The big news from Nvidia this week was, of course, the announcement of its new GeForce RTX 40-series GPUs. But the company also uncorked some exciting software developments. The one that caught our eye is Nvidia RTX Remix, which has the potential to be a real Turn heads.
For years, PC game modding has been a way of life for the PC gaming community, and in fact is the lifeblood of many older titles. Game modding has even served as the birthplace of entirely new game genres. MOBAs and Battle Royales, in particular, grew out of fan-created mods of existing retail games. And the PC gaming crowd is still actively modding thousands of old and new titles today.
Among the most popular varieties of mod are those that bring graphic improvements, increasing the details and/or quality of a title from an earlier era. But updating textures or lighting is time-consuming and laborious (and in some older games, not possible at all). Nvidia is looking to put a lot more power in the hands of gamers and modders with RTX Remix. This new modding platform built on top of the company’s Omniverse(Opens in a new window) platform.
Of course, modding is nothing new, and we’ve seen plenty of incredibly well-executed examples over the years. So what makes Remix so eye-catching? Let’s dive.
Describe Remix as a new platform built on other new platform is probably not the most useful definition. So let’s simplify things.
Remix is a tool for updating the images of (and, specifically, creating ray tracing-enabled remasters) of old and classic games. Nvidia is trying to make it easier, and in some cases possible in the first place, to bring modern visuals to beloved titles.
These types of remakes have been done manually in recent years, with RTX remakes of iconic titles like Minecraft and Doom adding cutting-edge ray-traced lighting effects. The Minecraft update is an official release, while ray-traced Doom is the kind of community-created mod that Nvidia hopes to encourage more of (and in more visually complex games, no offense to Doom).
Nvidia’s in-house Lightspeed Studios released Quake II RTX in a similar fashion. It was these developers who were behind some of the Nvidia Remix showcase demos.
In concert with the Remix announcement, Nvidia showed off Portal RTX, a visual overhaul of Valve’s beloved puzzle platformer built entirely on Remix. This is a proof of concept for Remix, showing that it is possible and giving us a finished playable product. In a press briefing and Q&A session, Nvidia clarified that it currently doesn’t plan to work (either in-house or outsource) on full remakes of other titles, it’s putting the power in the hands of the community with Remix.
How does Nvidia RTX Remix work?
The coolest feature, and really the backbone of Remix, is its ability to take a snapshot of any scene or environment in an old game and translate it into improved RTX textures, objects, and lighting. The machine learning algorithm behind it will analyze the textures, geometry, and lighting, and produce an updated version with enhanced versions and ray-traced lighting. You can then enter the Remix UI, preview the game scene, and make manual changes to your liking.
Like any good technology, it seems indistinguishable from magic and should be extremely exciting for the modding community. Of course, it’s all quite real: for the technically inclined, Remix uses a custom D3D9 runtime to intercept the game’s render instructions, interpret them into updated assets, and reassemble them into an identical but visually enhanced scene.
You’ll then turn the assets into objects (specifically the Universal Scene Description, or USD, the open 3D framework that Omniverse uses) for further manipulation. You can load them into the Remix app and edit, modify and move them as you see fit. Crucially, you can also load them into other Omniverse compatible apps like Adobe Substance 3D Painter, Autodesk Maya, 3DS Max, Blender, SideFX Houdini, and Epic Games’ Unreal Engine. Modders can collaboratively edit, enhance, and replace assets, synced live, in the Remix window.
Not all games can undergo this treatment, but the breadth is quite wide. The basic requirements for a title to be compatible with Remix is that it must be a DirectX 8 or 9 title and use a fixed feature pipeline. In the Q&A, Nvidia was asked about 2D titles, and while there may be a couple of exceptions, Remix is generally designed for 3D games, needs 3D APIs, and must meet those requirements.
Using Remix to create mods requires an RTX GPU, not exclusive to Nvidia’s new GeForce RTX 40 series, while playing a Remix mod requires, to quote exactly, “any hardware that can run games with Vulkan ray tracing.” Of course, Nvidia expects the GeForce RTX 40-series GPUs and DLSS to deliver the best experience.
