What Is Ray Tracing, And How Is It Revolutionizing Gaming?
The photorealism era is approaching video games thanks to a new generation of video game consoles and graphics cards. But what is ray-tracing, and why is it the next big thing in 3D graphics?
If you like video games, you have surely heard a new term that seems to be on everyone’s lips but that nobody understands. We speak, of course, of ray-tracing or ray tracing. This technology, previously reserved for Pixar movies and professional environments, is finally coming to next-generation computer graphics cards and consoles to create virtually photorealistic environments. But what are its advantages? And how it works?
This article gives you its keys and explains why ray-tracing has come to change the way we understand 3D graphics.
What is ray tracing?
The ray-tracing or ray tracing is a technology that fundamentally changes how 3D graphics are displayed. Until now, the normal thing was to use a process called rasterized to, described thoroughly, generate a 2D section of a 3D scene and capture it at the resolution we want on our monitor (1,920 x 1,080, for example). This technique is highly efficient and very fast, but it has some significant drawbacks.
For example, an ordinary raster cannot “see” what is behind an object and cannot produce credible reflections. This causes some problems for developers, who must create “precooked” shadows to simulate full lighting environments and reflections using highly complex graphical tricks that do not render the scene with a realistic detail level. In short, you can tell that the lighting is “fake.”
The ray-tracing uses a very different approach. Instead of generating a two-dimensional cut of a three-dimensional scene, it uses each pixel in the camera (our screen, for practical purposes). It treats it as if it were a ray of light striking a specific point. And not only that, since said light beam can bounce off objects, so it is possible to create refracted light effects in real-time, radiosity, and highly natural reflections.
Thanks to ray tracing, the lighting of the video games that support it are extraordinarily realistic, with puddles that reflect the characters, fires that eliminate dark areas with total naturalness, and shadows that are not only precise but also correctly blurred. It’s almost as if lighting from the outside world is introduced into the video game.
The ray-tracing is tremendously complex and costly in terms of resources technical systems. It is currently impossible to render a game with ray-tracing alone since it would take minutes to render a single frame at a good resolution. The developers use a hybrid approach: much of the image is rasterized, but effects such as lighting, particles, shadows, and reflections use ray-tracing to increase its credibility.
What games are raytraced?
There is currently no complete list of games that employ ray-tracing. It would be like asking for a list of games with antialiasing or any other graphical feature. It is a technology open to everyone and available on a multitude of platforms. However, some prominent ray-traced titles are ‘ Cyberpunk 2077′, ‘Fortnite’ (after the last update), ‘Minecraft,’ ‘Watch Dogs: Legion,’ ‘Control,’ ‘Call of Duty: Modern Warfare,’ ‘Mechwarrior 5: Mercenaries’, ‘Battlefield V’ and ‘Metro Exodus.’
It is easier to tell if a PC game has ray-tracing g than a console game since these titles usually have the logo of compatibility with Nvidia’s RTX technology (which incorporates ray-tracing, among other advances) or DirectX 12 Ultimate. Although it is not a guarantee, if any of these technologies are used by a game, it likely uses ray-tracing.
Obviously, the computer must be well equipped, like the ones we propose below in desktop and portable format.
What are consoles and graphics cards ray-traced compatible?
As we said, ray-tracing is a technology with a great cost in terms of technical resources, so it has been necessary to develop specially designed hardware to run it on a consumer computer. Until now, only large workstations could come close to ray-tracing in real-time. This changed with the introduction of Nvidia’s first-generation GeForce RTX cards, which featured RT cores dedicated exclusively to this work.
All Nvidia GeForce RTX cards are compatible with ray-tracing, with the RTX 3000 generation being the most powerful and efficient in handling. However, the new Radeon RX 6000 from AMD adds what the company calls “beam accelerators,” which are cores similar to those used by Nvidia. Its performance is not that high, and it shows in slower frame rates per second, but they are quite affordable.
Finally, next-generation home consoles can use ray-tracing. Both Xbox Series X and Xbox Series S and PlayStation 5 have compatibility with this technology, so it cannot be said that it is a PC exclusive. All in all, the most demanding users may want to enjoy ray tracing at the highest level on a high-level gaming PC like the ones we have collected a few lines above, which is where it can be appreciated in all its splendor. Of course, those who prefer the console as a device, below you have the latest generation.
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