Notes from inside your Wii

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Theming the Homebrew Channel

August 11th, 2010 by drmr · 28 Comments

When we released the Homebrew Channel 1.0.7, we supplied a new look and the announcement of a surprise. I must apologize for the delay in the revelation of this surprise, which is mostly owed to a complete meltdown of my work machine. Without much further ado, it is my pleasure to give you: Homebrew Channel themes, and a first theme: HBC Classic.

While the reactions to HBC 1.0.7’s new default theme – dubbed “Dark Waters” – were generally positive, some complained about it being too dark, unfitting, or simply “exceedingly ugly.” We’re usually not the makers of elaborate plots (that you know of), but this was actually fully intentional to draw a bit of attention not only to the function but also to the looks of the Homebrew Channel.

Applying themes to the Homebrew Channel

There are two options for you to apply a theme to the Homebrew Channel.

The first way is to treat a theme file just like you would treat an application: A subfolder in the apps folder on the SD card or USB stick, only with the file theme.zip containing the theme files instead of boot.elf containing an application. The theme file will then show up in the application browser, loading it will apply it to the Homebrew Channel. This allows you to conveniently switch between themes as you can store them along each other on the media of your choice.

The second way is to simply wiiload the theme.zip to the Homebrew Channel, after which it will be immediately applied.

Once you apply a theme, it is permanently stored with the Homebrew Channel’s “savegame”.

How to revert the Homebrew Channel to the default theme

Currently, this only works by deleting the Homebrew Channel’s “savegame” via the System Menu’s data management. This, of course, also deletes the other preferences, so you will have to visit the Homebrew Channel’s options screen again. We may come up with a better way to remove a theme, but this is how it works for now.

Creating your own themes

Theming the Homebrew Channel is currently limited to skinning the user interface, i.e., replacing its graphics with same-sized ones. You can skin pretty much any graphical element of the Homebrew Channel, with the exception of the Wii remote pointer and the Homebrew Channel logo in the bottom right. (Yes, you can even insert your own bubble graphics. I propose: mice.)

Please take careful note that the graphics need to be the exact size of the ones they are replacing, there is no stretching/cropping mechanism in place. If the image dimensions mismatch, the image will be ignored and the default image will be used in its place. The same happens if you don’t include a file in the first place. This allows you to selectively skin the HBC. For example, if you only wanted to change the background image, your theme would only include the two background files.

Accompanying the image files is a small XML file named theme.xml. For now, it only includes a few color values and the name of the theme. The color values are in RGBA for the font (which is currently limited to one color GUI-wide) and the gradient to be used in the progress bar.

I believe I can leave you with the new HBC Classic theme as a template for both the sizes and the file naming. I trust you will be able to figure out the purpose of the various image files by their file name. You will notice that the Homebrew Channel’s GUI isn’t terribly complicated and re-uses many of its images in various places.

For theme publishing, I suggest you package theme files like an application. You can even include a screenshot or a cutout as icon.png and your name with the meta.xml file (note that you will still have to supply a theme.xml inside the theme.zip file).

Theme repository – or lack thereof

As with applications, we do not intend to create a repository for themes ourselves. Since Wiibrew.org has proven to be a great repository for applications, we think it is a great place to store the accompanying themes. As usual, with Wiibrew, please don’t upload copyrighted content. For themes, this means: No copyrighted imagery, neither of photographic nor illustrative nature. Also, I would think that it is rather pointless to upload background-only themes.

So, there you have it. We are very much looking forward to see how you feel the Homebrew Channel should look like.

The new Homebrew Channel themes page on Wiibrew, along with the HBC Classic theme, is here.

Tags: Wii

28 responses so far ↓

  • 1 steffen // Aug 11, 2010 at 4:57 pm

    it was obvious.

  • 2 PidGin128 // Aug 11, 2010 at 4:59 pm

    Should be convenient to add a categorii folder for themes, to keep things organized. And likely, a new pane in homebrewbrowser is on the way.

    Considering the (logical) prohibition of copyrighted works from wiibrew, you might consider a simpler method of grabbing a background .jpg/.png from /apps/ folder directly (maybe could grab content from the photochannel?). Couple this with some autoscaling to spare people resizing. It’s all moot, since dropping an image into a blank skin template is cake, it would simply prevent the inevitable HBC themes sites that will now crop up.

    Also- thanks, of course, for all the hard work. Any news from DSi land?

    (meta: the login for wordpress was confusing, because I logged in successfully, and the comment link was still asking me to login, a refresh fixed it, but it was a trip. Also, when I went to my profile, your site asked to advise that an WP update is avail.)

  • 3 jrcolonial98 // Aug 11, 2010 at 5:22 pm

    Thank God! Haha, I couldn’t stand the new theme.

