Minecraft RTX Preview

January 10, 2020 at 4:24pm
By Jason Stettner

While at CES 2020 I was invited to check out the NVIDIA booth which was located a bit away from the show, and one of the center pieces was their technology in regards to RTX. This was the key area, and I finally got to see Minecraft in action with glorious real-time ray tracing.

It was just incredible, I was very excited to see it for myself and it honestly exceeded my expectations. When I go to somewhat introduce this technology to people I like to use the trailers for Minecraft as a simple example. This is mostly to showcase it to people that have no idea what it can do, but the difference is just absolutely insane.

It really is, and seeing it running live while playing within the game was great. I was able to freely move around via creative, visit some distinct set areas and get a full idea of what’s going on. I sadly wasn’t able to capture any gameplay, and hopefully this is available sooner than later as I can’t wait to sink my teeth into it fully.

This is something they’re still working on, so waterfalls weren’t correctly displaying, but it seemed very polished at this stage. It was also running smoothly, I didn’t notice many issues with it. For context, I know the graphics card was the RTX 2080Ti as I asked and just keep in mind I can’t dive in too technically as this was a show so time is limited and the update is still in active production. So what we get here is real-time DXR ray tracing for the Windows 10 Edition of the game which is on Bedrock and not Java.

I personally see this being a thing on Xbox Series X and Playstation 5 since those are set to support ray tracing though that’s a confirmed aspect. Going back to details, the game has been refit with path tracing, which presents high levels of detail that will directly impact almost every pixel in each scene. This has lifelike lighting with realistic shadows and intense reflections. Keep in mind that this happens instantly when interacting with the world. This is whether you break blocks, place them and it’s amazing when you use something that emits its own lighting or reflects.

To see block placement instantly light, or darken a scene. Placing a shiny block, or some stained glass and seeing the reflections or light was just purely wild. I was constantly surprised trying to experiment with blocks, and seeing the various areas they had set up. Going on about the lighting, this is real-time illumination with a global standard being set. They have emissive blocks with glowstone and lava being good examples. The torches are majestic, and some other blocks might surprise you when you see them.

The reflective surfaces are excellent from the water to any piece of glass. I would just go back and forth over the water from above seeing the world essentially mirrored perfectly and even going under the water is spectacular. The way they handle the entrance to the surface of the water is very neat to see with a sort of ring effect to it. It should also be noted that the fog elements have been tweaked away, and it looks great by doing so. They’re also planning a special HD texture pack with the game, and they didn’t rule out doing a mash-up pack as well. They also want this to work with the marketplace maps, or any other existing content.
Minecraft Ray tracing
I asked them about that as they have this area with a special Christmas town, there’s another unique warm house and then a lighting focused area. We’re finally going to be able to have realistic hockey rinks which is great as ice is incredible now. It looked lame before, but the dark night of the Christmas town made that ice shine. This mostly feels like a mature upgrade to Minecraft. It’s hard to give a good comparison, but it’s like a complete remaster or remake where you see the difference of say twenty years in gaming development.

It truly is spectacular to see, and could be a benchmark for this technology. I spent a very long time playing around with this, a lot of my booking time. They let me fly around, light things on fire and just have a good time. I’m truly excited to play with this style, as it’s a completely different sort of game. It feels more like life, and perhaps will finally sway the people that feel this game is perhaps too “kid-like” for them. The textures are stunning with this, and it’s hard not to be immediately impressed with the option to switch visuals on the fly. Keep in mind that the choice to switch may not be present within the final build, and was there to showcase the difference in gameplay.

Anyways, I was blown away by this. I spend an insane amount of time playing Minecraft, so this is perhaps my favorite implementation of ray tracing thus far. In other games it certainly does look amazing, don’t get me wrong. Just the change here is so wildly different it’s hard to even properly describe. I could show the difference to a regular person that doesn’t really game, and even they’d be shocked by how much of an adjustment there was between the two. I can’t wait to jump into the full version, or even test one when that arrives as I think they have something special here.

It’s a great way to boost the look of the game, while not changing what makes it special. To have that dynamic lighting where adjustments immediately change the scenes while not leaving anything behind. I can’t wait to see how it fully develops over time, and to provide lots of gameplay content when it does as I could see a fun survival series going on or even guides for what you could do building wise with this type of look. Find a guide below on the game, or check out the general hub for additional coverage of this block building franchise.

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Gamerheadquarters Reviewer Jason Stettner