This rendering method has long been the holy grail of graphics technology, but finally with graphics cards like the Nvidia GeForce RTX , you can see this tech in the latest and greatest PC games. So, what even is ray tracing? Well, it's an advanced and lifelike way of rendering light and shadows in a scene.
It's what movies and TV shows use to create and blend in amazing CG work with real-life scenes. However, because ray tracing works by simulating and tracking every ray of light produced by a source of lighting, it kind of takes a lot of horsepower to actually render. These days, ray tracing is actually achievable in PC games, and yet the biggest titles to implement this technology only use it in limited ways, like rendering realistic reflections or shadows.
Now that ray tracing is the hot new technology behind the biggest PC games, we thought it was about time to dive into exactly what it is, how to do it, and the best ray tracing games.
Ray tracing is a rendering technique that can produce incredibly realistic lighting effects. Essentially, an algorithm can trace the path of light, and then simulate the way that the light interacts with the virtual objects it ultimately hits in the computer-generated world.
We've seen in-game lighting effects become more and more realistic over the years, but the benefits of ray tracing are less about the light itself and more about how it interacts with the world. Ray tracing allows for dramatically more lifelike shadows and reflections, along with much-improved translucence and scattering.
The algorithm takes into account where the light hits and calculates the interaction and interplay much like the human eye would process real light, shadows, and reflections, for example. The way light hits objects in the world also affects which colors you see.
With enough computational power available, it's possible to produce incredibly realistic CG images that are nearly indistinguishable from real life. But that's the problem: even a well-equipped gaming PC only has so much GPU power to work with, let alone a modern game console.
Ray tracing is used extensively when developing computer graphics imagery for films and TV shows, but that's because studios can harness the power of an entire server farm or cloud computing to get the job done. And even then, it can be a long, laborious process. Doing it on the fly has been far too taxing for existing gaming hardware.
Traditionally, video games have used rasterization instead. This is a speedier way to render computer graphics. Sony revealed to Wired some details about its upcoming next-generation PlayStation console, which is nameless for now but many are calling the "PlayStation 5.
The next-gen PlayStation console will run on a chip based on AMD's third-generation of Ryzen consumer processors, which are comparable to Intel's line of Core processors. AMD will also be supplying the graphics chip in Sony's upcoming next-gen console, which will be based on the company's "Navi" graphics chips.
With upgrades to the latest generation of hardware, games will surely look better on Sony's next-gen console than they currently do on the six-year-old PlayStation 4, and even the three-year-old PlayStation 4 Pro. It's hard to imagine how much better the graphics will be, as the PlayStation 4 consoles already push beautifully detailed video games to TVs.
But there is one thing in the upcoming PlayStation we can imagine today, and we can even see it for ourselves. It essentially simulates the path of light travelling from a light source in a game, like a light bulb, fire, or the sun, more accurately than conventional video game lighting. The result is more realistic lighting, reflections, and shadows in a video game. Read more : We already know a surprising amount about the PlayStation 5 and next Xbox — here's how the two consoles compare.
Ironically, to show you what kind of added effects ray tracing brings, we have to turn to AMD's main rival in the graphics chip world — Nvidia. Indeed, Nvidia has already released its consumer "RTX" graphics chips for PCs that support ray tracing in , which should give us an idea of what to expect on Sony's next-gen PlayStation. Here's what conventional video game lighting and reflections looks like in "Battlefield V":. And here's what the same scene looks like with ray tracing, which reveals what's going on outside the shot through the reflections on the car door:.
That's just one example of ray tracing, which can be used to better simulate lighting realism in pretty much every aspect of a game. TV and movie studios have used ray tracing to add realistic lighting to computer-animated scenes in the past. But it's only recently that ray tracing has been added to video games. It takes a lot of power to simulate realistic lighting with ray tracing, especially in real-time while responding to a player's movements in a game. It will be interesting to see how Sony implements ray tracing into its next-gen PlayStation.
Ray tracing is so power intensive that it can dramatically reduce the smoothness of video games for the sake of visual effects.
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