Far Lands: Minecraft’s Almighty 4K Render Distance

Minecraft [official site] with mind-blisteringly distant horizons, rendered to 4,000 blocks, looks like a different game. The world stretches in every direction, full of mystery and possibilities. The puniness of your constructions is laid bare as the enormity of nature seems prepared to swallow them whole. It’s stunning, as you can see in the video below.

I’m not a fully paid up member of the photorealism club but that’s not to say I don’t get excited by the right kind of graphical tomfoolery. There are three things that make me particularly happy: funky particle effects, good skyboxes and enormous draw distances. Mad Max has given me enough glorious burning skies to keep me happy for years. F.E.A.R.’s particle effects were as essential to the intensity of its firefights as the barks and cries of the soldiers. And now Minecraft has emerged as a surprise victor in the Draw Distance stakes.

Except this is an impossible dream, right? Youtuber JL2579 uploaded the video above, which uses the Windows 10 edition of Minecraft, and some tweaks to the game’s settings to allow view distances that seem to go on forever. To me, this isn’t just a gimmick – I’m a wanderer rather than a builder in Minecraft, and some of my favourite moments have involved looking back at the places I’ve been, picking out landmarks and even buildings off in the distance.

Unfortunately, Minecraft being what it is, the usual distance isn’t very…distant. I can’t travel for weeks and then pick out the first tower I built, miles away but visible at the top of the region’s highest peak. With these kind of settings, I could.

I haven’t even installed the Windows 10 edition of the game yet because I can’t plug all of my favourite mods straight in. The game is built in C++, like the Pocket Edition, rather than the Java of the original game, which means that mods aren’t cross-compatible. It also means that this kind of distance rendering is possible where it might not be in Java. I’d say “definitely isn’t possible in Java” but I’m not entirely sure – this very different interpretation of 4K Java Minecraft isn’t quite what I’m after.

The video set me to thinking though, about how what we do and what is possible in a game changes when technical limitations shift. Minecraft might attract a greater proportion of explorers, pioneers and archaeologists if the world were laid out in front of them like a promise. I’d certainly spend more time hacking through its jungles, tracing the great rivers to their source and attempting to conquer every mountain.

If you want to try this yourself, you’ll need Win 10 Minecraft and you’ll need to edit the file in the following location: C:\Users\(Your Username)\AppData\Local\Packages\Microsoft.MinecraftUWP_(Random Characters)\LocalState\games\com.mojang\minecraftpe\options.txt.

Change the “gfx_renderdistance_new:” to whatever your desired block render distance is.

And is it me or does the world look like it curves toward the horizon? An optical illusion based on expectation perhaps because these worlds are surely as flat as the surface of a die.

39 Comments

  1. Premium User Badge

    Jerodar says:

    Looks amazing, but you can also tell that his framerate is suffering a lot :P
    The curvature is most likely caused because he has increased his FoV btw.

    • c-Row says:

      That probably explains the weird fish eye effect I was wondering about.

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      corinoco says:

      Curvature will happen in any perspective view: it’s the only way straight lines can ‘bend’ towards a vanishing point.

      • Gap Gen says:

        That said it would be useful to include a horizon (even if it’s completely artificial in a game that’s completely flat until you hit integer limits). You could cull a lot of geometry naturally by having it disappear behind a horizon.

      • saberopus says:

        Lines don’t “bend” towards vanishing points in any perspective view. In this case, it’s distance fog that’s occluding more of the left and right sides of the view because they’re further outside the radius of that sphere, right?

        • Jeroen D Stout says:

          You are right, though the type of models (boxes) Minecraft uses make it easy for non-linear view projections. I have seen some very strange shader effects done in it.

    • Ksempac says:

      Regarding framerate, it’s hard to tell exactly the impact as video recording can also take a huge toll (depending on which method is used).

  2. Premium User Badge

    Harlander says:

    The puniness of your constructions is laid bare as the enormity of nature seems prepared to swallow them whole.

