Prolific modder turned software developer DaríoSamo has revealed a project to translate their previous ray tracing work on Super Mario 64 into a generalized plugin for N64 emulators, enabling 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 previously—this add-on was created for the fan-made PC port of that game, and could work on a wide range of hardware. Even the six year-old GTX 1080, a card that was never made for the specialized, intensive work of ray tracing, was capable of running Darío's mod at 720p 30 FPS.
I'd like to reveal that RT64, the path tracer behind sm64rt, is evolving into an N64 emulator plugin.Here's a small reel of footage I've captured from games that are already showing results.Ray traced lighting, object motion blur, widescreen, DLSS and 60+ FPS. pic.twitter.com/qLJHzGfKUcJune 3, 2022
According to Darío, further tinkering and optimization work on that project is what led them to realize they could create a "generic emulation solution" to bring such graphical enhancements to multiple games without having to configure each one individually. In addition to ray tracing, the tools could also open the door to other improvements like 60 FPS patches for games with hard framerate limits, as well as a graphics debugger Darío believes could prove useful to romhackers.
The plugin is still months away from full release, and Darío cautions that it won't work with all N64 games. One issue is that if a game doesn't have light sources to provide an origin point for ray traced lighting, a developer has to manually place them throughout the game as Darío did for Super Mario 64. The developer plans on including a whitelist with the plugin, and Darío's video demonstration of it in action featured Ocarina of Time, Paper Mario, Kirby 64, Mystical Ninja Goemon, Snowboard Kids, and Rocket: Robot on Wheels.
Darío continues to demonstrate an impressive technical mastery and prove an asset to the N64 emulation community, and I have to say I appreciate how ray tracing adds to these games' look. I'm usually a hard pass on "HD Texture Pack" shenanigans as they too often override a game's original aesthetic with questionable results, but ray tracing really adds to the original presentation instead of replacing it. Ocarina of Time especially has a certain 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.