Video game graphics have come a long way over the years, but we'll always have a soft spot for the smudgy polygons of the nineties. With the hardware limitations of the PS1 and N64, developers had to invent some ingenious world-building hacks – and some of them are only just being discovered today.
Using an emulator with a camera cheat, one gamer was able to reveal how the effect of the sky was created in N64 classic The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time. And it turns out the sky isn't just the limit – it's also limited. (Want to experience the best graphics around today? Check out the latest PS5 restock news.)
This has always been my favorite peek behind the curtain in OoT. The skybox is just a small rotating cube that encloses the camera, and draws behind everything else. Here it is in the real cam's position and viewed from outside with a free cam cheat. It's so convincing! pic.twitter.com/0j6AlnctDGAugust 30, 2022
Rather than a giant, all-encompassing entity, it turns out the sky is in fact a (game) cube. In one of the most ingenious gaming optical illusions we've seen, the sky is revealed simply to be an open square which sits in front of the camera, and behind every other object in the game. The cube rotates to create the impression of clouds moving.
Using the camera hack, gamer Daniel Baamonde was able to change the position of the camera, zooming out to reveal the bizarre floating cube of sky. And while many gamers have responded to Baamonde explaining that the 'sky box' is a common technique used by game developers, it isn't often that you actually get to see how it works.
Gamers have been taking the opportunity to marvel at the ingenuity displayed in early 3D level design. "I love the N64. Devs back then were inventing how to make 3D games and the ingenuity they used to make that happen is endlessly fascinating," one user tweets, while another adds, "I just love these 'magic trick' solutions to old hardware restrictions."
Indeed, with the rise of emulation and the resurgence of retro gaming, fans have been peeking behind the curtains of some of their favourite games lately. Zelda's trippy sky cube reminds us of the PlayStation logo viewed from behind (although it's not quite as cursed as that example). Still, not even this year's new game are immune from weird graphical quirks – the less said about the people in Gran Turismo 7, the better.