    Good to see there’s someone out there who hates nature as much as I do ;)

    As for the 4K blocks view distance, it’s been a while since I’ve seen something make a computer grind to a halt with the effort of displaying something. I wonder what kind of hardware you’d need to run that smoothly?

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      Adam Smith says:

      Nature, always getting up in my face. I AM THE CITY

    • SuicideKing says:

      Load Arma 3 -> Altis terrain -> Set view distance to the max and Object view distance to the same -> turn objects, terrain, textures to high.

      Let me know if you get more than 1 fps. :P

      p.s. you can set the view distance to something high (6km or more) and set the object distance to 2km and get pretty good performance, but you’ll see a ton of object pop-in if you’re flying in a 2km radius around you.

    • Shadow says:

      It’s been many months since I last played Minecraft, but last time, the game struggled to actually load chunks sometimes, even if it was actually running at 60fps. I could move around smoothly, but sometimes I saw through the earth, seeing distant cave complexes and caverns floating in the void.

      Have they fixed that kind of thing or is this 4K draw distance just a currently implausible proof of concept?

      • Technofrood says:

        This is using the Windows 10 app version (based on the pocket edition) which was coded from scratch in C++, so its the version designed to run on phones running on desktop hardware.

      • PseudoKnight says:

        The chunk rendering bug was pretty much fixed over a year ago after a chunk sorting/rendering rewrite. They also improved chunk loading performance and increased the max view distance to 32 chunks / 512 blocks, not that anyone plays with that setting beyond taking a screenshot.

  3. MrFinnishDude says:

    Another reason the wait for the future computers by which we could play with this framerate at 60 fps. Oh lordy me. Thinking about how computers have evolved in just 20 years, I believe it will be possible.

    • MrFinnishDude says:

      Curse you no edit button, I meant that draw distance at 60 fps.

    • Enso says:

      Thatll never happen because no matter how good the computer, Minecraft is still a heap of Java garbage.

      • drinniol says:

        Um, no it’s not. That point is like half of the article dude, come on :P

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          keithzg says:

          Yeah, and we already have other clones like Minetest which are, like the Pocket/10 edition talked about here, are using far more optimal technology stacks for performance. And, with Minetest it’s an official setting to do this sort of extended view distance, in fact incrementally pushing the view fog closer or further or just outright disabling it is all mapped to keys by default!

  4. Gap Gen says:

    A decent level-of-detail engine for Minecraft (like this for a simple heightfield: link to wiki.jmonkeyengine.org) would be pretty nice, but I get that the engine right now is probably designed so that this would be pretty hard to implement. It is a shame like you say that you can’t see that far, so if you build a sprawling cityscape you can’t take it all in without an external renderer.

    • Gunrun says:

      I think the issue with that is that Minecraft’s world is made of distinct blocks, and you can’t simplify an individual block any more than it already is. Add that to the fact that the world is dynamically generated so you’d have to generate the LOD changes on the fly.

      • Reapy says:

        Look up the voxelfarm engine, this is what EQ Next/landmark is using, but the trick it does is changing voxels to polygons and then back again as needed.

        So you manipulate the world like it is voxels(like minecraft), but when drawing, it is converted as a polygon mesh, giving you traditional engine performance. Really cool stuff.

        • Razumen says:

          The Voxelfarm engine is really cool, and it’s quite interesting to read the blog of the guy behind it.

    • Urthman says:

      It’s not the same, but I feel like I’ve gotten some of this thrill about the enormous expanse of a gameworld by looking at it in some of the external map rendering software.

      For instance, try visiting the twentymine server (or better yet, download your own copy of their map) and exploring it with the isometric or Google map linked below open in another window.

      link to maps.twentymine.com

      • JB says:

        Or our very own uRPS map, of course: link to urps-minecraft.co.uk

      • aperson4321 says:

        Thanks for the idea, I am going to have a look at it in VR with my D2 rift.

