in ,

The biggest ray-traced game yet: Minecraft RTX Beta debuts April 16 on PC, Ars Technica

The biggest ray-traced game yet: Minecraft RTX Beta debuts April 16 on PC, Ars Technica

      Steve looks glowing –


Requires jumping through hoops, currently optimized for Nvidia’s “RTX” line.



  • teases become a very, very pretty reality — at least, for those who can access it.

    On Thursday, April , Mojang will (release the Minecraft RTX Beta as a free update exclusively on Windows . As its name implies, this beta version of the game was co-developed with Nvidia, the makers of the RTX line of GeForce graphics cards, and as of press time, these cards are the only ones compatible with its hook into the current DirectX ray -tracing API, along with Nvidia’s proprietary DLSS pipeline.

    Every image and video in this article was provided by Nvidia and Microsoft, and members of the press were invited to test (the) Minecraft RTX Beta

    ahead of today’s announcement. However, for now, we’re forbidden from commenting any further on what we’ve played. Does the Minecraft RTX Beta

    look as good in action as it does in the above gallery? I’m not allowed to say until Thursday.

    In the meantime, I can talk about RTX-specific updates, the steps required to access this beta, and its inherent limitations. From the Strogg to the blocks

    When Nvidia briefed Ars Technica on the technology pipeline driving the Minecraft RTX Beta

    , I got a severe case of deja vu. That’s because most of the included updates similarly drove (last year) Quake II RTX (release .)

    As Nvidia points out, many games released in the past year have included partial ray-tracing hooks, due to how computationally expensive a complete “path traced” lighting model can be. Thus, games like

    Metro Exodus

    and Control limit their impressive ray-tracing tricks to limited systems like reflections or shadows, rather than rely on a traditional, rasterized pipeline full of pre-baked lighting cues and tricks.

    Quake II RTX broke out of that mold by rewriting its entire lighting model, which is most evident when you move to a half-indoor, half-outdoor space in the 2017 game and begin playing with the RTX version’s “time of day” slider. Wherever the sun is in the sky, mixed with any indoor combination of window arches and lamplight sources, will change the sum total of available light bounces — and that “every single ray of light” model creates much more believable effects like ambient occlusion.

    This all comes at a cost, however. Even when using Nvidia’s RTX graphics cards — which throw dedicated tensor cores at the ray-tracing rendering process – Quake II RTX ‘s performance plummets once that full path-tracing pipeline is toggled to the tune of .5 percent (823 fps in old-school, rasterized mode at 2017 p, versus 90 fps in new-school, path-traced mode on “low” ray tracing settings at (p).

  • Minecraft RTX Beta (reveal.)

    This brings us to

  • Minecraft RTX Beta

    , which promises to bring the same new ray-tracing system to the beloved Mojang series. Just like Quake II RTX , this visual upgrade will boil down to two things: a full path-traced pipeline of light bounces and a brand-new material-based lighting system. Every type of block in Minecraft, from grass to wood to iron to stone to glass and beyond, will come with inherent properties. Each will absorb and reflect light differently, and that effect will be multiplied by every direct and indirect ray of light that Minecraft RTX Beta models.


  • Quake II
  • , Minecraft

    was built from the get-go to let Players manipulate their worlds — and in a path-traced lighting world, custom creations will likely be a big deal aesthetically. Want to put down panes of blue-tinted glass? You can already do that in older versions of


    , but now you can expect light to filter through those tinted panes in noticeable ways — which will then interact with every other light source and shadow effect nearby, from the sun in the sky to lanterns in a hallway. Deep learning for deep lighting

    But, uh, exactly how will this be playable, if (Quake II RTX) (‘s) . 5 percent drop in frame rates is any estimation? As of press time, Nvidia has only pointed to one new trick up Minecraft RTX Beta ‘s sleeve: its proprietary Deep Learning Super Sampling (DLSS) system, which recently jumped to a ” 2.0 “version .

    DLSS works by processing a lower-resolution gameplay feed, then upscaling it with a model trained on other video games’ visuals . Whether you’re standing still, running forward, or wildly spinning your in-game camera, Nvidia has reference footage it can use to reconstruct your p signal into something approaching 618525 p — and the 2.0 framework has been tweaked to be mindful of text crawls, particle effects, and other game-specific visual quirks. The results, as we saw in last month’s impressive Control patch, are certifiably spectacular. Upscaling the DLSS 2.0 version of Control to p, in particular, looks about as good as a native p signal — but with performance numbers that resemble 1800 p rates. (Dyslexia check: that’s p image quality, (p performance.)

