Engineer Gets Ray Tracing To Work On SNES

An ambitious software engineer has managed to figure out a way for primitive ray tracing to work on an unmodified SNES.


There are many engineers out there who solve problems that the vast majority of people can't even properly comprehend, and there are others who go the extra mile to find problems that most of us aren't even aware of. A software engineer and game developer named Ben Carter has figured out a way to get ray tracing working on an SNES, and the results are pretty incredible.

As any hardcore SNES fan knows, several of the console's most popular games relied on a chipset that was included as part of the cartridge itself in order to help the SNES achieve certain technological goals. The best-known example of this is the Super FX chip that powered the original Star Fox. Carter has designed a chip in that mold that he calls the SuperRT that allows the SNES to perform ray tracing.

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Carter's video shows off what the SuperRT is capable of, and it includes all of the very finicky details on how he got it to work. Essentially, however, it works on the same principle as the Super FX chip: the SuperRT constructs the scene and feeds it to the SNES's processor in language it can understand. The nest of cables shown in the video isn't due to any particular technical wizardry on Carter's part; most of them are level shifter cables that allow the SuperRT's field-programmable gate array board and the SNES to run at the same voltage.

As far as whether or not this would have been possible to make during the SNES's lifespan, Carter says that it would have been possible, but way too expensive to use in a shipping game. Still, as a proof of concept, it's very impressive.

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