Modders are discovering that Portal RTX files can make Half-Life 2 and some other games look amazing
WTF?! Modders are having a field day with Nvidia’s RTX Remix tool, and they haven’t even gotten their hands on it yet. Apparently, you can take the files that enable RTX Remix in the recent Portal remake and drop them into the .exe folder of other games to give them a less-than-flawless visual upgrade without further modifications. Copyright lawyers are already rolling in their graves, and they’re not even dead yet.
For roughly the past three years, Nvidia’s Lightspeed Studios has been working on a tool called “RTX Remix.” The company first demonstrated it in September by adding impressive lighting effects to Bethesda’s 20-year-old The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind and Valve’s Portal from 2007. The results were stunning, but were just video demos.
On December 8, Nvidia released the Portal with RTX DLC for PC with Valve’s blessing. The game has full ray tracing and DLSS 3 support. It also added other advanced effects, including ReSTIR (Reservoir Spatio Temporal Importance Resampling) and Direct Illumination.
That’s an especially incredible feat, considering its age and the little effort it took to remaster the game with RTX Remix. For portal owners, there’s no excuse not to try this visual upgrade considering it’s free on Steam. Well, the only valid excuse is that your specs don’t match (Intel i7-6700 or AMD Ryzen 5 3600, and a minimum of a GeForce RTX 3060).
Perhaps more excitingly, after Portal with RTX dropped, it didn’t take long for modders on the Beyond3D forums to figure out what made the game tick. The DLC primarily adds a handful of additional files, namely the RTX Remix build folder (.trex) and three driver files – d3d9.dll, dxvk_d3d9.dll and NvRemixBridge32.dll – to Portal’s .exe folder.
Since RTX Remix is still not publicly available, modders started dropping the Portal RTX files into other games unmodified, and amazingly, they worked in some. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the best results were seen in Valve’s Half-Life 2. However, SWAT 4 and Max Payne mostly worked, albeit with some glitches. The primary requirement is that the game uses a “fixed function graphics pipeline.”
“It seems [it] doesn’t have a fixed-function graphics pipeline,” Beyond3D user LordVulkan said, responding to someone asking if the hack worked for FEAR. “I’m afraid most post-2004 games will require Shader Model 2.0. Even more so if they are cross-platform from the ground up and 0 chance of games developed for consoles first, PC port later.”
That said, images and video show that the Portal files have significantly modernized the look of these games, even with their lower resolution assets. As mentioned, they don’t run perfectly, but the samples show that when Nvidia releases the RTX Remix tool to the public, these titles are prime candidates for home-brewed remasters.
Of course, that leads us straight to the elephant in the room. Most developers aren’t like Valve, and remasters are big business these days. Property owners like Bethesda probably won’t be too keen on seeing their IPs remastered by the public. It’s one thing when Nvidia uses Morrowind as a tech demo and another when Johnny Modder posts a playable Morrowind remaster on GitHub.
Take-Two lawyers will likely be busy SWAT 4 modders when RTX Remix hits the public domain. However, the simplicity of the modifications makes it a bit of a tough fight. After all, modders don’t have to post the entire game, which potentially violates copyright laws. They just need to release the RTX Remix files and users can simply paste them into a given game’s .exe folder. How do studios combat it?
It will be interesting to see where this all goes. It wouldn’t be too surprising to see developers like Bethesda, Take-Two and others begging or even suing Nvidia for the tool. After all, what will Bethesda do if it can’t remake Skyrim for the 14th time?