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crispy4000

PC Too many PC launchers? My reivew of Launchbox

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As the Epic Store stuff was first going down, I mentioned that if I found a universal launcher with a fullscreen mode and good organizational features, I'd consider dropping Steam as my general library manager.  That promoted me to give Launchbox a shot, and that's exactly what happened.  The result:
 


Full disclosure, its $50 to unlock the full screen ('BigBox') mode for a forever license.  I feel like I've gotten what I paid for, even though it's taken a bit of time to set up.  (more on that later)

I'm using a relatively simple theme, one of the two defaults.  There's more extravagant options out there, but this view provided me what I found most attractive: a large video viewing, featured background art, and a box scroll.

Pros:
Library organization: On Steam, I had over 30 unique tags and over 500 games.  While Valve's tagging works fine, it was all getting too cluttered for me without the ability to create folders or nested categories.  This program gives me exactly what I wanted.  I can split my backlog into categories, auto-generate playlists with a huge number of options, create folders and subfolders, etc.  You can organize your games by whatever metric you can think of.

FwXEK78.png  7JJjckk.png

Great Steam Integration: Apps like this tend to focus mainly on emulation.  I wanted something that could also do most of the legwork for my Steam library.  Launchbox automatically imports all of your Steam games, and pulls metadata from its own database for box art/screenshots/etc.  When you add new games on Steam, you can run a wizard to detect it.  Opening a game when it isn't installed will bring up Steam's install menu for it.   There's an additional plugin that pulls trailers and banner art directly from Steam.  Even store tags, which you can use to auto-generate playlists from. (finally!)

Supports Other Launchers/Apps:  Most games within Origin, Epic Store, Humble, etc also have art and metadata on Launchbox's database.  It's a similar process to adding non-Steam games to Steam.  If you want to open those games directly and skip the launcher, you'll need to edit command line parameters, which you can do within Launchbox if you choose.  A plugin also exists that lets you launch specific games with Steam overlay enabled.  I personally use that for DS4 support in games (or apps) that don't support it natively.  Fortunately, the fullscreen 'Bigbox' mode does.

Retro Gaming: If you do use it for emulators, it's easy to configure and supports Retroarch.  The only downside is that videos clips are pulled from a paid-for database.  There's alternatives elsewhere on the net if you look hard enough.  Another cool feature is the ability to load different view themes by platform:
 


Non-Full screen interface: I'll seldom ever use it for more than playlist organization, but there's a pretty decent games view.  I prefer the list option:

VeTt0HL.jpg

Only downside is that a few customization features (such as color scheme) aren't available in the free version of the app.

Development community is fantastic:  The tutorial videos are wonderful and extensive.  I had a question responded to within minutes in their forum.  There's a ton of themes and playlist content out there too, and the app itself tends to receive a major update every few months.

Cons:
Performance: It's not quite as snappy as I'd hope for, but can be similar to Steam Big Picture after a few adjustments.  Namely, there's a setting to lower the image quality of cached box art (still looks fine on 'low' on my 4k TV).  Some themes don't rely on background art, which you can also disable.  Videos don't seem to impact performance much at all.  But count on it reserving ~1GB of RAM if you want a lot of frills.

No importing your own tags from Steam:  Bit of a bummer.  If you've already organized everything by tags Steam, you'll have to start over.  Auto-generated playlists can help, and in general, the interface for sorting things is much easier.

PC Game Video Snaps:  You'd have to clip these yourself with a lossless video cutter, either from Steam trailers or Youtube gameplay.  Video plugins can help with that, but depending on the size of your library, this will take some time.  I've done 400+ so far, and could share some if people want.

Absent features:  There's not much, but two that stand out are the inability to know if a Steam game is installed or not, or know your controller's battery life.  A work around might exist for the latter.  But for now, I'm still resorting to the Steam client for those two things.  Achievements are also only shown on Steam, afaik.  (although you can add achievements for retro games, a nice touch)

Playlists menu appearance: With some themes, you won't have to touch it at all.  Since I'm using custom playlist icons and backgrounds, I've chosen to tinker a bit more.  Including making a few ones the community hasn't.
 

Overall:
Launchbox is a fantastic program, but does require a decent amount of learning and set up.  For the most part, it mitigates the pain points around having multiple PC launchers, and puts it together in a more attractive package than Steam Big Picture.  It's still the library organization features that do the most for me.  And if you don't want to go through the hassle of putting together videos, it'll still scrape all the images you need to make the fullscreen mode look nice.

There's some free alternatives out there, but I think this worth the asking price.  Especially with the playlist features and theme options.  And if you like the look of something in a competing app, chances are its already been replicated here.

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I'll see if I can upload some of the PC game videos I spliced at some point.  That's the biggest pain about the whole thing, honestly.  I've done a shit ton.

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Looks pretty sweet but the support for emulators makes me nervous about throwing money at them. 

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8 minutes ago, SimpleG said:

Looks pretty sweet but the support for emulators makes me nervous about throwing money at them. 

 

Supports emulators, but even if they were made illegal, this wouldn’t be.  You have to provide all the files to set that up.  It’s a front end.

 

The only thing you can download through it is box art, screenshots, etc.

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7 minutes ago, SimpleG said:

Looks pretty sweet but the support for emulators makes me nervous about throwing money at them. 

What? Why?

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2 minutes ago, crispy4000 said:

 

Supports emulators, but even if they were made illegal, this wouldn’t be.  It’s a front end.

 

The only thing you can download through it is box art, screenshots, etc.

 

2 minutes ago, Xbob42 said:

What? Why?

I brain farted and thought it was doing something else. Never mind

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3 hours ago, Keyser_Soze said:

Why not just launch everything from steam? EZ


I thought that for a while too.  Steam is more lightweight, and gets the job done.

Frankly, I got tired of searching for banner images of each non-Steam game I'd add.  This automates the process, and gives a better looking full screen mode, plus superior sorting and import options.  For me, that's worth it, especially since I've got the PC routed to my 4k TV.

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I did a neat thing.

 


To break it down, when I tell my PC to open a PS4 game via Launchbox, it runs a script that:

- Turns my PS4 Pro on if it's in rest mode (via remote play app)
- Changes the TV input to the PS4 (via remoku in Chrome)
- Closes the remote play app, since its needless

I made a similar script that just switches inputs, which is a bit more seemless.  You don't even see Chrome, just the 'now loading' screen.
But being able to turn on my Pro directly from the PC is a nifty trick.

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