Microsoft and NVidia have announced an upcoming update for Minecraft that includes RTX-driven ray-tracing support. This introduces real-time, cinematics-quality rendering to the game for those using desktops and laptops equipped with NVidia RTX graphics cards.

The new update brings an entirely new feel to Minecraft. Materials look more authentic, and light interacts more naturally with objects.

You can now see reflections, specular highlights, and emissive glows.

With the update, Minecraft can simulate how light filters through foliage and fog, giving you unique and realistic views of scenes with varying atmospheric densities.

atmospheric-filtering in minecraft

There’s more – Direct light from the sun, transparent materials like stained glass, realistic shadows, and water with reflective and refractive qualities. Everything just looks different.

According to Creative director for Minecraft at Microsoft Sax Person, raytracing is the next big thing in Minecraft.

Ray tracing sits at the center of what we think is next for Minecraft. 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.

Sax Person

The specific raytracing technique used in Minecraft is path tracing.

Path tracing simulates the way light is transported throughout a scene. It presents a unified model for lighting calculations for many different types of effects that have traditionally been implemented separately using rasterized or hybrid renderers. Among these are:

Indirect diffuse illumination (diffuse global illumination)

Direct lighting from the sun, sky and various light sources, including emissive surfaces such as glowstone and lava

Realistic hard and soft shadows depending on the size, shape, and distance of the light source

Per-pixel emissive lighting

Atmospheric scattering and density (volumetric fog, light shafts, realistic sky)

Indirect specular illumination (reflections)

Transparent materials with reflection, refraction, and scattering (stained glass, water, ice)

Microsoft & NVidia @gamescom2019

Supported graphics cards for raytracing in Minecraft

To enjoy raytracing in Minecraft, you have to own one of the following cards:

  • GeForce RTX 2060
  • GeForce RTX 2070
  • GeForce RTX 2080
  • GeForce RTX 2080 Ti
  • GeForce RTX 2080 Super
  • GeForce RTX 2070 Super
  • GeForce RTX 2060 Super

Raytracing is supported in select GTX graphics cards, but Microsoft and NVidia have not revealed whether those cards will be favored by the upcoming update.

It is not surprising that Microsoft recently canceled Minecraft’s Super Duper Graphics Pack, which had promised to offer the same goodies that RTX-driven raytracing technology provides.

Unfortunately, the Minecraft raytracing update targets users of NVidia’s RTX series and Windows 10, meaning many Minecraft players will be left out in this offering.

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