So you want a front-end for your arcade machine and you want it to be simple. No HyperSpin, no steep learning curve, you just want to be able to add games to your setup easily, without learning 50 different programs. Well lucky for you I have just the front-end just for you (hey that rhymes). Big Blue is a front-end which I discovered not too long ago and I fell in love with it. In this article we’re going to be breaking down how to use this for your system with minimal road bumps.

I’ve previously written about Big Blue front-end before so head over to there to see why it rocks so much, but the short version is, Big Blue can create lists for anything. You’re not tied down to a certain emulator, nor do you need to keep it limited to lists or wheels per systems; it’s completely program agnostic. If you can run it from a command line, then its pretty much good to go for Big Blue.

Now this tutorial is for some who is pretty familiar with emulation so I won’t be explaining every single little detail that I come across. I’ll be assuming you’ll have basic MAME / emulator / PC knowledge already in that noggin of yours (that’s Australian for brain). Also have your ROMs ready and any media such as snapshots, boxart and videos. I won’t be going through where to get these.

With that out of the way, let’s get started.

Getting set up

Head over to the Big Blue home page, download the Bleeding Edge version (make sure you download it’s other requirements as well) and extract to somewhere on your PC.

For the sake of this tutorial I’m going to be putting Big Blue on root of my I: drive in I:\BigBlue\. Your emulators and relevant media (such as snapshots, videos etc) can live anywhere on your computer, but again I like to be a bit organised so they’re going to be located inside my BigBlue folder. If you’re following me 1-for-1, then your current directory structure will look something like this:

  • I:\BigBlue\
  • I:\BigBlue\emulators
  • I:\BigBlue\media

In your Big Blue folder you will see BigBlueConfig.exe, run that. This is the configuration utility for Big Blue itself.

Program Templates

Before we start making game lists we need to define our program templates. These are the emulators that you will be using with your front-end. Big Blue requires that you define these first, so when you add games later on, you pick a template, drop the ROMs in and those ROMS will run against the parameters you’ve defined. In all honestly, bulk of the work is done here. Once you have your programs good to go, you can just forget about it.

  • Hit the button Program Templates.

There are templates already in there but they probably won’t work due to their pre existing .exe and folder locations. Double click into each entry and hit Delete till there are none left. We’ll be setting up 4 emulators or templates, regular MAME, Mega Drive on MAME, Naomi DEMUL, and Mega Drive (using Kega Fusion).

  • Select Add a Template

You’ll now see a bunch of fields. Within this section the variable {0} is used to represent the ROM name. For Big Blue to work, your ROM name, snapshot (or boxart) and video all need to be the same in filename (without the extension).

Below is quick break down of what each one is:

  • Name – self explanatory, this is the name of the template in Big Blue
  • Program Location – the full path to your emulator .exe
  • Snapshot – Directory location of where the relevant picture is for this program / ROMs. You must define the full path, {0} to represent the filename itself, and ensure you put an extension on the end.
  • Video preview – same as above, location of the relevant video previews.
  • Commandline Parameters – This is important, the command line parameters used to run your rom with an emulator.
  • Force program to close – this allows you to hit ESC and force close the running emulator, even if it doesn’t support it.
  • Does this program’s args need the full path? – If enabled, will run command line parameters with the fully qualified path instead of running it in the current directory.
  • Pre / Post Program Location & Command Line Parameters – If you need to run a program or anything before / after the emulator, you can define that here with parameters.
Big Blue has one limitation with media, you can only use one form of picture and one video. So where it says snapshot, this doesn’t actually need to be a snapshot of the game. It can be box art, screenshot, title screen whatever, but you can only choose one. There are sections for marquee and other sorts of images here, but Big Blue doesn’t natively display them in its themes. It’s utilized in multi monitor mode which we won’t cover.

The key thing to note here is command line parameters – you’ll need to put in the exact commands and its relevant parameters in this section. If you’re unsure about what commands to run either hit up the emulators website for documentation or use this handy link over at the Launch Box forums. They’ve managed to collate a bunch of documentation for all the popular emulators and their relevant commands that you need to use to get them to run from the command line.

For example MAME, to run Street Fighter II in MAME, I need to run the follow command:

I:\bigblue\emulators\mame0194\mameui.exe sf2    OR    mameui.exe sf2

So in the program template for MAME I would use the following settings:

  • Program location – I:\frontend\emulators\mame\mameui.exe
  • Command line parameters – {0}

Since {0} represent sf2, that’s the only command I need to run my game. This will change from emulator to emulator. Some require that you define the ROM path, others need special switches to enable different options. No matter what you setup here, I’d advise to always test your commands manually via cmd.exe and running it yourself. If that works, then you know Big Blue will handle it fine.

Here’s my 4 templates that I have just setup.

Once all your emulators are setup close this window.

