Microsoft has recently shared a lot of details about the Xbox Series X. This includes a fresh look at how the console’s use of hardware accelerated DirectX ray tracing makes next-gen games look even better. Starting off with a definition: ray racing is essentially a technological framework that allows for improved lighting, shadows, and reflections. It also helps create more realistic-sounding audio. In short, it’s a way for developers to create “more physically accurate worlds,” according to Microsoft.
Microsoft says the Xbox Series X is the first-ever console to feature this kind of ray tracing, and it’s made possible thanks to the console’s custom GPU made in collaboration with AMD.
Will Tuttle of the Xbox Wire witnessed ray tracing on the Xbox Series X first-hand with Minecraft. Tuttle said the advancements that ray tracing offers were immediately obvious. “Shadows cast from objects soften or harden depending on how far away from the object you are, while lava gives off a warm orange glow that dissipates over distance and reflects off of minecart rails,” Tuttle said. “Even the moon casts its own rays, streaming down through cracks in the walls and reflecting off particles in the air.”
Additionally, ray tracing in Minecraft allows light to pass through transparent objects in a game and pick up the surrounding color and display it in a way that looks realistic. Ray tracing can also have a dramatic impact on how water looks.
“With ray tracing on, water was now fully transparent and allowed light from the moon to pass through it to the player underneath and realistically reflect off the seaweed swaying in the current,” Tuttle said. “It was really an impressive demo that brought what hardware accelerated DirectX Ray tracing in Minecraft could deliver to life in a way I never imagined.”
Tuttle went on to say Minecraft’s use of ray tracing “fundamentally” changes how Minecraft feels. You can see how the visuals compare by using the image slider tool above.
YouTuber Austin Evans was also invited to Microsoft’s headquarters to see the Xbox Series X and learn more about it, including its use of ray tracing. You can skip to around 2:40 in the video below to see Evans play Minecraft on Xbox Series X and show off its new visuals.
Ray tracing is also coming to the PC version of Minecraft. Once released, players can select ray tracing from the in-game settings menu. Players, of course, will also need a GPU that’s good enough to support ray tracing, as well as the latest driver from Nvidia. More details about ray tracing for Minecraft’s PC version can be found on Nvidia’s website.