How to set up ray tracing in Minecraft

There’s something amazing about seeing new technology transform something familiar into something that feels fresh and exciting. Ray tracing as a technology represents a whole new way to look at lighting and how it can build atmosphere, realism, and give life and vibrance to a world that might otherwise feel flat and two dimensional.

Thanks to a host of mods and shaders, Minecraft has a long history of taking advantage of complex lighting in surprising ways, which makes it the perfect place to show off exactly what ray tracing is capable of.

So, let’s break down all the steps it takes to enable ray tracing in Minecraft, because why wouldn’t you?

NOTE: Since this article was published, official support for real-time ray tracing has been announced for Minecraft. So far we don't have a specific date on these new features, but you can read on to learn about the unofficial method.

Required Hardware

The shader we’ll be using today takes advantage of a form of ray tracing that doesn’t require the RT Core present in Nvidia’s RTX 2000 series GPUs. As a result, anyone with a reasonably beefy Nvidia GPU can run this mod with enough tweaking.

Unfortunately, due to the experimental nature of the drivers at work you will need at least some kind of Nvidia GPU. We recommend something with at least as much horsepower as a GTX 1070 or 1080.

We were able to maintain a stable 30 FPS off an RTX 2080 even after maxing out the various options for ray tracing and other light sources, but there’s a lot of wiggle room to find a balance between performance and raw ray traced sex appeal.

If you’re curious, you can see how the mod performs on different hardware in the video below.

Update: Since the time of publishing, new versions of Minecraft and all of the software and addons listed below have been released. The updated versions, however, are not compatible. For this method of ray tracing to work in Minecraft, you need to explicitly download and install the versions we list in this article, or, again, it will not function.

Step One: Install Minecraft 1.12.2

If you don’t already have Minecraft installed, head over to Minecraft.net and download it now. The shader pack we’re using to enable RTX lighting requires Minecraft 1.12.2, although that version may change as mod author, Sonic Ether, moves to a full release version of the pack.

When Minecraft finishes installing, take the time to boot up the launcher and log in with your account. It’s good to run the latest version of Minecraft at least once on a fresh install, and then close Minecraft for now.

Step Two: Download and Install Minecraft Forge

In order to download Minecraft Forge, you’ll need to head over to http://files.Minecraftforge.net. Click the tab on the left-hand side of the window for Minecraft version 1.12.2 and select the appropriate installer for your OS. 

When the download completes, run the forge installer, select “install client” and click “ok”.

Minecraft needs to run at least once to finalize the Forge installation. So, restart your Minecraft client, log in, and then click the arrow beside the green play button. Select the profile “Forge 1.12.2” and press play.

Let Minecraft do its thing until it reaches the title screen, then shut it down before heading to the next step.

Step Three: Download and Install OptiFine HD 1.12.3 U E2

Our next stop is OptiFine’s official download page. Scroll to the section titled “Minecraft 1.12.2” and click the “OptiFine 1.12.2 HD U E3” download link.

Wait for the ad to run its course, then click the “download OptiFine” link on the next page.

Save the OptiFine file somewhere easy to locate then navigate to your default Minecraft directory by pressing the windows key and ‘r’ at the same time.

In the next window type in: %appdata%\.Minecraft

Press OK to open the default Minecraft directory then drag and drop the OptiFine file from earlier into the “mods” folder.

Launch Minecraft, make sure that Forge 1.12.2 is selected and press play. This time keep Minecraft open, because we’ll be using it later.

Step Four: Download and Install SEUS PTGI

The final file we need is Sonic Ether’s SEUS PTGI, the RTX shader pack we’ll be using to make the magic happen.

For now, Sonic Ether’s SEUS PTGI is only available to those who support him at the $10 (gold) level on his Patreon.

That said, according to Sonic Ether: “As it nears completion, it will drop down to Beta status, only requiring Iron tier access. When a public release is ready, it'll be free to download for anyone!”

For now, you’ll need to head over to Sonic Ether’s Patreon and click become a patron using the button to the right. Once you’re all set up, check under the Posts tab for information on the latest release of SEUS PTGI.

We’re using the SEUS PTGI E6 release version located in this post. Scroll down to the bottom of the post and click the “SEUS PTI E6.zip” link to initiate the download.

Once the file has finished downloading, start Minecraft using Forge 1.12.2, as described earlier in the guide. Then click Options > Video Settings > Shaders, and finally hit the “Shaders Folder” button in the bottom left-hand corner of the window.

When your Minecraft shaders folder opens, copy the archive from the SEUS PTGI E6 download you saved earlier to this folder and then switch back to Minecraft.

You should now see a “SEUS PTGI E6” option in the list, clicking on it will load the shader and allow you to start tweaking settings to best match your GPU and the quality of the path tracing you utilize.

That said, there are a few settings that you shouldn’t touch, and some that you should, which we’ll cover below.

Step Five: Tweaking Options

The mod author recommends you set the options below accordingly. Some of them will be on by default, but others you’ll want to double check.

Options > Video Settings > Details > Alternate Blocks: OFF

Options > Video Settings > Details > Trees: Fancy or Fast (Smart may break lighting)

Options > Video Settings > Quality > Natural Textures: OFF

Options > Video Settings > Shaders > Shadow Quality: 1x

Options > Video Settings > Shaders > Old Lighting: DEFAULT

Most of the fun options to tweak can be found under:

Options > Video Settings > Shaders > Shader Options

The “Raytracing Options” as well as well as the “Lighting and Shadow Options” are where you should spend most of your time. Tweaking these settings gives you the most control over the intensity of the lighting effects that are most noticeable with ray tracing enabled.

On our rig, which included a GTX 2080 and an i7-4790K, we found that we could turn most of the ray tracing related settings to Ultra or Extreme without dipping below 30FPS. That said, this shader pack doesn’t require an RT Core for smooth performance and by all accounts runs well with Nvidia 1000 series cards.

We recommend starting a fresh world in Minecraft (amplified worlds in particular are a lot of fun) and methodically working your way through each setting to determine the impact it has on your FPS. Because this build of the shader is in the experimental stage, expect bugs and performance issues that may take time to resolve as new versions are released.

Once you’re done tweaking your settings, you’re free to explore a Ray Traced Minecraft any way you want. It’s a brand new, brightly lit, but terribly dark world. So have fun.