Ray Tracing technology or ray tracing, is a technology that has come to stay. Although initially it had limited support in games and a lot of criticism, it has been consolidated. Many video game developer studios even plan to implement it in future releases. So this NVIDIA bet for the world of video games that seemed short-lived, has ended up settling.
In this post we will explain a little what is this about Ray Tracing technology and the games that support it. Note that this rasterization technology may not be fully implemented in all games. Reflections, shadows, ambient occlusion or global lighting can be implemented.
NVIDIA and some developers use the term Ray Tracing. Microsoft in DirectX 12 it refers to raytracing. It can also be found on the net as ray traces O well real-time light ray tracing.
Origin of Ray Tracing
Although this technology may seem very new and invented by NVIDIA, nothing is further from the truth. Its initial proposal was made by Turner Whitted in 1980 and is based on an algorithm for determining visible surfaces written by Artur Appel in 1968 that was named Ray Casting.
Basically Ray Casting is an algorithm that calculates the amount of visible surfaces in a scene where you want to synthesize the ray traces from the observer's point. The calculation of the intersections of the rays with the objects of the scene is carried out and the intersection determines which are the objects visible to the observer.
Whereas ray tracing wants to determine the visible surfaces by adding the shading. Global lighting effects such as reflections, refractions, or cast shadows are taken into account here.
For reflection and refraction, you must have the material of the intersected object, since not all of them interact the same with light. While you stop the shadows, rays are thrown from an intersection point to the light source.
Robert Cook in 1985 improved the basic Ray Tracing algorithm to similar other effects in images based on stochastic sampling, relying on the Monte Carlo method. Effects such as moving blur, depth of field, or subsampling were added to remove saw teeth.[irp]
Photons of light
Depending on the roughness of the material and the spectra of light that it is capable of absorbing, we see one thing or another. Really, the only thing we see are photons of light after impacting on a material.
Let's take a very red and beautiful apple, worthy of display. We see it red because the apple absorbs the rest of the colors of the light spectrum. It only reflects the photons that are in the red color spectrum and for this reason we see it in that color. Something that happens with all colors and materials.
The light source emits in the entire chromatic spectrum, but the rays are absorbed and reflected by the elements of our environment. These photons of different wave light reach our retina and our brain interprets them.
This complex explanation is necessary, because one of the objectives of Ray Tracing is to achieve color realism. And it is that current games try to be as faithful to reality as possible, but it is very difficult. An approximation is achieved with ray tracing, but we are far from 100% fidelity.
And it is that the greatest complexity of this technology is that billions of rays interact every second on objects. Calculating the absorption, rebound, reflection, fusing together and even collision of them is very complicated. The computing power to achieve this is incalculable, but with the current ray tracing, a little more is advanced to achieve more realism in games.
Why hadn't this technique been used in video games before?
We have been left on the one hand that this technology is more than 40 years old and on the other hand that it depends on the interaction of light with objects.
This technique has really been used and for a long time, but not in video games. It was mainly used in the lighting of static scenes without movement, especially in architecture to show the lighting of a room. It was also used within movies and series for special effects and the like. This was due to the enormous complexity of this technology and the high computational cost. We must bear in mind that for 1 minute of video it could take hours or days to complete rendering.
So the reason for not being implemented in games was the amount of power required. An explosion in a movie could take days to render, which didn't matter. The problem is that in a game the rendering must be immediate and that is where the difficulty lies.
Games typically have a few quiet scenes, and the rest are often frantic. The 'quiet' scenes would not be a problem, but, can you imagine that you are fighting an enemy and it starts to jerk or takes minutes to render the scene? That would be crazy and more than one would destroy the screen in one hit.
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Ray Tracing Operation
A modern video game relies on raster technology to display on screen. It allows generating 3D models with millions of triangles in two-dimensional textures that are shaped. The vertices of these triangles have associated position, color, texture, and orientation data.
Basically a 2D image is generated on the screen based on triangles and vertices that are interpreted in pixels. Each of these has associated color data. Finally, depending on the final scene, different color changes are applied according to the lighting of the environment.
