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EmulationStation Toolkit - Theme Making Helper - Update

  • EmulationStation Toolkit

    A Toolkit for Making EmulationStation Themes

    About the ES Toolkit

    Since I first released the Toolkit a fortnight ago, @herb_fargus and I have been working hard to make it even better. There have been quite a few changes, but the basic idea is still the same:

    Provide a set of tools to help a person create their own themes for EmulationStation and RetroPie.

    New Features

    There are lots of new features to the updated Toolkit

    Binary Release

    The main new feature is a binary download that contains the whole Toolkit, packaged with @jdrassa's latest Windows build of EmulationStation that features @fieldofcows' Video Previews and the Carousel Mod by @Zigurana.

    Download the full ES Toolkit v1.1 here. Just download the 7zip file and extract it, and you are good to go!

    ES Toolkit Changes

    As for the Tooklit itself, it now also features @Rookervik's awesome Theme Helper program alongside the existing UXS Scrape and Mix Profiles.

    We have also added a bunch of new Launch .bat options for opening ES in different sizes, or with Debug functionality.

    Another major change is the rearrangement of the file structure. Instead of keeping Roms, Images, Videos and Gamelists in separate folders, they are now all housed together within the "roms" folder. This makes them super portable. You can just transfer the whole "roms" folder over to the Pi and it should work straight away.


    The Toolkit contains 2 Themes:

    • Carbon
      Carbon is a pared-back version of the default Carbon Theme with Video Previews.

    • BaseVid
      BaseVid is a custom theme made specifically for the Toolkit, with the following features:

      • Video Previews
      • Custom Carousels on the System View
      • <feature supported> tags for Carousel and Video views


    The Toolkit still provides 100 Fake* Roms over 5 Systems (Gameboy, Gameboy Advance, N64, NES, SNES).

    *NO ROMS or copyrighted content are included in this repository!


    The Toolkit still provides Images and Video for the supplied Roms. Not all Roms have all images, and Gameboy Advance has no videos at all. This media is now housed with "media" folders within their respective "roms" folders.


    The Gamelists have been set up so that Gameboy shows the Basic View, Gameboy Advance shows the Detailed View and N64, NES and SNES show the Video View.

    The Gamelists are also set up to show the game Logos within the <marquee> tag. The Themes are set up to reflect this.

    If you have any questions or suggestions you can ask them here. If you have any issues or problems, you can mention them here or lodge an issue on the GitHub page.

    In time we will also be adding a Wiki to the GitHub page with more in-depth tutorials on how to use the various parts of the Toolkit.

    If you want to see the previous thread for the Toolkit, you can find it here.

  • Nothing new to mention. I'm just shamelessly bumping this for the people that didn't see it 32 hours ago because I believe more people need to see it.

  • Definitely worth downloading, the bat files with -debug are a godsend

  • @robertybob You can thank @Zigurana for the debug tip. I had no idea you could do that until a few days ago.

  • @mattrixk Nice contribution! MORE people do need to see this!

    I've had a few ideas mulling around in my head last few weeks and have just been looking through the xml and image assets of existing themes to get a feel for it. Its enough to get started, but your theme making helper seems like a step up. It won't be soon, but I can't wait to find free time to actually attempt to start something. ;-)

    20 minutes later...

    I was going to bed 30 minutes ago, then I saw this and went to your github to see it was windows oriented, BUT the emulation station fork build you have in there seems to run just fine under a 64bit WINE prefix in my Linux rig. It allowed me to see your theme kit examples in action. I'll have to check it out more when time allows, but the Carbon theme with added video support is worth the download for me alone.

  • @xaGe I'm glad you found it useful. Remember, there is also a tutorial in the Docs:
    Creating Your Own EmulationStation Theme

  • administrators

    @xaGe if you're running a Linux machine it seems kinda redundant to run it on a VM or through wine as you can just compile and run the latest emulationstation through the retropie setup script on your Linux PC. And then you can take the assets from the toolkit and stick them right in the ROMs folder and it functions the same as the windows build.

  • @herb_fargus it was my understanding that the retropie setup script worked only in Debian and Ubuntu? Just because someone says Linux doesn't necessarily mean those two out of hundreds of distributions. WINE is a compatibility layer and not a VM by the way. Setting up a VM and installing some flavor of windows with an iso image is PITA compared to the few seconds it takes to double click the emulation station executable to run in WINE.

    Retropie runs on my RPi3, not my Manjaro Linux desktop. It's nice to see how the theme looks and if it works at all before committing over to my RPi3. More of a PITA to make multiple changes to a theme, multiple pushes every change over the network or via USB just to tweak a theme when it can be easily done in one place within Manjaro Linux XFCE, then move finished theme over to the Pi when done. The usefulness far out weights what you consider redundancy.

  • administrators

    @xaGe what? Surely everyone uses debian! All valid points. And I understand wine isnt a VM which is why I said a VM OR Wine. However you did it, Glad you're able to get it running and that it's useful to you. I look forward to seeing what you come up with!

    (Though as an aside I'm sure it's possible to compile it under Manjaro with a few tweaks ;) )

  • @herb_fargus hehe.. I do actually like Debian, just not as a daily driver.