  • 4 Tmv_Josue // Aug 11, 2010 at 6:15 pm

    Obvious surprise, thank you because not everyone loved the default theme.

  • 5 picano // Aug 11, 2010 at 6:50 pm


    Although I’m quite fond of the current dark waters, I can’t wait to create some custom themes.

  • 6 W!! // Aug 11, 2010 at 7:03 pm

    Hrm… I see an update in the future to remove the HBC savegame file… so cruel nintendo… lol…

    Nice work on theming and the new features…

    Feature requests for upcoming releases – I’d love to see multi-partition (more than 2 partitions) support added to the next revision… I have 2 wbfs then my fat32 partition and hbc doesn’t see it as such… 🙁 Also, the ability to drag or order the HBC apps to different positions and have HBC save them (since it now uses a savegame file) would be awesome and alleviate the issue of updating an app (and having it overwrite the meta.xml) and having it pop back into alphabetical order. Perhaps saving the folder name rather than the app name would be a good way as updates rarely change the folder it resides in.

    Anyways… keep up the great work!

  • 7 norbyte // Aug 11, 2010 at 11:50 pm

    It is not a big surprise, but a nice one. As I said in the comments of HBC 1.0.7: “theming would be a nice feature” and here it is. Thanks again TT! 🙂

    @W!!: It makes no sense to remove the savegame. This will not stop HBC from working and this is nintendos intention for removing piracy.

    Some words for the feature request: I would prefer grouping instead of simply ordering. Maybe something like the Homebrew Browser does.

  • 8 W!! // Aug 12, 2010 at 12:13 am

    @norbyte: I know it makes no sense… but they’ll do it… lol they keep trying to kill the title id’s for HBC, it’s a simple thing to look for the savegame too… just like TP saves… and yes, I know those were used for exploiting, but my guess is Ninty is in the boat that anything related to HBC is used for piracy.

    Categories would be nice too… like HBB, but, I’d like to order inside those categories, fav apps toward the top…

  • 9 dhewg // Aug 12, 2010 at 1:18 am

    W!!: The multiple partition issue is a problem of libogc. but I will definitely not fix it for warez monkeys like you, so suck it.

  • 10 SifJar // Aug 12, 2010 at 2:25 am

    Because if an image is missing, it is ignored and the default it used, and easier way to return to regular theme would be have an empty theme.zip and apply it.

  • 11 Kage52124 // Aug 12, 2010 at 8:10 am

    @ dhewg:

    …warez monkey…lolz…

    I just tried loading an empty theme.zip via Wiiload, no go due to invalid file size. I wanted to try SifJar’s suggestion.

    Just to clarify, would having a missing file in the theme.zip revert it to the ‘default’ Dark Waters, or the LAST theme uploaded?

  • 12 drmr // Aug 12, 2010 at 8:21 am

    No, themes don’t progressively expand upon each other. If something is missing from the current theme, it is replaced by the built-in default theme, which currently is “Dark Waters”.

  • 13 dhewg // Aug 12, 2010 at 8:48 am

    technically: theme.zip is saved to nand. one theme replaces another. if there is no theme.zip, the builtin is used. if pngs are not part of a theme, the corresponding pngs from the builtin are used. you can “trick” HBC to use the default pngs with an empty theme (theme.xml still needs to be present). a cleaner solution is to delete theme.zip from nand, which can’t be done from HBC itself at the moment, but you can do that via sysmenu.

  • 14 W!! // Aug 12, 2010 at 9:34 am

    @dhewg: why am i a warez monkey? i made two partitions a while ago, one for a-m games i have and the other for n-z games, so as my collection grows i can access them more easily… i’ve been using uloader for a while and it didn’t have the best scrolling like wiiflow has now and the stuff avail now… I own over 50 wii games and have bought over 500 sega genesis/segacd/32x/sms games which were the last systems i bought before my wii, so i support the the game/system makers…. anyways… I know i could collapse them all to one partition, but then i’d have to re-rip them from the discs and thought it might be an easy fix… no reason to hate, just thought i’d mention it.

  • 15 SifJar // Aug 12, 2010 at 12:29 pm

    W!!: WBFS partition = “backup” loaders = often warez. They’re not gonna make it easier for people using backup loaders, because while there are some legit users (at least, I hope there are somewhere), >90% of the userbase of these apps are pirates. And they don’t want to help people to pirate easily.

  • 16 W!! // Aug 12, 2010 at 1:11 pm

    @sifjar: I understand that, but that’s the same mentality of Nintendo about HBC… that all HBC users are pirates… and that’s why they treat it the way they do. I would have thought that dhewg would have had a different mentality… I use it because it’s nice to just sit down and select a game to play without having to decide at my book case and get up to swap discs if I want to change it up… I know a lot of friends that do the same. I accept that they don’t want to make it easy(-ier) to pirate, but my request wasn’t toward piracy and not everyone who uses a usb loader is in that group… there was no reason to be a dick about it… and that’s all I was stating. If they don’t want to fix it, that’s fine… and seriously, pirates are just going to put a FAT partition first and their WBFS partitions after that to get around the bug.

