I had a feeling Howard wouldn't be able to resist a thread like this
It would be great to expand the ControlsDat online system to include CP images and more info like MAWs, but will it mean more people will be adding controls for games? If we can get a handful of people who know Mame controls that can do batches of games I think there will be a chance of the thing being updated. I thought the whole problem is that there are not enough people doing the updates. Or is the problem the online software isn't intuitive enough? I don't believe I ever got a chance to see the area on the website where you can actually lodge a controls.dat entry.
I wonder if Saint has ASP.NET on his server? Probably only PHP and SQL. What is the current software in, php and SQL didn't you say SirPoonga? Will we even be able to change the language?
My main concern is, that if we keep saying we need changes, updated software, etc. then the momentum we see here might die down and the project might be put on the backburner again. I think the main goal should be to get the database updated using whatever means at our disposal and then concentrate on updating the online submission system.
That's a fair enough question so to avoid any confusion let me explain what happened to controls.dat right here.
The reason it stopped getting updated has to do with the following:
1. We NEVER had many volunteers. We had myself, sirP, rebel and two or three others doing submissions... that's it. I'd estimate around 85-95% of the submissions were done by us exclusively. When you saw a great surge in new submissions is when one of us got the urge to sit down for a weekend and do several dozen entries.
2. The primary resource for info on a game's controls are Mr Do's control panel images. It is the preferred reference. Mr Do hasn't released a new pack in over a year and a half. Controls.dat hasn't had any major additions in that entire length of time. It's not a concidence.
3. Without new entries to add to the list, there is next to no motivation on sirp's or my part to make sure existing entries are still current. Also there is no way to automate the process of making sure mame hasn't changed the controls on a driver (other than the game name, which we do check). This means as the database gets larger and larger, it becomes a greater time investment for me and especially SirP (who handles script changes exclusively) to check existing entries as newer versions of mame come out. Also contrary to popular belief it isn't necessary to update controls.dat every time a new version of mame is released. 90% of the time, controls remain unchanged between releases. Just because controls.dat is at 1.11 doesn't mean it won't work perfectly fine with mame 1.27 or whatever.
4. Woogie is very helpful and he is nice enough to host us, the problem is he disappears for long periods (understandable, he's busy) and when he does it often leaves us waiting for him to return before we can do any significant changes and when he does return we might not have the free time we did when we wanted to get started.
So with that being said, putting the images online and allowing users to submit new ones would help solve #2 and take some of the pressure off of Mr. Do. Working on the backend of things a little could help fix the maintenance issues in #3 by making it easier for the two or three admins to maintain the db. Moving the server to byoac could solve #4 pretty much entirely and with #2-4 fixed we'll hopefully get some images coming in and/or new entires and it'll cause me to do large batches of entires at a time like I used to and thus more stuff will get added.
The main issue is the same one we had when we started, mainly public interest. You only see a great surge of volunteers (outside of the usual group) when a lot of entries are being made and thus the project looks "active". When entries aren't happening then ironically, it discourages the public from doing entires. So there is no easy way to put this... the life of controls.dat rests soley on the people who always diid the bulk of the entries in the first place, namely us, so making things more comfortable for us is a step in the right direction towards getting things moving again.
I don't have the free time like I used to, but I could probably do around 20-40 entries a weekend if we get back up again and get everything squared away.
One thing that I dread though is that if/when we implement some of this new stuff it'd really make sense for the admins and really anyone who could help out to do a once-over of the entries so that we can start fresh with a db that's in line with the latest version of mame, control changes and all. That's gonna be a huge pain in the butt, but I'm willing to do my part IF sirp and I can actually get some help with it.
So hk, the momentum has always kind of been in my court on controls.dat so I can assure you if everyone is willing to help out with the changes I'm more than willing to set aside time and admin the thing properly again, like I did in the old days.
I can even help with the site re-design if you guys need it. I'd rather sirp work on the db itself, but I've learned enough php over the past few years to help with the interface and what-not. There's no way around it though, controls.dat is a victim of it's own success, some of you guys are going to have to admin with us and help verfying submissions.