    Thank you sir for your information. You have no idea what I know and your just trying to help. I'm new to the forums, but not to Linux. Hopefully I'll contribute and help others more than be a burden. ;-)

  • I started to look into this actually, but the retropie setup script is very tied to the Debian & Ubuntu's APT (Advanced Packaging Tool).

    @herb_fargus said in EmulationStation Toolkit - Theme Making Helper - Update:

    (Though as an aside I'm sure it's possible to compile it under Manjaro with a few tweaks ;) )

  • administrators

    @xaGe yes the setup script perhaps but the individual components like ES and Retroarch should still be able to compile manually. Can't vouch for the quality of these docs but supposedly someone got it running on arch Linux which from what I understand is what manjaro is based on

    A challenge if you're feeling ambitious and want to validate/update the docs ;)

  • @mattrixk I am looking at the links that you suggested which include this one and am having difficulty understanding the way that basevid is set up. For example lines 84-107 in the basvid.xml file are in a green font. What does that mean? It is a section tagged as "Custom Vertical System View".

    Also to be sure that I am understanding if you have tagged sections like say "image name="background" at the top for the system view and then also at the bottom for the detailed view then if you make changes to the data in that section for the system then you also need to change it for the detailed view otherwise it will break the theme causing odd behavior when viewed?

  • Hey @fnkngrv. How much knowledge do you have of any kind of basic coding, like HTML, CSS or MXL? If you know HTML it makes things easier for me to explain because you'll be more likely to know what some words mean when I say them. If it sounds like I'm being condescending, I'm sorry. I don't mean to be, but without knowing your level of coding knowledge, I'll have to dumb things down a bit just in case you don't know anything about it.

    Lines 84-107 in the basvid.xml file are "commented out". That means that the system doesn't read them, and the don't interfere with anything else.
    <!-- comments go in here -->
    These are used for lots of things, like making notes about a section of code, or for keeping a copy of working code while testing new code.

    The Carousel Mod lets you have a Horizontal carousel so you cycle the logos left and right (like the default carousel), or you can have a Vertical carousel that lets you cycle the logos up and down.

    The BaseVid theme has code for both of these carousels, but you can't have them both active at once because they will conflict with each other and can break your theme, so the Vertical carousel is commented out. To view the Vertical carousel you need to comment out the Horizontal carousel code by putting <!-- before the code and --> after the code. You then need to remove those comments from around the Vertical carousel code.

    In regards to the Views, EmulationStation uses different Views to display different data. The first View you see when you start ES is the System View. This is the one with the carousel of system. Then you have the Basic View which displays a list of games that don't have any metadata. There is also the Detailed View that displays the list of games that do have metadata (images, descriptions, genre, etc). Last is Video View which is virtually identical to Detailed View, except it can display videos. You can disregard Grid View for now, as I haven't heard anything about it's development for a while.

    Line 16 of basevid.xml has <view name="system, basic, detailed, grid, video">, which means that any code within this <view> will effect all of the Views mentioned.

    I can't remember if I already told you this, but all this information is in the Creating your own theme tutorial in the RetroPie Docs.

  • Yeah, I don't know a thing about HTML or any of this crap. I find it very frustrating tbh. Put me into Cisco IOS and Redhat and I can work with that like a champ. I had been building a theme in an older version of the toolkit so now am starting over with the new features and can't seem to get anything to work they way that I want it to. I have walked through that tutorial however with these new changes it appears that document is not completely serviceable anymore?

  • @fnkngrv I've been meaning to update the tutorial, but as it took me a couple of months to initially write the thing, I just haven't found the time to add in all the new info.

    On that note though, the tutorial is far from out of date. Yes, it's missing how to add Video Support and Custom Carousels, but you don't need them to make a theme. They are just fancy extras that you can add if you want to*.

    * Granted, there are some things that should be done differently if you wanted to make your theme Video compatible from the start, but they aren't major.

  • I am not meaning to throw stones. I have to develop help documents and tutorials for end users on a regular basis. They are definitely time consuming for sure. The tutorial is very thorough, but I am just terrible apparently at put it all together to be able to understand for example how to leverage it against those new features. As you know everyone wants the latest and greatest. I have ideas in my head that I am not being successful at implementing so I can share them with the community.

  • Does this support Z-Index?

  • @Jaxel not yet.

    @mattrixk I just pushed an updated windows build to github.

  • @fnkngrv Is there anything specific you are getting stuck on? If you follow the tutorial from the beginning, is there a point you get to that just kind of stops you cold? Like a "WTF is this talking about?" moment? Or is it more just over-all hard to follow?

    @jdrassa I haven't had a chance to look at it yet, but I did realise something: the base Toolkit doesn't actually contain any version of ES, but the Release that @herb_fargus put together does. We'll have to get him to put another release together (because I don't know how).

    I also want to test the BaseVid theme with your new release to make sure the z-index stuff doesn't bork anything within the theme (it probably won't but I need to test it anyway). I may need to test the included Carbon theme too.

    There's also some other stuff I want to add/change in the Toolkit, like updating the UXS profiles to work with the latest versions of UXS, and I also want to make it so each of the systems has 3 gamelists (one each for Basic, Detailed and Video Views), and slightly reshuffle how the all the media is laid out. All of these things take time, and I'd want to get them done before putting out another release.

    I also need to update the tutorial at some point with all the new goodies.

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