Just last week, Mojang announced they had cancelled Minecraft's Super Duper cross-platform graphics pack, citing too many technical difficulties in getting it all up and running. Well, there's sort of good news for those of you still yearning for a good-looking version of the blocky sensation, as Nvidia have just announced the Windows 10 edition of the game will be getting official real-time ray tracing support in a free update very soon, and have released a shiny, highly reflective trailer showing it all off. Have a gander below.
Much like the unofficial ray tracing Minecraft fan mod that was released back in May, Nvidia's official ray tracing update will use a thing called 'path tracing' for all its RTX gubbins, which is the same kind of ray tracing they used in Quake II RTX. According to Nvidia, path tracing "unifies all lighting effects (shadows, reflections, etc) into a single 'pure ray tracing algorithm'". In other words, everything's ray traced and there aren't any traditional lighting techniques or VFX effects used whatsoever.
"Ray tracing sits at the centre 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."
It certainly looks impressive in action - I particularly like the hot glow of the lava and the shining glint of certain ores - but given how demanding Quake II RTX is on the old graphics card front, I do have concerns over how easy Minecraft's RTX update will be to run. After all, with real-time global illumination lighting, real-time reflections and life-like atmospheric effects all going on at the same time, I reckon you're going to need a pretty hefty RTX graphics card to handle it all at once. I will, of course, be doing a thorough test of the game's RTX performance once the update is available, but here's hoping you'll still get reasonable ray tracing performance on both lower-end RTX cards and Nvidia's Turing-based GTX 16-series cards.
The good news, at least, is that the game's ray tracing support will also be moddable, allowing technically-minded players to add all these effects to their own mods as well as create other ray-tracing-enabled mods in the future.
Minecraft isn't the only game joining Nvidia's list of confirmed ray tracing games today, though, as they also announced Dying Light 2, Synced: Off Planet and Metro Exodus' DLC, The Two Colonels, will be getting ray tracing support, too.