Lists

The main difference between Big Blue and other front-ends is the way lists work. In a traditional front end, your list or wheel is usually defined by what console you’re running. Big Blue allows you to define whatever you want in the wheel. Probably the best way to show how this works is we’ll be doing genres, then going a little bit further and putting game series in also.

There’s a few ways to add games to Big Blue – using the MAME interface or adding a file/s. We’ll be doing one of each.

Making lists

  • Hit Add List.
  • In the new menu that appears, for Label name it Fighting.
  • Hit Add.
  • Add another one, for Label put Run and Gun.
  • Hit Add.
  • Double click the list Fighting we just created it should be blank.
  • Hit Add List again and this time name it Street Fighter.
  • Hit Add.
  • Close this window and double click Run and Gun.
  • Hit Add List again and this time name it Metal Slug.
  • Close all the windows so you’re back at the Root list.
If you want to give your List a snapshot or image inside the Big Blue menu, double click it within the List screen and define “Snapshot location” to a single picture. Same goes if you want a video to play, define it here. Big Blue comes with a great set of images that cover a range of genres located within the snaps folder in the Big Blue folder.

What we’ve just done is a genre list, and then a games series. Remember these can be whatever you want.

Adding MAME roms

  • Go back to your Street Fighter list.
  • Select MAME button at the bottom.
  • You’ll now be at the MAME game selector screen.
  • At the top hit Browse, then select your MAME.exe.
  • Hit Update MAME.
  • Give it a few minutes as it populates the game list.

This screen is pretty straightforward, it’s just a matter of searching for games and adding them to the list. Aside from the genre, company and player filters, there are a few options to note in this section:

  • Clones checkbox – If checked it will show every clone / revision of games (Eg Euro, World US etc). If you’ve having troubles finding a game, ensure this is turned ON.
  • Clean up game name – This will automatically remove the rubbish from game names such as revisions. It also removes tag lines from games so be sure to add them back later.

Once the game list has loaded, first ensure you select your MAME template you defined earlier. This ensures that any ROMs you select in this window, will run against the parameters you’ve defined in your template. Now it’s time to start adding games.

  • Search for Street Fighter, add some games from this search (I’m going to add 4 games).
  • Close the MAME window.
  • Close the Street Fighter list.
  • You should now be at the Fighting list.
  • Select the MAME button at the bottom again, and make sure your template is correct.
  • Search for Mortal Kombat, add some games from this search.
  • Close all your windows so you’re back at the Root list.

You now have your first set of game lists. We have a list of Fighting games, which consists of a sub-list of Street Fighter games, and then some Mortal Kombat ones, sitting outside in the Fighting list. If you double click on a title here, it will bring up the entry and all the parameters that you defined in your program template. If you want to change the label of the game that appears in Big Blue, you can double click it and change it here.

  • Starting from the Root list, go into your Run and Gun list, then the Metal Slug list.
  • Using the same process you did previously, add some Metal Slug games via the MAME button.

If you’ve been following me, your games list will currently look something like the below (Bold means a sub-menu)

  • Root
    • Fighting
      • Mortal Kombat 3
      • Mortal Kombat II
      • Street Fighter
        • Street Fighter Alpha 3
        • Street Fighter EX2 Plus
        • Street Fighter II
        • Street Fighter III 3rd Strike
    • Run and Gun
      • Metal Slug
        • Metal Slug 1
        • Metal Slug 2
        • Metal Slug 3
        • Metal Slug 4

Adding ROMs from other emulators

Now that we’ve sorted out the MAME stuff, time to move onto other emulators. I’m going to be adding some Mega Drive games manually to my Run and Gun section.

  • Within Big Blue, browse to the Run and Gun list.
  • In the bottom right hand corner of the screen, select your template (in this example Mega Drive Kega)
  • Also enable the checkbox that says “Add using template..”
  • Open up Windows Explorer and browse to your Mega Drive roms.
  • Using Windows Explorer, drag and drop your relevant ROMs into the Run and Gun list. (I added Vectorman and Gunstar Heroes)

That’s literally it. You’ve just made a list that consists of both MAME and Mega Drive games with little to no frustration. Amazing right? This process is exactly the same for anything that isn’t MAME related, as long as you have your program templates set up.

Close all the windows till you get back to the main screen.

Hit Launch Big Blue. It should launch with the Street Fighter 2 theme and presto your game list that you defined is right there. (Enter to go into a list, Shift to go back a list and ESC to quit.) Congratulations you’ve successfully setup Big Blue!

Closing words

From here, it should be clear the potential of Big Blue’s list system. The flexibility of allowing you to do all of the above from an easy to use GUI I think is something that probably no front-ends allow you to do. This is applicable to pretty much the rest of your emulators. You can re-order games anyway you want in Big Blue, move them to another list and not have to worry about things not working or being buggy. Once your entry works, it can live anywhere.

As I mentioned earlier a lot of work is just setting up the program templates and making sure that all your parameters are working nicely. Your ROM collection also has to be fairly neat as well, with all your roms, pictures and video previews having perfect filenames. But if you’ve put in all that hard work already, working with Big Blue is quick easy and painless.

