Greetings, comrades! This guide is a work in progress. It is my attempt to help Wii users organize their libraries for maximum enjoyment. I have learned much in the past six months, and after recently unlocking another content generation and therefore giving myself an entirely clean slate upon which to install customs, I wanted to document what I've done to get the most out of the Wii Rock Band 3 experience. She may not look like much, but she's got it where it counts, kid. So, if I could turn back time... if I could find a way... here is how I would have organized my customs library from the very beginning. First things first...
The Files - Gathering the Goods
Let's grab what we'll need to pull all this off. I assume you've already downloaded some custom songs from the ever-expanding database. Over 99% of the time, these customs come in the form of CON files used by the XBOX. CONs cannot be used on the Wii, but that's no problem. We'll use a converter to extract the guts from the CONs and prepare them for use as Wii-friendly versions. Once they're prepared, we'll pack them into BIN files that the Wii will read from an SD card. So let's download a DLC Packer.
For clarity, first let me say that sZGE and sZHE are NTSC versions of Rock Band DLC content generations for Americans of both the northern and southern continent. If you're European, you'll be using the PAL versions of the packers, which are for generations sZGP and sZHP. They're essentially the same thing, but which version you're using does matter, so don't make that silly mistake.
This guide is written from my own experiences.
So if I'm giving instructions involving an American content generation
but you're using a PAL version, realize that the E will instead be a P in the generation.
Here is a link to the packers, courtesy of the ever helpful and selfless StackOverflow0x. You might as well download both for your respective region.
Also, all users will want to snag this, because it'll be helpful when we actually want to compile our customs:
Rock Band 3 Wii Customs Manager
Finally, you'll need the C3 Con Tools to convert the CONs themselves from this thread:
C3 Con Tools
Alright, now all of our ducks are in a row. Next!
The Setup - Folder Structure
The key to making the most of your Wii for customs use is being organized. Once you've acquired the C3 Con Tools and one (or two!) Rock Band DLC Packers (links above), you're going to want to keep them close to each other. To do this, I recommend creating a folder for them on your desktop called Wii Customs (not pictured) and drop all three folders into it: each of the two packers and the Con Tools. Now place a copy of the Wii Customers Manager executable into each packer folder. It will help you to identify the content generation if you're unsure of what you've downloaded. If you run it, you should see this at the bottom:
Notice "Ticket Generation". That's how we know this particular packer is for the sZGE generation. The other packer should return a result that says sZHE. I've slightly altered the name of my packer folders to reflect very obviously which generation they're for (screenshot below).
Now you'll need a folder where you're going to store your customs. I recommend you organize them by content generation. I use two different content generations: sZGE and sZHE. For now, just create a folder called Generation sZGE (Slate 1). The process for setting up each generation is the same, so we might as well do it once, and then we can copy and paste our results for another generation, which will be way easier.
Now create two new folders in your "Slate", one called 00#_0000000#_T_meta and another called 00#_0000000#_T_song. Yes, literally name them that way, with the # symbols. Also create a subfolder called content in each of them and, within each content, another subfolder called songs. If this sounds confusing, the structure is pictured below for your viewing pleasure.
See? Not so bad.
Now, within the folder Generation sZGE (Slate 1)\00#_0000000#_T_meta\content\songs, right click to create a new Text Document (.txt) called songs.dta (pictured above). Make sure the name of the file is songs and the change the extension to .dta. Only do this for the meta folder, not the song folder.
So what do you put in this fancy new songs.dta text file? Literally nothing but a return. That's right. Open it and press enter once, so there are two lines in the document. Save and close. Now you can copy and paste the entire Generation sZGE (Slate 1) folder and rename it Generation sZHE (Slate 2). Congratulations! Now you've got two whole generations ready to pack with customs! The two 00# folders will serve as a template that will make preparing more slots in the future slightly easier. We can copy and paste these two folders every time we need to set up a new slot.
So, how can we get the biggest bang for our buck?
