This blog post does not endorse or condone any illegal acts of piracy with regards to Emulation or otherwise. This post is for purely informational purposes on how to set up and configure a PC for an optimal gaming experience. No unlawful acts of copyright infringement are encouraged or accepted.
Console Gaming hasn’t been my thing for a long time. Even though I don’t play games much anymore, I just cannot bring myself to purchase a console while I have tasted the freedom and flexibility of PC Gaming with its cheaper games, no subscription to access online services and extensive modding support for many games.
And yet, the PC Gaming experience has felt somewhat incomplete in recent years, as I became more and more unsatisfied with playing games here and there at my desk, just as if I were studying or being otherwise productive.
Why not use the large TV I have in my Living Room to play games as I relax on the sofa? It sounds straightforward to bring my PC into the Living Room itself, but with the size of modern desktop PCs, it was a sight only a Mother could love. It just couldn’t be a permanent fixture in the room.
Fast forward to today and I have the perfect Gaming PC setup in my living room, without compromising on aesthetics, power or usability.
If you want a similar set up, this is a guide for you.
A description of the hardware I use is as follows.
I own an HX99G from Minisforum. With its powerful 6900HX CPU and 6600M AMD GPU, it can handle almost anything at 1080p 60FPS, and many games pre-2016 at 4K 60FPS.
By far the best and most unique feature of this unit however is its size. Compared to my otherwise trusty PC of 6 years prior, this thing is tiny, yet of magnitudes more powerful.
I own 2 XBOX One Controllers, which (being owned by Microsoft also) work perfectly with Windows 10/11. I also have and use the Official Xbox Wireless Adapter for Windows. I know that the XBOX One Controllers work well over Bluetooth, but the Wireless Adapter allows for a more reliable connection, lower latency and the ability to send game audio wirelessly to the 3.5mm jack on the Controller. The adapter is hard to find by itself, but I got mine bundled with my Controller.
We’ve got the hardware out of the way, now let’s move on to the Software used.
I use the following software to interact with the PC from the comfort of my sofa and without awkwardly using a Keyboard and Mouse in the Living Room.
- Unified Remote: Once the Server Program is installed on the PC, the companion app iOS/iPadOS and Android means you will be able to control the mouse cursor and keyboard on your PC using your iPhone
- Wolow: The HX99G benefits from the Network Interface Card (used for the Ethernet LAN connection) supporting Wake on LAN (otherwise known as WOL). Installing the Wolow Companion Program on the PC allows us to turn on, reboot, lock and shut down the PC from our phones once we install the iOS or Android apps. Ensure WOL is enabled in the BIOS and the NIC settings in Windows
- Jump Desktop: I have Jump Desktop installed on my main PC which allows me to Remote Desktop into my Gaming PC should I need to carry out any admin tasks from the comfort of my desk. Jump Desktop is not required here, the built in RDP Client will work exactly the same. RDP allows me to install and uninstall games and manage the system with ease
Note: It is important to configure Unified Remote Server to start before you login to Windows. This is so that you can use your iOS/Android App to login to your PC from the beginning. Otherwise you will need to login using a keyboard for the Server to then start up. Clearly not ideal! This is done using Windows Task Scheduler.
Now we get to the star of the show. I previously tried to set up Steam (in Big Picture mode) to be the single frontend for all my games, but adding games from third party stores was hit and miss. It simply didn’t work to the standard expected for a seamless experience and ended up causing more trouble than it was worth.
I’m happy to report that Playnite is the absolutely perfect solution to a messy, frustrating problem.
To summarise, using Playnite we can:
- Import installed games from seemingly every single launcher on PC (Steam, EA App, Epic, Ubisoft GOG and many more)
- Import any other installed game on your PC
- Import Emulators and any emulated games you have
- Automatically pull artwork and metadata, providing your frontend with a polished look and feel
- Use custom themes to make our Gaming PC feel like a console in its own right
I don’t intend this to be a step by step guide on how to configure every setting, I assume the reader has some understanding of general terms and settings, so to summarise, I have Playnite set with the below settings which are easily found in Playnite:
- Launch on Startup in Fullscreen
- Check Launchers (Steam, EA App etc) for newly installed games every day
- Auto-backup Playnite settings once a week
- I use the custom Fullscreen Theme Firelike
My favourite feature in Playnite is its ability to track when a Game is opened or closed automatically, thereby knowing when to minimise/maximise Playnite itself back into focus without any intervention on our part.
But this leads us onto an issue I faced when using an emulator.
Here’s a question that I quickly came across while emulating games on my PC:
How do you ‘close’ an emulated game/the emulator using only the controller when you’re finished playing?
Unlike PC, games on Console don’t typically have an ‘exit’ option. You simply return to the Console menu once done. But since emulation … emulates a Console, how do we exit using a Controller alone?
The answer is using Steam Chords.
The Steam Client has the fantastic ability to map keyboard inputs to a Controller Button combination.
This means for example, I could set
RB + Y on my Controller to simulate
Windows + L to lock my PC.
For my purposes however, the only Chords I have configured are:
XBOX Button + DOWN=
ALT + F4
XBOX Button + UP= Steam Screenshot (Steam Games only)
ALT + F4 Chord allows me to use the relevant Controller Buttons to close any program I wish as if I were using the keyboard buttons themselves.
And this is how you exit an Emulator when you’re done.
And remember how I mentioned Playnite will maximise back into focus when it detects the game being closed?
It works perfectly here too. It’s that good.
At this point, we have pretty much configured the PC exactly as it needs to be for us to sit back and game in peace.
There are however a few notes I thought to add:
- Disable the Windows Gamebar in Windows 11 Settings, it will inevitably interfere with your gaming at some point or another
- Make sure the Guide Button (XBOX button in this case) is set not to open/focus Steam (This is in the Steam settings). Steam isn’t our front end here, so we don’t need any presses to interfere with Playnite.
- Configure all game launchers (Steam, EA App, Epic etc) to start automatically (and minimised where possible) with Windows
- Configure your Emulators to send save files to a cloud-synced folder
- Note that some Emuators do not let you change their Save Game location, so you can utilise Powershell Scripts to send saves to the same cloud-synced folder with a single click
- Configure your Emulators to close without any confirmation prompts. This will enable a seamless experience with no mouse control (using Unified Remote) required
As it is, I’m pretty comfortable with my setup. Everything works exactly as I like it, and its a great experience having the best of both worlds, the flexibility of a Gaming PC and the comfortable, laid back experience of a Console.
An Engineer by trade however, the tinkering and quest for perfection never stops.
In the near future, I aim to learn how to implement the following improvements to allow for an even more seamless, aesthetic experience:
- Enable auto-login for Windows (is this possible when a username/password is used?)
- Remove Playnite splash screen on startup (I believe there is a command line argument to do this)
- Change/remove BIOS graphic
The journey never ends, but I would like to extend my warmest thanks to the developers of Playnite who made an incredible frontend management tool and made it completely free and open source too.