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Minecraft ray tracing is now officially a thing

Adding real-time global illumination to Minecraft has been done with a variety of shaders, but now everyone’s favourite block-based game is getting it for real: today at Gamescom, Nvidia and Microsoft announced that a free update will add RTX-powered ray tracing to the Windows 10 edition of Minecraft.

Just as with Sonic Ether’s Minecraft mod, the update will use path tracing to create jaw-dropping light and shadow effects by replicating the way that light naturally bounces around physical spaces. Nvidia says this method provides a “unified model for lighting calculations” that can be used in just about any situation. In Minecraft, that means you’ve got light coming from the sun, parts of blocks like glowstone that emit light themselves, and metallic substances like gold ore that bounce light and reflect other parts of the scene.

“Ray tracing sits at the center of what we think is next for Minecraft,” said Saxs Persson, Microsoft’s Minecraft franchise creative director. “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.”

Nvidia also announced ray tracing support for some hot upcoming titles, including Dying Light 2, Metro Exodus: The Two Colonels DLC, and Synced: Off-Planet, an upcoming triple-A game from Tencent that looks like a blend of battle royale and World War Z.

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At Gamescom, Nvidia’s also showing off the RTX-powered effects in the Cyberpunk 2077 demo, Watch Dogs: Legion, Vampire: The Masquerade – Bloodlines 2, and Call of Duty: Modern Warfare.

Ray traced lighting looks pretty great in the comparison screenshots for all these games, but it’s unquestionably the most dramatic in Minecraft, where it changes the entire look and even feel of the game. It’ll take some the latest graphics hardware to run it, though, so if you’re drooling over how it looks, you may want to consider upgrading the ol’ GPU.

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