Minecraft is the most popular game of all-time. This achievement was built on its playability across platforms and accessibility for all types of gamers. What the Microsoft-owned game isn't is a graphical masterpiece. Sure, Minecraft's graphics are unique, but are also simple compared to other triple A titles.
Interestingly, the Mojang developed game is about to gain a significant graphics overhaul. We'll discuss why this development is interesting, but first let's look at the specifics.
Graphic improvement on Minecraft will only be for select users. Specifically, those who run the game on PC, allowing for the support of real-time ray tracing through the Nvidia RTX GPU. Microsoft and Nvidia have partnered on support for the RTX through an announcement at the Gamescom conference in Germany today.
The companies confirmed all PC Minecraft users will get the improved graphics suppoer through a free update:
“Ray tracing sits at the center of what we think is next for Minecraft,” Saxs Persson, head creative director for Minecraft at Microsoft, said in a statement. “GeForce RTX gives the Minecraft world a brand-new feel to it. In normal Minecraft, a block of gold just appears yellow. 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.”
Ray Tracing is a GPU feature that allows games to be rendered in grater detail. This includes better management of light when it interacts with objects. Microsoft and Nvidia say the ray tracing technique they are using is called 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,” the companies explain.
Earlier this the article, I described the support of ray tracing to improve Minecraft graphics on PC as interesting. That's because just last week Mojang confirmed it has scrapped a plan to improve graphics on the game across platforms.
The Super Duper Graphics Pack was originally announced at E3 2017 and would aim to drastically improve Minecraft's graphics. However, Mojang has said the pack was too technically demanding:
“Some of you might remember us announcing the Super Duper Graphics Pack during E3 2017,” said Mojang in a blog post. “Super Duper was an ambitious initiative that brought a new look to Minecraft but, unfortunately, the pack proved too technically demanding to implement as planned”.