I'm making an N64 Car Museum

Edit: It's released! check it out! https://leoburke.itch.io/auto-museum-64

Ok so a few years back I searched for ways to extract models from N64 games, I don't remember how I stumbled upon it but the method is to use a special graphics plugin for Project 64 which dumps the visual memory of the N64 to a file on your computer as a .wrl file, import that into Blender to fix all the UV Mapping issues, and from there into your game engine of choice.


The problem is that since N64 games use all kinds of tricks like mirrored textures and alpha textures to do a lot of detailing, importing these models into the real world requires a lot of work. And I mean a FUCK ton of work in some cases. It wasn't until a week or so ago when I got tired of the (4 years now!) side project I was making no progress on, and wanted to give myself a week off and try something else. I decided to give this a shot again and see how difficult a proposition this would be.

I am a big fan of racing games, and the N64 era was kind of the golden era for original car designs because 3D technology had matured enough, game teams were relatively small and could be creative with game designs. So basically the idea is to credit the original modelers and artists behind the cars, and bring all of those into one virtual space. Cars are also a little easier to rip because car selection screens only have one thing in them (the car). I was inspired by the Zium Museum, a virtual museum that other artists contributed to https://theziumsociety.itch.io/the-zium-museum .

Since I have an xbox with a complete (ish) n64 romset, I hooked my computer up to it's FTP server (yes, the xbox has an ftp server, which you can use to load/unload content), and took a bunch of racing games off of it. I then started going through the games to see how viable ripping/fixing the geometry would be.

One of the first sets I did was Rush 2, the sequel to SF Rush. It has a lot of neat models based off late 90's sports cars. and happily the textures were correctly mapped in the scene and I didn't have to do much work. [upl-image-preview url=//i.imgur.com/85vqbki.png]

The same was true for Ridge Racer 64, the first model I tried to rip. The textures required some adjusting but it was simple enough to fix.
[upl-image-preview url=//i.imgur.com/PFBLKl8.png]

However at the time the import process I was using was to save the .Blend file to the Unity solution folder and have Unity import the model. N64 models seem to be able to have separate texture files per model and not just one big texture atlas, and this meant that each model had like 20-30 materials on each one, and I'd have to find the correct texture for the material. This meant each car would take roughly 30 minutes to import. I did get faster because I figured out how to package textures in with an FBX, and exporting from Blender, which saved a fuck ton of time. But at this initial stage it was incredibly fucking tedious.

I also started to learn about how N64 models were built and how textures worked per game. For Fzero X, there are like 4 textures per vehicle, each one is 16x16 or so, and they are all colored in memory after the fact. This, however, was too much work for me to try and fix and basically meant I'd have to remake all the textures from scratch.

[upl-image-preview url=//i.imgur.com/5PmdQhx.png]
[upl-image-preview url=//i.imgur.com/0fa4kDn.png]

I also learned that many games from the era had a separate copy of the geo just for specular finish, and would project the model onto a small shimmer texture as it rotated to give it a shiny surface. [upl-image-preview url=//i.imgur.com/aztuaFn.png]

One of the more difficult cars to rip was from Beetle Adventure Racing. I love this game. The track design is incredible and the game has so much character, in addition to the Beetles in the game looking fantastic. The car selection screen is a massive scene that the camera rotates in

[upl-image-preview url=//i.imgur.com/4x6NSRV.png]

But to my dismay the game apparently all the textures are colored in later? I'm not sure how it works, but all the textures in memory are black and white

[upl-image-preview url=//i.imgur.com/5x0fYiA.png]

Worse yet is the game makes liberal use of texture flipping, alpha texture masking for the headlights/taillights/logo, and texture coloring. So in order to rip this I have to edit the textures to be mirrored. remap a bunch of UVs that got scrambled, and also recolor all the textures (after importing I realized I could have done this in the material, arg!)

Days later after I got much better with blender and UV mapping I did manage to get One car in, after hours of work.

[upl-image-preview url=//i.imgur.com/mpzZYHc.png]

Some games that were much easier: GT 64: championship edition. This game has a lot of great models from the late 90's Super GT series, including some Supras, NSXes, and this Porsche-a-like [upl-image-preview url=//i.imgur.com/L9Mj47M.png]
[upl-image-preview url=//i.imgur.com/Q0S9hnN.png]

One game that really drove the project was AeroGuage, a kind of forgotten N64 future racing game. The vehicles are these fantastic flying machines straight out of an anime. So I really wanted to get at least a few in [upl-image-preview url=//i.imgur.com/T7K57Eq.png]

As I was ripping some of the models, i started to notice that unused texture areas contained...Smiley faces?

