Minecraft RTX beta is now available

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Users of Nvidia’s RTX graphics cards are for fun today: a beta version of the fully tracked version of Minecraft is available, providing users with unhindered access to a version of the game running the DirectX ray tracing API. In combination with the launch, the main creators of Minecraft have teamed up with Nvidia to present the tracing of paths with a spectacular effect, with six custom maps available for download on the Minecraft market. In addition to this, this version also sees the beginnings of physically based materials. Downloading one of the designer cards released today automatically adds these textures to the game, but users can also create their own materials and “load them sideways” into the game.

Let’s not mince words here – path tracing in Minecraft is one of the most transformative uses of ray tracing we’ve seen. Although the basic visuals themselves are rather simplistic (it’s Minecraft after all), that means there is an overabundance of GPU power that can be used to push the ray effects traced to extreme levels. Most RT-compatible games use a combination of standard screening techniques with additional ray-tracing functionality – hybrid rendering, if desired. In Minecraft RTX, everything is traced: each element is realistic, properly lit – and as you will see in the integrated video below, the extent of this implementation produces effects that we have never seen in games before.

Of course, we’ve seen different flavors of ray tracing in Minecraft before, starting with an initial rendition of the Java version of the game that may well have served as inspiration for the “real deal.” However, although impressive as a starting point, he still used rasterization for geometry and for the first bounce of light, and as a result, the shadows were not drawn by rays either. All skinned objects were also screened, so screen reflections and overall screen lighting were mixed to cover patterns and transparencies like grass. In fact, only the rebound lighting was drawn, and only from the blocks.

Welcome to Alex Battaglia’s home for fun plotting as Digital Foundry takes you on a tour of Minecraft RTX’s path-tracking technology.

In contrast, almost everything in Minecraft RTX is plotted, and the execution here is a top-level thing – even when stacked against Nvidia’s own work with Quake 2 RTX. Hardware acceleration allows for a much higher degree of fidelity and the light crossing can be mapped to many additional bounces for even more remarkable effects. A time-based “irradiance cache” maps the path of light across multiple images, allowing up to eight bounces of light, allowing for a “mirror room” effect when multiple reflective surfaces are at play – even reflections spoon type are possible. In addition to this, volumetric lighting based on voxels is integrated with traced lighting for a deeply impressive divine style effect.

Of course, we saw an offshoot of this DXR version of Minecraft playing out in an Xbox Series X technology demo, where at native 1080p resolution, the new Microsoft console offered variable frame rates north of 30 frames per second . An ambitious ray tracing solution requires a lot of GPU muscle and as you would expect, the same goes for the beta version of Minecraft RTX. This is where Nvidia’s DLSS 2.0 technology helps to ensure that any RTX graphics card can still deliver a high frame rate experience.

It’s usually possible that there are several quality modes available in DLSS 2.0 compatible titles, but things are reduced to the beta version – which we hope is a temporary affair with all the features deployed for the final game. As it stands, the output resolution is set by your choice of desktop resolution (in common with many DX12 efforts from Microsoft) and from there DLSS rebuilds from a predefined lower resolution. So effectively, 1080p DLSS rebuilds from 720p, while 1440p jumps to 835p. Moving to full 4K, it is reconstructed from native 1080p. These numbers may seem low, but we’ve talked in the past about the effectiveness of Nvidia’s new AI scaling algorithm – and with the relatively simplistic aesthetic of Minecraft, DLSS 2.0 easily goes for rendering in native resolution.

Much of the work invested in Minecraft RTX has translated directly into the Minecraft DXR technology demo for Xbox Series X.

Therefore, there are few issues when running the beta version of Minecraft RTX on a desktop RTX card and to get an overview of the overall performance of the stack, we tested the beta version at the ends of the stack RTX. The bottom line is that an RTX 2080 Ti can run 4K DLSS at 60 frames per second on most content (we only saw drops in the 1950s moving underwater), while 1080p DLSS on a RTX 2060 desktop computer produces equivalent performance. The only potential problem we could see would be running Minecraft RTX on the portable version of RTX 2060 – which is a bit slower than its desktop equivalent (a native DLSS 540p performance mode that resolves to 1080p should, however, resolve this problem). In short, Minecraft RTX offers the best of both worlds – you can see the hardware-accelerated version pushing the boundaries in terms of fidelity, while Nvidia’s all-new AI scaling technology does a great job. good job of mitigating the impact on performance.

The only other factor worth commenting on is that path tracking is not only costly in computation – it also requires memory. The RTX 2060 has 6 GB of GDDR6 VRAM, which is good for 1080p DLSS rendering, and while 1440p performance has worked well given the additional pixels, hopes for a 4K30 experience have been dashed. In this scenario, we saw a lot of stuttering when the game ran out of available memory. To operate in 4K with constant performance, an 8 GB RTX card is recommended.

The beta version of Minecraft RTX is now available (download the instructions here) and we had a lot of fun with it. As you’ll see in our embedded video, just using Minecraft’s tools to experiment with how light is rendered in the game produces all kinds of fascinating effects – we even made a pinhole camera effect work. Meanwhile, the six designer cards are used to show what the path-plotting effect can offer when complete Minecraft levels are specifically built around new rendering technology. Nvidia tells us that more than 15 million RTX cards have been shipped at this point – so if you are one of these users, we strongly recommend that you check out this beta.



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