    Anyway… I understood the response about why not to fix it, just a bit disappointed by the assumption that everyone who uses a usb loader is a pirate. Consider the request retracted… I still like the fact that we have a way to play homebrew stuff, still stand by my compliment to the HBC/Hackmii group for the update and good work and support the community’s efforts.

  • 17 Segher // Aug 13, 2010 at 4:21 am

    “that’s the same mentality of Nintendo about HBC… that all HBC users are pirates… and that’s why they treat it the way they do. I would have thought that dhewg would have had a different mentality…”

    Most HBC users *are* game copiers. We all understand that is why Ninty attacks the HBC; we think it is shortsighted, but it’s an obvious reaction.

    We do not battle game copiers like Nintendo does, we just don’t give a rats arse about them. If they brick their consoles, we point and laugh.

    Btw, it’s not 90% of “usbloader” people who are “pirates”; it is 99.98% (not counting all the people for who it doesn’t work at all).

  • 18 someone // Aug 13, 2010 at 10:28 am

    There are legitimate reasons for more than one partition on one hard drive; e.g. partitions for Linux, Time Machine backup, music, old console/home computer games, as well as Wii homebrew. It would be nice if things were done properly (something that TT seems to do).

    If you don’t want to support pirates just turn the screen upside down if there’s a WBFS partition, it already does that for people who butcher their Wiis with CIOSCorp or similar.

  • 19 Kage52124 // Aug 13, 2010 at 2:31 pm

    With all due respect, and believe me there’s a lot, I think it’s rather funny how everyone keeps throwing numbers around about how many of those who use USB loaders are pirates or actually do just use them as backups…as if anyone actually knows everyone who uses one and can calculate it.

    It’s nice to see how many themes have sprouted up in the last few days on Wiibrew, some of them look rather awesome. I hope application makers start making a ‘light’ and ‘dark’ version of their icon.png so the user can pick which one to choose (since dark themes are new, they can be much harder to read if any transparency is present).

  • 20 SolidMario7 // Aug 13, 2010 at 7:03 pm

    Thanks for the hard work. I knew this was coming, it was only matter of time. A hole lot of people are going jump on this. Soon they’re gonna be hundreds of themes.

  • 21 mbv401920150 // Aug 13, 2010 at 9:03 pm

    Thanks a lot…!!!

    The themes is ALWAYS welcome in any application!… 😀

    And the last theme is really awful :S

  • 22 YuriCPS // Aug 14, 2010 at 6:42 am

    Nice one!
    I made a theme for myself, but it actually turned out quite good, how can I upload it to Wiibrew?
    I need to have an account?

  • 23 Hypershell // Aug 14, 2010 at 7:47 pm

    This is surely made of awesome-sauce. I liked the new theme, mind you, but I’m itching to make my own.

    Speaking of which…any chance of actually uploading the Dark Waters resource files? You know, in case somebody wants to use them as a base for their skin?

  • 24 drmr // Aug 14, 2010 at 8:20 pm

    I may upload the Dark Waters skin at some point, yes. That being said, the Dark Waters skin only differs from the HBC Classic skin in the button design and the background; The icons and the throbber are identical. Apologies if this sounds overly rude, but I feel that if somebody isn’t able to create own buttons, he/she probably shouldn’t be skinning at all.

  • 25 Hypershell // Aug 15, 2010 at 9:28 am

    Consider how many palette swaps of Classic are already on the wiki. It’s not always a matter of ability; some people just like subtle alterations. And even if it was, we all had to start somewhere.

    Well, it was just a thought.

  • 26 globus // Aug 17, 2010 at 1:02 am

    Sorry, has “HBC Classic” really the original colors? It seems to me a little too brightly – like washed out or bleached by the sun.

  • 27 drmr // Aug 17, 2010 at 11:31 am

    Yes, the HBC Classic theme is carefully recreated upon the original source material. In the process, I fixed some graphical bugs the original theme had, and created a new background gradient (the original gradient was programmed).

    However, it is possible that the general programming changed slightly so graphics generally look a bit lighter than they would have before. I didn’t compare the screen output of the old and the new channel.

  • 28 KingLewy // Aug 20, 2010 at 5:02 am

    Awesome 🙂 I can make HBC look however I want 😀 Could even make it look like the Wii System Menu… lol. Wouldn’t want the sound though… I probably won’t bother though. I like Dark Waters.

    Thanks TT 😀

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