how are y'all organizing your flash carts?

So I‘ve had multiple flash carts for 2+ years at this point that I have not used because I hate organizing files, I hate downloading romsets to figure out what works and what doesn’t, I don‘t like looking for and applying patches, etc etc etc. I assume there’s no service one can go to since it's in the grey zone to be messing around with roms, but I also hear that for example with MODE you just drop the files in and they get sorted out with cover shots and are sort of self-organizing?

I don't want to fiddle with this stuff, so I'm curious what y'all do about it. I've got genesis, snes, n64, dreamcast, saturn, wonderswan, pce, and neo geo to sort out here. no shortage of stuff, and considering I hate doing it, uhhhh any advice would be welcome. I need to make this happen because my physical games have to go into storage for juuuuuust a couple few months/years/honk and I want to be able to still play stuff on hardware.

I had this happen by accident with my GBA roms. The romset was on my desktop, the only SD card reader I had was on my macbook air. The only flashdrive I had was 8gb. I could not fit all of the roms on the flash drive, so I went down every single one and picked out only the ones that seemed interesting to me, and labeled them “good roms”. Yes I could have grabbed the set again on the laptop, I could have also purchased an SD card reader off amazon, but I was incredibly lazy. EZ Flash also came with a download that included game images, so one could set that up if they wished.

I think this is why I was blown away by my modded xbox. Not only does it have romsets but nearly every game has either boxart or demo footage displayed in the frontend. I'm not sure how you'd track something like that down these days

@“exodus”#p43630 Smokemonster did some crazy work organizing all the roms so I highly recommend just download his packs one time and totally forget about having to deal with roms ever again. Packs are in single zips and typically have this structure. You just download and unzip. That's it.

[upl-image-preview url=//i.imgur.com/2YSPVjH.png]

Smokemonster created the framework and actual roms are maintained by other people. Hacks and translations are all prepatched but frequency of updates depends on maintainers. I'm hesitant to provide links so as @"Syzygy"#279 said just search for HTGDB Gamepacks on archive. For redump isos, search _atrac17 on archive.

I actually do a lot of work staying on top of stuff. Getting all my translations from CD Romance. Adding them to old ISOZONE Smoke Monster Packs. The Redump packs on Archive are where I pick and chose my PCE and PS1 ISOs. Although I literally just spent the day copying over all my back ups onto a friend's harddrive as he was similarly overwhelmed. I think some of my rips go back to the 2000s. Its an ever evolving project.

Are you asking how we organize or just asking for a solution to your situation? The smokemonster packs are basically made for people who don‘t wanna mess around and just want it all there, one dump and you’re done until the next patch you really wanna play comes out.

Personally I like taking time to curate and organize my flash cart file structures myself. It helps avoid choice paralysis. I keep full romsets on hand but organize my root folder to be a limited curation of games I want to focus on playing. For some consoles, I also organize by release year. I prefer having stuff organized by release year in general.

In tribute to the early days of flashcarts, my ROMs are lovingly categorised and managed on my computer, but the flashcarts themselves feature ONE GAME, and only that ONE GAME until I’ve finished with it. Otherwise I tend to play a game for about 10 minutes and then go looking for something else shiny.

I keep 99% of my ROMs on my PC and basically just individually load the 3-10 games that I want to play in the near future at a time into the top-level directory. For example right now on my NES cart I‘ve got Mother, Lagrange Point, Digital Devil Story: Megami Tensei, and the goofy romhack Dr. Garfield. I might have all my other ROMs in other folders on the flash cart, but I almost never even look at them until I’m in the mood to play something else, at which point I'll rearrange files.

It's a little more cumbersome to do it this way, but I do it because I get easily overwhelmed and if I load up a flash cart and see a choice of 3000 games I could play, I end up not playing anything.

Really it seems like I‘ve got an outdated view of this and the Smokemonster pack IS the solution to my problem and also how some folks at least start their file organization. So it seems like maybe this problem is mostly solved for the time being! That’s exciting news. The stuff @“robinhoodie”#120 is talking about is what‘s daunting to me but at least there’s a solid starting point here.

@"Nemoide"#315 and @"billy"#201 that's a solid plan too - it requires more back and forth but I do have that problem of choice paralysis with a huge romset (which is part of why I might want them broken down... but then if I break them down too much I might not know where certain things are, etc).

