N64 Overclocking: What actually runs *faster*?

Discussion in 'Modding and Hacking - Consoles and Electronics' started by jungerman, Aug 14, 2013.

  1. jungerman

    jungerman N64 Life

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    N64 Overclocking: Sorting through misinformation

    Back to the grind! I've been writing a blog post on Nintendo 64 overclocking. Halfway through, I realized I didn't know anything about Nintendo 64 overclocking. Time for a bit of community Q&A. Mostly Q on my end. Hoping you guys can point me toward some correct information on this mod that seems rife with misinformation.

    Right, so diving right in. The N64 natively multiplies its standard processor speed by a factor of 1.5 (despite what some people think). There are many reports of successful 2.0x overclocks, but not so many at 3.0x. This is the only successful report of a 3.0x overclock that I've found, and I'm a bit skeptical about whether it's legit. I've been researching overclocking mods for at least 6 hours now - no other successes (at least from what I can see.)
    Question: Is stable 3.0x overclocking actually achievable?

    Up next: board revisions. According to Link83's infinitely useful big post on N64 board revisions, we can see that NUS-CPU-04 is the first one to rock the shiny new "CPU-NUS A". Apparently this is the processor you want if you're going to do an OC. MarshallH recommends boards that are NUS-CPU-05 or later, though. I've heard of people having success with 04s. The post I linked to above is, again, the only reported stable 3.0x overclock, and it uses an NUS-CPU-08 board. If there is something to this, it may have something to do with the fact that the 08s got a new clock chip - a single MX8350MC instead of two MX8330MC's. I asked on #n64dev, and marshallh doesn't seem to think there's anything to it other than it just being a new part that behaves exactly the same.
    Question: Has anyone found that some boards using the newer CPU (CPU-NUS A) overclock better than some other revisions that use this CPU?


    One last question. There's a lot of conflicting information on whether some games actually speed up (as in, in-game time moves more quickly). For example, Goldeneye. I've seen many people claim that overclocking on Goldeneye does nothing more than increase the framerate, however, that is simply not true. Watch this video and you'll see clear as day that the overclocked game runs more quickly. The same is true for Super Smash Bros, as is seen earlier in the video. Confusingly, though, in this thread, the second post claims that Perfect Dark runs faster when overclocked. However, when I compared a (supposedly) overclocked run of Perfect Dark and a normal playthrough running at standard speed (note: Youtube Doubler syncs much better if you refresh the page after you both videos begin to load), you'll see that there is no difference at all in the rate at which the in-game cutscene progresses. That leaves three possibilities: either the "overclocked" run wasn't, the guy in the above thread is wrong, or cutscenes progress at normal speed in Perfect Dark, but gameplay is sped up.
    Question: Has anyone found that Perfect Dark does, in fact, run more quickly when overclocked? Is there any list of games which work well when overclocked?


    On the subject of that last question: I doubt anyone has taken the time to come up with a list of how well games behave when overclocked, but is there any sort of trend? Do most games run in-game time faster, or do most just pull more FPS? Or some weird combination, like Donkey Kong 64 (again, see second post in the thread linked above)?





    Thanks for answering any of these questions as you can and reading through this wall of text. I'll be sure to share my post when I've conducted enough research to write an intelligent article.
    - J
     
    Last edited: Aug 14, 2013
  2. brainpann

    brainpann Site Supporter 2012

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    HI! Heres what I have found out about N64 overclocking.

    Question: Is stable 3.0x overclocking actually achievable?
    Personally, Ive never been able to get any of the 4 N64's Ive overclocked to run at 3.0x. Not even for a few minutes. None of them were the later models, usually found in the colored shell edition N64's.

    Question: Has anyone found that Perfect Dark does, in fact, run more quickly when overclocked? Is there any list of games which work well when overclocked?

    Yes, Perfect Dark does indeed run faster. Its not a massive improvement but overall the game runs smoother, especially in hi-res and multiplayer modes. Here is a video that I made last year to show the slight difference on speed.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SeHx-si4wdA


    Games that run faster/better overclocked are mostly games that can use a RAM pak but others work as well. Ive noticed that Hybrid Heaven, Rayman 2, Turok 2, Perfect Dark, and Extreme G all run a bit better. There were are a few others but I cant remember exactly which...maybe Goldeneye and Quake 2. Im sure there are others but I haven't tested them all.

    Funny thing, I accidentally underclocked my N64 and played Mario 64. It ran perfectly as far as I could tell.

    Hope some of this helps. It was last year when I was doing most of this and havent really messed too much with it since. If you have any other questions, Ill do my best to answer them.
     
  3. jungerman

    jungerman N64 Life

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    brainpann, thanks for the reply. So you've only overclocked boards like NUS-CPU-04, then?

    I don't mean to ask if Perfect Dark and others run faster in the sense of less lag. I mean to ask if they run faster in the sense of a progression of time. From what I understand, many games seem to run smoother, yet only because everything is actually progressing through time more quickly.

    What exactly do you mean by "run a bit better"?

    Did you notice that Mario 64 progressed through time more slowly?
     
  4. brainpann

    brainpann Site Supporter 2012

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    1st) I know at least two of them were cus 04 and I think one of was an 05 and the other an 08. The only reason I definitely remember the first two being 04 was because I also RGB modded them. The other two were not RGB mod-able.

