After years of honorable service, the curtain is about to fall on the current generation consoles, which will give way to new flagships from Microsoft and Sony. With the Playstation showcase from September 16, we finally get a full rundown of release dates and pricing: Xbox Series X and Series S will be available from November 10 for € 499 and € 299, while both versions of Playstation 5 will arrive in Italy on November 19 at a cost of € 499 and € 399 for the digital version only.
So all the cards have been revealed and it only remains to wonder what can really be considered the next generation within these new materials. The most obvious and efficient novelty of the PS5 and the X and S series is the physiological transition from hard drive to SSD, now also standard on PC. It was more than predictable that Sony and Microsoft would also mount higher performance internal memories to ensure better performance.
But another characteristic bounces between the different technical specifications and is constantly put forward as the workhorse of this new generation of consoles. We are talking about ray tracing, the technique of rendering light in a scenario, which today seems to revolutionize the graphics of entire games. But is it really an innovation?
First of all, it is good to clarify the functionality and use of this technology. We can briefly say that the lighting in a video game scene has so far been based on the physical presence of a light source and its power. For example, if there is a ceiling light in an environment such as a room, the degree of brightness is limited to the area where the lamp is placed. If there is also a mirror in the same room, current techniques for rendering light do not reflect the source, making the shadow effect less realistic.
Ray tracing fills this space, identifying the light source and tracking the rays that reflect off surrounding surfaces, creating consistent overall illumination. Taking the example of the room, framing the mirror with the camera, the impact of the reflecting source on the surface will be had, making the scene brighter and the shadows consistent.
The demonstration of Nvidia in a dedicated show organized in 2018 has increased the use and knowledge of this technology. The California-based company has shown the general public the use of DirectX Raytracing applied on Battlefield V. With support for the excellent Frostbite graphics engine, Nvidia has revived the concept of how it is possible to make the image more realistic by applying ray tracing.
By comparing the videos with RTX and those without, it was immediately clear the huge improvement to which the Electronic Arts title was subjected. The shiny car bodywork that mirrored the character’s image, the reflections on the puddles and the brightness of the explosions, also visible on the surrounding surfaces, are just the most obvious and concrete creations that create a more realistic setting. and plausible.
But it should be noted that the development and implementation of ray tracing dates back a long time ago, even around 45 years ago. MAGI, Mathematical Applications Group Inc, was established in 1966 to assess exposure to nuclear radiation and to do so developed SynthaVision. From a source of radiation, it was thus possible to study their propagation by following their tracing in the surrounding environment. The replacement of nuclear substances by light sources thus leads to the first sketch of ray tracing in history. This technology, which proved to be satisfactory, was then applied also to computer graphics in television commercials, up to cinema.
Why has it not been implemented before, you ask? The one proposed by Nvidia, and now promised by Xbox and Playstation, is an evolution that starts from this base. The calculation and the technique remain basically the same only as now, thanks to the computing power of the graphics cards, it is possible to realize them in real time.
In fact, in the early days, the computation of this technology was not viable for the processing systems of the time, requiring enormous render times. What the new generation can do is use graphics cards such as the RTX 20xx and the new RTX 30xx, which process information and code strings with cores dedicated solely to this function, providing the resulting illumination to the screen in real time. of the different light sources and the respective reflections on the surfaces.
In conclusion, is ray tracing really new? The calculation technique on which it is based is a method known for many years and used in various software with different results due to the resource used.
As for the video game sector, the big revolution lies in the fact of having created graphics cards and processors with such computing power to lead to ray tracing in real time, all obviously supported by DirectX Raytracing for Nvdia, and Directx 12 for the AMD counterpart which will also be integrated on the X series.
Source : Reddit