        Hopefully it will be as cool as my visit to the custom map of the capitol city in game of thrones world. It actually feels like a visit, VR while puky is quite E-tourismy in terms of looking at the crazy stuff minecrafters build.

        Maybe RPS will do a VR visit of a minecraft map too and write an article about it, one can hope.

        (using the mod MineRift and creative mode in mincraft with a 360 controller with pinnacle)

  5. Premium User Badge

    DantronLesotho says:

    This is what I’ve wanted from Minecraft for so long. Even expanding it to 32 blocks from 16 makes a huge huge difference. If only this was in the regular version…

  6. albamuth says:

    Your eyes are spherical, and so is the focal plane of your optic nerve. Thus straight lines always appear to bend to us humans. Rendering engines that simulate cameras precisely tend to flatten out something we’d see in real life as curved, but 3-point perspectives will always curve a horizon line slightly, as long as you’re away from the plane of it (the more you are, the more curved it appears). Increasing the field of view of the virtual camera will also bend parallel lines more.

    This is the reason for entasis.

    • snowgim says:

      Actually I think it’s simpler than that. It’s because the distance fog is rendered in a cylinder around the view point, so the visible horizon is actually curved. But curved like the edge of a flat circle rather than the horizon of a sphere.

  7. snowgim says:

    I always thought reducing the detail of the landscape would help draw distances, like after a certain distance it renders a 2x2x2 block for every 8 block cube, then a bit further out a 4x4x4 block for every 64 block cube etc.
    Then again, I have no idea how it works so thats probably not easily done or something.

    • Sam says:

      The problem is getting those simplified blocks to look sufficiently like the “full resolution” version. If you have a tall narrow stone tower going through empty space is that going to be simplified to a large stone block or an empty block? Neither one is ideal, although Minecraft’s current solution of making distant stuff just vanish is horrible.

      I hope Microsoft make a full on Minecraft Two. There’s a much of interesting problems that could be solved by a good team of programmers. And currently any indie-types that try to solve them have their game drowned out by the great Minecraft clone floods.

      • Razumen says:

        Well, if they get the W10 version up to parity and then expand it further than the Java version ever could, they could effectively be Minecraft 2, moving to C in itself is a huge step forward for the game.

  8. geldonyetich says:

    Microsoft might have shot themselves in the foot by making the successor engine so hard to mod. Granted, it was probably fair enough to jump ship from JAVA for efficiency reasons, but come now: mods are the main reason Minecraft is still played.

    • Razumen says:

      Is it really harder to mod though? You have to remember that for the Java version modders had to wait for one group JUST to deobfuscate Notch’s code before they could actually do any work.

  9. rexx.sabotage says:

    I went through all the rigmarole to nab my ‘free’ copy to check this out. I started off with 4k and it brought my PC to it’s knees and crashed during world-gen. I then set it to 1k and it runs pretty good and still looks awesome. It is indeed a shame there are no mods or dedicated server software for the win10 beta.

  10. Timbrelaine says:

    Oh, wow. I had no idea they were remaking the engine. To be fair, that’s badly needed; Minecraft runs like a pig.

    On the other hand, Minecraft without mods isn’t that appealing. I hope the devs realize that.

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      Harlander says:

      Hopefully they’ll design and implement decent mod support from the start for the new version.

  11. nottorp says:

    So the windows 10 edition is done in native code and thus Windows only.
    That’s how Microsoft wants to recoup their investment, by making Minecrat exclusive to Windows in the future.
    Mac and Linux players, we need to find some other builder’s game to play…

    • Twirrim says:

      I wouldn’t worry just yet. I’m rather skeptical when it comes to Microsoft in general, but they’ve making good inroads in cross platform compilation. They just released Visual Studio Code: link to code.visualstudio.com which allows you to write completely cross-platform code (and works cross-platform too).