Create your own pacman package for Batocera

In Batocera v27 and higher, you can utilize pacman to install and manage packages. It is the underlying tool behind the content downloader. It is a straightforward package manager that's easy to work with.

You don't need development skills to create a package, just a bit of patience. If you've copied files too and from directories before, you already have the skill-set required for this.

The way packages work is that they are essentially just a compressed folder that contains the folder structure that you wish to copy onto the user's machine, starting at root, along with a script file. Essentially, you'll be creating a “userdata” folder inside of the beginning folder of your package, and go from there.

It's easiest to explain with an example. Let's use the NES free homebrew ROM Alter Ego available from https://www.romhacking.net/homebrew/1/. Click “Download” from the Links section and fill out the captcha to get the ZIP and open it up, it will contain the following contents:

It's one folder deep in the ZIP file.

This contains everything we might need to create a package including media and all!

For the following steps, it is recommended to use Batocera's file manager ([F1] on the system list). You can transfer the files over to Batocera first using one of the many methods available.

  1. On your Batocera machine, create a new folder in /userdata/system/ and call it package/. This folder can technically be anywhere but this is what we will be using for our example.
  2. Inside of package/, create another folder named after your package (in this case, nes-alter-ego/).
  3. Inside of the package's folder, recreate the folder structure for every relevant file that needs to be copied over to the user's machine.
  4. Place the relevant files into their respective folders. For instance, if all you want to add is a ROM for the NES system, then you would simply create the userdata/roms/nes/ folders inside of each other in the package's folder and place the ROM in the final nes/ folder:

In our example package, which includes the media we want to install, the setup would look like this:

/userdata/system/package/nes-alter-ego/
                         └─ userdata/
                            └─ roms/
                               └─ nes/
                                  ├─ images/
                                  │  └─ label.png
                                  ├─ manuals/
                                  │  └─ manual.pdf
                                  └─ Alter_Ego.nes

However, these filenames simply won't do! Batocera won't be able to recognize the media files as belonging to Alter Ego. Let's rename them:

/userdata/system/package/nes-alter-ego/
                         └─ userdata/
                            └─ roms/
                               └─ nes/
                                  ├─ images/
                                  │  └─ Alter_Ego.png
                                  ├─ manuals/
                                  │  └─ Alter_Ego-manual.pdf
                                  └─ Alter_Ego.nes

In order to see hidden files in Batocera, ensure that “Show Hidden” is checked in the View menu at the top left.

Next we need to create a hidden file that contains the meta-information about the package itself. Create a new text file named .PKGINFO in the package's folder. For our example, this would be /userdata/system/packaging/nes-alter-ego/.PKGINFO.

This file must be named .PKGINFO. If unable to create a file with that name for whatever reason, you can download the script below and place it in system/packaging/nes-alter-ego/ on the network share (you may need to turn on “Show hidden files/folders” in your file manager).

.PKGINFO
pkgname = nes-alter-ego
pkgver = 1.0.0-1
pkgdesc = Alter Ego - A freeware puzzle game by Shiru, Kulor, Denis Grachev.
arch = any
group = sys-nes
packager = your_name
url = https://wiki.batocera.org/start

Insert the lines above into the .PKGINFO text file (you can open it by just double-clicking). Replace the lines as appropriate! Here are the required lines:

  • pkgname: The internal name of the package. This needs to remain the same for updates that become available for the package.
  • pkgver: The version of the package. If this number is higher than the one currently installed, Batocera will offer the user to update the package in the store. The only acceptable format for this is X.Y.Z-R, following pacman's conventions.
  • pkgdesc: The package's displayed name, following by a short description. This will be what appears in the content downloader. You only have one line of text, around 80 characters, so keep it brief!
  • arch: What platforms should this package be available to? Most packages are fine to leave this as “any”, but some may only work on x86_64 for example.
  • group: What category should the store show this under? If you are creating a package for a specific system, it must be prefixed with sys-, eg. sys-megadrive for Megadrive/Genesis. For the other groups, read below.

