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The joint announcement from Microsoft and Nvidia came ahead of the Gamescom trade show in Cologne, Germany, this morning. Owners of RTX cards will experience the benefits of the change when a free update is pushed out, which is scheduled for sometime within the next year.
“Ray tracing sits at the center of what we think is next for Minecraft,” said Saxs Persson, head creative director for Minecraft at Microsoft, 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, 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.”
As was the case with the Quake II RTX makeover, the Minecraft update will refit the entire game with path tracing, an advanced form of ray tracing. As for the effects it will have, Nvidia writes: "Lighting is upgraded to real-time global illumination, enabling light to realistically illuminate blocks and buildings as the world is modified. Emissive blocks like Glowstone and Lava can illuminate environments, along with other dynamic game elements. Water, glass and other reflective surfaces show accurate real-time reflections, mirroring their surroundings."
Earlier this year, a modder created a shader pack that added path tracing to Minecraft. It introduced effects such as light beams and their reflections on tiled floors to the game.
The upgrade itself will also be moddable, allowing players to generate raytraced content. “New in-game designs that were previously impossible become a reality, be those a spooky ravine that fades into darkness, filled with hostile mobs drawn to the light of the player’s torch; fun houses made of mirrors; or caves that glow with the precious resources or angerous lava within," writes Nvidia.
News of the official ray tracing support comes not long after Mojang announced it was canceling the long-promised Minecraft Super Duper Graphics pack. It was said to improve shadows, lighting effects, textures, water reflections, and more. It even increased the game’s resolution to 4K on the Xbox One X. Mojang said the pack proved “too technically demanding to implement.” If you're interested in giving Minecraft a try, you can download the game here.