Although Gate came 11 years after the debut of the N64 (and five years after the release of the GameCube, the N64’s replacement) a talented developer slowly pull the seemingly impossible task to recreate the classic puzzle game running on Nintendo’s first 3D console – and it it doesn’t look bad at all.
Creating graphically intense demakes of popular modern video games has become one favorite internet pastimes, but it usually involves recreating the graphics of an A-list game as raw pixelated sprites, which are then animated using animation software. In other words, most demakes are just funny, but faked videos. James Lambert instead takes the long way and actually recreates the Gate engine so that it ran on console hardware a decade earlier than the game itself, which was a PC exclusive when it was first released.
Lambert’s first videos of their Gate demake were simple graphical tests showing that the portal effect, which essentially makes the room that the player is in multiple times from alternate camera angles was actually doable. Lambert then understood how let the player go through portalsthen started test a physics engine it would work on the N64 hardware without causing the game’s framerates to crawl. Unlike modern games, where hundreds of objects can bounce around a level with realistic animations powered by real-time physics calculations, the N64 provided relatively raw and non-interactive 3D environments. But for the puzzles in a Gate demake works, the Weighted Companion Cube should behave exactly like it did in the original PC game.
In just two months, Lambert’s progress on Portal 64 has been impressive. The game now includes a real portal gun capable of firing portals on flat surfaces, with error correction if a user attempts to fire one into a corner or edge of a structure where portals cannot exist, as well as anti-gravity capabilities to pick up and manipulate the cube companion.
In their latest progress videoLambert spends more time discussing the logistical issues of getting a game like Gate to work on the N64’s hardware, such as doing everything possible to avoid drawing off-screen objects to reduce time-consuming texture swapping. The demake can also now perform recursive portal rendering, similar to looking into a mirror with a mirror behind you, up to 14 levels deep, although to keep framerates manageable, the final version of Portal 64 can limit the effect to many fewer iterations than that.
You can follow Lambert’s progress at Portal 64 thanks to their Youtube channelbut it looks like they are also sharing their source code and a ROM of the game through GitHub.