NVIDIA has an obviously vested interest in seeing ray-traced gaming take off in a big way, as the higher end versions of its latest generation Turing cards are primed for that very thing—all of the RTX models sport dedicated RT and Tensor cores for real-time ray tracing and Deep Learning Super Sampling (DLSS). So, it's no surprise that NVIDIA took the reins of a ray-traced mod for Quake II and ran with it. In just a few weeks, you'll be able to play Quake II like never before.
As we've reported on before, Quake II RTX is based on a Quake II Pathtraced (Q2VKPT) proof-of-concept model created by Christoph Schied, a Ph.D. student at the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology in Germany, and who is also a former NVIDIA intern. NVIDIA expanded the mod in a number of ways, adding "a lot" to it, such as real-time, controllable night of day lighting, accurate sunlight, refraction on water and glass, and a whole lot more.
"Quake II RTX is an expression of our love and passion for PC gaming," said Matt Wuebbling, head of GeForce marketing at NVIDIA. "By applying next-generation ray-traced graphics technologies and using the Vulkan API, we are able to share this PC classic with a new generation of gamers who can download and play it for free."
Sure, Quake II is over two decades old at this point. But if there is such a thing as a cult classic in the PC gaming space, Quake II would qualify. The addition of ray-traced visuals breathes new life into this classic title, with a level of visual fidelity that simply did not exist at the time it initially came out (at least not in the consumer space).
Quake II RTX is more than just a coat of makeup, however. Here's a neat video NVIDIA put together that explains some of what went into making this a reality...
Though Quake II is more than 20 years old, adding a proper implementation of real-time ray tracing still requires some relatively burly hardware. To play it, NVIDIA says users will need at least a GeForce RTX 2060 graphics card. That is the lowest end Turing SKU with specialized RT cores—it's now technically possible to do real-time ray tracing on NVIDIA's GTX cards (Turing and Pascal), but without dedicated hardware for the task, there is just not enough horsepower for a smooth ray-traced gaming experience.
What's also neat about Quake II RTX is that it paves the way for other existing games to get ray-traced visuals.
"Quake II RTX uses NVIDIA VKRay, an extension that allows any developer using the Vulkan API to add ray-traced effects to their games. Building on Q2VKPT, a version of the game created by Christoph Schied using the open-sourced Quake II game engine, Quake II RTX is a pure ray-traced game that runs on a Vulkan renderer with support for Linux," NVIDIA explains.
Itching to give it a try? You'll get your chance very soon—Quake II RTX comes out as a free download on June 6, 2019.