[upl-image-preview url=//i.imgur.com/Xq71QGE.png]

Yep that's a bunch of smiley faces, hidden from view since 1997 that the developer snuck in. But In another ship I'd make another kind of discovery

[upl-image-preview url=//i.imgur.com/D4Y3jSD.png]

Yes that's actual writing inside an unused section of a texture! Google translate and a friend of mine both concluded it read "うれますように" which translates to "May You Be Happy" That might be wrong, IDK, there's only a few pixels per character and I don't know any Japanese. There I was at 1am, looking over N64 models when someone sends me a message across time and space for me to stumble upon. I ended up making a new page for the game on TCRF to document it https://tcrf.net/AeroGauge

Hidden message aside: I ripped the entire rest of the models, even though it was a lot of work, and even though I didn't really need to. All the ships are just so distinct and good looking.

[upl-image-preview url=//i.imgur.com/SV1PU9d.png]

At this point I've become versed enough in the ripping process that cars take like 10 minutes instead of an hour. I can go from a scrambled textured car from V Rally here

[upl-image-preview url=//i.imgur.com/YKncDoa.png]

To an almost as good finished product here

[upl-image-preview url=//i.imgur.com/kII0CVr.png]

It's been interesting looking at the designs of cars. Extreme G is one example. All the cars took a lot more work and so I ended up doing only 4. But can you imagine a mainstream game coming out with a design this radical? A combination of Tron's lightcycles and some organic shapes with bold colors

[upl-image-preview url=//i.imgur.com/n4pSnpA.png]

[upl-image-preview url=//i.imgur.com/BYlxdAj.png]

If a car is an absolute pain in the ass to fix I'll only do one for the game. The worst thus far has been Roadsters. Each model is a mix of flipped/mirrored/masked textures, colored polygons, and like 5 copies of geometry layered on top of one another. I spent hours on this Toyota model and I still couldn't get it right. [upl-image-preview url=//i.imgur.com/10zW8Aj.png]

Easiest has been the Midway games like Rush 2/ Rush 2049, and California speed. almost no work for any of them. That's partially due to them not using hardly any texture tricks, but it makes my life easier!

This process has taught me a lot about how N64 games were made, I really wish I could find someone who worked on a game as a graphics programmer because I have a lot of questions! It's also taught me about curation (what to save and what not) because I don't want this to take forever, and restoration (how much of a model can be fixed vs how accurate that fix is).

I still have a few games to go before I'm finished. I plan to have a Future Cars exhibit, a "Real world racing" game exhibit, a sort of catch all "Arcade racers" exhibit, and if I have the energy a "secret car" section and a section on how I ripped the models.

With my "future cars" set done, you can really see what people in the late 90's thought the future would look like. Bold colors, bold shapes, different kinds of locomotion and traversal. Lots of Purple. There is a certain level of optimism in these designs, i feel like. You can also see a regional cross section of styles, with Wipeout being Western Europe, Aerogauge being Japan, and Rush/Extreme G being North America.
[upl-image-preview url=//i.imgur.com/IM7xtQz.png]

I'll probably post a lil more here but I'm almost done with it, I also have to make the museum space which is going to be challenging. I timeboxed it to being 1 week long, but now I'm at 2 and probably 1 extra one to go to tie everything together. lol.

Well this is one of the coolest things I‘ve seen in a long time - I’m pretty sure we‘re gonna get @brentporter in here soon, who has done some N64 model ripping - also, I need to talk to some Turok people for unrelated reasons, so maybe I can find you somebody?? If there’s anybody in particular you‘d like to talk to let me know and I’ll track them down.

Really looking forward to browsing the final museum in whatever form you present it!

Wow I pretty extremely like this! I‘ve done some ripping and fixing in blender myself so I know it can be a huge pain. Are you able to get anything out of World Driver Championship? I remember that game being hard to emulate. What are all the games you’re looking at? Looks cool!

@exodus#1024 Anyone who did graphics programming would be cool. But if you could get anyone from Locomotive, who made Aerogauge, that would be cool. I am tempted to track down the original modeler to tell them I found their hidden messages.

@brentporter#1026 I really want World Driver Championship but I haven't tried. It uses some really trick microcode to do everything and the ripping plugin is really hit or miss. It crashes on games like Cruizin USA and Re-Volt, so sadly there are some games where ripping is impossible unless I try something like 3DXRipper or other methods, which I haven't tried.

ah, the folks that made those cars appear to have worked on very little! heck. looks like all their careers stop (as far as english language internet) in 2003. well uhhhhhhhhhhh I'll see what I can do!

@exodus#1028 Good luck! But don‘t feel bad if you can’t track anyone down it's probably super difficult.

Me: “Can I have a little World Driver Championship?”

World Driver Championship:

[upl-image-preview url=//i.imgur.com/I1kqmqT.png]

Ahhhh that darn world driver!! I got it working on one of the newer Retroarch cores (Mupen64Plus-Next) but I don‘t know if there’s any way to rip models from there.

That's a really cool endeavour, thanks for sharing.

I would assume うれますように is meant to be taken as 売れますように which means "hoping it sells well" / "please have good sales" and would probably be some sort of good luck charm for the commercial performance of the game.