Ray Tracing goes one step further and calculates the interaction of light with objects from the point of the observer. Furthermore, out of plane objects or the non-visible part of the objects are also taken into account. In the case of video game technology, a series of rays are launched and then by Artificial Intelligence the rest of the rays and their behavior in the scene are calculated.
And that's the great light ray tracing trick proposed by NVIDIA. Calculating all the rays and all the interactions would be crazy and truly impossible. That is why 'x' rays are launched in the scenes, to see their behavior. Using AI and Deep Learning extrapolations of the interaction of the rays with a limit of three refractions or reflections are carried out.[irp]
NVIDIA and Microsoft, pioneers
Its implementation in video games has only been possible thanks to NVIDIA and Microsoft. The first because it has added hardware to its GPUs for this technology. The second because it has implemented improvements in its graphical API to support this new form of rasterization.
To support Ray Tracing, it was necessary for NVIDIA to add RT Cores and Tensor Cores to GeForce GTX with Turing architecture. The RT Cores would basically perform the light ray tracing calculations. The problem is that these calculations cost up to 50% of the performance of a graphics card. We could go from playing 4K @ 60FPS to 4K @ 30FPS with Ray Tracing activated. For this, the Tensor Cores have been implemented, which are intended for Artificial Intelligence. What they do is help the RT Cores and 'simulate' ray traces or scene elements.
Microsoft for its part has released the DirectX 12 Raytracing API. This solution, which allows it to be more efficient for tracing light rays, would be like a support for the NVIDIA solution. It allows developers to use this technology in games in a much simpler and optimized way.
Currently, the graphics engines with full Ray Tracing support are: Ubisoft's Unreal Engine, Electronic Arts (EA) Frostbite, and Unity Technologies' Unity.
Gaming with Integrated Ray Tracing for PC
To facilitate the work we have made a compilation of the games that support this new technology. Note that the Ray Tracing name is very broad and does not have to be the same in all games. Ray Tracing considers reflections, refractions, shadows, ambient occlusion and global lighting. Most games implement one or as many two of these elements.
The latest Battlefield V installment developed by DICE and distributed by EA has been the first to integrate Ray Tracing. The game released on November 20, 2018 only implements reflections on surfaces. Remember that the game has not sold as expected due to historical inaccuracies and the promotional campaign, in some cases, making fun of users.
Quake II RTX
The mythical 1997 has come back to life thanks to Lightspeed Studios, a studio owned by NVIDIA that has implemented Ray Tracing in this game. It builds on work previously done by Christoph Schied and developers at the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology. These created the Q2VKPT mod for light ray tracing in Quake II.
What NVIDIA has done is improve this first game by giving it more realism. Path visuals, textures, and other important changes and enhancements have been improved. For this game elements of shadows, reflections and refractions have been implemented.
Shadow of the Tomb Raider
Eidos Montréal in collaboration with NVIDIA have implemented Ray Tracing in the Shadow of the Tomb Raider. Specifically, the shadow function complemented with DLSS technology, to offer superior image quality. Compared to conventional shadow mapping techniques, the ray tracing solution offers realistic twilight, translucency, automatic shadows, and other benefits.
The invasion of a secret agency by an otherworldly threat in New York, Jesse Faden becomes the new Director who must fight to regain Control. Users will follow Jesse in a personal search for answers about his past and his difficult supernatural abilities and reactive environments as he traverses a deep and surprising world in supernatural action and adventure.
This is the description of the Control title developed by Remedy. The game developed in collaboration with NVIDIA is one of the most Ray Tracing features implemented. It has reflections, leftovers and global lighting.[irp]
This action game implement shadows and reflections based on Ray Tracing technology. This game will take us to an alternative Moscow city and our mission will be to restore peace. We will be an elite agent of the Soviet Union, which would never have dissolved. We will thus achieve unlimited power thanks to a secret government project. All in an environment full of Nazi enemies, dissidents and all kinds of enemies.
