> How anybody can be anything other than disillusioned with how things are right now is
> beyond me, but the reality of the situation seems to be that the majority think
> things are better than ever.
You care about what the unwashed masses think. That is and has always been both your fault and your forte.
Me, I'm not disillusioned at all. The DU is getting ever more capable at doing reverse-engineering work, Sean Riddle has thoroughly proven that decapping older devices can be done on the cheap in so much as a household garage, Guru continues to work with the MAMEdevs with which he has positive ties, Team Japump are working with us again, Github is producing ever more contributors despite the supposedly larger popularity of other emulators, Stiletto has somehow managed to get that crazy Chinese spammer to start producing valid pull requests, Dullaron is leading a charge to acquire PSP documentation, dumps, and boards for dumping, there's no end of obscure systems out there for which MAME threatens not to be the best emulator, but the only emulator, and Carl is proving time and time again how powerful our Lua bindings really are.
All of these individual points are unlikely enough to happen, but taken as an aggregate it seems to me like MAME is going better than ever. You're a capable coder, and I think via the HLSL and BGFX systems I've thoroughly proven that kiddie-friendly features can be added as long as they're structured in a modular enough way to be isolated from adding hacks to actual game code. Rather than proclaiming gloom and doom across the multitude of MAME-related fora, why not put your skills to work and make something that'll turn the tide against the wave of popular one-off emulators? Why not actually start your own Patreon?
You can moan all you'd like about how much the emulation community sucks, but that and a dollar will get you a plain hamburger at McDonald's. It accomplishes nothing to point out what we already know.
EDIT: What is with this attitude that MAME development used to be better in "the good old days"? I was there for those times, I've been using emulators since practically the first version of MAME was released. People were always upset about its performance requirements. People on low-end 486 systems would complain about how certain games required a Pentium for decent performance.
People constantly moaned about finding ROM sets. People moaned about MAME not supporting new enough games, back when there were still Taito F3 and new Neo-Geo games coming out. People still used Raine and NeoRageX, and both emulators for whatever reason got a lot more skin in the online circuit. FinalBurnAlpha is also no spring chicken, it's been around for quite a while, and it arose from people wanting an arcade emulator that did what MAME didn't. Things have not changed, there will always be "more popular" emulators with superior visibility. I don't know why you're acting like this is a modern thing.