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Boxart, Screenshot or Video?

  • I was going to put this in the general section but there was a slight cry for help element to it so hopefully its OK here.

    Long story short just finished a cabinet build and trying to just tidy a few things up.
    Currently I use a modified Carbon theme (where just the art and description show for meta data, no player count, publisher, etc - I found often that a lot of time it was missing or incorrect and with some limited screen real estate (4:3) I wanted to make best use of it.

    Anyway what do people prefer for the art work: Boxart, screenshots or videos?

    I current have boxart and while its somewhat uniform for the home systems (except Sega that liked to change both the artistic style and Genesis/MD branding). Bigger problem is Arcade, while about 90% of my games I have found posters/flyers that do a pretty good job representing the game (title, some key words and maybe a pic or two) there are a few where I just have a picture of the cabinet or the like.

    I have two questions:

    1. What do people prefer for their artwork? I feel like a video would hopefully give you the best idea about a game, but that could come with the trade off of not all games having one/having to create one and hopefully scrolling through menus would be a little slower (I know some skins will show screenshot for a few seconds followed by the video).
      Screenshot would be a good compromise since it gives a glimpse at the game, bonus here is that all the screenshots should be pretty uniform 4:3 (or close) across all the systems - I can add bezels to the vertical games to make them match and if any are missing, its easy to create some in the same style.
      Boxart, this one seems to be the de-facto standard, but I feel can look a little disjointed, with different orientations and styles across systems and sometimes something missing altogether that isn't easy to recreate in a similar style.

    2. Generally I just tend to use the built in scraper to ES, do any of the other ones offer more flexibility in scraping, i.e. can I specify what I want for artwork - like a preference towards screenshots. And do any of them offer a preference on description, I'd love to find something that has just a short 2 sentence or so description about what the game entails vs. a long history of it. I know that will depend greatly on the DB that is being used, but I wasn't sure if any of the scrapers had a flag you could set, i.e. short vs. long description.

    Sorry for the long winded post.

  • administrators

    I personally prefer screenshots as they are more or less uniform but it also just depends on the system/theme being used. I use Pegasus so it's more conducive to a grid layout. I don't care for videos since the pi is a bit underpowered and I don't have much storage for the videos. Really just a personal preference thing.

  • Global Moderator

    You can use a scraper that can combine multiple files into one - like Skyscraper, scraper or (Windows) Skraper. The final artwork can look like the one below


  • As addition to what @mitu suggested, you don't need to create those special images anymore.
    It is possible to use Screenshots instead of videos. If you have them in your gamelist.xml using the <thumbnail> tag and the theme is configured to show images first, you can set the display mode to force video view which then can display all three available image types (boxart, logo and screenshot).
    I used mix images before but it was a pain in the butt to manually create them if some image was missing (maybe it is not that much of a problem today because the database is better) but I immediately switched to use separate images when the <thumbnail> tag was fixed.
    But you either need a theme that supports such layout or edit the theme.

  • Thanks Mitu, I had been looking at the artwork.xml for skyscraper and it looks interesting.
    Quick question, when you say Skraper for windows, is that for using ES under windows or can I use it on a windows machine to remotely manage a retropie setup, i.e. is it a windows program that I can feed a rom folder to and then use a windows GUI to generate a gamelist.xml and downloaded-images folder, would be nice to do it on a windows machine (I know I can ssh in to the retropie) in terms of maybe filling in missing info, etc.

  • Global Moderator

    @jakejm79 You can point Skraper at a ROM folder and it will generate a gamelist and a media subfolder with the artwork. It doesn't support SSH, but you can map your roms folder via file shares and just point to it (or copy the ROMs folder locally, that's the same).

  • OK that sounds great. I actually have my ROM folder backed up to the PC, so I will check out Skraper. Sounds like I could just point it to the backup on my windows PC and then FTP over the gamelist.xml's and downloaded-images folder to the Pi.

  • So I tried Skraper and found it a little lacking with manipulating the images. It appears that you can create layouts, but there didn't seem to be a way to manipulate the individual files before creating a layout, i.e. crop the screenshots and add a border before laying the game name over it.

    Using Skyscraper now, and while it does what I want, gonna have to play with it a bit. I liked the idea of a screenshot with the name over a corner, but due to the way some of the names are, it doesn't work well (see the examples below). I suppose I could try to adjust the specific game name pngs but that seems like a lot of work and since they all have their own style (and rightfully so) it ruins the uniformity of it. Maybe I'll see if there is a way to overlay a plain text version of the name (or at least maybe in a font that matches the specific system). Part of me things this is a little overkill and redundant (the game name is already in the text game list to the left) but part of me things it would allow people to focus purely on the screenshot area when browsing, i.e. it would be difficult to tell sonic and sonic 2 apart if you aren't familiar with the games based on a screenshot alone.

    Bad example:
    alt text

    Good example:
    alt text

  • So a little tweaking and I have:
    alt text
    alt text

    Not 100% sold on the font, but I do like the uniformity.

  • Personally I like Boxart to display first, then the video. Coincidentally I have a cartridge shot for launching art for most games too.

  • So I have had a bit more of a play around and have come up with something I like:
    alt text

    But I have two questions/issues:

    1. The wheel.png's vary greatly in dimensions, it seems I can only manipulate them in 3 ways, height, width or total area, but that doesn't work since I can only choose 1 of those, i.e. if I choose area then it will ignore any height or width adjustments, if I choose width it will ignore height (unless I want to change the aspect ratio - I don't).
      So for a wide short wheel.png, I'd need to adjust it by width, but doing that screws up the narrow tall ones. Specifying an area works on ones that are already somewhat rectangular, but for the extremes it doesn't. Doesn't seem like there is a way to set max dimensions or area and resize if any are outside those parameters while maintaining aspect ratio. Any ideas?

    2. Is there a way to align things to another layer, or are all things aligned to the original parent layer.
      I'd like to be able to align the wheel.png centrally in the box, but it seems that it aligns to the screenshot (the first layer), with wheel.png's that vary greatly in dimensions/shape this causes them to be in various areas of the box and not central.

  • Global Moderator

    @jakejm79 You're using Skyscraper's artwork.xml to create the image ?

  • Yes, I figured out about nesting layers, so I got the alignment working.
    I couldn't get the resizing of the wheel.png to work the way I wanted, so I just adjusted the 'box' so that it worked for the tallest wheel.png when they were all adjusted by width.
    It's not totally perfect but with such a variance in wheel.png sizes and shapes I think it looks pretty uniform.
    alt text
    alt text

    Now to run it on all the other systems and hope it comes out OK.

    Edit: Just tweaked the box so rather than having its own border in the png it just uses the stroke feature to match the border on the screen shot.

    Not thrilled with the banding that gets introduced with skyscraper.

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