NVIDIA makes first step to add path tracing to games
At this year’s GDC (Game Developer Conference) NVIDIA is focusing on two technologies: path tracing and frame generation. The latter should already be well known to gamers on RTX 40 series, but the former technology is still not commonly used in games. In an effort to change this, today NVIDIA released its first SDK (Software Development Kit) for Path Tracing, as part of their RTX toolkit.
Path tracing is still a very complicated and computationally expensive technology to use on modern consumer graphics. After all, path tracing is better known for creating realistic 3D images in architectural visualizations or product design, but not in games. It is a more advanced form of ray tracing where the algorithm has to calculate multiple rays of light or their path to create a full scene. Multiple paths are then averaged and color and brightness of the pixel are computed more accurately.
Thus far, path tracing has only been in shown in graphics demos such as Quake RTX or Portal RTX, but it has not found its use in popular games just yet. NVIDIA thinks it is time to add path tracing to more games alongside their most popular technologies, such as super resolution or frame generation, both could restore the performance that was otherwise lost to trace rays or paths.
The newly released software will enable game developers to take advantage of all these technologies through NVIDIA’s RTX Path Tracing SDK. However, gamers shouldn’t expect path tracing to be used in all types of gameplay just yet. NVIDIA lists at least two examples where path tracing might make sense, including built-in photo modes, a very popular form of sharing in-game screenshots, or for game developers to verify if the lighting is correct and ‘true to life’.
NVIDIA Path Tracing SDK only works with GeForce GPUs. In fact, NVIDIA even says that the SDK “leverages the power and feature set of the latest Ada GPU series”, meaning that it might work best with the RTX 40 series only (or RTX Ada workstation) series. What might also be important to note is there is no plugin for Unity or Unreal Engine yet. Based on the official website, the SDK roadmap is now set, and all signs should now point traces into right path.
Source: NVIDIA (blog), NVIDIA (SDK)