As immensely satisfying as battling your friends in a Goldeneye 007 deathmatch on the N64 was, all four players shared the same screen, which made sneaking around a level impossible. Twenty-five years after the game’s release, it turns out there is a way to give every GoldenEye player their own private screen—if you’ve got $10,000 of professional video gear at your disposal.
Although PC games like Doom or Rise of the Triad introduced multiplayer modes that have several gamers competing head-to-head years before both the Nintendo N64 and GoldeneEye 007 were released, multiplayer for those games required both a computer capable of playing the cutting-edge games of the time, as well as access to a network of some sort to connect a bunch of PCs together. Goldeneye 007 was not only a fantastic game in its own right with a very enjoyable single player experience, but it was also the first game to truly bring the FPS multiplayer experience to a console (sorry, Faceball 2000). And while the N64 wasn’t cheap, it was definitely more affordable than a decked out PC at the time, and you only needed one to get a four-player match going.
Multiplayer on a console before everything was connected to the internet wasn’t perfect, however. Four players had to share the same screen, which eliminated some FPS strategies like finding a secret place to camp and snipe at opponents. Those compromises were outweighed by the sheer fun of every player being crowded onto the same couch trash-talking each other, but if you’ve ever wondered what a round of GoldenEye 007 multiplayer with private screens would be like, you’re not alone.
Luckily, Cambridge’s The Centre for Computing History, which bills itself as the “UK’s largest computer and video games museum,” will be answering that question during a special exhibition it’s holding this weekend to celebrate the game’s 25th anniversary. As part of the event, the museum will be displaying concept art, development documents, and potentially even a remastered version of GoldenEye 007 for the Xbox 360 running on a development kit. But the bigger reason to go is to get a chance to finally play 007 multiplayer on a custom setup that gives every player their own private screen. The museum has managed to get its hands on roughly $10,000 worth of pro-grade video scaling and distribution hardware that takes the single analog video output of the N64 and splits and repositions it across four separate monitors.
Even with resolution scaling hardware at the museum’s disposal, the experience won’t exactly be a treat for the eyes, given the N64 played 007 at a paltry resolution of 320×237 pixels, which is then chopped into four smaller screens for multiplayer. It will, however, completely eliminate screencheating (which you might know as screenlooking or screenwatching), and may force some players to come up with new strategies altogether. Now that we’re a quarter century out from the game’s debut, though, even GoldenEye 007 veterans are probably going to find their skills a little rusty when they jump back in to the Facility.
The museum will also be holding a “25 Years of GoldenEye Dev Talk Evening” on Saturday, May 7th. The talk will feature three of the game’s original development team—Martin Hollis, Dr. David Doak, and Brett Jones—and will include an opportunity for questions such as “who was the developer responsible for the ‘slappers only’ multiplayer mode?” If you’ll happen to be in the Cambridge area this weekend, tickets for the talk can be bought here.