Return to the main Frequently Asked Questions page.
Can I play MAME on an arcade monitor or on a TV screen?
Yes, MAME can be used with real arcade monitors, and using such a monitor will give you a much better arcade picture than a computer monitor. However, you need a video card that supports 15 kHz output natively (such as Ultimarc's ArcadeVGA) or through a software program (like Soft15Khz), or in some cases 25 kHz if your monitor is medium res. Driving a 31-48 kHz VGA, SVGA, or XGA signal to an arcade monitor can damage it permanently. For more details and help on making this work, please see the Build Your Own Arcade Controls website and forums. Additionally, there are some arcade monitors such as the Betson Multisync (No longer being produced), Nieman Tri-sync, Wells Gardner D9400 (No longer being produced), and Billabs BL27CB0P (No longer being produced) that will allow both the native resolution of arcade games and allow running Windows at 640x480 (and some models up to 800x600 or 1024x768).
For the use of MAME on a TV screen, you need a video card that provides TV-out support. The picture quality will be lower than a monitor, however many people have reported good results because most raster games in MAME run at low resolutions. If you use a TV connection, using S-Video, Component, or RGB Scart inputs will often lead to better results than composite or RF inputs.
For some examples of what MAME looks on a computer monitor, an arcade monitor and a TV screen, see this monitor output comparison courtesy of Oscar Controls.
Can I play vector games on a vector monitor?
Indeed you can. With the Zektor's Vector Generator, you can use a special DOS-only version of MAME on a suitable vector monitor or Vectrex game console.
How do I get the best look with MAME on an LCD display?
LCD displays have a fixed resolution, and this resolution is almost always higher than most games in MAME. This means that somebody has to scale/stretch the video from the game's original resolution to the LCD's native resolution. In general, it is best to let your graphics card do this work. The default parameters for MAME are actually set up fine for this purpose.
What's important to know is that it doesn't make sense to ever "switch resolutions" on an LCD display. There is really only one resolution; all other resolutions are simulated via stretching. Thus, the default behavior of MAME is fine.
Can I take a picture of my screen while I am playing?
Yes. At any time you can take a snapshot of all the active video screens (there may be more than one). By default, the F12 key is configured to take a snapshot. The resulting file or files will be placed here:
PNG files are viewable in most image programs, and directly in Explorer under Windows by double-clicking them (assumes you have Windows XP or later).
Some of the games appear sideways on the screen (ie. rotated by 90 degrees).
This commonly occurs with certain Intel onboard graphics chipsets, often in conjunction with LCD monitors. Also, some Gateway, Dell, and other brands of laptops also may experience this issue.
This bug is not a problem with MAME, but a feature of this video chipset. To fix it, you either specify a resolution to use (i.e. add -640x480, -800x600, -1024x768, etc to the command line), enable hardware stretch, and Keep Aspect Ratio. The other workaround is to enter your Windows display control panel, click on "Settings", click on "Advanced" and search for an autorotate option, and disable it.
If you have Intel onboard video, also try updating the display drivers.
Why do I get lots of screen tearing when I play certain games?
Many games do not have the exact same screen refresh rate as your monitor. Hence, there can be some dropped (or doubled) frames as the emulator tries to compensate.
Another problem is that the screen updating is not locked to the screen refresh rate. Therefore, the screen may be refreshed when only half of it has been updated. In these cases, this causes the top part of the screen be new, and the bottom part is from the previous frame. This is especially noticeable in horizontally scrolling games.
To fix this, use the -triplebuffer parameter, and set the native refresh rate of your monitor higher than that of the game you are running. Triple buffering updates the screen at exactly the screen refresh intervals to avoid tearing. However, since the monitor refresh rate can still be different from the emulation screen refresh rate, the games can still exhibit choppiness.
When will MAME use Direct3D/OpenGL to emulate 3D games?
Probably not ever, at least in the sense this question is likely being asked. MAME now uses Direct3D (and SDLMAME uses OpenGL) to composite and scale the game graphics, artwork elements, and MAME UI displays, but the actual 3D rendering is always done in software in order to ensure consistent operation across different video cards and operating systems.
Additionally, the bottleneck for many 3D games in MAME is actually their insanely fast RISC processor rather than the actual 3D rendering. This is the case in games such as Crusin USA, Killer Instinct (which has no 3D hardware anyway), and Gauntlet Legends.