Applause broke out from the crowd at GTC 2019 when NVIDIA showcased a modded version of Quake II with overhauled graphics featuring real-time ray tracing and HDR visuals. Quake II RTX, as it is called, looks almost like a completely different game than the original version that launched over two decades ago. It was an impressive demo for sure, but NVIDIA has bigger plans for the mod.
"Our goal is to publish an open source version of Quake II RTX," Principal DevTech Engineer and Quake II RTX's lead programmer, Alexey Panteleev, told AusGamers in an interview.
That will be a remarkable gift to both Quake II fans and modders alike. Despite its age, there is still a bunch of interest in Quake II, which has seen various mods and tweaks over the years. Adding RTX technology to the mix and throwing it into the open source community will breathe new life into the decades old game, particularly now that NVIDIA is supporting DXR on GTX cards from the current (Turing) and previous (Pascal) generation of GPUs.
Ray tracing is computationally demanding, so DXR on a GTX card is of limited use, as far as actual playability is concerned. The bigger upshot is that someone who owns a GTX card can enable ray-traced visuals in supported games to see if the visual upgrade is tempting enough to buy a newer RTX card.
Quake II, however, is a much older game and far less demanding than current titles like Battlefield V and Metro Exodus. We have not seen any benchmarks with the ray-traced mod, but we would be surprised if it proved to be too much for a GTX card. It will just depend on how many RTX effects NVIDIA bakes into the final release.
Quake II RTX is based on a Quake II Pathtraced (Q2VKPT) proof-of-concept mod created by Christoph Schied, a Ph.D. student at the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology in Germany and former NVIDIA intern. NVIDIA expanded the mod in a number of ways, adding "a lot" to it.
"We’ve introduced real-time, controllable time of day lighting, with accurate sunlight and indirect illumination; refraction on water and glass; emissive, reflective and transparent surfaces; normal and roughness maps for added surface detail; particle and laser effects for weapons; procedural environment maps featuring mountains, sky and clouds, which are updated when the time of day is changed; a flare gun for illuminating dark corners where enemies lurk; an improved denoiser; SLI support (hands-up if you rolled with Voodoo 2 SLI back in the day); Quake 2 XP high-detail weapons, models and textures; optional NVIDIA Flow fire, smoke and particle effects, and much more!," NVIDIA said at GTC 2019.
So, it's conceivable that Quake II RTX will be rather demanding as well when all is said in done, though given the age of the game, we still think it will end up running fine on Pascal hardware. Time will tell.