Ray-traced remaster of Valve's Portal

Originally published at: Ray-traced remaster of Valve's Portal | Boing Boing


I’ve been playing it. It looks nice but it’s so far pretty subtle. Almost like, if you didn’t know you wouldn’t notice type of thing.


“This was a triumph
I’m making a note here: Huge Success
It’s hard to overstate my satisfaction”


That’s a very challenging title to have done this with. When you open a portal, that’s not just a billboard rendered from a second camera in the same scene; since obiects can be lit through the portal, and you can recursively see into portals on the far side, it requires an exotic rendering pipeline and tricksy manipulation of the scene graph.

Upgrading a Unity game might have been a drop-in replacement kind of deal, but for this I think they’d have to revisit a good portion of the original development process, especially if they wanted to add the kind of advanced lighting that is the point of ray tracing. It’s hard to imagine they didn’t have Valve’s cooperation, or at least the source code for the original game. I guess it speaks highly of that code’s quality that this is possible at all.


It’s a demo for Nvidia’s Remix tech, which allows in-game and very quick deployment of the RTX technology without having to pull apart the application itself. It’s an interceptor like ReShade.

It works really well, but let’s not kid ourselves. This isn’t an update, per se. It’s Nvidia allowing Valve to use a game that’s fairly stable, engine-wise, which doesn’t have a lot of moving parts, to advertise their new tech.

My hardware is more than capable of running this well, but doesn’t, because it’s obviously un-optimized. I mean, the in-game video settings don’t affect anything, and the ALT-X combination to bring up the Remix menu is shown in a 10-second toast announcement. If Valve was involved in any way, they’d likely have made the end product more user friendly.


Sorry, I’m a little confused here. Should that say “It’s Valve allowing Nvidia” instead?

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Still entirely unsure what the big deal is here?
Portal was an astounding game. It is still an astounding game. It would have been an astounding game if it had been some vector line graphics.
I keep seeing comparison videos of people trying to show off why ray-tracing is good and all anyone seems to be able to do is to say “wow, look at the particle effects” as though that makes any difference to anything.
Other than forcing people to continually upgrade their systems to play new games, I can see no point in this exerc… oh, wait, I’ve just answered my own question.

(Meanwhile, I’ve spent the last week playing Pentiment which is a (superb) game that demonstrates that you obviously don’t need 4k graphics and raytracing technology to make excellent modern games. And you don’t need it for Portal either.)


If they ever make a Portal 3 game this could be an interesting new way to use the Portal gun: using portals to provide illumination to dark areas.


Yeah, my clumsy writing’s fault. This is indeed Nvidia-developed DLC. Valve would have taken more care. Nvidia shoved it out the door, is my point.


I dunno. I hardly play anything with raytracing, but knowing that I have a card that CAN, if I want to, is nice, along with the reassurance that I can muscle my way through most anything else if I’d like.

There’s also a significant amount of other productive things you can be doing with that GPU, as well, none of which involve raytracing. In fact, I’ve been upscaling and de-noising scads of DV cam-era home movie footage (which is interlaced) and my gaming GPU chews through that in record time and without making my machine sound like a hairdryer. My wife and I took part of our honeymoon in Savannah, and being able to read the print on our dinner menus is a nice treat.

Aside from messing around in some Minecraft demos, Portal RTX has been the ONLY raytracing that I’ve enabled, and I can measure my gaming hours in years.


Portal would have been missing a lot without graphics that let you look through the portals. Didn’t it basically start as a short game engine demo, before people realized it was great on its own? I’m not sure what would be a better vehicle to show how a new one compares.

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This game looks fantastic, and I wasn’t aware of it. Thank you for bringing it up!

As for Portal, I just spent some time playing the original and then the RTX update. The RTX looks nice, but I don’t feel like it impacts what made Portal an amazing game. Performance takes a bit of a hit, too, but it was still playable with DLSS enabled. I think Nvidia just mainly wanted to showcase DLSS 3.0 and their Remix interface using a game that is already loved by a lot of people.

The only other ray-traced game I played was Cyberpunk 2077, and I think it did make a difference for my enjoyment of that game because of how it affected the overall atmosphere. Often when it would start raining at night in the game, I would just find myself driving around in neighborhoods with lots of lights, marveling at how everything reflected off the puddles in the street. So I think ray-tracing can improve games that rely heavily on atmosphere, but like you said, it’s not necessary or even beneficial to a lot of games.


I have to admit the effects are pretty subtle, and given the massive performance hit (in Portal RTX I was getting around 40fps. In the original it would be well over 100), I would normally just turn them off.
On the other hand, having a 300W heater in my room, that also outputs shiny graphics, is quite handy right now.


The thing I always loved about Portal and it’s sequel was how there was no one way to get out of each situation. The further you go, the more variables and options allowed the player to use their skills of deduction to find the best way. Just an incredible game.


The best thing about Nvidia doing this (I wasn’t able to play the RTX version; it noped out before fully booting) is that I played through Portal again. What a great experience. Now excuse me while I boot up Portal 2.


What I want is a brain editor to make me forget I’ve ever played Portal, so I can play Portal for the first time again.

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