Minecraft Will Receive Nvidia-Exclusive RTX Update for Raytracing Support


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Last week, Mojang announced that the Minecraft Super Duper Graphics Pack (SDGP) that Microsoft had promised back in 2017 was canceled, permanently. No additional information was offered on why the update was canceled, or what the team had been working on for the past two years before canceling it. As of today, Nvidia has announced that it will be developing an exclusive ray tracing pack for Minecraft for Nvidia GPU owners.

Mojang’s announcement states: “It’ll be playable on Windows 10 with devices that are capable of DirectX R, such as with an NVIDIA GeForce RTX GPU (and we plan to expand it to future platforms that support DirectX R raytracing).”

Presumably, DirectX R is a reference to DXR, which is the official name for DirectX ray tracing. RTX is Nvidia’s brand-name for its implementation of the Microsoft DXR standard. We imagine AMD will introduce its own branding or simply use the DXR moniker when it launches support. Speaking of AMD, we don’t know if the “future platforms” is a reference to systems like the PS5 and Xbox Next or whether it’s a reference to Big Navi, which is expected to debut next year.

“Ray tracing sits at the center of what we think is next for Minecraft,” said Saxs Persson, head creative director for Minecraft at Microsoft. “GeForce 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.”

Minecraft-RTX-versus-Off

The screenshot above shows the impact of having RTX enabled versus disabled, with the divider halfway down the screen. RTX-enabled is on the right.

There’s likely a relationship between the cancellation of the SDGP and Nvidia’s announcement that it will provide a path tracing solution for Minecraft, but there’s no indication of what the exact relationship was. The SDGP was in development for a long time and Mojang was always very tight-lipped about its progress. Developer communication on this point, when it occurred, amounted to “nothing to report, full engine updates are very complicated and you’ll see it when it’s closer to done than it is now.”

It’s possible that Nvidia saw the work being done by third-party modders to integrate ray tracing into Minecraft, was inspired by it, and reached out to Mojang about the possibility directly. But even if Mojang liked the idea, it’s highly unlikely that the company would cancel two years worth of work on its own overhaul. But all of this is rather confusing because Mojang announced the launch of its own new rendering pipeline as part of its overall RTX graphics cardSEEAMAZON_ET_135 See Amazon ET commerce support. The Bedrock version of Minecraft will be updated with a new graphics rendering pipeline, codenamed Render Dragon.

In other words: When Microsoft announced the Super Duper Graphics Pack, it announced that the SDGP would be introduced alongside a new graphics engine implemented in the Bedrock version of the game. Earlier this year, we covered an extensive path tracing Minecraft mod that turned the game into a vision of beauty. Now, Nvidia has cut a deal with Mojang to build an RTX-powered version of the game and Mojang has killed the SDGP, but will still introduce the updated rendering engine the SDGP was expected to use.

If we had to guess, we’d guess that Mojang’s comments about DXR compatibility refer to other consoles, or at least the Xbox Next. Nvidia isn’t going to do any work to provide ray tracing support on a non-Nvidia GPU, but Microsoft is unlikely to invest heavily in a ray-tracing update for Minecraft that can’t run on its own Xbox Next. Whatever gets hammered out between them, it wouldn’t surprise us if AMD GPU customers who don’t game on consoles are out of luck with this one. Modders have already created a path-traced version of Minecraft that looks extraordinary, so at least third-party options will continue to be available.

The RTX-powered version of Minecraft should arrive sometime in 2020. Hopefully, Nvidia will pay better attention to performance optimization than it did in Quake II — that particular game runs quite slowly, despite the age of the underlying engine. Minecraft’s greatest strength is its ability to play on anything, and as great as it is to see features like path tracing, we hope Nvidia can offer them without destroying performance. Features like 4K support, which was a major capability of the SDGP, have not been mentioned.

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Minecraft to get big lighting, shadow and color upgrades through Nvidia ray tracing – gpgmail


Minecraft is getting a free update that brings much-improved lighting and color to the game’s blocky graphics using real-time ray tracing running on Nvidia GeForce RTX graphics hardware. The new look is a dramatic change in the atmospherics of the game, and manages to be eerily realistic while retaining Minecraft’s pixelated charm.

