Mega-Hit Minecraft Looks Amazing With Ray Tracing Makeover On NVIDIA RTX

Minecraft Ray Tracing
One of the most popular games ever made is getting a big-time facelift. At Gamescom, NVIDIA announced it has been working with Mojang and Microsoft to bring real-time ray tracing to Minecraft, the world's best selling video game, transforming colorful, block-filled worlds into richer landscapes with realistic lighting effects.

This is Minecraft as you have never seen it before, and perhaps never envisioned. Since Minecraft is not particularly demanding to begin with, NVIDIA has opted to refit the entire game with path tracing, a compute-intensive form of ray tracing. In other words, this is full-scene ray tracing and not a hybrid implementation.

NVIDIA did the same thing with Quake II RTX, and just as with that game, the difference in visual fidelity is dramatic. To this point, ray tracing effects have mostly been implemented into parts of games, such as windows and puddles, working alongside traditional rasterized rendering. Minecraft, however, presents an opportunity to go whole hog with ray tracing.

"Ray tracing sits at the center of what we think is next for Minecraft," said Saxs Persson, Franchise Creative Director of Minecraft at Microsoft. "RTX gives the Minecraft world a brand-new feel to it. In normal Minecraft, a block of gold just appears yellow, but with ray tracing turned on, you really get to see the specular highlight, you get to see the reflection, you can even see a mob reflected in it."

Since this is a full-scene implementation, just about everything gets a visual upgrade. Global illumination adds depth to blocks, shading and shadowing lend themselves to lifelike accuracy (as much as possible in a world like Minecraft), and of course water, glass, and other reflective surfaces gain accurate real-time reflections from their surroundings.

Here's an example of what Minecraft looks without and with RTX enabled...

Minecraft RTX Off
Minecraft RTX On
Minecraft RTX Compare

You can also play around with three interactive examples, each with sliders to compare having RTX off and on, here, here, and here.

In addition, NVIDIA says ray tracing will be moddable when it comes to Minecraft. This will enable players to generate ray-traced content for themselves and to share with others, effectively opening up new design possibilities.. NVIDIA envisions "a spooky ravine that fades into darkness, filled with hostile mobs drawn to the light of the player's torch," and other such scenarios.

Interestingly, the ray tracing announcement comes a mere week after Microsoft and Mojang cancelled a "Super Duper Graphics Pack" upgrade to Mojang, saying it "proved too technically demanding to implement." Part of that could have been because it was an attempt to roll out an upgrade across multiple platforms.

In this case, ray tracing is arriving to Minecraft on Windows 10 PCs only. It will be a free update, though NVIDIA did not say exactly when it will arrive. A release must be close, however, as Gamescom attendees have an opportunity to play Minecraft with ray tracing enabled.