I'm relatively new to advanced MAME (Multiple Arcade Machine Emulator) usage. I mean, I've been using it casually for more than a decade, but only recently I've began to really realize what an awesome platform it is.
By "advanced usage" I mean that I've finally started to tidy up my rom collection and update it to a more recent MAME version (I'm up to 0.149 at the moment, so I still have a few steps ahead of me).
To do so, I've finally took my time to get acquainted with clrmame pro, probably the most popular tool for the purpose.
What clrmame does is, simply put, check your rom collection against a specific MAME version, detect problems and try to fix them.
MAME is an actively developed and frequently updated piece of software. This means that new romsets are continuously added/removed/modified, so a rom that worked fine in mame 0.147 may not work for MAME 0.149. Or vice-versa.
That's quite annoying, considering that if you include samples and chd files, a full romset is well above 100 Gigabytes in size. That's the price we arcade fans have to pay if we want to re-experience the golden age of arcades. And a small one all things considered, if you ask me.
The next step I took was to explore the incredible land of MAME artworks, which existence I shamefully discovered only a few weeks ago.
Artworks consist in multimedia data regarding the games, which are displayed while browsing your rom collection. Specifically:
Original arcade cabinet pictures. No need to explain how awesome this is right? How cool is watching the picture of an original 4 players Gauntlet cabinet before actually playing the game?
Bezels. These are the artworks that framed the arcade cabinet displays. MAME can use them to frame the display while you play. This sensibly reduces the playable area, but in my opinion is well worth it.
Flyers. Paper commercials for the games, including various degrees of artwork. I never saw one of these in the flesh, but some of them look fantastic.
Snapshots. A full romset includes tens of thousands of games. You probably will not be able to recognize the name of every single game in your set, so a nice screenshot may help.
Other miscellaneous pictures, such as controls pictures or various other cabinet parts pictures.
Bezel for Double Dragon
You probably already guessed that adding these goodies to your collection means using a few more precious gigabytes of your HDD. Is it worth it? Hell, yes. It changes everything, trust me on that.
At the moment I'm using MAMEUI, a release that includes a basic frontend. And that's the problem, it has a really basic user interface. It can display all the artworks I mentioned above, but in a clunky, messy and cumbersome way. I believe we can do better.
I'm currently exploring the various MAME frontends available, but haven't found a suitable one yet. So I'm really, really, REALLY open to suggestions. Feel free to contact me via twitter or email vblubba (slug) gmail.com