Warning: What you’re about to read and see may ruin your current Minecraft experience forever.
At PAX Australia this year, the NVIDIA team invited us to a meeting to talk about how far RTX had come since last we spoke in 2018. At the event last year, we were shown a couple of videos and got to preview the yet-to-be-released Metro Exodus with the new GeForce RTX 2080 TI graphics card. If you’re not already familiar with RTX and ray-tracing you can read our write up here.
The TL;DR is that ray tracing is going to majorly change how games look going forward. It’s a way to create natural looking light; and from that, shadows and reflections. NVIDIA showcased two games this year, the recently released Control and the ever popular, Minecraft. What do two games released nearly eight years apart, that look vastly different from each other, have anything to do with RTX? The answer will shock you.
Let’s start with Control. Released by Remedy (the team behind Alan Wake and Quantum Break) at the end of August, this game already looks visually amazing. Currently, I have been playing this game on the Xbox One X and have been absolutely floored by how amazing everything looks in this game. You can read our review of the game here. But then the NVIDIA team came along and with RTX, they turned the visuals on this game up to eleven.
While on paper, these changes might seem small, they truly do have an impact on how real everything looks and feels. Just like in real life, if something has a smooth surface, light is going to bounce off it and cause a reflection. Puddles of water are not just a semi-clear texture you can see through. With RTX, they now appear as they would in the real world, that is, you can see the environment around the puddle reflected in the puddle’s surface.
For more amazing examples, check out the Control: GeForce RTX Trailer below.
Now this is where I have to warn you again. Do you currently enjoy playing Minecraft and love how it looks? Did you score yourself a cool new texture pack? Well, that’s great, and if you want to keep those wonderful feelings, now might be the time to look away, because what you’re about to see cannot be unseen.
I’ll get right to the point here. Minecraft with RTX on looks absolutely phenomenal. It has honestly made the original Minecraft look a lot like a downgraded vanilla version to me now. As mentioned above, with RTX on, we’re now able to simulate real looking light and this has an even bigger impact on a game like Minecraft than a game like Control. In Control, nearly all of the game time is spent within the confines of a mystical office building, where as in Minecraft, you’re outside in a natural world. There’s forests, caves and oceans to explore and each of those change how light can look.
Forest foliage breaks up light to create rays through the trees. Scenery reflects off rivers and lakes. Perhaps one of the nicest uses of this feature was when I was exploring some caves. The roof of the cave had a piece missing and a single beam of light was able to shine through. If I was playing with RTX off, I wouldn’t have noticed it at all. Again, it’s these little things that all add up to make this game look amazing. I don’t think I can ever go back to vanilla Minecraft after this demo. I need to upgrade to a GeForce RTX 2080 ASAP!
To answer the earlier question, what do two games released nearly eight years apart, that look vastly different from each other, have anything to do with RTX? Well, the NVIDIA team has found a way to take the visuals of two games, that were already fantastic in their own right, up to the next level. (In Minecraft’s case, several levels). If you’re lucky enough to own an RTX graphic card, you can start playing Control with RTX enabled right now. For the Minecraft fans among us, unfortunately you’ll have to wait until some time in 2020.
Fortunately though, there are some other games you can check out that are making use of this amazing technology:
Deliver us the Moon
Shadow of the Tomb Raider
Although my Minecraft experience may have been ruined, I am very glad I got to see how the game was meant to be played. A big thank you to the NVIDIA team for inviting us to this meeting and updating us on how the advancements of ray-tracing are going. I’m looking forward to the future as this is just the beginning.