Older games are especially resistant to easy modification, for a number of reasons. Game files can be difficult to access, tools are inefficient, each asset must be manually edited and handled (a huge workload for artists), and legacy renderers can make updates difficult or impossible. Remix’s semi-automatic formula aims to solve all these problems.
Next, we will see how Nvidia demonstrated why Remix is so impressive in a real example and somewhat older than Portal.
A Real World Remix: A Morrowind Redux
In addition to the Portal RTX announcement, Nvidia highlighted The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind as a tech demo for its Remix presentation. A game that looks visibly dated and can be heavily tweaked is already a great masterpiece for Remix.
The Elder Scrolls as a whole is also among the most reworked franchises of all time. Morrowind is perhaps my favorite game ever released, and as someone who spent hours on the built-in modding tools in the past, I can attest that making changes, big or small, was tedious. Community groups have been trying to overhaul the game with modern visuals for years, with slow progress. Therefore, this demonstration can be bittersweet news for them.
Seeing the game scanned and translated into sharper graphics is pretty amazing. After taking a snapshot of an existing room, Remix AI translates and resolves the textures to sharper resolutions with more detail. You’re left with a much better version of the same room, and since they’re now USD assets, they can be imported into the Remix app to manipulate, add, and remove as you please.
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The press conference demonstrated how Remix studies existing textures and will do its best to interpret the intended material from the original into new material in the updated images. Is this piece of ceiling shiny, therefore metal? Is the texture here meant to be full of sediment, so it should look a bit dusty?
The AI won’t make everything perfect, but the results are big improvements regardless, and users can tweak it further from there. An especially cool part of the demo showed off a paper lantern from Morrowind, which gave off a blue glow. When the scene was transferred to Remix, the object’s exterior was sharper, but it lost its lighting.
As a result, since Morrowind’s original lighting is not done in real time, the original object simply casts a blue glow in the immediate vicinity, regardless of the actual lighting source or positioning. When transferred to the ray traced version, the flashlight was occluding the light source inside because the lamp had been loaded as opaque. In the demo, the material was manually changed to paper and the light from inside immediately cast a warm blue glow to the outside and cast a correct shadow on the ceiling, as shown below.
In a room that also featured updated textures, this was all pretty impressive. He will notice that the muddy, muddy texture of the original ceiling has been replaced with mosaic tiles, translating the original intent into a modern texture.
When a Remix mod is complete, you can export it to share with players online. Other players can download the mod, add it to the appropriate directory, and run it with the game. Remix Runtime takes care of replacing the old APIs and systems with its own 64-bit Vulkan renderer, as well as providing the benefits of DLSS 3 and Nvidia Reflex.
Modulation for the future
Thanks to AI Super Resolution, textures are upscaled up to four times and can turn 1080p quality textures into 4K assets. When I said “improved textures,” that’s not an understatement. A white mode is especially good for investigating and enhancing lighting and shadows. There are a bunch of new lighting improvements coming to Nvidia’s RTX offerings across the board, including (bear with me here) Reservoir Spatio Temporal Importance Resampling Global Illumination and Real Time Denoisers that Remix can take advantage of.
Between improved textures, “physics-based materials,” ray-traced lighting, and more, classic titles will really benefit (and at a faster rate) than ever before. Remix will also ship with a runtime editor, allowing users to modify lighting and material properties. Many more technical details are available on Nvidia’s Remix announcement page.(Opens in a new window)but these are the key points of the company’s first official demo.
This is potentially one of the biggest advancements for the game modding community in, well, ever, and hopefully allow more remasters like Minecraft RTX and Doom RTX to emerge. Personally, I’m impressed by Nvidia’s willingness to embrace modders (Remix Mods should be friendly to publicly available mods), but of course we’ll see how Remix and this ecosystem works once it’s available.
Remix will be available after the launch of Nvidia’s GeForce RTX 40-series GPUs, but its exact timing has yet to be announced; however, if it sounds like your jam, go ahead and sign up for notification(Opens in a new window) of its availability.
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