June 23, 2022

N64 modder achieves ray tracing and other advanced effects across multiple games

Prolific modder turned software developer DaríoSamo has revealed plans to translate his previous Super Mario 64 ray tracing work into a generalized plugin for N64 emulators (opens in a new tab)allowing ray-traced lighting and other graphical features across multiple games without having to tinker with them individually.

We’ve covered Darío’s ray tracing modification for Super Mario 64 (opens in a new tab) Previously, this add-on was created for the fan-made PC port of this game and could run on a wide range of hardware. Even the six-year-old GTX 1080, a card never designed for heavy, specialized ray-tracing work, was capable of running Darío’s mod at 720p 30 FPS.

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According to Darío, further tinkering and optimization work on this project is what led them to realize that they could create a “generic emulator solution” to bring such graphical improvements to multiple games without having to configure individually. In addition to ray tracing, the tools could also open the door to other improvements such as 60 FPS fixes for games with strict frame rate limits, as well as a graphics debugger, according to Darío, who might prove useful for romhackers.

The plugin is still months away from full release, and Darío warns that it won’t work with all N64 games. One problem is that if a game doesn’t have light sources to provide an origin point for ray-traced lighting, a developer must manually place them throughout the game like Darío did for Super Mario. 64. The developer plans to include whitelisting with the plugin, and the video demo of Darío in action featured Ocarina of Time, Paper Mario, Kirby 64, Mystical Ninja Goemon, Snowboard Kids, and Rocket: Robot on Wheels.

Darío continues to demonstrate impressive technical mastery and prove an asset to the N64 emulation community, and I must say I appreciate how ray tracing adds to the look of these games. I’m generally a hard pass on “HD Texture Pack” shenanigans because they too often replace a game’s original aesthetic with questionable results, but the ray tracing really adds to the original presentation instead of replacing it. Ocarina of Time especially has some depth to its visuals with the mod enabled. You can follow Darío’s progress on the emulator plugin from the developer’s Twitter and Tumblr.

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