@chazumaru#1036 someone else mentioned that might be the translation. I‘m sorta going off what google translate told me, which might not be correct. If it were a good luck charm though, I don’t think it worked

Now that I have multiple games, I can compare…multiple Lambos. The Diablo is in a lot of games in some form or shape. Comparing the ChoroQ model with the Automobili Lamborghini is especially interesting. Playing these games as a kid, I thought the Diablo would handle like an F1 car, but when racing it in something like Gran Turismo or Forza you find that no, actually, it kind of handles like crap.

[upl-image-preview url=//i.imgur.com/fPCHLTT.png]

The ChoroQ models, from Penny Racers, are really good and didn't require a whole lot of work. There are 5 per scene on the car select screen, so I was able to grab 10 of them, including the noodle truck [upl-image-preview url=//i.imgur.com/2R99kbN.png]

Best ripoff supercar set has got to go to Automobili Lamborghini. They took a bit more work to get into the game so i only did 4, but it's a very good set of late 90's supercars.

[upl-image-preview url=//i.imgur.com/HcyMgNf.png]

For original designs you really cannot beat Ridge Racer 64. The pixel textures are so crisp and the designs are really distinct and their own without cribbing too much from real life. I wish they were easier to rip because I'd probably do them all

[upl-image-preview url=//i.imgur.com/Iu5Vz7B.png]

california speed is such a weird game and I'm not sure why it exists. Midway published SF Rush, Rush 2, Rush 2049, and several Cruizin games (which I cannot get the cars for, the emulator crashes). If you wanted to drive a car in a virtual california, on the nintendo 64, you had a lot of options!

[upl-image-preview url=//i.imgur.com/fw0fimM.png]

I found like 12 more racing game roms to check out, which means more fuckin work for me! Trying to limit myself based on the difficulty it is to get the cars fixed and in Unity. If it's really difficult, I just have one car. If it takes a little work and I like the designs, I'll pick more. Otherwise i try to get a good profile of the range of designs from a game, without ripping all of them. It's a neat exercise in curation.

I‘m gonna say Chaz is right on the うれますように thing! I don’t know why I didn‘t think of that, but it’s kind of amazing. What a cool thing to hide in there!! Too bad it didn't work though!

I looooove choro q models.they're cute as heck. And I do wonder how Namco got all those sharp textures in there, when others couldn't. The N64 is a bigtime mystery to me.

anyway, more, more! I love it

I don‘t understand 3d in the slightest, so seeing this thread is both fascinating and like watching a wizard work their magic.

I absolutely love this idea and can’t wait to see the final museum.

Also, I absolutely loved Beetle Adventure Racing. Shame the models are such a hassle to rip - it was such an excellent time and deserves more attention than it got back in the day.

excellent work, i love to see stuff like this!

@exodus#1048 Pretty sure most n64 games were blurry on purpose! There was the texture memory problem but I don't think there was anything technically in the way of making a game look unfiltered similar to a PS1 game (off the top of my head, Turok had a code to turn off texture + hardware filtering and Quake had an option in a menu). Indoctrinated weirdos like me thought the infamous N64 blur looked obviously better than PS1/Saturn at the time. I could see there being a tendency to anti-alias textures in the art which would combine with the N64 anti-alias for ULTIMATE BLUR.

Despite loving the N64 and racing games in general I've never really tried AeroGuage! The vehicles do look pretty unique for a futuristic racer. I also love the GT64 stuff for having cars that feel emblematic of this era of racing (mostly on other consoles) to me. I continue to be real excited about this project!


@exodus#1048 And I do wonder how Namco got all those sharp textures in there, when others couldn’t.

I am sure you knew this and forgot, but Ridge Racer 64 was developed by NST (Nintendo Software Technology) in the U.S. of A. Neither it nor its DS port imaginatively renamed Ridge Racer DS were released in Japan, where it is consequently considered a _maboroshii game_.

@chazumaru#1059 oh, that explains the weird differences between RR64 and R4. I consider R4 to be one of my favorite racing games of all time and I was never sure why the games were so different despite being released at the same time under Namco

It borrows some assets from R4 (mainly the textures and designs for the cars, and that one Reiko.jpg) but it is in fact a very different game which combines Ridge Racer (the original one), Ridge Racer Revolution and a brand new track with a more American tone. As a consumer at the time, I was disappointed (in as much as I cared about the N64) that the game lacked the artistic mastery and plethoric contents of R4, but from a development point of view, I now think this restraint was a good idea both from the perspective of Namco and also as NST's very first development project.

Another interesting and unique idea that you must have noticed is the choice of three different drifting configurations: one closer to the original RR, one closer to Revolution, and the final one which was brand new and better adapted to the N64 controller. I haven't played the elusive home conversion of Rave Racer for Japanese PCs so that's one challenger that eludes me but the N64 controls of RR64 might have made it, for all its faults, the best playing home version of RR until Ridge Racer V (which I think was a huge step up over R4 control-wise even if it compared poorly in many other aspects).

But I am only considering standard controllers in this comparison and not the NeGcon; the option for full analogue controls probably give back the four PS games a unique advantage over RR64.

ahhhhh, right!! hmm, feels like one to own then.