If you’re having troubles getting something to run or not playing ball, hit me up in the comments and I’ll try my best to help you out!

C D C R U Z E

C D C R U Z E

Chad is someone who wishes arcades were still around. This also happens to be his site where he rambles on and on about games, emulation and anything that might tickle his fancy. He can also cook a mean cheese toastie.

11 Comments

  • adam says:

    Thank you so much for helping to clarify the big blue functionality. This was a huge help to get me started. I love the simplicity of this setup and how customizable it is.

  • Van says:

    I have it up and running and it is working great, but I just hooked up my USB joystick and it is not letting me move up and down to select games in the main Big Blue interface. The joystick works just fine within MAME. Any ideas?

    • C D C R U Z E says:

      – First plugin your intended controller via which ever input method it has (USB etc). Ensure you only plug the main one in and not several at once.
      – Open up BigBlueConfig.exe and go into Controls. At at the top there’s a section for Devices. Choose your controller (it could be something vague like D_INPUT)
      – Now in the main section, Action is what the Big Blue function is, so for navigating the menu, its RAMPAGE_PREVIOUS_ITEM. You can cross reference this with what the default inputs are to figure them all out.
      – Now for Device Label, change it so it is your USB device, (not any keyboard), then on Input column double click it, then press the button on your controller.
      – Repeat this for everything and it should map all your keys.

      Here is a pic!
      Any Keyboard refers to exactly that, keyboards – it doesn’t mean any input devices.

      I’ll add it to this guide later as it didn’t occur to me about controllers, so next week I’ll add it with pictures!

      • Coma says:

        I’m actually having the same issue that Van described. I’m using an 8bitdo bluetooth controller and while Big Blue Configurator can see the control as an x_input device, when I’m in the Controls gui, it won’t register any inputs from the d-pad. Buttons register fine. Also, this controller works correctly in MAME and running any of the other various emulators, it just doesn’t seem to want to play nice in the Big Blue main interface.

        Any ideas? Contact the developer of Big Blue and let him know?

        Thanks

        • C D C R U Z E says:

          I have the same gamepad so let me do some testing tonight and get back to you!

        • C D C R U Z E says:

          So only the dpad doesn’t work? The buttons work fine in the GUI?

          I did some playing around and It seems to work fine for me with the SF30 controller. I’m not sure what might be causing this. The only difference might be is that I’m using it wired and not over Bluetooth, how are you connecting it to the PC? Here is a screenshot of my control screen if it helps.

          Can you try and post a screenshot of what your controls section looks like?

          I’ll try and do it via Bluetooth, just need to get an adaptor or use a laptop.

          Another thing to try is replace the usb.ids file with this one, this is a more up to date one that from the developers page. (Copy and paste the contents into a file and call it the same filename, replace the old one, make sure you take a backup)

          • Coma says:

            Wanted to reply as I’ve found a (sort of) workaround with the 8bitdo bluetooth controllers and Big Blue. If you start the pairing process with their controllers in the suggested Windows mode (start + X), it sets up the controller as an xinput device. This works great for any MAME games that have been set up before, but doesn’t work at all for the d-pad buttons in Big Blue.

            If you set the 8bitdo controller up as an Android device (dinput), the device will work great in Big Blue and you’ll be able to use the dpad to navigate the menus. The caveat being that you’ll need to remap your buttons and dpad in any emulators that you’ve previously set up to work with wireless xbox360 controllers or xinput devices. Should be able to set it up once, and be done with it… but it means button mapping isn’t correct out of the gate as it is if you set the controller up as an xinput device.

            The reason for the dpad issue with Big Blue is that 8bitdo sets up the dpad as a left analog stick by default. You can set it up to use it as a dpad… and this will work for Big Blue menu navigation… but then once in game, it won’t work unless you’ve set it up with the emulators.

            So kind of messy, but there are ways to get these controllers to work with Big Blue AND the emulators.

          • C D C R U Z E says:

            Wow thanks for this! The only other thing I was going to suggest was a firmware update, as I had to do that to get it working with my Switch, that was about it – but thanks for figuring this out! If I finally get some time It’s probably worth writing up an entire section just for controllers it seems. I think my pad might have already been in Android mode already hence why it was working for me straight away (only reason I can think).

  • Coma says:

    Yeah, only the d pad doesn’t register in the Big Blue gui. Can’t get it to register any inputs in the controls setup either. The 8bitdo bluetooth SN30 shows up as an x input device. But… perhaps it’s because I’m running Windows 7 that I’m having this issue? I’ll try replacing the usb.ids file next.

    Thanks

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C D C R U Z E is ..

Someone who wants to ramble on about games, arcade, emulation and design. Maybe a few other things too.

Where can you reach me?

I’m available on a few other social media platforms! Have a gander at the below.