Project Reality / Nintendo Ultra 64 [Tech Demos]

Project Reality / Nintendo Ultra 64 [Tech Demos]


The Nintendo 64 was the culmination of work by Nintendo, Silicon Graphics, and MIPS Technologies. The SGI-based system design that ended up in the Nintendo 64 was originally offered to Tom Kalinske, then CEO of Sega of America by James H. Clark, founder of Silicon Graphics. SGI had recently bought out MIPS Technologies and the two companies had worked together to create a low-cost CPU/3D GPU combo that they thought would be ideal for the console market. A hardware team from Sega of Japan was sent to evaluate the chip’s capabilities and they found some faults which MIPS subsequently solved. However, Sega of Japan ultimately decided against SGI’s design. In the early stages of development, the Nintendo 64 was referred to by the code name “Project Reality”. This moniker came from the speculation within Nintendo that the console could produce CGI on par with then-current supercomputers. In 1994, the console was given the name Nintendo Ultra 64 in the West. – [Info from wikipedia]

Thanks to MathUser for some of these scans!



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8 thoughts on “Project Reality / Nintendo Ultra 64 [Tech Demos]

  1. KuronoToriga

    Wow… The only N64 game I saw with graphics even near that level was in Perfect Dark, and it wasn’t as good as these pictures… I got goosebumps thinking a N64 could actually do that… *shivers*

  2. k

    that 64 was capable of these graphics, the joke is that the devs had hard-drives with *gasp GIGABYTE of storage capacity. the 64 cartridges were too much better then high end floppy disk.

  3. Darkhog

    N64 GFX chip was totally able to do just that. The only problem was size of cartridge and game dev lazyness, when it comes to graphics. Obviously it’s easier to model blocky airplane than realistic one. So there wasn’t really game that made N64 sweat and cry for mercy, but chip itself was able to do such graphics (I know, because around 2000 I’ve used bunch of hacked N64s to power renderfarm and was quite surprised at efficiency of that. As I’ve researched chip used there, I’ve understood.)

  4. CoolAnonymous

    This isn’t “my url” or my video but it is the original shark demo used to showcase Silicon Graphics workstations, very interesting.

    My view on whether or not the N64 could be capable all of those demos, is negative.
    Most 3d games on the N64 I’ve seen just didn’t had super high FPS (30 or PAL in my case 25 or lower) with the same amount of detail and high polygon count as seen in PC games at the time.
    A 3dfx voodoo equipped MMX Pentium machine (1996 specs) is much more capable than the N64 is.

  5. Lex

    A note about Silicon Graphics and MIPS, Inc. SGI bought MIPS many years ago. Although, the fate of SGI would later be bought by Rackable Systems, the SGI logo is still intact but it’s now known as Silicon Graphics International and not Silicon Graphics, Inc..

    A note about the Nintendo 64 / Ultra 64 in Japan. The NEC VR4300 CPU (a MIPS R4300i clone) inside of these units and the graphics processing unit is quite capable of these graphics but you needed a lot more RAM than was given for the retail market. The 8 MiB (seen as 8 MB but incorrectly stated), isn’t enough. The amount of RAM needed is 16 MiB.

    Often times what was done was do create high end graphics was to pre-bake the actual graphics and put the games symbols, sprites and charcter data on much larger ROMs than the standard cartridge would use. Essentially, all the N64 would be doing, is playing back the scene data, overlaying the user on the screen and doing I/O, most of the hard work was done before, on another computer system. An example of pre-baking used before the N64 / Ultra 64 is on the SNES, is anything came from the company by the name of Rare, Ltd; Donkey Kong Country series, Killer Instinct series, etc.

    Note about me;

    I used to work in the Refurbishing Department at Funco, Inc. many years ago, I used to repair and modify various consoles, including the Nintendo 64. I’ve also done programming on these units, too.

    1. monokoma

      thanks a lot for these details Lex, really interesting! :O It would have been nice to see a N64 with more ram, they had the “expansion pack” but I don’t know if that was enough..

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