The new installment of this action game implements some Ray Tracing functions. Specifically, the ambient occlusion and global illumination. This Metro video game saga is based on the Dmitry Glukhovsky novel saga. The plot of this game is set in the year 2036 and it is set two years after Metro: Last Light and follows the story of Artyom.
This Wuxia-themed game is based on the MMO game system and has been developed by NetEase. This game has been developed exclusively for the Chinese market and is characterized by being the first to implement Ray Tracing and Deep Learning Super Smapling. The game implements the Ray Tracing package have been implemented reflections and shadows.
Mech Warrior 5: Mercenaries
Mecha-type games have a great popularity and this fifth installment takes us to the year 3015. Humanity has expanded through the stars and seeks new regions to colonize. This has caused tension between various factions that have started a war. For this game the ambient occlusion, reflections and shadows own of Ray Tracing.
We know little about this game developed entirely in China and based on Vulkan. It is the first game to implement Ray Tracing features. We don't know much more about this title, as well as the elements it implements, but it seems that it implements shadows, although it is not clear.
We Happy Few
Compulsion Games has developed this survival action and adventure game combined with hints of horror. The game was listed by NVIDIA as a game that implements Ray Tracing features. The game developers have finally debunked the feature implementation ray tracing of light.
Assetto Corsa Competizione
It was to be the first racing simulation to implement this ray tracing technology. The developers after analyzing their implementation and testing it, have ruled out adding Ray Tracing features. It was relatively straightforward, since it uses Unreal Engine 4, but the consumption of resources would have caused this option to be discarded.
This Battle Royale game is based on a post-apocalyptic world in the purest Mad Max style. The game developed by Avalanche is in Early Access phase on Steam and will implement Ray Tracing. The developers have not yet specified what feature and when it will be implemented.
This game developed by Mojang, a studio now owned by Microsoft continues to have great popularity. Microsoft is working in collaboration with NVIDIA to add Ray Tracing. It is not clear which functions it will implement, but everything indicates that ambient occlusion and reflections will be added, but perhaps more features will be added. This feature was released on April 16, 2020.
One of the games with the most hype today is the one developed by CD Projekt RED and will hit the market on November 19, 2020 (after several delays). This title is a dark type RPG with a complex storyline with a lot of missions and gameplay. It will reportedly be the first game to fully implement Ray Tracing. This means that it will implement global lighting, ambient occlusion, reflections and shadows.
The First Person Shooter title developed by MachineGames and Arkane Studios will be devoid of Ray Tracing at the initial time of launch. Jerk Gustafsson, MachineGames Executive Product said in a interview at GamesBeat that they did not implement Ray Tracing at launch. Indicates that they are working with NVIDIA engineers to integrate it into the game.
The game developed by ID Software has highlighted that it will implement Ray Tracing in the game. ID Software's Marty Stratton has reported that they will support Ray Tracing technology and assures that it will be the best implementation to date. They haven't revealed if they will implement all aspects of light ray tracing or any part.
Dying Light 2
The developers of this iconic zombie survival action RPG will implement Ray Tracing. Although they have not explained what element to implement, Pawel Rochleder, Techland CTO has said that "being an open world with an environment full of infected, it was important for us to create an experience as realistic as possible"
Synced: Off Planet
The cooperative PvPvE action game developed by Tencent Next Studios created for the Chinese market. According to the developers, they will implement the shadows and reflections using Ray Tracing.[irp]
Watch Dogs Legion
The third installment in the Watch Dogs saga will be action packed and will feature Ray Tracing. Ubisoft Toronto has decided to move the action to London where we will enjoy the reflections using NVIDIA technology. The launch is expected in May 2020.
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Ring of Elysium
We start with a free Battle Royale created by Arena Studio and published by Tencent that is in Season 6. It will implement Ray Tracing by update, although we do not know what elements it will implement and how it will impact performance. We also don't know the hardware required to play it with light ray tracing.
