In the waning days of 2022, when Nvidia was preparing to release the impressive, ray tracing-enabled Portal with RTX, we were already looking toward a future when “the Nvidia RTX Remix modding platform used to remaster Portal will also be released to the general public at some point, making it easier to create updated versions of old DirectX 8 and DirectX 9 games with AI-upscaled textures and modern lighting effects,” as we wrote at the time. That “at some point” future has fully arrived this week with Nvidia’s open beta launch of its RTX Remix modding tools.
This isn’t the wider modding community’s first taste of RTX Remix’s upscaling and lighting tools. Nvidia released an alpha version of the RTX runtime last April, offering “capture and replacement” modules that could upgrade older game assets and add modern graphical features like DLSS3 at playback. ModDB lists dozens of older games with an RTX.conf file that offers some level of RTX-powered graphical enhancement.
But this week’s official open beta launch gives “experienced modders” new tools to easily create and insert these kinds of updated graphical effects and models in classic titles. That includes “generative AI texture tools” that Nvidia says use “our own proprietary model trained on our in-house dataset” to automatically upscale low-res textures to up to four times the original resolution. It also means the ability to add “physically accurate dynamic lights” that work with ray-tracing-capable hardware and a variety of open source models and material maps for modders to play with.
While the wide release of these kinds of tools should help lead to even more “now with RTX” remixes of 3D games, Nvidia warns that RTX Remix “is not a one-click solution and requires time and dedication to create amazing mods.” For Half-Life 2 RTX, for instance, the modding team crafted a new Gravity Gun model with seven times as many textures and 70 times the polygonal detail, which is far from a turnkey process, even with the best tools. Still, Nvidia promises the RTX Remix creator kit will remove the need to “juggle dozens of tools” or “be skilled in reverse engineering” to update an older game’s visuals.
And while RTX Remix compatibility is currently focused on games from the DirectX 8 and 9 era (i.e., late ’90s to early ’00s), Nvidia promises that “game compatibility will expand over time, in part as Nvidia publishes more feature-rich versions of the RTX Remix Runtime.” We’re waiting with bated breath for the day when ray tracing can finally upgrade Daikatana.
For now, though, we’ll simply goggle at the latest trailer for Half-Life 2: RTX and its ability to make the nearly 20-year-old game look as good today as it did in our memories.