The ray tracing tech will be available via a free update to the game on Windows 10 PCs, but it’ll only be accessible to players using an Nvidia GeForce RTX GPU, since that’s the only graphics hardware on the market that currently supports playing games with real-time ray tracing active.

It sounds like it’ll be an excellent addition to the experience for players who are equipped with the right hardware, however – including lighting effects not only from the sun, but also from in-game materials like glowstone and lava; both hard and soft shadows depending on transparency of material and angle of light refraction; and accurate reflections in surfaces that are supposed to be reflective (ie. gold blocks, for instance).

This is welcome news after Minecraft developer Mojang announced last week that it cancelled plans to release its Super Duper Graphics Pack, which was going to add a bunch of improved visuals to the game, because it wouldn’t work well across platforms. At the time, Mojang said it would be sharing news about graphics optimization for some platforms “very soon,” and it looks like this is what they had in mind.

Nvidia meanwhile is showing off a range of 2019 games with real-time ray tracing enabled at Gamescom 2019 in Cologne, Germany, including Dying Light 2, Cyperpunk 2077, Call of Duty: Modern Warfare and Watch Dogs: Legion.


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Minecraft’s Long-Promised Super-Duper 4K Graphics Pack Is Canceled


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A little over two years ago, Minecraft developer Mojang announced that Minecraft would be receiving an awesome, amazing, incredible graphics update. The new Super Duper Graphics Pack (we didn’t name it) was supposed to introduce a swath of new graphics features, including 4K textures, rippling water, cleaner lines, a different lighting engine, dynamic shadows, edge highlighting, and directional lighting. The video showing off the improvements was a hit back at E3 2017, and questions about when the update would be released have popped up on the Minecraft subreddit from time to time ever since.

Today, Mojang declared the Super Duper Graphics Pack update is canceled, permanently. According to the company, “Super Duper was an ambitious initiative that brought a new look to Minecraft but, unfortunately, the pack proved too technically demanding to implement as planned.”

Minecraft Super Duper Graphics Pack. Image by Microsoft.

The only explanation the company has provided for why it won’t be bringing the update is that “we aren’t happy with how the pack performed across devices. For this reason, we’re stopping development on the pack, and looking into other ways for you to experience Minecraft with a new look.”

This is a pretty thin explanation. First of all, we would have expected this kind of work — specifically, the work of deciding which devices would be targets for Minecraft’s SDGP — would have been typified before that project had begun. Minecraft runs on a huge number of devices, but you don’t typically develop an expansion like this without targets in mind, because (presumably) you’ll be testing the updates on a variety of systems as you work through them. Discovering after two years that you can’t justify the update because some products can’t run it, if true, speaks to some rather odd development priorities. Why wouldn’t you finish the update or upgrade for the systems that can?

The SDGP required a complete rewrite of the Minecraft graphics engine. Such efforts are not trivial and it isn’t crazy for a total overhaul to take two years. But at the same time, what sense does it make to scrap the rewrite after two full years in development?

Not much makes sense about this. The Super Duper Graphics Pack wasn’t supposed to break Minecraft’s ability to run on older hardware; it was supposed to provide better image quality for machines capable of running it. The upcoming launch of a new console generation and the inevitable upgrade treadmill for mobile devices should have provided a more robust hardware platform for the game relative to 2017. Mojang and Microsoft jointly declared that Minecraft has sold 176 million copies as of May 2019. The original PC version has sold 30 million copies. Microsoft continues to invest in and augment Minecraft with spinoffs like the AR-focused Minecraft Earth. If any game could possibly justify the investment of a new graphics engine a decade after launch, it’d be a title like Minecraft.

The most logical implication here is that Mojang couldn’t find a way to build an engine that both delivered the capabilities they wanted at the top-end and still offered an acceptable level of performance on lower-end hardware. There might have also been fears about the impact of splitting the player base across multiple versions of the game and maintaining updates for both engines going forward. Killing off the engine update after more than two years is a fairly extreme step. Hopefully, there’ll still be a way for some of these optimizations and enhancements to be integrated into the base version. Otherwise, Mojang’s graphics team has just spent two years of work on a major engine rewrite, only to see their efforts basically flushed down the drain.

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