Maximus Arcade: Multi-Platform Emulator Front-End for Windows Media Center

One of my personal holy grails of my gaming life is to have a single machine that I can play a variety of games from different eras without having to get out of my chair. After reading that first sentence, you might think I’m lazy, but it really comes down to convenience and simplicity.

Maximus Arcade - Windows MCE Emulation Plugin

I’ve also had this same goal for my other digital entertainment such as my music, movies, and TV shows. A number of months ago, I bought a salvaged Dell desktop PC from my place of employment for $150, added a huge hard drive and a cheap graphics card to it and turned it into a Windows Media Center PC for my living room. Since then, my wife and I have been enjoying having out media library available at out fingertips instead of having to deal with discs and such.

Just recently, I found the time to complete the digital entertainment package by adding full emulation support to this wonderful machine. It is easy enough to find and install arcade and console emulators for Windows, but the real challenge is finding a way to start up the emulators and navigate the different systems and game with only a remote and/or a wireless gamepad. Having it look slick while doing all this would also be a bonus.

Maximus Arcade - Multi-Platform Emulator Front-EndWhile I played around with some other pieces of software (known as front-ends), I settled on Maximus Arcade as perfect solution for my needs. On the surface Maximus Arcade seems to be a very simple piece of software, but if you have ever dealt with any other front-ends, you can appreciate the hard work the developers have put into it. Maximus is a combination of a slick and simplistic interface that is also highly configurable.

Configuration

While Maximus Arcade won’t configure all your emulator’s settings for you, it is pre-configured with line commands to automatically launch your chosen game in its respective emulator.

You will still need to set up each individual emulator for your gamepad’s button layout and such, but if you already have emulators set up on your Windows machine, you should already be set in that department.

If you want true keyboard and mouse-free interaction, you will need a bit more tweaking to tell Maximus Arcade which buttons on your remote will exit out of the games and such (the gamepad isn’t as practical since you have a limited selection of buttons). I hope to create a full configuration guide for Maximus Arcade in the future so I can walk you through it all.

The Interface

Maximus Arcade not only make navigating and launching your favorite classic games extremely easy, but it sports a Flash-based interface that is intuitive and looks good enough to eat.

Once you boot up Maximus Arcade, you are presented with a very straightforward menu that shows you a single console picture and name with arrows on the left and right. Use your remote or gamepad to tell it to scroll through your console options (you can configure the software to only display the systems of your choosing).

Maximus Arcade - Multi-Platform Emulator Front-EndOnce you select the console that you want to play, you are presented with a tidy list of the game available for the console. Simply highlight the title you want, press “Start” and your game is automatically launched in the proper emulator. The whole emulator process is virtually transparent to the end user.

Capabilities & Compatibility

I won’t bore you with all the details here, but Maximus Arcade will work with just about anything you can throw at it.

You can use a variety of controllers with it in addition to the Window Media Center remote for navigation. It also supports a number of display resolutions so it always looks good on a variety of displays. There are also a great deal of little features here and there to make the experience more enjoyable, but I encourage you to take a look at the official page for more details.

While, Maximus Arcade is mainly targeted for owners of MAME Arcade Cabinets, I personally think it is also the best solution for a Windows MCE PC. While I’m not aware of a way to give it its own Menu entry in the MCE menu, Maximus Arcade has an option to create a script to add it to the “More Programs” listing in MCE. It’s good enough for me.

Affordability

Maximus Arcade does offer a free 30-day trial that includes all the features of the software. Once your 30 days are over, you are asked to pay a reasonable $20 to register. If you are seriously looking for a good front-end to use on a regular basis, $20 is well worth the investment. It is also worth mentioning that registering will get you free updates for the life of the project as well.

Conclusion

Maximus Arcade has been around for a while and has been polished and refined a great deal, resulting in an intuitive and customizable interface that will please the casual and expert gamer alike.

If you are serious about bringing your emulation experience to the living room, you can’t go wrong by investing $20 into this software. I have been using it for a few weeks now and have few complaints.

16 Comments

  1. Thad says:

    Hm. Anybody know of anything similar for a Mac? I’ve found that my Mac Mini makes a great media box, but I often find the emulation scene is weak and monocultural.

  2. sovietsniper says:

    nice article, but i am not so lazy…… (just joking 😉 )
    well, the truth is that i dont have a media center, only a pc, so this doesnt make much sense for me….. and about the 20 bucks, i think its against the emulation spirit, which is supposed to be free/open/community/etc….. thats the emulation spirit……. 97% of all the available emulators are free, including the best ones (visualboy advance for gb/gbc/gba; zsnes for snes; kega fusion for ALL of sega except saturn and dc; ePSXe for ps; kawaks or nebula for all cps1/2/neogeo; and mame for the ‘other 3000’ arcade roms nobody plays 😉 ……. so paying money just for a front-end looks pretty stupid to me…… but well, as i said i dont have MCE so i cant really appreciate the ‘necesity’ of such tool…..

