Game Launcher

Version 0.9.8 - 14 May 2002
(C) 1999-2002, Dave Dribin

What Is It

Game Launcher is a cross platform universal front end for emulators. The main goal is to provide a user interface that is easy to use and attractive, yet does not look like a tradition user interface with windows and such. Game Launcher should work with any emulator. It has been known to work with MAME, Nesticle, RockNES, zSNES, snes9x, Callus, Stella, z26, and Genecyst. Game Launcher has been ported to DOS, Windows, and Unix.

Who and Why

Game Launcher was written by Dave Dribin. I wrote it because I wanted something a little different than existing DOS front ends. It is intended for people using VGA monitors (including the Wells-Gardner U3100 SVGA monitor) inside an arcade cabinet. The latest version can always be found at

Please do not email me support questions directly. Subscribe to the glaunch-public mailing list and send support questions there. See the Game Launcher web site for subscription information.


Configuring Game Launcher

The glaunch.cfg file contains the global configuration options. It contains a list of emulators to support and what kind of background music is desired. All other configuration options are emulator specific and are contained in the config/ directory.

Each emulator listed in glaunch.cfg must have a corresponding cfg file in the config/ directory. For example, if "mame" is listed in glaunch.cfg, then config/mame.cfg contains the configuration options for MAME.

I will beef up this section more later, but for now, please look at config/template.cfg and the other examples I use provided in the config/ directory. I've tried to make the config file self-documenting. :)

Using mamescan.exe

mamescan.exe is a command line tool that automatically creates a .map and .rom file for MAME by scanning the ROMs you have installed. It uses the MAME executable to figure out which ROMs are buried inside merged ROMs. By default, only the primary ROMs are included and all clones are skipped. Individual ROMs may be included and excluded by using a constraint file.

A mamescan config file, by default mamescan.cfg specifies the path the a MAME executable, the path to MAME ROMs, and the configuration file to use for Game Launcher. The configuration file to use is really the base pathname of the configuration file to use. Two configuration files are created by mamescan. If the base path name given is config/mame, then the files created are config/ and config/mame.rom. This path may be relative or absolute.

You can force the inclusion and exclusion of individual ROMs in the configuration file if you want to override the default choices. In the constraint section of the config file, any line beginning with a '+' forces inclusion and any line beginning with a '-' forces exclusion. For example, the file contains the games pacman (the Namco version) and pacmanm (the Midway version). The "primary" ROM is pacman and the clone is pacmanm, so mamescan will include pacman and exclude pacmanm. Say you do not want to include pacman, but want to include pacmanm. You can add the following lines to the constraint section of the configuration file:


Configuring Screen Resolution

Any resolution available by your DOS VESA driver should be available to use. If the chosen resolution is not available, Game Launcher will not run. Not all resolutions look that good, though, especially depending on the menu orientation. For horizontal orientation, I would recommend either 800x600 or 400x300. 800x600 looks much nicer because the anti-aliasing of the fonts is much less noticeable. For vertical orientation, I would recommend either 640x480 or 320x240. 640x480 looks nicer again because of the anti-aliasing.

Also higher resolutions may result in slower animations. This can be caused by running out of VRAM or processing power. The lack of VRAM causes slower animation because Game Launcher will use VRAM if your video card supports hardware acceleration. If you're curious if VRAM is being used, check the log file. If your video driver does not support hardware acceleration, then VRAM will not be used under any circumstances.

Configuring Fonts

Any TrueType font is supported, although very thin and/or small fonts may show some pink spots. The font size is fully customizable by choosing the point size. An appropriate size is mostly personal preference. I prefer an 18 point font in horizontal orientation at a resolution of 800x600 or vertical orientation at 640x480, but smaller fonts look OK, too. For smaller resolutions, I prefer a 10 point font for horizontal orientation at 400x300 or vertical orientation at 320x240. You really cannot go any smaller than 8 point without the font looking terrible. Any larger than 10 point results in only a few menu items to fit on the screen. 10 points seems like a nice compromise.