The Math - Customus Maximus
That being said, each of these content generations each have exactly 246 "slots" into which you can pack custom songs. These "slots" consist of two folders: a meta folder and a song folder, which we created in the above section.
The meta folder is where the information about the song goes, including the song preview and album art. The maximum amount of data you can pack into this folder is not precisely known, but it is HIGHLY RECOMMENDED you DO NOT exceed 500 KB. I've successfully packed meta folders that were around 512 KB (makes sense), but I would NOT recommend it. It gets very sketchy and unreliable!
The song folder is where the audio itself goes. Because of that, this folder's capacity is much larger. Once again, the maximum amount of data you can pack into this folder is not precisely known, but it is HIGHLY RECOMMENDED you DO NOT exceed 40 MB. I've successfully packed song folders that were around 40.3 MB, but it was extremely unreliable and I did it out of desperation when I only had one content generation working. With this guide, you won't have to worry about that. So don't risk it!
So when we're packing songs, we've got to make sure we stay below 500 KB for one folder and below 40 MB for the other. If we can successfully do this, it should be smooth sailing!
"Okay, Jedi, cut to the chase... how many songs can I fit!?"
Ah, yes, the magic number. If you follow my guidelines below, ideally, you should be able to fit four songs in each slot. Recall that each generation has 246 slots and there are two generations available. To the blackboard!
246 x 4 x 2 = 1968
slots x songs x generations = total
Holy moly! With a single generation of content unlocked, you can pack 984 songs. If you're using both sZGE and sZHE (or sZGP and sZHP, if you're European), you'll be able to pack a whopping 1968 customs into your Wii library (and if you get that far, you'll need to use the cheat that ups the song limit to 3000... more on that later!). But we can't just pack these songs in willy-nilly. We need a process by which to pack them most efficiently. So here's how we attain our goal of 1968 customs!
The Details - It's the Little Things...
The biggest tip I can give you for efficiently packing your library is to only use 10 second preview clips. Customs available in the database typically come in the CON format designed for XBOX. Converting these CONs using the Wii Converter provided with the C3 CON Tools package is incredibly simple, but during this process the "duration" setting is set to 15 seconds by default. This is bad. Every time you convert CON files, change this setting to 10 seconds, which is the shortest available duration you can input (and it would be pretty pointless to generate anything shorter anyway).
"Geeze, Jedi. What's the big deal? It's only a five second difference!"
ONLY A FIVE SECOND DIFFERENCE!?! This MEASLY FIVE SECOND DIFFERENCE made me have to DOWNLOAD ALL MY CUSTOMS AGAIN once I filled up all my slots so I could free up space in the meta folder by replacing the 15 second clips with 10 second clips! (I was only using one content generation at that time!). So WHY? Again, let's do some math...
Ten second clips are usually between 70 and 80 KB each. The vast majority of data stored in the meta folder is made up of these audio preview files, which come in MOGG format. "High" quality album art files for the Wii are 33 KB each. So each custom's meta folder is going to be around 120 KB. Therefore, we can successfully fit four customs in each slot, because that'll still be under 500 KB.
Fifteen second previews are 50% larger than 10 second previews. They generally have a size of around 110 and 120 KB all by themselves. Adding in album art and the other (minuscule) files, each custom that has a 15 second preview will be around 150 KB. See the problem? Four customs with meta folders of 150 KB each will EXCEED 500 KB and your customs will NOT appear in your library if the generated BIN file is too large (more on BINs later). This means that if you use 15 second previews, you'll only be able to fit three customs per slot and your library's grand total will reduce itself to a maximum of 1476 songs. I realize that number still appears quite large, but take it from me, slots fill up quickly because this community is awesome and there is so much great stuff in the database! So learn from my mistakes, dear reader! Generate 10 second preview MOGGs when you convert your CONs!
That covers the tricks to efficiently pack the meta folder. Let's move on to the song folder.
