One announcement made at NVIDIA's GeForce Beyond presentation received universal acclaim, and it was RTX Remix. While the new GeForce RTX 4000 series graphics cards were deemed by some to be too pricey (especially the RTX 4080 12 GB) and others were disappointed to see DLSS 3 wouldn't be available on previous RTX GPUs (although that might change in the future), RTX Remix impressed everyone from the get-go, and for good reason.
During a behind-closed-doors presentation hosted by NVIDIA for the press, we learned a lot more about this exciting tool that could very well revolutionize modding on PC.
NVIDIA's Product Manager of Modding Nyle Usmani started by highlighting the importance of PC game mods, whether they are just graphics enhancements, full-on remasters or even fan-made expansions, sandbox environments like Garry's Mod, or total conversion mods that end up making gaming history like Dota 2, PUBG, or Counter-Strike.
Data shows that both the number of active modders and the estimated mod downloads have doubled in the last couple of years, pointing to further growth. Indeed, we often cover mods of all kinds on Wccftech.
However, modders are constantly facing a series of issues, chiefly:
- game files that are hard to access;
- complicated toolchain, as modding each game requires learning many entirely different toolsets;
- time-intensive work required to improve the original low-resolution assets of old games;
- legacy renderers limit the ability to introduce modern rendering techniques such as ray tracing.
RTX Remix was designed to get around all these problems. Its goal is to become by far the easiest way to remaster classic games.
Usmani then moved on to explain how this new tool aims to fix each of the aforementioned issues. Arguably one of the most impressive parts is how RTX Remix captures assets. With the press of a single hotkey, the tool can intercept draw calls and see the assets (textures, geometry, lighting, and cameras), which at that point are converted to the USD (Universal Scene Description) open framework format. Modders can then load the assets in RTX Remix and/or any other creation app, including NVIDIA Omniverse, which allows for great collaboration within modding teams.
The modders' work is immediately synchronized, so they can move props or lights around and witness the changes right away.
Regarding the reworking of old game assets, RTX Remix features built-in AI tools that can upscale textures by 4x, delivering 4K textures from 1080p assets. The AI also infers material properties to deliver PBR-like textures, adding normal and roughness maps where it would make sense. This also includes ensuring the new surface textures react correctly to newly added effects like ray tracing, but more on that later. Of course, the tool also supports loading new assets.
The legacy renderers problem is solved thanks to the RTX Remix Runtime. This custom runtime intercepts the original draw calls and does a series of conversions (mostly thanks to the DXVK translation slayer originally created to play DX9/10/11 games on Linux's Wine distro) to get the game ready for the new RTX renderer.
At this point, modders can load their assets, manage the scene's lights, cameras, textures, and geometry, and decide to apply a great number of cutting-edge features such as ray tracing, RTX DI, ReSTIR GI, DLSS 3, Reflex, and even the 4000-exclusive Opacity Micro-Maps (OMM) and Shader Execution Reordering (SER). As such, Usmani reckons mods made with RTX Remix could potentially be even more advanced than most recent games when it comes to the ray tracing feature set.
As a bonus, both modders and end users will be able to tweak the mod's look in real time with an interface similar to ReShade's. Many parameters can be tuned, such as material properties, scene lighting, post-processing, and heuristic tools.
The NVIDIA team used RTX Remix to make Portal RTX and Morrowind RTX, though the latter is only a technical showcase that won't be released to the public.
At the end of the presentation, Usmani and Technical Engineer Alex Dunn answered a few questions about the tool. To begin with, downloading and installing an RTX mod will be practically the same as with any other PC mod: users will have to get the package and extract it into the game's main folder. NVIDIA won't be hosting the mods, but they are talking to Nexus Mods and ModDB to find the best way to organize them on these popular mod sites.
Sadly, for the time being, RTX Remix will only work with DirectX8 or DirectX9 games that use fixed function graphics pipelines. Usmani said there are certain limitations with which pipelines are receptive to the interception process. Dunn added that the scene information NVIDIA is currently relying on becomes much more abstracted in DirectX10 (and later) games. That said, the team is investigating whether anything else can be done, but it's nothing that can be announced right now.
Certainly, if RTX Remix could someday work on DX10/DX11/DX12 games, it would be absolutely incredible for PC gamers of all kinds. Still, even at launch, both modders and users should have plenty of cause to rejoice thanks to the ability to remaster masterpieces like The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind to a much greater degree than what was previously possible.
Lastly, beware that an RTX GPU will be required to create mods with RTX Remix. However, RTX mods can run on any Vulkan RT-capable GPU, AMD and Intel included. Additionally, NVIDIA confirmed during the Q&A that it is technically possible to use the tool only to tweak textures and other aspects without adding any of the actual RTX features like ray tracing or DLSS.