To make this less of an about-me thread, I'm curious whether folks separate fan translated and english version games? Do you keep prototypes in the same zone as finished games? What about fan games? Where would you put Omega Blast https://nendo16.jimdofree.com/omega-blast/ vs Xeno Crisis?

At a certain point if you compartmentalize too much it gets to be a bunch of folders you'll never visit, but also you kind of want to know what's fan translated and what's official - though realistically with earlier games the quality of a fan translation is pretty similar to the official ones.

I'm gonna look at this smokemonster stuff before I finalize my plan.

the HTGDB packs have been an absolute godsend ever since i got my hands on a MiSTer, having all the pre-patched fan translation roms in their own folders for each system is the biggest appeal for me.

starting to sound like all the fears I‘m clinging to are a couple decades old… this must be what it’s like to be a boomer

@“exodus”#p43692 No I getcha, the old days of wack emulation kept me out of it until flash carts and the MiSTer. The hardest thing to get a handle on these days are translated roms as they keep rolling out, and homebrew as it doesn't always get swept up. Its also the stuff I am most interested in these days. So things like the digital Xenocrisis you have to go to the devs page and grab. I love the Retro Souls games, but found them through Evercade then went to the devs Itch.io and bought the roms. I mostly just make a “Special” folder for stuff like that. Patching most roms is easy these days, but some stuff is still a bug bear. Like PCE CD translations, or the Un Worked Designs patches.

I know Brandon is already satisfied with the provided answers but I do think this is an interesting topic to discuss about regardless.

Personally I've come to terms with the fact that no amount of categorization and effort I put in will ever be enough. At some point I realized I seem to find some new interesting game I had never heard about about every couple of days or so, and that's not taking into account the constant flow of new things in the shape fan translations or the stuff that happened recently with the Atomiswave ports, which I always want to try. I think eventually you just gotta accept that, like it or not, trying to organize games is going to be a perpetual work in progress, just like @"robinhoodie"#p43654 was pointing at.

Considering that complete romsets always feel overwhelming and give me a hard case of analysis paralysis and never actually playing anything, I have essentially opted for adding only games I feel like playing in that exact moment (it is always one or two very specific games what makes me want go through the whole process anyway), and games I feel like I may want to play on short to mid term, adding anything that shows up and seems interesting during the process. Doing this while being conscious of what I said about the endless nature of the whole process but also that moods and interests shift and change and what you felt like playing at that moment may not be what you feel like playing now has helped me a lot.

Coincidentally, this way of taking care of things also has the collateral benefit of producing a list a lot more concise, manageable and frankly, more interesting, because there is always some sort of ethereal idea on your mind that ends up shaping the whole selection, and it ends up being fun seeing after the fact what you had on your mind when you set it all up.

So TL;DR would be: abandon all archival hope of producing any list or system that feels "final", embrace the fact that you will want to tweak things down the road and put the focus on playing and actually putting the damn thing to use. Ironically enough, if you keep doing that, down the road you will end up with something that resembles an actual final list, if not on terms of the whole actual catalogs, at least on terms of what really appeals or speaks to you, which in the end is what anyone should care for.

And you don't have to fully commit to it either, as some people has already suggested, you can have either the complete romset on your PC, some sort of already curated pack as Smokemonster's, or your own custom system via an Excel file or whatever.

I had a thought about the idea of only putting games I don‘t physically own on the cart - that’d be great for my current setup, where I have access to everything, and the flash cart would be supplemental - but the flash cart is going to replace my collection for a bit, so that unfortunately won‘t work. it’s an intriguing proposition though - a flash cart full of rarities, homebrew, and fan translations actually sounds kind of nice.

@“exodus”#p43721

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@“exodus”#p43721 I had a thought about the idea of only putting games I don’t physically own on the cart -

That's often what I do. What's the point in having the original cartridges if you're just going to use a flashcart all the time? I sold my entire US collection to collect JP copies because I love the original art. It's always exciting using an original cartridge, seeing the art on display in the console, feeling that OEM plastic. On top of that, it's becoming easier to patch original cartridges with translations and whatever you want these days too. In an ideal scenario where I can afford all the carts I want, the flash cart is there mainly for testing, games I can't acquire the cart for, or games I don't care about enough to get the original cartridge.