The size of the song folder in customs from the database can vary wildly, but typically it's the size of an mp3 stored on your computer. That is to say, a 4 minute long song like Can't Stop by the Red Hot Chili Peppers is around 6 MB at 192 KBPS audio quality. Pretty standard stuff. In rare cases, some authors have not correctly compiled their customs or insist on using higher quality audio, which can greatly increase the size of their customs, but for Wii users, the meta folder is typically the limiting factor much moreso than is the song folder. After all, if we didn't have to worry about the meta folder and each song's song folder was 6 MB, we could pack a whopping six customs into each slot... and many more with even smaller file sizes!
In fact, you can jam a ton of customs into a slot if you delete the preview MOGGs and album art files entirely. When I had only one generation at my disposal and it was busting at the gills, I did indeed resort to deleting audio previews from songs I knew well and managed to jam nine Offspring customs into one slot. But it really annoyed me that I had to do this. It made me feel like my song library was unpolished and amateur. I play often with friends and want to impress them with this geeky venture. Still, desperate times called for desperate measures. Let us hope that this guide will help you avoid the travails I've experienced.
So, let's operate on the premise that the typical song from the database is around 5 or 6 MB and we want four songs per slot. Well, some songs in the database aren't typical... they are multi-tracked. Multi-tracked songs are much larger than single-tracked customs. Wii versions of these songs usually clock in around 20 MB (and, yes, you'll need specially made Wii versions to avoid in-game stuttering ). Therefore, if you want to make the most of your slots, you should aim to have three single-tracked customs and one multi-tracked custom in each available slot.
I should point out that this advice is based solely on maximizing numbers. There are other factors you'll want to consider that will make you violate this rule. For example, the Wii loads audio previews and album artwork based on what slot it is accessing from the SD card. Why is this important to point out? Well, honestly, it isn't very important... but if you want to have a polished, professional library, this information will help you reach that goal. Let me elaborate...
Let's say you have three songs in your library by The Arctic Monkeys packed into three different slots. Each time you scroll from one song to another the Wii will have to take a few seconds to access the SD card and load the album art and audio preview found in that other slot. These precious seconds add up. It is therefore beneficial to pack songs by the same artist into the same slot, and if you're going to have many songs by that artist in your library, pack songs from the same album into the same slot. The songs Crying Lightning, Pretty Visitors, and The Jeweller's Hands are all from the album Humbug, so I packed those three songs into one slot. When I highlight one in my library, it accesses the artwork and preview clips for all three. In another slot, I packed Do I Wanna Know?, Brianstorm, and A Certain Romance. I can move them around later if I acquire additional Arctic Monkeys songs that would make the Wii organize them by album (since having three songs from the same album will group them together in the library). And if you want to get reallly ridiculous (and I have!), you can organize many songs from the same album into slots by track number. For example, I've put four songs by Echosmith (Come Together, Let's Love, Cool Kids, and March Into the Sun) into one slot because they are the first four tracks on the album. None of these are multi-tracked, so while I just went against my 3-to-1 single-to-multi-tracked ratio packing advice, I did it for the sake of library presentation. If I need room in the future to jam a multi-tracked song somewhere, I can always shuffle the songs around with a bit of time and effort. It's your call. Just know your options!
Another benefit of packing the same artist into the same slot is it's much easier to notice if something is wrong. I maintain a playlist on Spotify that includes all of the songs in my library, whether they're on-disc, DLC, imports, or customs. If I know I have 6 songs by Arctic Monkeys and I only see 3 in my library, it's much easier to hunt down what the potential problem might be (an over-packed file which exceeds file size limitations, an incorrect pathway, an unknown error that a recompile might fix). We'll know where to look by keeping a spreadsheet of where we've stored our songs. Don't worry, I've got you covered.
The Process - Where, How, and When
Alright, padawan. You're ready. You've set up your folder structure, you've downloaded and converted some CONs from the database, and you know the tips and tricks that'll make you a pro packer. Now do yourself a favor and download this handy blank spreadsheet I originally created to keep myself organized. It's an .ods file and I open it using LibreOffice Calc (a free knock-off of Microsoft's Office suite, which should also read the spreadsheet without any issues). The spreadsheet also contains all of the hexadecimal information you'll need when you rename your folders (a process that is, regrettably, not automated yet).
