When Portal came out in 2007, developers Valve chose not to release the groundbreaking title on an obsolete Nintendo console long out of production. Nobody cared at the time, of course, but [James Lambert] is here to right that wrong. Yes, he’s porting Portal to the N64.
The port, or “demake,” as [James] calls it, has been under construction for some time. The project has posed some challenges: Portal was developed for PCs that were vastly more powerful than the Nintendo 64 of 1996. Thus, initial concerns were that the console wouldn’t be able to handle the physics of the game or render the recursive portal graphics.
However, hard work has paid off. [James] has chipped away, bit by bit, making improvements to his engine all the while. The latest work has the portals rendering nicely, and the companion cube works just the way you’d expect. There’s also a visible portal gun, and the engine can even render 15 recursive layers when looking through mirrored portals. Sixteen was too much.
Of course, there’s still lots to do. There’s no player model yet, and basic animations and sound are lacking. However, the core concept is there, and watching [James] flit through the not-quite-round portals is an absolute delight. Even better, it runs smoothly even on original Nintendo hardware. It’s a feat worthy of commendation.
We had no idea what [James] had in store back when we featured his work creating real-time shadows on N64 hardware. Now we know! Video after the break.
Thanks to [Itay] for the tip!
10 thoughts on “One Coder Is Porting Portal To The Nintendo 64”
Demakes are popular and useful homebrew projects, and Portal is one of the best games ever made, hence this is really great
Practically every “demake” I’ve seen is just using low-poly models in Unreal Engine. This one is actually exciting since it runs on real hardware. I hope to see more completed in the future.
Different communities, I guess. Most demakes I see are on GBA or NDS, sometimes SNES.
Coincidentally, there was a Portal demake for NDS that was pretty good.
I feel like using one of the most powerful modern game engines on the market today and running it on modern hardware isn’t really a demake.
“16’s the limit. Don’t do 16.”
OK, I won’t do 16.
Sometimes you see a port of a game and think, imagine if this came out back in the day. It would be unbelievably popular. I remember a game called pilot wings for the n64, it had pretty amazing graphics for the time, it seemed quite different from most of the other games that were available. It just goes to show, so much is possible, if the ideas are available.
It helps that the field has advanced a LOT. Intuitively, you’d think Nintendo would have been able to make games that pushed their hardware to the absolute limit, but it turns out that advances in theory and tooling have given us better algorithms, compilers, and debuggers so that a single person (with incredible talent) is capable of doing more on the N64 today than a team of Nintendo devs could in 1996.
Not to mention, some of the basic video game concepts weren’t there.
People forget this now, but VALVe’s marketing had to actually explain that First Person Shooter didn’t necessarily have to focus on filling enemies with bullets. It was a pretty wild and experimental concept to have game played in first person that was based entirely on puzzles.
A game like portal wouldn’t have even occurred to anyone in the 90’s.
It would, it did, there was. Valve just found it a hard sell to diehard FPS fans after the genre became a monster.
Damn impressive, now I wish I still had my N64, just to see this work properly one day.
Really does show how far old hardware can be taken!
There’s also mainline support for the n64 in the linux kernel, added quite recently.
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