N64 modder achieves ray tracing and other advanced effects in various games

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

We cover Darío’s ray tracing Modification for Super Mario 64 (opens in new tab) previously—this add-on was created for the fan-made PC port of that game and could work on a wide variety of hardware. Even the six-year-old GTX 1080, a card that was never made for specialized and intensive ray tracing work, was able to run Darío’s mod at 720p 30 FPS.

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According to Darío, the tweaking and optimization work on this project was what led them to realize they could create a “generic emulation solution” to bring these graphical improvements to multiple games without having to configure each one individually. In addition to ray tracing, the tools can also open the door to other improvements, such as 60 FPS patches for games with tight framerate caps, as well as a graphics debugger that Darío believes can be 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 a point of origin for ray traced lighting, a developer has to manually place them throughout the game like Darío did for Super Mario 64. The developer plans to include a list white 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 proves to be an asset to the N64 emulation community, and I must say that I appreciate how ray tracing contributes to the look and feel of these games. I’m usually a tough step up in the “HD Texture Pack” antics as they often replace a game’s original aesthetic with questionable results, but ray tracing actually adds to the original presentation rather than replacing it. Ocarina of Time especially has a certain depth to its visuals with the mod activated. You can follow Darío’s progress on the emulator plugin on the developer’s Twitter and Tumblr.

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