We move on to a Shooter set in space that has been created by the Chinese studio Surgical Scalpels. It will hit the market during the first quarter of 2020 for PC and PlayStation 4 (without Ray Tracing, obviously)
Bright Memory Infinite
A few months ago, Bright Memory: Episode 1, a game developed exclusively by Zeng Xiancheng, was released. After its great media impact, it has decided to restart the saga and has announced this new installment. Those who purchase Episode 1 will have access without additional costs to this new delivery. It will implement Ray Tracing technology, although we do not know at what level.
“Two teenagers have disappeared in the vicinity of Grackham National Park. His car with traces of blood was found in the woods.
At night a roar is heard from the forest. Local hunters find strange tracks, broken animal bodies.”
The game will implement Ray Tracing, although we don't know to what degree.
It is a first person shooter type game that has been developed by Loong Force. We know little about this game, but it should give the option to play both PvP and PvE. Apparently it will implement Ray Tracing reflections and possibly something else.
The arcade style Shooter game is based on a heroic rabbit who defeats his enemies using a powerful hammer. Yes, it sounds like some recreational substance when it comes to creating the plot of the game. It will implement Ray Tracing, but we don't know to what degree.
Xuan Yuan Sword VII
This Softstar RPG is one of the oldest franchises of this style in China. The first installment in English will be The Gate of Firmament. Xuan-Yuan Sword VII arriving in Japan in winter 2020.
The popular game Battle Royal will add support for real-time ray tracing technology in the near future. It will not only come with Ray Tracing, this game will also have DLSS 2.0 support, which improves performance with active ray tracing. There is no arrival date and we do not know if it will be a full or partial implementation.
Call of Duty: Black Ops Cold War
Modern Warfare was the first game on the market to offer partial support for Ray Tracing technology. The new installment of Call of Duty, called Cold War will also receive support for ray tracing technology. Apparently this installment will have ambient occlusion, reflections, and refractions, although shadows may also be added.[irp]
Games with integrated ray tracing for PlayStation 5
All games for PlayStation 5 are based on Ray Tracing technology developed by AMD. The Sony console makes use of an AMD graphic that offers support for ray tracing. We currently lack reliable information on how this technology will work in AMD graphics solutions.
Ratchet and Clank: Rift Apart
Platform game developed by Insomniac Games that will be released exclusively for the PlayStation 5. Like the previous installments, it is a game that has a third-person perspective. The player travels with Ratchet (protagonist) through different worlds or screens, defeating enemies with a large number of weapons and gadgets, while avoiding obstacles. Players can also handle Clank
The Witcher 3
The third installment of the adventures of Geralt of Rivia will arrive on nextgen consoles and will do so with Ray Tracing technology. The game has been on the market for a few years now and is available on PC, PlayStation 4 and Xbox One, also making the leap to the PlayStation 5. We do not know more details about what elements of ray tracing technology will be added to this game.
Watch Dogs Legion
Ubisoft will also take its title to the new Sony console and it will do so with active Ray Tracing. As reported, the game will reach 4K @ 30FPS resolution with active Ray Tracing technology. What we don't know at the moment is what elements of ray tracing technology have been implemented or if there will be a graphic downgrade.
Games with Integrated Ray Tracing for Xbox Series X and Xbox Series S
This new Microsoft console is based on an AMD processor and graphics card that have been specifically developed for the Xbox Series X. The new graphics that will be integrated into this console will offer support for ray tracing technology. Currently we do not have concrete data on how this technology will work in AMD graphics cards, but it seems that it used a different system than NVIDIA.
The Witcher 3
Geralt of Rivia on the Xbox Series X will receive full real-time ray tracing technology. The game released in 2015 will be brought to the new Microsoft console, although we do not have much more information about this integration. We do not know if it will implement all the elements of Ray Tracing technology or, as everything suggests, it will be a partial implementation of this graphic technology.
Watch Dogs Legion
The game has been confirmed to hit Microsoft's two new consoles. For the Xbox Series X the game will arrive in 4K @ 30FPS resolution with active Ray Tracing technology. While in the Xbox Series S, the fully digital version, it could arrive with resolutions 1080p @ 60FPS or 1440p @ 30FPS with active Ray Tracing. In the latter case, it will be the user who can choose the resolution