Oh, wait. Have you installed the appropriate WAD for the customs you'll be packing? The WAD is a file which is necessary to allow the Wii and Rock Band 3 to access and utilize your customs. Without a successfully installed WAD, this will have been all for nothin', so listen up.
To install WADs, first create a new directory in the root of your SD card. This directory will be named wad. Explicitly: sd:\wad. Very original, right? Place the WAD or WADs (for example, sZGE.wad) into that directory. Now, from your Homebrew screen, launch Wii Mod v3.2 (more information about Wii Mod can be found here). The notes at bottom of the screen will be helpful for the following:
1. Select WAD Manager.
2. Choose each WAD you want to install and install them individually, one at a time.
3. First, install the WAD. It's normal to receive an error message. Ignore it.
4. Then uninstall the WAD.
5. Then reinstall the WAD. Don't ask why, but you've got to do it this way if you want everything to work.
6. Now you can exit Wii Mod. Again, the bottom of the screen will be helpful.
Congrats! You've installed a WAD. Now you'll be able to actually use the customs you're about to pack!
Now... let's actually do this. Crack open the table and let's pretend we're going to put some Bad Religion songs from their True North album in slot 26, which I chose at random. Slots 2/3 through 492/493 are available in both generations linked to in this post.
Important note: I use the columns to the left of the big black bar for sZGE and I use the columns to the right for sZHE. You should too. I also use it to make notes about customs (yellow to point out the song isn't on Spotify, gray to indicate the song is a master track, for example).
Alright, alright. Let's tackle the WHERE. Remember those folders we created called 00#_0000000#_T_meta and 00#_0000000#_T_song? Keep them exactly how they are, but copy and paste them into the same directory you found them:
Now refer to the spreadsheet. Rename your copied folders using the information presented in the numbers column (highlighted blue) and the hexadecimal info (column A).
In this example, the first sequence of three characters will change from 000 to 026.
Leave the underscores where they are.
The next sequence of eight characters will change from 0000000# to 00000026.
Replace the T (for title) with whatever you want that will help you remember what this slot contains. Since all these songs come from Bad Religion's True North album, I went with that.
Now you're ready to put the custom into these folders. HOW? Thanks to the C3 Con Tools, it's extremely simple. However, when setting up a slot's folders for the first time, only "install" ONE custom before installing another. Complete this entire numbered process. I will explain why in the final step. Here we go:
1. Find the meta and song folder generated by the CON conversion process. They should be located in the folder called C3CONToolsv398\WiiFiles. I tend to position this window on the left side of my screen.
2. Now open up C3 Con Tools and select Wii Converter and the Smart Folder Merge tab. I position this window on the right side of my screen.
3. Select ONLY the meta folder (NOT the song folder) and drag it into the area of the Wii Converter that blatantly says "Drag and drop the source folder". I realize this should be a no-brainer, but IF you select BOTH folders, it will merge the data TWICE and you'll get repeat entries in the songs.dta file. This won't hurt anything, but it will make you do more work later if you need to manually move songs to other slots. And, yes, I'm pretty sure you could merge these by dragging ONLY the song folder, but I've never done it. Anyway, it'll look like this:
4. Navigate to the destination folder, select it, and press OK. Hooray! The files have now all been copied to both of your properly named folders. The originals still exist. You can delete them. I always do. No point in having double the data on my hard drive.
5. Now open up songs.dta with a text editor. I use Notepad (duh). By default, your pathway will be sZAE/000. I've highlighted it blue. Observe:
You need to change this. Recall that this example is using generation sZGE and slot 26. Modify the pathway to reflect that, like so:
6. Save the file. You can now merge additional songs into this slot because the pathway has been updated. The Smart Folder Merger will see this updated pathway and automatically apply it to new customs merged into the slot. So go ahead and drag another custom's meta folder into the Smart Folder Merge area, and then open the songs.dta file to check that the second song's pathway is also sZGE/026. If so, congratulations! We're almost done. But before we move onto the next step, let's talk about WHEN we should start using different slots.
