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NVIDIA's ray tracing graphics are coming to Minecraft

20 Aug 2019

Prepare your pixel spades, because Minecraft is the latest game to get the real-time ray tracing treatment, thanks to NVIDIA and Microsoft.

Minecraft is apparently the world’s best selling video game, with more than 176 million copies sold so far – and that number is climbing.

A new (free) game update will soon allow players to use ray tracing. Ray tracing essentially renders graphics by simulating how light behaves in real life. It is being hailed by some as a new era of gaming graphics.

According to NVIDIA, ray tracing in Minecraft means there will be more vivid visualisations, realistic shadows, lighting, and vibrant colours.

The two companies will apply a form of ray tracing called path tracing for Minecraft in Windows 10.

NVIDIA explains that 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 rasterised or hybrid renderers.

Minecraft will expose ray tracing to millions of gamers of all ages and backgrounds that may not play more hardcore video games,” said Matt Wuebbling, head of GeForce marketing at
NVIDIA. “The world’s best-selling video game adding ray tracing on PC illustrates the momentum that ray tracing has built in the gaming ecosystem.”

NVIDIA has been pumping ray-tracing technologies into its GeForce RTX graphics cards, which are the only cards that support ray tracing. Games that support ray tracing include Battlefield V, Metro Exodus, Wolfenstein: Youngblood, and many upcoming games. 

Microsoft is backing those technologies, according to Microsoft’s Minecraft franchise creative director, Saxs Persson.

“Ray tracing sits at the centre of what we think is next for Minecraft,” says Persson.

“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 players who are able to use ray tracing will be able to experience:

● 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
● Indirect diffuse illumination (diffuse global illumination)
● Indirect specular illumination (reflections)
● Transparent materials with reflection, refraction and scattering (stained glass, water, ice)
● Atmospheric scattering and density (volumetric fog, light shafts, realistic sky)

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