Minecraft RTX Beta Primer – Info and Impressions


The Minecraft RTX Beta is launching in just a few hours (three after this article goes live, to be exact, at 10 AM Pacific Time). To get a taste of the six gorgeous ray traced worlds prepared by creators in advance of this release, simply follow these steps to update the game (and don't forget to update your drivers, if you haven't already done that yesterday).

  • Install the Xbox Insider Hub app on your PC (freely downloadable via Microsoft Store)
  • Inside the app, then click on the open box icon in the sidebar on the left
  • On the Insider content screen, you will see a beta available for Minecraft for Windows 10. Now click on the Minecraft for Windows 10 beta
  • Click the “Join” button at the bottom of the screen
  • On the following pop-up, you will see three radio buttons. One will be for Minecraft RTX Beta,
    one for Minecraft Beta, one for Unenroll. Choose Minecraft RTX Beta, then click Done
  • If you have automatic updates turned on from the Windows Store, Minecraft will automatically update to the latest RTX beta build available

As previously mentioned, the path traced implementation featured in Minecraft RTX Beta includes lighting, reflections, shadows, materials and more, unlike the much more selective approach used in many other games. Let's briefly go through everything.

Ray Traced Lighting

Global Illumination and indirect diffuse lighting both benefit enormously from ray tracing, as you can see in these snapshots from the Minecraft RTX beta.

Imagination Island RTX
Imagination Island RTX
Of Temples and Totems

Ray Traced Reflections

Reflections were the very first type of ray traced effect demonstrated on NVIDIA's GeForce RTX graphics cards, with Battlefield V leading the charge at the time.

Unlike the common screen-space reflections (SSR), ray traced reflections can reflect even what's not currently being rendered on the screen. They're also more detailed, more accurate (including the angles) and can capture dynamic geometry, too. The last snapshot from Color, Light and Shadow RTX demonstrates 'infinite' reflections, another feature that would be impossible without ray tracing.

Aquatic Adventure RTX
Color, Light and Shadow RTX

Ray Traced Shadows

Shadowing through ray tracing is also far more accurate and realistic. More specifically, shadows look harder on those surfaces where objects touch the ground, while softer shadows are displayed when the object is further away.

Physically Based Rendering in Minecraft RTX Beta

Arguably just as important as ray tracing is the addition of Physically Based Rendering (PBR) for textures. The Minecraft you're used to playing only has two types of texture maps, base color and opacity. Now, though, the PBR system adds metallic, emissive, roughness and normal/height maps, which dramatically increases the visual fidelity of the game as the textures of each material immediately look far more lifelike and detailed. Take a look at some examples of wood and metallic surfaces below.

Crystal Palace RTX
Crystal Palace RTX
Crystal Palace RTX

The Enabler: DLSS 2.0

With all that was discussed above, there's no question that the Minecraft RTX beta showcases a massive graphics improvement for Minecraft fans. The performance cost, however, is just as high. Let's put it clearly - the Minecraft RTX beta wouldn't be able to run smoothly without DLSS 2.0, the new version of NVIDIA's Deep Learning Super Sampling image reconstruction technique. Luckily, owners of GeForce RTX graphics cards have both at their disposal and can exploit the full power of their GPUs with both RT and Tensor Cores active.

As you can see below, even the mighty RTX 2080 Ti cannot reach an average of 60 frames per second at 1080p without DLSS. That's how heavy the full path tracing implementation is.

However, with Deep Learning Super Sampling activated, suddenly the RTX 2080 Ti can get almost the same frame rate while rendering at an output of 4K resolution. DLSS 2.0 also allows the RTX 2060 to get an average of 53.6 frames per second at 1080p.

The image quality is practically indistinguishable in most cases. NVIDIA promised that the DLSS 2.0 implementation in Minecraft RTX will be further refined before the release, enhancing the reconstruction quality of foliage in low light and underwater mobs at night for example. As a whole, it's called Minecraft RTX Beta for a reason, and overall performance should improve.

It's worth reminding that your resolution in Minecraft is tied to your desktop's, and DLSS only has an on/off switch labeled 'upscaling' in the graphics settings. This means that if you are playing at 1080p, you'll automatically get Quality Mode (upscaled from 720P); at 1440p, you'll get Balanced Mode (upscaled from 835p); and at 2160p or 4K, you'll get Performance Mode (upscaled from 1080p).

Keith is preparing a full-fledged performance article for the Minecraft RTX Beta. Meanwhile, check out his video impressions while using the RTX 2060.