    2nd) As for Perfect Dark, if you look at my video, you will notice that the opening little cinema at normal speed is around 12 seconds until the first building marker, versus 8 or 9 for the overclocked. When I play with overclock switch on, it "feels" smoother but that honestly could just be because everything is slightly sped up. I DO KNOW that playing with the overclock switch on feels better on "hi res" mode in Perfect Dark than if it wasnt on. For instance, if you leave PD in the standard resolution and not overclocked, if seems to play a bit smother/faster than it does in "hi res" mode with the expansion pack. If you turn the overclock switch on, switch PD into "hi res" mode, it feels as smooth and fast in "Hi res" as it does in the standard mode. For other games though, like Xtreme G and Turok 2 (both Acclaim), the frame rate just seemed to take less of a hit with the switch on rather than off. This was typically noticed during explosions and what not.

    I just got home and I have a little time. Ill see if I can do some sort of side by side comparison of Perfect Dark running on an overclocked and standard N64 and report back the findings.

    As for Mario 64, the game played EXACTLY as it did in a standard, non-underclocked N64. Nothing seemed to be changed.
     
  5. MottZilla

    MottZilla Champion of the Forum

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    How games react to being overclocked depends on how they are programmed. The framerate in Goldeneye and Perfect Dark varies depending on what is seen on screen and what all is occurring in the scene. It appears related to the processing loading as when a lot of things or certain events happen the framerate drops. How the game detects these drops and how the game throttles itself and decides how many/how often to render frames are all important questions.

    In theory, overclocking 007 or Perfect Dark should be able to result in less dropped frames since more can be processed in less time. But depending on how the game throttles up and down the framerate, it may not actually render more frames at all, and just render frames more quickly. There is a similar issue surrounding the Super FX chip. Some people incorrectly think that by overclocking the Super FX that the framerate is improved. This actually is not true, instead the same frames are observed but at a faster rate. It can appear as though it is running smoother but infact it is only running faster. This also alters the experience playing the game as it's running faster.

    So again, it all depends on how the game was programmed. Since the hardware was set in stone unlike on a PC, they tailor the programming for the stock hardware. When you suddenly improve the clock rate it may not have the intended positive effect like when you upgrade your PC.
     
  6. goldenband

    goldenband Spirited Member

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    Has this been 100% confirmed with frame-by-frame comparisons of every Super FX game? It wouldn't surprise me at all if there was indeed no framerate improvement -- only the same frames playing back at a faster rate -- but this issue has been so contentious, with lots of claims and no hard data to back them up. If someone's gotten hard data to put the issue to bed for good, that'd be fantastic.
     
    Last edited: Sep 7, 2013
  7. APE

    APE Site Supporter 2015

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    You don't need to do frame by frame comparisons to tell such matters. MottZilla knows what he is talking about despite people screaming otherwise - people who don't have the knowledge or experience to properly determine what is going on.
     
  8. goldenband

    goldenband Spirited Member

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    Well, like I said, I find it easy to believe that there aren't any extra frames being drawn, and I don't doubt MottZilla's expertise. I do know that simply eyeballing it isn't good enough, but I can imagine a few different ways to definitively prove it: analysis of the code, frame-by-frame analysis, analysis of the hardware itself, etc.

    If someone's put that kind of hard evidence out there, I'd love to see it. Ever since the Super FX overclocking fad got started, there's been a shortage of hard data, and lots of people saying "It looks like ____ to me".
     
  9. Conker2012

    Conker2012 Intrepid Member

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    Do any N64 emulators support overclocking of the emulated CPU? If so, this would give an idea of what to expect on a real N64. Or then again, maybe not, considering how famously inaccurate N64 emulators are (they all use HLE code and kludges for getting games to run). Maybe when the two known LLE totally accurate emulators are released (Cen64 and MESS), then 'overclocking the CPU' in those emulators might give a true idea of what to expect from the hardware.

    BTW, Cen64's progress is documented in the thread www.emutalk.net/threads/54131-Announcement-Cycle-accurate-N64-development-underway , does anyone know if there's a progress report on MESS's N64 emulation, and also if there are any more LLE N64 emulators being made?
     
  10. smf

    smf mamedev

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    Two things have to be true before the game will generate more frames. First the game has to have been coded to check how much time has progressed since the last time a frame was generated. A lot of games will be coded like this way if the amount of detail is variable, so if it's running in 1 frame or 2 or 3 frames at a particular time the movement is the same over time.

    Secondly the timing source that the game is using for it's reference time has to be independent from the overclock. If it's clocked at the same rate as the CPU then speeding the CPU up will also speed up how much time the CPU thinks is passing & you'll not get any extra frames unless you also patch the game to adjust it back to real time.
     
  11. Lionheart

    Lionheart Robust Member

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    There is a version of 1964 with overclocking options, i hardly use it though

    I believe it's called "1964 Ultrafast"
     
  12. Vectorman0

    Vectorman0 Newly Registered

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    I overclocked my N64 many years ago only because I to get better performance out of GoldenEye and Perfect Dark. It doesn't make those games run smoother, it makes them run faster. So at 1.5x, if you finish a level in 40 seconds (going by your a real clock), the in game timer will read 60 seconds (50% more). This is pretty easy to test in both of the games I mentioned.

    I'm not sure if this is the case for all games. I got rid of that modded N64 since I didn't have any use for it after that discovery.
     

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