By default, MAME is configured via the makefile to build using the MinGW gcc compiler. Although this is a nice cross-platform solution, debugging binaries built this way leaves a lot to be desired.

Alternatively, you can configure MAME to build using Visual Studio. Once you have done that, you can debug problems in MAME using the Visual Studio debugger, which is a huge step up from gdb.

Since MAME uses modern C++ features, Visual Studio 2017 is required. MAME previously used Visual Studio 2015, but it has updated to the newer version as of August 2018. If you don't have a paid license, Visual Studio Community 2017 is available from Microsoft for free (but requires sign-in with a Microsoft account).

Additional Note on VS 2017 Versions - There is an issue compiling with certain versions of Visual Studio 2017. Currently it is advised to use Visual Studio 2017 version 15.7.6. Later versions will not compile successfully and Microsoft has said that this will not be fixed until version 16.X.X.

Here's how to make it work:

  1. You must already have an environment that can build MAME using the MinGW tools. Although you won't be using gcc to compile, you will be using several of the other tools included in the standard MAME MinGW Development Environment
  2. Switch to the directory where the root MAME makefile lives.
  3. Once you've done that, simply run: make vs2017 PYTHON_EXECUTABLE=c:/msys64/mingw64/bin/python.exe and wait for it to create projects
  4. In order not to specify PYTHON_EXECUTABLE all the time, just place it in system variables
  5. If you are building with XP compatibility enabled run make vs2017_xp
  6. Browse to folder containing solution file and open it with Visual Studio
  7. Inside Visual Studio you can change to Debug/Release x86 or x64 builds
  8. While doing development please note that you need to update LUA files in scripts folders in order to add new sources and regenerate projects
  9. Note that all parameters for partial compilation works so you can do make SUBTARGET=tiny vs2017 or make vs2017 SUBTARGET=drivername SOURCES=src\mame\drivers\drivername.cpp

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