A little over a year after the launch of Nvidia’s RTX series of graphics cards, we can say: it should go a bit faster with extended gaming support for new raytracing technology. The list of titles that currently support the awesome new lighting process is so short that when I searched for the article, I initially thought my information was out of date. But it’s true, who wants to get a glimpse of how ray tracing might influence our viewing habits in the years to come, currently only has six titles (Correction: With Stay in the Light, there are seven) opportunities.

Battlefield 5, Call of Duty: Modern Warfare, Control, Metro Exodus, Quake 2 RTX, and Shadow of the Tomb Raider provide a good range of clear examples of what ray tracing can do for a game – and what doesn’t. do not. ‘is not. As with any tech, this is the first iteration and if you’re already killing off the new lighting process or dismissing it as a short-lived trend… well, you’d be wrong, although you can’t blame it.

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After all, we’ve fetishized – and by that we mean hardware makers as well as gamers – ever-increasing pixel counts and extreme frame rates (and not without reason). In the meantime, this has almost become our only criterion for the success or failure of a new generation of graphics hardware. The defense reactions to this are only natural, as the step towards hardware accelerated ray tracing was initially a move away from the raw performance craze.

So it’s not hard to see why the hassle of selling ray tracing to gamers as a new killer feature is largely homemade. And that wouldn’t even be the only reason. After all, during all the years that true ray tracing was always out of reach, developers were good enough at simulating light and shadow in games – and we gamers were conditioned to what they looked like. in video games: Until now, an NPC via a lighted hallway door into a darker room, his figure fell elongated like a rug and was pulled relatively clearly onto the lighted floor in front of him. With ray tracing this shadow loses sharpness, length and often also depth, its outlines are disturbed, distorted, softened by other weaker light sources in the new room, or split by secondary sources. in the old one. Just like real lights influence a real shadow.

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In some scenes, they lose something of their imposing, incredibly concise, almost comical nature, which they so often do at the heart of many impressively presented scenes. But – and this is not to be argued either: we also perceive our “old” shadows as decidedly unreal. Whether you notice it or not, your brain realizes it. No matter how “correct” the old portrayal is, at the subconscious level, truly authentic shadows are one of the last real obstacles in the path to photo or video realism – and ray tracing is the car in which we’ll take this street for the next few years, until – clearly – we stand in front of the next wall, which has to be demolished with a lot of equipment, research and cost.

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Taking raytracing in front of your chest might not seem intuitive, as light and shadow is definitely not the first thing that comes to your mind when you think about the shortcomings of modern graphics technology. But light is the essence of our optical perception – and while it doesn’t seem real to the last corner, the virtual spaces it shines on don’t. So this was an issue that couldn’t be fixed soon enough no matter how many people had it on the map.

Meanwhile, there is no doubt that reflections in particular are extremely effective in demonstrating the benefits of real-time tracked light. It’s so good that Nvidia and all other ray tracing solution providers need to make sure that crystal puddles, endless storefront hallways and polished floors don’t degenerate into the new light shot. parasite. They are so ubiquitous when looking at photos and videos of current and future Raytrack games. At the same time you have to say: why not, who has ever played the control with ray tracing functions enabled, for whom the game seems strangely without – no matter how much better performance would be if you played them with lighting conventional.

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Even Quake 2 RTX, which – sorry – isn’t playful these days if you like your shooters with decent combat dynamics and a good shooter, hits a captivating visual balancing act with real captivating exposure in an abstract environment. and unreal that you can watch longer than it deserves the real game. The same goes for the next Minecraft RTX update. Block worlds appear more and more tangible with light sources constantly mixing in different colors and luminances and demonstrating that ray tracing can also teach one or the other trick to games that are not brushed. to represent real life spaces.

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Now that it’s confirmed that the next generation of consoles are using hardware-accelerated ray tracing – both the Xbox Series X and the PlayStation 5 – and Crytek is investing a lot of time and certainly money in introducing it. a software solution in its Cryengine is, so to speak, set in stone that this technology will continue to support us for years to come. It’s still in its infancy, which shows less in the visual results and more in the associated high performance costs. Right now, I think a few times, especially in multiplayer titles, if I should turn on DXR effects – and then prefer to take additional frames without ever questioning the decision.

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But already now, after Control and the Call of Duty: Modern Warfare or Metro Exodus campaign, I can see how my viewing habits are changing. I find myself in games without ray tracing over and over again – my beloved Hunt: Showdown, for example, or in Red Dead Redemption 2 on PC – only to discover inconsistencies in light, shadow and reflections that don’t. just don’t seem more correct. I’m sure more and more people will feel the same over time.

In this regard: Ray tracing may not have fully arrived yet – but it has come a long way and won’t be leaving us anytime soon. This is the first real paradigm shift in graphics technology in a long time. That’s why it’s worth it for companies like Nvidia to entrust some of their brightest minds to their early days.

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