SITE UPDATE - February 26, 2018
In-Game Artwork: 35 new games; 1 game updated artwork; update to page layout
Now that the site is back up and running, it is time to get to the next step in the plan: moving all of the existing MESS Artwork to this page.
We are going to do it in phases. The current MESS artwork page has about 100 files that would be considered current artwork. On top of that, there is all the handheld artwork that the team over at Bannister's forums has been working on, plus some recent stuff posted at the Artwork forums. If we released all that in one shot, we probably would not break MAMEWorld, but I would rather not take the chance.
In addition, much of the current MESS artwork needs work before it is moved over here. There are certain standards that I try and maintain here (which I should probably actually put in writing... coming soon). With that said, I am going through each file, doing what needs to be done, and then I need to run each of those systems in MAME, to ensure the artwork file actually works and to take a preview screenshot. To do that, I need to understand how to start each system in MAME, load software, etc.
Prior to this week, my experience with non-arcade systems in MAME has been almost none... and in retrospect, I have been missing out. There are SO many different systems that are in MAME now, it truly is amazing. I feel like I have been learning a little bit of computer history as I have been working on everything these past few days. The interface for computer and other systems, which intimidated me in the past, is actually quite intuitive to use, once you have run thirty different systems on it, some of them requiring software to be loaded. Do it over and over enough, and it really is as simple as "regular" MAME.
At first, I was simply going in alphabetical order, but that got boring, so I ended up skipping around using one criteria, then another, then another, and by yesterday, I had 34 new files to add. For historical purposes, I have put a somewhat copy of the current MESS artwork page here, minus any artwork that was marked as updated in 2017. Those were the biggest files, and have already been moved to the current artwork page.
When all is said and done, just like the previous iteration of the old MAME artwork page, there may be a few files from the current MESS page that will not be added to the current artwork page. I am thoroughly trying to find replacement images for each file that needs it, and I have not fallen short yet; we will see how things progress in the next few weeks. With that, here is what we have for today:
- Added the artwork for Speak & Spell, Speak & Math, Speak & Read, and Wiz-A-Tron. Scans were by Lord Nightmare, and artwork cleanup was done by Comboman. I fixed the crooked E and O keys in snspell, as those were setting me off every time I looked at the file.
- Added Simon, again thanks to Lord Nightmare and Comboman. I tweaked things in the LAY file for this one, so that the actual area of each lamp is the clickable part of the artwork; no more, no less.
- Added the artwork for Milton Bradley Dark Tower, completed by The Flying Ape.
- Added the version of Amstrad NC100 completed by Retro27.
- Added the files for 4004clk, 990189, a500n, aim65, and ccmk2 as they were, with very minor changes to the LAY files (simply to standardize how everything else is on this site).
- Added Alien Chase, thanks to AntoPisa.
- Added alnattck, apple2e, a1000n, c64p, c128; replaced previous pictures to improve perspective.
- Added bbcb and bbcm; replaced the Cub monitor in both of those with a better picture. Also added bbcmc, which would have used the same monitor. Looks like I have a mistake in the LAY file for two of those, though, so they will be updated again next release.
- Added kim1 and junior; replaced both with an improved pic; fixed the LAY file for kim1 so that clickable artwork works again.
- Added ccmk2 and ssystem3; replaced pics in both files with improved versions.
- Added dmv; cleaned up the pic a bit more; reworked the LAY file to use the Group function for the Status Lamps and Diagnostic LEDs.
- Added avigo and palmiii; replaced pics in both files with improved versions; added an overlay to avigo to better match the actual screen color.
- Added svision; added an alternate version of the hardware, and added an overlay to better match the actual screen color.
- Added mpf1 and mpf1b; replaced pics in both files with improved version; replaced chip on mpf1b to differentiate it from mpf1.
- Added mpf1p; replaced the pic to show correct version of the hardware; fixed the LAY file to show correct LEDs and clickable buttons (though this driver is currently not working).
- Added the larger version of gamepock; cleaned the pic up some; fixed the LAY file, so that screen ratio was correct; added an overlay to better match the actual screen color.
- Updated sc2drwho; I forget why I was looking at this, but I noticed something in it that needed fixing and fixed it.
- Added 005, simply because it is the first file in MAME's game listing; I did this before I started working on the code for the new page, and wanted to ensure things worked correctly. File currently has a generic bezel similar in dimension to the actual one, which I don't have a scan of. I am working on the actual marquee, which will be added at a later date.
- Added Adventure Vision; I could not help myself adding at least one new thing that did not exist yet.
Finally... added a column to the page to add detail for Clickable artwork, as that is an important feature in many non-arcade systems in MAME.
Next update: Part II of moving over MESS Artwork.
SITE UPDATE - February 22, 2018
Somehow during the last site update, the artwork page broke. Literally... it was not working; or would load, but incorrectly. It was flat busted. I was already planning on recoding it soon, but now I had to fix things ASAP.