The remaining lines are optional, but can provide extra information to users choosing to install them:

  • packager: The author of the package.
  • url: URL for the user to go to if they desire more information. For freeware, generally links to the page the download can be made manually.

Ensure there is a blank line at the bottom of the text file. This is critical.

Example of what the .PKGINFO file should contain.

Available groups

In addition to the sys-<system> groups that are available, you have the following to choose from:

  • music: Add some more bangin' tunes.
  • theme: Add an additional theme for the menu.
  • bezel: Various decorations!
  • misc: All the other junk.

If you are simply copying files to the machine, you can move onto creating the package. However, if you need to run some commands (such as to edit already existing files, such as gamelist.xml), read this section.

The other file is .BATOEXEC and it gives you the ability add metadata or execute commands. The first line describes the action you want to do. Currently, BATOEXEC accepts two commands: gamelist and exec. Create a new blank document name .BATOEXEC and place it in the same folder next to .PKGINFO.

gamelist

Typically, for a package that adds a new ROM, you want to add it into the gamelist.xml. Add gamelist = <system>, where <system> is the shortname of the system you'd like to edit the gamelist.xml for, and then follow it with the data you'd like to append to the list. For example:

.BATOEXEC
gamelist = nes
<game>
		<path>./Alter_Ego.nes</path>
		<name>Alter Ego</name>
		<desc>Freeware puzzle game for NES, a port of the original (by Denis Grachev for the ZX Spectrum). Swap positions with your 'alter ego' to move about the level and obtain all the bouncing pixels.</desc>
		<rating>0.6</rating>
		<releasedate>20110827T000000</releasedate>
		<developer>Shiru</developer>
		<publisher></publisher>
		<genre>Puzzle</genre>
		<players>1</players>
		<image>./images/Alter_Ego.png</image>
		<manual>./manuals/Alter_Ego-manual.pdf</manual>
</game>

The gamelist = <system shortname> here is important. Don't forget to edit it appropriately for your system in question!

exec

This is for any other command you might want to run when installing the package. Its syntax depends on which executable you call in exec = <bin>.

Only interpreters that takes a -c argument for commands are available. For example, exec = /bin/bash or exec = /usr/bin/python, which are both used heavily by Batocera for its internal functions.

This is called via the Python subprocess module, which has some limitations on what you can/can't do in bash. For instance:

  • Pipes (|) are completely unsupported.
  • Anything that could result in stdout being written to will also be output, even if the user is not viewing that terminal.
  • Any interactivity that reads from stdin will fail.
  • If a command continually runs in the background then the installation will never complete.

For a basic example that will be executed every time the package is called (whether you are installing, upgrading or uninstalling it):

.BATOEXEC
exec = /bin/bash
echo "You have successfully run a command in a script of a package!"

If you define sections between .INSTALL_START and .INSTALL_END or .UNINSTALL_START and .UNINSTALL_END, those commands will be executed only on install/upgrade or removal of the package respectively. Commands outside those sections will be executed in any case (ex: date in the example below).

.BATOEXEC
exec = /bin/bash
date
.INSTALL_START
echo "Installing bezels with glazed effect..."
.INSTALL_END
.UNINSTALL_START
echo "Uninstalling bezels with glazed effect..."
.UNINSTALL_END

A .BATOEXEC file is not mandatory to use batocera-makepkg. Many installable objects don't require it, such as adding themes, music, etc.

This is what the package setup should look like:

/userdata/system/package/nes-alter-ego/
                         ├─ userdata/
                         │  └─ roms/
                         │     └─ nes/
                         │        ├─ images/
                         │        │  └─ Alter_Ego.png
                         │        ├─ manuals/
                         │        │  └─ Alter_Ego-manual.pdf
                         │        └─ Alter_Ego.nes
                         ├─ .PKGINFO
                         └─ .BATOEXEC

Batocera uses a custom tool to create its packages: batocera-makepkg.