As far as separating patches from original releases:
Typically on the root I would have my ideal version of a game, be it the original or one with various patches making it my ideal version. For recent indie retro releases, it adds to the fun of organizing by release year, because then I get to have folders on my gameboy color for 1999, 2000, 2001, 2016, 2018, 2021, etc. haha

As time goes on, for personal use the distinction between fan translation vs. original US release is less relevant. I remember back when everyone knew Final Fantasy 1-3 as such in the US, but now it's just confusing to zoomers, making the original US numbering less relevant and just confusing. The patch info is important though so usually I put that in parenthesis, but sometimes, when I have an ideally patched up version, I raw dog it and just slap it on my root folder as "Final Fantasy 6" even though it's technically a fan translation. This has proven to be problematic at times though when I could easily get it mixed up with an unpatched ROM down the line.

Smokemonster is great as the standard, but it's totally understandable why anyone would want to do their own file structuring. Smokemonster is especially great just from an archival perspective. I keep the packs backed up on my PC, backup drives, and usually on the device flashcart itself I'll have the JP, EU, and US A-Z available in case I'm missing something from my root folder that I want to play.

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@“treefroggy”#p43753 I keep the packs backed up on my PC, backup drives, and usually on the device flashcart itself I’ll have the JP, EU, and US A-Z available in case I’m missing something from my root folder that I want to play.

Probably this is the optimal way yo go about it and what I was trying to point at in my long winded message (sorry). The reason why I basically skip the step of having the whole archive/catalog/smokemonster solution at hand is because:

a) I'm lazy
b) I don't have that much HDD space available, or at least not the space I would need to backup all the PS2 games I'd like to have secured (8, 16 bits and portable systems is much easier and I do have those).
c) I trust the internet too much and so far I have had zero troubles finding anything I needed via cdromance, emuparadise and other similar places.

So I just basically have ended up with this policy of only adding what I want to play right now, what I feel I might want play down the road and any stuff that I'm curious about or I've had recommended to me. I do have to admit that 99% of my research and "archival" efforts have been geared towards finding the games that are appealing to me in particular, rather than the ones that are popular or historically relevant in general terms.

But yeah, if you are going to spend a lot time offline or don't want to spend any messing around archive.org having those packs already downloaded is very convenient.

I will say though that my mindset of being able to export my file set has put me in a different position than most. Being able to just give someone a modded console with a good library of games (generally hand ripped by me) is something that brings me a lot of joy. So like, yes, I now have very organized rom sets from 2600 to PS3, but like, being able to duplicate them at a moments notice without re-downloading is probably not a situation a majority of people are going to be in…

@“Syzygy”#p43863 Ha ha! I meant more like. If its just for me, I don't know how organized I would keep things. But I know when I hand stuff off to people, that the level of interface friction I am willing to put up with is way more than most people. That just want to be able to find Super Mario and play it.

So, I guess it‘s a stereotype that some guys are obsessed with downloading hard copies of all their music and movies etc. for archives, even though they live in a house with epic wifi, they feel the need to do this in case the grid goes down or something. Not totally unwise but sometimes it gets out of hand and that’s why it's become a negative stereotype.

Since I actively live in the woods off grid, aside for the fact that if society crumbles, I'll have full romsets of everything running on original hardware, I also need to have it all on me, since I'm outside of mobile network coverage pretty often, have limited bandwidth and monthly download limit from my mobile hotspot. lol. Feels good man! Until I'm on some property I own with starlink satellite internet, I'm a bastion of ROMs in the middle of nowhere.
Just in case a local family of turtles or bears needs a ROM of Crystal Beans from Dungeon Explorer, or the local hermit besides me has lost his Gomola Speed hucard.

@“exodus”#p43721

This is somewhat unrelated but surprised to hear you interested in I assume (J-E) Translations. I know I live here but put my foot down intellectually that if I'm gonna play some Japan Only game from this point on it's gotta be native.

If I don't want that kind of challenge I can just do something in native English.

so disc based systems get just the uplayed ones and the ones i wanna replay - cart based systems (where the SD card is way too large) i duplicate the library from alphabetical by region, to copying them into genre folders. this is ideal for drunken playing of beat-em-ups, for example - both known favorites & imports ive yet to play!