Way back in 2007, when I first realized how much artwork was going to end up on this site, I realized I could not continue updating everything by hand. Up until that point, the whole site was just HTML pages with some CSS sprinkled in for good measure. Everytime there was an artwork update, I had to manually add the HTML for each game. I reached out for help, and the amazing Pi came to the rescue. By November that year, the artwork page was running on PHP and MySQL, and I could spend more time on getting artwork done again, without worrying how long the next site update would take.
It was clean code, also. I did not know anything about PHP back then, but he wrote good clean code, with comments for each section, so that I could still make sense out of it, and over the years, I was able to update it three more times as things changed around here. The issue with the page, though, is he made things so user friendly for me, the way it was designed was actually starting to slow things down as the size of the artwork database got bigger.
Since I did not know how any of that worked back then, the code was written so that all I had to to update the database was upload a new text file when new artwork was released. The page would query the text file; if the date of the text file was newer than the last date of the last database update, then it would update the database, and present the updated page. Not a big deal on normal days, but during release weeks, it seemed like things would slow down a lot. Not sure if this was due to the constant querying of the table, or if it was simply my own fault, after updating things three times. I do not think I ever touched anything important, but you never know.
Anyway, it had been ten years since the original code was written, and PHP and MySQL had multiple updates since then, with new features added that were not available back then. There were a few changes I needed to make, to start adding non-arcade (MESS) artwork, and a few changes I wanted to add in, that I was never able to before. While at a used bookstore a few years ago, I bought a book - PHP/MySQL for Dummies - and kept telling myself I was going to read it, so I could learn to update the site myself. Now was the time.
I planned a week vacation for last week, just for this. From the week after the update, until before vacation started, I spent all my free time reading and planning on how I wanted the site to look. I was determined to at least learn the basics necessary to be able to fix things here and get back to actual artwork stuff. Once vacation started, I spent my entire time, day thru night, coding, failing, coding, succeeding, searching, reading, etc.
I started on Monday with the basic MySQL stuff... setting up the database from scratch, adding a table, adding data, updating the data. During that first day, I got that nailed down... I could add, drop, delete, sort, and filter, and everything showed up on screen as expected. From there, it was on to PHP code, to get all the functions working and making things pretty.
This was where things got fun. The book only covered basic stuff; some of the things I wanted to do were not covered, so it was off to the internet, to search, read, code, try, repeat, until things started shaping into the page that I wanted (which, for the most part, was only going to be a little different than before). And again, the good part was that Pi wrote everything so well the first time around, with comments, so that I was at least able to take the concepts he originally added, and keep them, just with newer code.
By Wednesday, things were almost there. I was actually editing two files at once: one was what was going to become the new page, the other was the current page, as I methodically stripped certain components out of it, but still left it functioning. I did it this way (slow and steady) so I would not lose my place during the whole rewrite. Wednesday afternoon, I had the whole page mostly working as before, just without filters. Did some more research and reading, and figured out the code I wanted to use. I finally finished just before midnight Wednesday night.
At the end of the day, I just wanted to keep things simple:
- By default, display all artwork available on initial page view, sorted by most recent date, as most people are usually coming here to see what the lastest artwork is.
- Be able to sort by either set name or game name, and be able to filter to the first letter of a set or game name. I prefer this method to the old paging method... before, if I wanted to find Puckman, I would have to click on the page number where I thought the game would land; now, I can simply filter to P, and there it is.
- Got rid of the source quality columns, as they were mostly redundant. All of that information is already in the LAY file; no one is really coming to the page to see which artwork was based on photos versus which ones were based on scans.
- Added a column and filter for Category. As MAME is no longer solely an arcade emulator, people are going to want to come and see readily which type of artwork each file is for (is this for an arcade game, or a calculator?)
- Added a column for Clickable Artwork. This is a very big deal with the non-arcade artwork that we are going to start adding. And looking forward, it is going to apply to many arcade artworks, also.
- No need for combining multiple filtering/sorting methods (e.g. filter to Handheld Artwork, with just Overlays, that start with P, and sort descending). I do not need things to be that complex; pick one filter, and use [CTRL + F] from there.
- When new artwork is added, simply upload the new data, update the table, and be done with it.
So, that is my story. I tend to be self-sufficient at things. If I have an idea, but do not know how to do it, I take it upon myself to figure it out if I can. It kind of goes with the whole take it apart to see how it works mentality, I guess.
After uploading all the new code, everything seems lightning fast now, compared to before. Initial page load might take a second or two sometimes, but once you are there, you can filter to your heart's delight, and most of the time the page loads with the requested settings in just tenths of a second. And, everything is still phone and tablet friendly, too.
If you notice anything weird, stop by the Artwork forum at MAMEWorld and let us know, so that it can be fixed.