Configuring Screen Shots

The first configuration parameter of the screen shot is the delay to wait before displaying the screen shot. This helps speed up the scrolling by not displaying every screen shot right away. Of course you can make this as low as you want (even zero) if you like.

The brightness of the screen shot is also configurable. If the screen shot is too bright, then the menu text is hard to read. If the screen shot is too dim, then it can barely be seen. Tweak this parameter to your tastes.

Finally, how the screen shot is scaled is also configurable. The screen shot is always scaled to the largest possible size, otherwise it could be very tiny. Since screen shots are rarely an exact multiple of the screen resolution, the scaling factor of the screen shot may be non-integer number. When a screen shot is scaled by a non-integer, it will get distorted. Because I don't like the distortion, there is an option to prefer integer scaling factors over non-integer factors. If the screen shot needs to be shrunk, then non-integer scaling factors will be used since distortion is bound to happen anyways. If the distortion doesn't bother you, then turn of integer scaling all the time. You will get screen shots with a better fit at the cost of distortion. The choice is up to you.

Key Mappings

The following table summarizes the default key mapping:

UP, DOWN Move the game selection up/down one game.
RIGHT, LEFT Move the game selection up/down one screen, like page up and page down.
1 Play selected game.
LEFT CONTROL Go to next emulator.
LEFT ALT Go to previous emulator.
ESC Exit Game Launcher.
SPACE Displays the screen shot. Press again to get back to menu.
G Skip to next MP3.
D Restart current MP3.

All key mappings are configurable in glaunch.cfg.

Launching Arbitrary Programs

Emulators are not the only program that Game Launcher can run. Any arbitrary program can be launched. I've included one technique to do this with the "Misc" menu. The "Misc" menu scans the /misc/ directory for any batch files. These batch files are added to the menu and run when launched. You can create batch files to launch any command line program. I have used this to run Doom, Quake, and the QuickView video program. Please see the misc.cfg and files for more information.

Running Game Launcher

After configuring Game Launcher, type "glaunch" to run it. There are no command line options. If the configuration is setup correctly, you will get a list of games to choose from. You may move up or down one game at a time or one page at a time. You may also switch emulators in which case a new selection of games will be presented. A small icon will appear to the right of the names of games that have a screen shot available. The icon may be turned off in the global configuration file.


There are a number of avenues to pursue if you have problems getting Game Launcher to do what you want. The first thing you should do is turn on debug mode by changing the debug parameter in glaunch.cfg. This allows you to see exactly what commands are being run and the output of the commands. It is invaluable to help you narrow down configuration issues.

A number of log files are also generated in the log/ directory. The glaunch.log file contains various information and error messages. You may sometimes find helpful information in here when things go wrong. The runit.log file contains the output of the last emulator launched. If an emulator does not run as expected, an error message may be available in this file. Both of these log files are rotated so that the 6 newest copies are kept around.

If you still are having problems, join the glaunch-public mailing list and ask questions there. Always provide as much information as possible when soliciting help, such as which version of Game Launcher you are using, which operating system you are using, and anything else that may be pertinent (sound cards, video cards, etc.). Attaching the glaunch.log file can also provide good background information to people willing to help. For information on how to subscribe to the mailing list, please see the Game Launcher web site.

The State File

The file glaunch.sta contains state information that needs to be preserved between invocations. Do not edit this file as the data is internal to Game Launcher. You may safely delete this file without affecting any of your configuration files.


The Game Launcher source code is released under the GNU General Public License. In interest of reuse, it requires a number of tools and libraries in order to compile. All of them are freely available.

Tools for DOS:

Tools for Windows:

Tools for Unix:

Libraries needed:

Once you have all the tools and libraries installed, unzip the source code, edit to match your system, and type "make". If you plan on doing any real development, you should run "make depend" first to give you accurate dependency checking.