An absolutely wild mod has brought real-time ray tracing to the SNES

An absolutely wild mod has brought real-time ray tracing to the SNES
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An absolutely wild mod has brought real-time ray tracing to the SNES

A completely wild mod has introduced real-time ray tracing to the SNES

Ray-tracing know-how, obtainable for just a few years on PC, has lastly come to consoles: the PS5 has it, the Xbox Sequence S and X have it, and, 30 years after its launch, the SNES is getting it. No joke — the Nintendo console from 1990 has had ray tracing run on it, due to an unbelievable mod by programmer Ben Carter (by way of Gizmodo). And it’s finished by a chip he’s calling SuperRT.

Ray tracing is normally used to make video games look extra real looking by simulating the way in which gentle bounces off of surfaces, main to paint bleeding from vivid objects and reflecting off of shiny surfaces. As you possibly can see from the video demo above, the tech on the SNES isn’t pushing any graphics boundaries, however come on — it’s an SNES.

Properly, technically, it’s a Famicom, which is similar {hardware} in numerous packaging for Japan. The actual magic, although, is that it’s a completely inventory console (apart from the truth that the highest has been taken off to make room for a ton of wires): all the processing is being finished by a chip Carter programmed and added to a recreation cartridge.

Including processing energy to the SNES by including one other processor to the sport cartridge isn’t one thing new: Nintendo did it with each Star Fox and Yoshi’s Island. (After all, it was including 3D performance and particular results, not ray tracing.) To realize real-time ray tracing, Carter couldn’t simply use the outdated Tremendous FX chips that Nintendo did.

As a substitute, he had to make use of a contemporary field-programmable gate array chip (FPGA), which allowed him to take details about the scene being rendered by the SNES and course of the ray tracing for it. If you’d like an in-depth have a look at the way it’s finished, Carter has a weblog put up explaining how he did it. He additionally has a video explaining his methodology, embedded beneath.

This mod is tremendous cool, not simply from an engineering and hacking perspective, however as a result of it presents a have a look at an alternate actuality — not the one the place ray tracing was magically created within the Nineties, however one the place ’90s low-poly 3D video games are remastered however preserve the artwork type. As somebody who grew up round that point, I really like seeing 2D and 3D video games get modern-looking remakes, however I’d additionally like to see the artwork type come again with fashionable tips like ray tracing and anti-aliasing. And if I needed to think about what it could seem like, it’d be rather a lot like Carter’s demo.

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