ROMs, Playlists, and Thumbnails

Storing games and other content

Game ROMs should be placed within the roms folder as configured in RetroArch. Many users sort their ROMs into subfolders named after the system which the ROMs belong to, which results in a folder arrangement such as:

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 roms/
      Atari - 2600/
           Atari Game 1.zip
           Atari Game 2.zip
           Atari Game 3.zip
      Nintendo - Nintendo Entertainment System/
           NES Game 1.zip
      Sega - 32X/
           32X Game 1.zip
           32X Game 2.zip
      etc.
      etc.

This arrangement is not required and you are free to organize your ROMs as you prefer.

Working with Playlists

Playlists (or Collections as they are sometimes referred to) are the lists of games and other content that can be generated automatically by the RetroArch playlist scanner, generated by a third-party playlist utility or script, or edited by hand in a text editor.

RetroArch Playlist Scanner

RetroArch incoporates a ROM scanning system to automatically produce playlists. Each ROM that is scanned by the playlist generator is checked against a database of ROMs that are known to be good copies.

In order for content to be correctly scanned, you must:

  • Have a compatible core already downloaded and installed
  • Update Core Info Files via Online Updater
  • Update Databases via Online Updater
  • Restart RetroArch if any of the above was just done

Finally, the content must match existing databases from the libretro-database README. If those conditions are met but content is still not being added automatically to a playlist, consider submitting an issue report on github.

Designating which core to use

RetroArch will attempt to detect and use the correct core for use with the ROMs that are used as part of a playlist. Under some circumstances, it may be useful to manually set a particular core for one of its playlists. This can be accomplished within the Playlists submenu in the RetroArch settings.

Playlist file format

Each playlist is a plain text file with an extension of .lpl.

Each entry in a playlist must be composed of 6 lines:

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/storage/roms/n64/Legend of Zelda, The - Ocarina of Time (USA).n64
Legend of Zelda, The - Ocarina of Time (USA)
/tmp/cores/mupen64plus_libretro.so
Nintendo 64 (Mupen64Plus)
EC95702D|crc
Nintendo - Nintendo 64.lpl
  1. The path to the ROM. This can either be an 'absolute' path or a path relative to the current working directory.
  2. The display name (you can use any name here)
  3. The path to the core, this libretro core will be used to launch the ROM. You can use the word DETECT in place of the core path here. Once this is done you can set the core to be used for this playlist via the RetroArch GUI.
  4. The displayname of the core, not really useful, we keep it there because the history list is also using this format
  5. Link to the database entry. The fact that there is a CRC value here means that this playlist entry was originally created by the playlist scanner. In some other cases it is done by serial number. You can omit a link to the database for a manualy created playlist entry by using the word DETECT here instead.
  6. The name of this playlist, ending in the extension .lpl

Note: the paths used in this example will be different from system to system. This example uses Unix-style forward slashes / in the paths, as with Linux, OS X, and Android systems. Windows users should use backslashes \.

Thumbnails

RetroArch can display three types of thumbnails for games in playlists:

  • In-game snapshots
  • Title screen snapshots
  • Boxart

An in-game snapshot displayed with a Sega - 32X playlist.

RetroArch thumbnail packs

RetroArch provides packs of thumbnails suitable for use with many emulated systems. These thumbnail packs are recommended for most users and can be installed connecting to the internet and using the built-in thumbnails updater, available from the online update menu within the RetroArch settings interface.

These packs can be downloaded manually from http://thumbnailpacks.libretro.com and individual thumbnails from within the packs can be downloaded from http://thumbnails.libretro.com.

Custom thumbnails

Users who wish to use their own thumbnails can do so by naming PNG image files according to the RetroArch naming convention.

Thumbnail file locations

Thumbnails should be stored in subfolders within the configured RetroArch thumbnails directory within a subfolder named exactly the same as the playlist, except without .lpl at the end. Example: If your playlist is named Atari - 2600.lpl, then your Atari 2600 root thumbnail folder should be called thumbnails/Atari - 2600/.

Within this root thumbnail folder called Atari - 2600, you should then create subfolders named Named_Boxarts, Named_Snaps, or Named_Titles for boxart/cover art, in-game snapshots, and title screens, respectively. Example: If your content is named Moon Patrol (USA).zip, then its thumbnails should be stored in this arrangement:

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     thumbnails/
          Atari - 2600/
               Named_Boxarts/
                    Moon Patrol (USA).png
               Named_Snaps/
                    Moon Patrol (USA).png
               Named_Titles/
                    Moon Patrol (USA).png

Thumbnail filenames

The thumbnail file should exactly match the game's title as listed in the playlist with an important exception. The following characters in playlist titles must be replaced with _ in the corresponding thumbnail filename:

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&*/:`<>?\|

Changing the displayed thumbnail type

Regardless of whether you download the RetroArch thumbnail packs or use your own custom thumbnails, you can use the RetroArch GUI to set which type of thumbnail to display. In order to change this setting, go to Menu Settings, and change the Thumbnails option to reflect the type of thumbnail you wish to display.