    Thad…….. Macs are CRAP…. no, really, i’m not joking….. they are a fabulous piece of hardware and macs are awesome for all your computing needs…… except for gaming…. there are very few emus available and most of them are crap (no possible comparation with win emus) the scene is, as you said weak and ….. monocultural…… (whatever that means 😉 ) not to mention commercial games….. 99% of ALL personal computer games released for the last 25 years are ALL for MS-DOS/Windows (since ’96/97) so, with some exceptions of EXTREMELY popular windows FPS like Quake 3/4, UT, Doom 3 and the likes… you wont find anything for your mac mini worth your time/money….. as i said…. you can do whatever you like with a mac and in a much smoother way than with mac$oft but gaming… heh, well, you have no choice… u must stick with windows, like it or hate it (at least you want to miss 99% of all titles….)

  3. racketboy says:

    As a one professional programmer, I support paying for quality software at a reasonable price. What the software is related to shouldn’t matter.

  4. Bergasa says:

    Wow, you read my mind, Racketboy. I’ve recently been experiencing emulation thru my TV by hooking up my computer to it, but it is a pain having the mouse/keyboard lying around. My PC isn’t a media centre though… is that just a program upgrade? Can you turn any computer into a media centre?

  5. Bergasa says:

    Actually I was thinking, and my computer wouldn’t even need to be a media centre PC, would it? If the program runs on a standard Windows XP computer, then there must be some way to get a USB remote or something working with it. Question then becomes if we can get the program to start right when Windows starts. I assume that is part of the program’s functionality?

  6. racketboy says:

    Well, Windows Media Center is a unique version of XP — you can’t add it on. However, most versions of Vista include Media Center.

    However, you can run Maximus Arcade on its own. I just use Media Center since I want to play my videos and such as well. But if all you want is to play games, just have MA start up automatically and you’ll be good to go.

  7. mavkampen says:

    Well, I think another good (but with much more extra effort) would be to use GBPVR(www.gbpvr.com) + a specific emulation plugin, GlovePIE and WiiMotes with Classic controller attached… I’m building my own solution. I did a similar solution using GBPVR, but only with Ir Remote control, that lead to only a barely usable remote for selecting media. Let’s see what Wiimotes can do!

  8. Mike Chicago says:

    Thanks for posting this. It gives those who aren’t so bleeding edge something to consider with their junk PCs.

  9. Kingbuzzo says:

    Now you need to do a special on Myth TV

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Myth_tv

  10. Brian says:

    Myth TV is a horrible application 🙂 Windows Vista MCE is FAR better than Myth Tv.

  11. Ramen Junkie says:

    I’ve been setting up a machine to do just this recently. I was originally looking for a splash style front end that would just launch my emulators then I settled on increasing the icon size and just using the desktop.

    Still, I was kind of irritated that the system wouldn’t launch the games completely and all of the emulators had different interfaces.

    This looks pretty bad ass though. I’ll certainly add it to my setup.

    Here’s hoping it works out and I can finally bring myself to dump my physical consoles and carts (by dump I mean store int he attic because I can’t part with that stuff).

  12. I haven’t really found a frontend matching my wants yet, this one looks nice but it’s too basic.
    I’ll stick with GoodFE for now. Basic but very easy to use.

    FreezeSMS or Gamebase64 are the best I’ve seen but they’re not suitable for multiple consoles or for TV + remote setups.

  13. Joe says:

    How about a link…?

  14. Aaron says:

    Hey, just found this and I’m trying to set up Maximus Arcade with Vista Media Center and the remote. The one thing I can’t get is how to use the remote to move “back” from the game menu to the emulator choices. Also did you get it to work on exiting the emulators? Any details you can provide on the integration of the remote control with MA would be awesome!

  15. racketboy says:

    I think I had to map the “exit” function on the emulators to be one of the numbers like “1” on the remote. Something like that….

  16. indigo says:

    http://www.viddler.com/explore/shateredsoul/videos/1/

    a video of my configuration .. since then I have added dreamcast, ps2, atari lynx, and i’m working on atari 2600,5200, and 7200 (I can’t figure out MESS!!). The wireless xbox 360 controllers work perfectly (since I had an xbox 360, i only had to buy the adapter for about 15 buck on ebay). Is it really against the emulation spirit? Since when is simplicity and something that can be configured relatively easily against the spirit? If you can afford a pc you can afford $20

    In the end I intend on adding it to a game room for when friends come over.

    I have also integrated it into windows media center, but haven’t gotten around making media center launch again after maximus closes. I can send a video of that when it’s done.