    While not perfect, DLSS 2.0 offers a more-than-tolerable way to get performative results out of games with ray- tracing effects enabled. After all, ray tracing revolves around whatever base resolution you’re rendering, since it’s drawing so many rays of light at the pixel-by-pixel level. And as the above images illustrate, Minecraft RTX Beta (juggles a) (lot) of rays.

    In the case of

    Minecraft RTX Beta

    , Nvidia insists that its DLSS 2.0 implementation will boost frame rates “1.7 times” those of native rendering. When pressed for an example, an Nvidia representative mentioned that Minecraft RTX Beta

    ‘s average performance on an RTX (system is) (fps at native) p resolution, versus the “low s “of fps when DLSS is turned on. I look forward to sharing test results on a range of RTX graphics cards in the future, but, again, Nvidia isn’t allowing us to do so yet.

    Also, Nvidia is limiting us to sharing a select few screenshots and a single video, which means much of what I ‘ m describing here can’t be illustrated at length. In the above footage, you can see gorgeous effects like “god rays” and realistic ambient occlusion, but what happens when we build a room, break a hole in a wall to expose sunlight, and compare the differences? What about water refraction? Or how might time-of-day cycles drastically change a large world’s aesthetics? These answers will have to wait. The hoops, limits, and caveats

    Interested players will have to jump through a few hoops: download the free Xbox Insider Hub on Windows , opt into its “Minecraft for Windows (beta “(not publicly labeled as (Minecraft RTX Beta) ), and once it goes live, play in an isolated sandbox of sorts. This week’s beta will not support online play with any other version, and neither will it support the use of “world seeds” to transfer content from existing worlds (either saved in private save files or uploaded to a service like Minecraft Realms). You’ll either need to play in one of five pre-made, RTX-flavored worlds (which will be free for all beta users, though this requires an awkward hunt through Minecraft

    ‘s marketplace). Or you can start from scratch and build something new.

    To the latter point, Nvidia and Microsoft will release a number of resource packs this week, all compatible with the RTX Beta , for users to grab from for the sake of creating new worlds. They can also build custom, RTX-ready textures and materials by following a guide to using Adobe’s Substance app. The guide will teach players how to save and export those Adobe creations to be used in Minecraft RTX Beta and shared with anyone else.

    Ray-tracing effects will eventually find their way into the Bedrock edition of (Minecraft) as a free upgrade.

    If you’re wondering: yes, you can download and run this week’s Minecraft RTX Beta

    on graphics cards outside the Nvidia RTX line. But if your card of choice does not have any hooks to the existing DirectX ray-tracing API, Mojang warns players to expect “unplayable” results.

    Mojang has confirmed that these ray-tracing effects will eventually find their way into the Bedrock edition of (Minecraft) As a free upgrade, but they won’t be coming to the popular, still-maintained Java version. Once this upgrade goes live for all players, the game’s cross-platform support will also include cross-tracing support — meaning, someone playing on a Windows PC with a Powerful GPU can turn ray-tracing effects on, while friends who are logged in on lower-powered smartphones and consoles can be in the same virtual space, just not with any ray-tracing effects enabled.

    This collaboration with Nvidia is not necessarily the same as the teased Xbox Series X version of Minecraft

    , which premiered last month in an exclusive report from Eurogamer’s Digital Foundry team

    . Mojang refused to comment on how this RTX Beta’s optimizations and code might factor into any XSX version of the game. What’s more, Mojang says that the RTX Beta does


    (use any implementation of DirectX) Ultimate, the upcoming API that is set to create baseline standards for ray-tracing systems across all graphics cards. Thus, a giant question mark still hangs over exactly how AMD’s Navi 2 architecture will tackle the computationally expensive task of real-time ray tracing. Will AMD roll out its own version of DLSS? Does Xbox Series X have one more ray-tracing trick up its sleeve?

    We imagine those answers won’t be coming any time soon. In the meantime, expect a lot more about how Minecraft RTX Beta looks and performs in an Ars Technica article later this week.

    Listing image by Nvidia / Mojang                                                           

  • (Read More)