It's perfectly fine to have only one song in a slot. I place single customs in their own slot if I think that the artist/band will eventually get more customs in the game. That way, I already know where I'll be placing those future songs. For example, Sam Roberts Band only has one custom in the database, but I know more are coming...
Conversely, if I doubt I'll ever have more than one song by a certain artist/band in my library, I group that custom up with other artists/bands I doubt will ever have more than one song in my library. These "one-hit-wonders" are best organized into slots together. That way, you're more likely to notice they're missing if something goes wrong during the compiling/refreshing process.
It's also fine to spread the same artist out into other slots that are numerically separated. For example, it won't hurt anything if I have 3 songs by the Killers in slot 72 of generation sZGE while also having 4 more Killers songs in slot 292 of sZHE. The game doesn't care. But, again, it will benefit you to group them by album.
The point is: try to plan ahead.
Any time you need to set up a new slot, just copy and paste those original 00# folders you made. Back to our steps!
7. Once you've got all your folders prepped, move those folders into the proper packer's directory. Run the Rock Band 3 Wii Customs Manager you placed in each DLC Packer folder earlier. If everything is in order, it should look something like this:
Make sure the ticket generation is the correct one. Make sure your Common Key is OK. Make sure your console ID is present (mine has been redacted). Now press "Build BINs". This can take a while depending on how much you're compiling. It also automatically generates APP files which are used to build the BINs. You'll need to delete the APPs. They add up quickly.
8. Assuming your Wii is already set up to play customs, drag the BINs to the proper directory. Since we used sZGE in our example, that would be the folder private\wii\data\sZGE on your SD card. Overwrite any BINs already present to update them.
9. For Rock Band 3's library to find your customs, you'll have to delete the store cache file so the game will generate a fresh one that will find your new customs. Run WiiXplorer from your SD card and navigate to nand:\title\00010000\535a4245\data. If you're using the PAL version, the pathway will be nand:\title\00010000\535a4250\data. You'll see a file called MSTORE.vff. Place your pointer over the file and press the "+" button on the Wiimote. Delete this file and exit the program.
"Jedi! It won't let me delete the file!"
Oh, yeah. In the bottom left corner of WiiXplorer, press Start, then Settings, then Boot Settings. "NAND write access" is off by default (and will be off every time you boot up WiiXplorer for safety reasons). Select the setting and press Yes to activate NAND write access.
This can be dangerous. Make sure you're only deleting MSTORE.vff.
10. Boot up Rock Band 3. Personally, I boot the game from a flash drive using an image of the disc I copied using USBLoaderGX, but directly using the disc is fine... I just find it a tad bit slower. Anyway! Once you select your character, the game should begin to refresh the cache. You'll see a progress bar on the top left of your screen. This process takes about 21 minutes for one content generation using every slot, so if you've got a completely full library of customs, it'll take about 45 minutes.
Frequently Asked Questions / Random Miscellaneous Knowledge
I'll try to cover everything.
"Crap, Jedi... Including on-disc songs, DLC, and customs, I now have 999 songs in my library. Is there any way to raise this limit?"
Yes, sir/ma'am, there's a cheat for that! Here's some copy-pasta from a post I made in StackOverflow0x's How-To thread. You have him to thank for the cheats. So thank him! Often! This also includes the code to skip some of the splash screens:
How to Enable Cheats / Codes / [search term] on a Modded Wii Using USBLoaderGX:
1. Put your SD card in your computer. In the root of your SD card, create TWO new folders: one named codes (which we won't actively use) and another named txtcodes
2. In the txtcodes folder, create a new Notepad (.txt) file called SZBE69.txt
3. There are other cheat codes out there, but this example only uses two cheats: one that removes the splash screens and another that raises the song limit to 3000. Paste the following information into the text file and save:
Rock Band 3
Max Songs Limit is 3000
4. Load USBLoaderGX and select Rock Band 3. Press Settings.
5. Select Game Load. Scroll down to Ocarina and select On. Save your changes.
6. Press Back and select Ocarina. Select On for your desired cheats. Hit Create.
7. Launch Rock Band 3. Once you acknowledge the usual safety warnings, it should almost immediately shove you into the intro cut scene. YOU DID IT!
