows. This is important to me because I found that emulators that aren't tend to lose the keymapping (if mapped to the emulator itself) after extended use (computer sleeping, powering on and off, connecting other controllers etc.) However, this is going to depend entirely on what systems you want to emulate. If you're not trying to emulate old computer games, like DOS, you can probably find everything you need with only RetroArch and MAME, both of which support xbox controllers out of the box. If you can get away with just using these two emulators, you won't have to depend on keymappers, and this is both easier and preferred where possible as keymappers MAY introduce some latency and its just more stuff running in the background. If you need to use keymappers, Xpadder is the way to go. There's a backend program called RocketLauncher that will actually control your keymapper profiles for you (Launching a specific keymapped profile for each emulator, or even game if you want). However the set up can be quite difficult. Recommend avoiding keymappers if you can. Lastly, Xpadder itself has some functionality that I've never investigated, but it may be possible to have xpadder launch profiles along with an exe (say an emulator exe, or PC game exe) but I'm not sure if it works, or if the profile will close accordingly. It may be a viable option though. You can access the functionality within Xpadder itself.
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I spent a lot of time trying to use a PS4 controller on my setup, as the D Pad really is so much better than the 360 controller. I tried many different configurations, both wired and Bluetooth, and had nothing but trouble at every step. Obviously many people have got this to work, but I could not get the controller to work reliably every time. On the other hand my 360 controller work absolutely flawlessly in Windows 10, just using a generic wireless dongle from eBay. I primarily use Retroarch, MAME, Dolphin and PCX2 for my emulation, with a few others thrown in for weird systems that I really don't play much if at all. All my emulators work perfectly with the 360 controller, without any need for Xpadder or any other mapper. Retroarch is especially fantastic with a controller, as you can change every setting from within the emulator with only the controller. RocketLauncher is an amazing piece of software, but the setup is an absolute pain! I very much agree with @fromlostdays, avoid mappers if possible, stick to the simple install first and then add extras if you need them. For a simple console type system, the less stuff you have running the better off you will be. Less things to go wrong and less to maintain.
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Just an update! I got the computer up and running, hooked to the TV, and SNES through Retroarch working. I'm using my Xbox 1 controller (god is the D-pad awful) and it automapped it pretty well for me. I think the next steps are as follows: 1) Figure out how to exit Retroarch using the controller as I won't have a mouse/keyboard when build is finished 2) Map controller to mouse/keyboard for selecting games in what will eventually be BigBox mode Does Launchbox support point 2 at all? Where I can avoid using a mapper? If I can figure out how to do everything using the controllers I'd be happy, even if it means manually setting configurations for each emulator... it's the actual selecting/launching/exiting a game that I struggle with. Years ago I mapped something to my Dualshock 3 and it was horrible to set up so I'm trying to see the easiest route.. Thank you @fromlostdays and @CADScott !! I'm only looking to get one controller set up for now, I'll worry about two later ha
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Do you mean the OG Xbox controller? The Xbox One controller's D-pad is supposed to be really good actually. I use my PS4 controller currently and my 360 and PS3 controllers in the past, the PS3 and PS4 d-pad's are superior by far to the OG Xbox and 360 pad. As for the rest, you'll want to search up the AutoHotKey (in LB) scripts on the forums if you want to exit the emulators from the controller. LaunchBox and BigBox will use a controller to navigate around but obviously BigBox is better with this. You'll still need a mouse and keyboard in the long run when you need to edit settings. You ideally never need to use re-mapping software unless the Emulator you use doesn't support controllers (not the case with RA) or you want to control the PC outside of LB/BB.
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Also, after reading a few of the posts, I use InputMapper with my PS4 controller and only had issues for a little while with InputMapper not getting exclusive control over my controller, which only effected Kodi. That only lasted a month or two and I had a workaround anyways, but before and after that it has worked completely flawlessly. InputMapper is really super simple. Not as simple as plugging in an Xbox Controller and it just automatically downloading the drivers, but even those drivers are screwed up from Microsoft so it's not ideal either. As per RocketLauncher, my personal opinion is to just stay away from it, there really is no need to use it. Especially now that LB has archive support honestly. That's just me though, there doesn't need to be a second layer, but some users like to utilize it and there is nothing wrong with that.
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slvc said Just an update! I got the computer up and running, hooked to the TV, and SNES through Retroarch working. I'm using my Xbox 1 controller (god is the D-pad awful) and it automapped it pretty well for me. I think the next steps are as follows: 1) Figure out how to exit Retroarch using the controller as I won't have a mouse/keyboard when build is finished 2) Map controller to mouse/keyboard for selecting games in what will eventually be BigBox mode Does Launchbox support point 2 at all? Where I can avoid using a mapper? If I can figure out how to do everything using the controllers I'd be happy, even if it means manually setting configurations for each emulator... it's the actual selecting/launching/exiting a game that I struggle with. Years ago I mapped something to my Dualshock 3 and it was horrible to set up so I'm trying to see the easiest route.. Thank you @fromlostdays and @CADScott !! I'm only looking to get one controller set up for now, I'll worry about two later ha
Both of those steps are very easy in BigBox, exiting the emulator is setup in the settings area, and is done by pressing 2 buttons at the same time, usually start and select. You should not need any mapping software in BigBox, everything is selectable by using a controller, that is what BigBox is built for, controller only use from a couch!
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