Those who know how to successfully hack will attempt to do so on just about anything. This past year, one hacker with a love for retro video games teamed up with his friends to transform a Chevrolet Volt into a fully-responsive game controller for Mario Kart 64. Using a small, simple computer and a Nintendo 64 emulator, Adam Ringwood was able to play the old-school title using the steering wheel, light switches, and brake pedal of the car.
During the HackIllinois event last year, Ringwood and a group of his fellow hacker friends sought out to drive a Chevy Volt in Mario Kart 64. First, they utilized the Chevy Volt's internal CAN bus to map out the car's dashboard controls. From there, the team connected a single-board Raspberry Pi computer (which was running the aforementioned Nintendo 64 emulator) to the controls. Apparently knowing this can be quite tricky, as the emulator will automatically search for console controller inputs, the group employed an add-on board to bridge the gaps between the Volt's OBDII port and CAN bus and the computer itself.
After tracking down and locating the data signals from inside the car, Ringwood and his team of well-meaning hackers set up shop in the Chevy Volt. They stuck to seemingly straightforward game hacking methods, easily overriding the brake pedals and light switches to become controls that would work in Mario Kart 64, including a way to destroy your opponents with a sneaky throw of a blue shell. The team explained the breakdown of controls:
"The accelerator is the accelerator, and the brakes are the brakes, and the steering wheel is the steering. And the high beams make the car jump, and the windshield wipers [are for] when you throw an object forward. We didn't actually map something to throw something backward yet."
Reflecting on the weekend, and the fact that he and his team won HackIllinois with their Mario Kart 64 rig, Ringwood wrote a post on AvidHacker. In it he discussed that while most of the job was relatively easy, perfecting the steering wheel was tough.
"The hardest control to change from the [physical] car to the emulator was the steering wheel. The emulator only supported two button presses, one to go right and the other to go left. When the steering wheel, however, reported how far way from center it was."
This resulted in early complications for the player behind the wheel, as no matter how far they turned the wheel, their character wouldn't turn any faster in relation. The team bypassed this issue by avoiding continuous button-pressing, and their hack went off without a hitch. Ringwood stated that the team "had a lot of fun building . . . and more fun playing."
An impressive feat on its own, Ringwood and co.'s Mario Kart 64 car hack sits among a ton of other Nintendo 64 hacks completed. In years past, a group of hackers managed to link an Xbox One with N64 controllers. Similarly, gaming fans have successfully wiggled their tech skills into titles like Fallout 4, using in-game passwords, and Watch Dogs with hacking-by-sight. But with Mario Kart Deluxe 8 set to hit the Nintendo Switch console in the near future, perhaps gamers can default to battling against their friends from the backseat of the car, rather than using the car to do the actual racing.
Mario Kart 64 is available on Nintendo 64.
Source: Gordon Hlavenka – YouTube