"I wanted to replace some album art with 'high quality' 33 KB files. What's the best way to make my own?"
Through trial, error, and the scientific process, I've determined the best way to get good looking art into your library! At first I thought shrinking down beautiful, high resolution, high quality album art was the obviously way to do this, but it's the opposite. No matter what, when you use the C3 Con Tools Advanced Art Converter, it will resize the album art to a Wii-friendly 256x256 pixels. And because the Advanced Art Converter isn't a proper image editing suite (nor should it be), it does a poor job of maintaining image quality when resizing the image. In fact, the larger the image is, the worse a job it does. Therefore it falls upon you, dear reader, to resize this art yourself.
Conduct an image search using Google or Bing (yes, Bing! It brings up way different results!). Find and save album art suitable to your tastes that is relatively small. I aimed for images greater than 256x256 pixels, but not much bigger than that. I think I topped out around 500x500 pixels. The reason being: if the image already looks good when it's that small, it'll maintain most of that quality during the resizing/conversion process. I used a batch conversion plugin with GIMP and mass-converted all of the art I wanted to put into the game down to 256x256 pixels. That way, when the Advanced Art Converter converts the files from JPGs to png_wii files, it won't have to do any resizing on its own. And yes, I recommend using only JPGs, even if you have to convert other formats to JPG yourself. I experienced a bug during the conversion and re-conversion process in which the Advanced Art Converter was resizing my original PNGs against my wishes, but the JPGs weren't affected.
"What files do I keep? What files do I delete?"
I assume you're using the SD card method of playing customs. Well, let's start with APPs.
APPs are worthless. You can always delete them after the compiling process.
BINs only need to go on the SD card. You can delete them from your computer once they're transferred.
But what about the folder structure itself that we created above? NEVER DELETE. Keep all of your folders! You will often find yourself recompiling these folders into new BINs when you add or remove songs from already-occupied slots. This will save you the trouble of downloading songs you've already downloaded!
"Ya know, I swear I compiled this slot correctly... the BINs are definitely in the correct folder on the SD card and the paths in the songs.dta file are also correct. But it isn't showing up in-game!"
Is your meta BIN (always evenly numbered) too large? If it is, all songs from that slot simply won't appear in your library. But if you're certain it isn't too large, sometimes the cache refreshing process just seems to ... randomly skip a slot. Try another refresh. If it's still missing, well, something else is wrong, and you might have to ask for specific help.
"Ya know, I swear I compiled this slot correctly... the BINs are definitely in the correct folder on the SD card and the paths in the songs.dta file are also correct. But when I select the song in my library and try to play it, I get an error saying the file can't be restored from the system memory!"
Is your song BIN (always oddly numbered) too large? Yes, it is. You will have to move a song (or more) to another slot, then recompile and refresh your cache. It should work after that. If not, well... I don't know. Ask for help here.
"I found this awesome song in the database, but when I try to play it, the game stutters!"
The song must be multi-tracked. I'd bet it's a conversion from Guitar Hero. Technical limitations don't allow Wii users to play multi-tracked customs unless they are specifically tailored for the Wii by reducing the number of audio channels and/or reducing the audio quality. Theoretically, if the multi-tracked audio was replaced with a single-tracked version, the custom would play just fine, but this is above my skill level at this point. I recommend you contact the authors of individual songs you're dying to play and beg and plead with them to release some type of Wii-friendly version. Yes, multi-tracked versions would be better, but beggars can't be choosers. If you have to settle for a single-tracked version, be grateful you got that far. If you browse the database, you'll see dozens of comments from me asking for specific songs. I remain hopeful and patient... #WiiMatterToo #ThereAreDozensOfUs
Do you have more tips? Post them here.