GamesBeat

23-year-old designer creates a way to play the Nintendo 64 over HDMI (interview)

N64 HDMI converter

Above: The circuitry of the converter.

Image Credit: retroactive.be

Some of the best games ever made might look better soon thanks to this upcoming creation.

Marshall H, who declined to share his last name for privacy reasons, has almost completed a converter that lets the Nintendo 64 display video through HDMI, DVI, and VGA connections. He is a college graduate who does freelance hardware and software design. According to his own website, “I think video games and electronics of all sorts are cool … pretty much everything I do seems to revolve around the dream of the ’90s.”

The N64 converter is just one of many projects he is working on, but he expects to finish it sometime soon (first quarter of this year). It should be compatible with every version of the classic console. But it’s not something you can simply plug in — it requires soldering skills to install.

GamesBeat learned more about Marshall and his work in an e-mail interview.

GamesBeat:  Why were you motivated to create the converter?

Marshall H: Since a few years ago when LCD and flatscreen televisions became popular, folks have been finding out (me included) that the poor N64 just generally looks awful when used on one. There’s a number of reasons why, but the bottom line is that with HDMI, Displayport, etc. you will always get a better picture, even when you’re displaying a low-res pixel soup from the N64.

GamesBeat: When did you first start planning/making it?

Marshall: Actually, about three years ago I came up with the first prototype. Since then, I’ve made several more designs, but I keep getting sidetracked with other work.

GamesBeat: Is the N64 your favorite console? What are your top three games for it?

Marshall: Yes, the N64 is pretty much my favorite console. I have lots of obscure and useless knowledge about it. My favorite game is 1080 Snowboarding, since I’m such a fan of winter sports in general, and it’s quite a great game. Mario Kart and Super Smash Bros. after that.

GamesBeat: What did you study in college? Anything related to programming or hardware?

Marshall: I did a few years at college for Electrical Engineering/Computer Engineering, but to be honest I learned a lot more on my own, outside school.

GamesBeat: How difficult has it been to design and create the converter?

Marshall: I have a background of doing electrical engineering and design work like this, so my knowledge and previous projects enabled me to do this, but it’s no less hard. I’ve been poking at it for the last few years. Because of recent interest, I hope to finally polish it up and bring it out for sale.

GamesBeat: Have you had any challenges or setbacks?

Marshall: My biggest challenge is finding out how to make it easier to install the mod in N64s. And then figuring out how to properly support all the various kinds of them that people have around the world — a lot of N64 fans are Down Under!

GamesBeat: What still needs to be done?

Marshall: The next step is to incorporate feedback I’ve gotten into the next version of the mod and make it better, and possibly do sound support, or ditch the big DVI connector.

Marshall’s website, called Retroactive, has more pictures and a place where you can sign up for updates. It also has information on several of his other projects, including some incomplete games available for download and an N64 development tool.

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