To use it:

  1. Access Batocera via SSH.
  2. Change the current working directory to the package's folder. In our example, this can be achieved with cd /userdata/system/package/nes-alterego.
  3. Run batocera-makepkg to create the package. It will output something similar to the following:
    Creating package ../nes-alter-ego-1.0.0-1-any.pkg.tar.zst ...
    /*stdin*\            : 45.08%   ( 46592 =>  21005 bytes, ../nes-alter-ego-1.0.0-1-any.pkg.tar.zst)
    SUCCESS: package ../nes-alter-ego-1.0.0-1-any.pkg.tar.zst correctly generated

    This may take a while depending on the size of your package's contents.

When complete, a package file named <system>-<pkgname>-<pkgver>-<arch>.pkg.tar.zst will be created one level above your current working directory. In this example, it would be /userdata/system/package/nes-alter-ego-1.0.0-1-any.pkg.tar.zst

batocera-makepkg will not overwrite already existing packages with the same name.

batocera-makepkg will generate some necessary files in the package's source folder, such as if you had used .BATOEXEC it will create the userdata/system/pacman/batoexec/nes-alter-ego_0 file which is a copy of the .BATOEXEC. These files can be completely ignored, as they will be updated with any edits made to the source files should any new version of the package be made.

If you'd like to test installing your package, you can do so with the following command:

pacman -U <package>

If you were following the example above, the command for it would be:

pacman -U /userdata/system/package/nes-alter-ego-1.0.0-1-any.pkg.tar.zst

If you kept the original package files, it is simple: make your adjustments and increment the version number however you see fit.

.PKGINFO
pkgname = nes-alter-ego
pkgver = 1.0.1-1
pkgdesc = Alter Ego - A freeware puzzle game by Shiru, Kulor, Denis Grachev.
arch = any
group = sys-nes
packager = your_name
url = https://wiki.batocera.org/start

The .PKGINFO will now contain the size and builddate tags. These are updated automatically upon compilation, so don't worry about them.

You may notice that in your userdata/ folder for the package, there are additional folders and files that you had not placed there yourself. These have been automatically generated by batocera-makepkg (such as if you had used .BATOEXEC it will create the userdata/system/pacman/batoexec/nes-alter-ego_0 file which is a copy of the .BATOEXEC) and can be safely ignored; they will be updated along with the rest of your package.

When ready, follow the instructions from the Create the package section above. If you receive an error that the package already exists, that means you forgot to increase the package version number or that you have already compiled it.

When updating packages, you must increment the version number, even for minor changes. Otherwise, it may cause corruption if the user has the same numbered package installed upon attempting to update to a newer version.

When you're done testing or just want a clean slate to work with. Do note however, a ZST file is not actually required to remove a package. Simply enter the name (pkgname) of the installed package in the following command:

pacman -R <pkgname>

This is version independent.

For example:

pacman -R nes-alter-ego

which would result in:

checking dependencies...

Packages (1) nes-alter-ego-1.0.0-1

Total Removed Size:  1.33 MiB

:: Do you want to remove these packages? [Y/n]

Press [Y] followed by [Enter] to complete the removal.

To see a list of installed packages and their version numbers, run pacman -Q.

It is possible to host your own repository to test downloading and installing packages via batocera-store.

Most likely you didn't change the current working directory to the folder of the package you wanted to create. By default, the current working directory will be in /userdata/system, so all the folders and files in there will be added to your package.

Run cd /userdata/system/package/nes-alter-ego if you were following the example above and try again.

The simplest answer is to install it and see what files were added. But that's not always easy, especially when there are multiple files in deep-rooted folder levels. If you'd like to “extract” a package file, you can use the zstd tool in Batocera:

zstd -d /userdata/system/package/nes-alter-ego-1.0.0-1-any.pkg.tar.zst

This will give you a standard .tar file that you can use any ordinary compression program to decompress.

  • create_pacman_package.txt
  • Last modified: 3 days ago
  • by atari