Minecraft is getting a graphics makeover from Nvidia — here’s what it’s like to play

Microsoft’s “Minecraft” video game is getting a makeover.

It’s hardly the sort of game you’d expect to be in need of some realism, given the success it’s enjoyed with its basic look. But developer Mojang — which Microsoft bought in 2014 — and chipmaker Nvidia think it could play an important role in the game’s future.

That’s why they’ve partnered up to bring out an update for PC gamers with Nvidia’s RTX graphics cards, which would make lighting and reflections in the world of blocks look much more realistic.

They’re using a technology called “ray tracing,” which is employed in modern movies and some video games.

Ray tracing is a rendering technique in computer graphics that looks at the way rays of light bounce off of virtual objects to simulate what lighting would like in a real-world environment. It requires a lot of power to run, which is where Nvidia’s RTX chips come in.

What does it look like?

H/O: Minecraft Nvidia ray tracing starting area

“Minecraft” with Nvidia’s ray tracing turned on.Mojang | Nvidia

The game looks visibly different right from the outset as you jump into a pre-made map with ray tracing graphics applied. Rays of light seep in through openings in the walls, while the fire and lava in the game glow.

H/O: Minecraft ray tracing lava

“Minecraft” with Nvidia’s ray tracing turned on.Mojang | Nvidia

You can spot some really stunning lighting effects in a few areas. For instance, once stepping outside the initial starting area, the rays of light (seen below) look pretty natural, splashing out onto the world and interacting with different surfaces.

H/O: Minecraft Nvidia ray tracing outside

“Minecraft” with Nvidia’s ray tracing turned on Mojang | Nvidia

You’re also able to see reflections in glass and the water. It’s a far cry from the original version of the game, which has a much more basic design for those materials.

H/O: Minecraft Nvidia ray tracing reflection glass

“Minecraft” with Nvidia’s ray tracing turned on.Mojang | Nvidia

There’s an option to switch ray tracing off. Here’s what it looks like without the graphics boost:

H/O: Minecraft Nvidia ray tracing turned off

“Minecraft” without Nvidia’s ray tracing.Mojang | Nvidia

And here’s a comparison of what it looks like when ray tracing is applied:

H/O: Minecraft Nvidia ray tracing turned on

“Minecraft” with Nvidia’s ray tracing turned on.Mojang | Nvidia

What’s it like to play?

The game plays surprisingly smoothly. There were no frame rate issues and the attention to detail seemed consistent throughout. But that’s not to say there weren’t any technical issues.

When trying to use a fishing rod, for instance, the game crashed out of the blue. And it wasn’t just the one time that this happened. Other people that tried the game with ray tracing on also experienced surprise crashes.

That could be a problem if you’ve spent hours building and exploring and haven’t managed to save some of your progress. “Minecraft” does save automatically at times, but if the game shuts down before then there’s a chance you could lose some of your work.

H/O: Minecraft Nvidia ray tracing GIF 1

“Minecraft” with Nvidia’s ray tracing graphics applied.Mojang | Nvidia

It might be the case that Nvidia hasn’t buffed out all the flaws ahead of a commercial release. Nvidia did not return CNBC’s requests for comment on the crash.

Nevertheless, it’s an impressive feat for a game that has gained so much traction on the back of simplicity in both design and gameplay. Since its full release in 2011, “Minecraft” has sold over 176 million copies worldwide, making it one of the best-selling games of all time.

While it’s not clear when the ray tracing update will be released, Microsoft has said it’s scheduled to launch within the next year.

Mojang announced the ray tracing deal with Nvidia after it shelved plans for a graphics pack that would have brought a new look to the game. The developer said that pack “proved too technically demanding to implement as planned.”

Credit: https://www.cnbc.com/2019/11/25/minecraft-with-nvidia-ray-tracing-heres-what-its-like-to-play.html