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

Ray-tracing know-how, accessible for a couple of 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, thanks to an incredible mod by programmer Ben Carter (via Gizmodo). And it’s carried out by a chip he’s calling SuperRT.

Ray tracing is normally used to make video games look extra reasonable by simulating the best way gentle bounces off of surfaces, main to paint bleeding from brilliant objects and reflecting off of shiny surfaces. As you may 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 identical {hardware} in numerous packaging for Japan. The true magic, although, is that it’s a very inventory console (apart from the truth that the highest has been taken off to make room for a ton of wires): the entire processing is being carried out by a chip Carter programmed and added to a sport 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 previous Tremendous FX chips that Nintendo did.

As an alternative, 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 take a look at the way it’s carried out, Carter has a blog post 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 take 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 model. 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 model come again with fashionable methods like ray tracing and anti-aliasing. And if I needed to think about what it will seem like, it’d be loads like Carter’s demo.

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