Once upon a time, Microsoft announced a massive 4K update for Minecraft. Then the company canceled it. Then Nvidia announced its massive ray-tracing update for Minecraft and didn’t cancel it. The Minecraft RTX beta starts on April 16 for those PC gamers who own Nvidia cards and the Windows 10 version of Minecraft. All image and video assets below provided by Nvidia.
So what’s different? Like Quake II, Minecraft implements a fully path-traced pipeline, to fairly impressive results. We’ve featured some of Nvidia’s world art before, but there are some additional images available now as well. Nvidia has announced it will upload five specific worlds for players to explore, and you’ll have the option to create your own from scratch. Later this week, Nvidia will release various resource packs and guides to how to create content for Minecraft using Adobe Substance. These can then be exported and shared with other Minecraft RTX Beta players.
Mojang has confirmed that ray tracing support will eventually come to the Bedrock Windows 10 edition of the game, but it won’t be available on the Java edition. If you want to continue with that version, you’ll have to install third-party mods to achieve the same results.
The question of how well Minecraft RTX will perform has been raised, and it’s not an unreasonable one. Most games that have deployed RTX thus far have used it for specific lighting effects or reflections, not attempted to deploy it as a total lighting model. Performance in Quake II between RTX and non-RTX mode can take a whack of 85-90 percent with the feature enabled, though Quake II’s framerates are high enough to allow the RTX variant to be perfectly playable, even with this kind of decline. Minecraft, though, doesn’t typically run at 600+ fps.
The solution here, according to Nvidia, is DLSS 2.0. DLSS 1.0 didn’t receive a glowing reception from users or the press — while the implementation quality varies from game to game, some titles offered a relatively poor visual experience in this mode. DLSS 2.0, however, looks like a substantial improvement over its predecessor.
DLSS 2.0 does a particularly good job when scaling 1080p content, up to 4K, and Nvidia expects the feature to deliver a 1.7x frame rate improvement over native resolution, which is to say, if you hit 30fps at 1080p with DLSS 2.0 off, DLSS 2.0 + RTX should give you ~50 fps.
Look for more details on the Nvidia RTX Minecraft beta when the game is available a few days from now. I’ve never spent much time with the game, but this seems like as good a time as any to change that. While the RTX version of the game will technically run on non-RTX Nvidia cards, performance isn’t expected to be viable for any GPU that doesn’t have Nvidia’s dedicated RTX hardware baked-in.