Back in 2018, NVIDIA made waves in the market by unveiling the first GPUs that could accelerate real-time ray tracing in games. However, it took several months for game developers to start supporting this technology and even longer for graphics card power to catch up with the new levels of performance it demanded.
Although ray tracing technology is now supported by both AMD and Intel, NVIDIA is already thinking ahead and promoting path tracing support with their upcoming RTX 40 GPUs. The new Cyberpunk 2077 game will feature a setting called “RT: Overdrive” that will utilize this technology.
When it comes to simulating light in a virtual environment, there are two popular methods: ray tracing and path tracing. Ray tracing is a deterministic process that involves tracing the path of light rays and their interactions, producing high-quality images with accurate reflections, refractions, and shadows. However, it requires a lot of processing power.
Path tracing, on the other hand, is a randomly computed process that involves sampling paths of light as they move through a scene. While it’s less computationally expensive than ray tracing, it can produce noisy images that require many iterations to converge to a high-quality result. Path tracing is typically used in applications that require physically accurate simulations of light, like architectural visualization and product design, but it is not yet commonly used in games.
NVIDIA has previously demonstrated path tracing in their graphics demos such as Quake 2 RTX or Portal RTX. However, even with the most powerful GPUs, framerates were very low, particularly without the use of DLSS upscaling technology.
Now, at GDC, CD Projekt and NVIDIA are set to showcase a new game setting called “RT: Overdrive.” This mode will enable path tracing in Cyberpunk 2077, making it the first modern AAA game to support this technology.
The GDC session is scheduled for March 22nd and will only be available to registered attendees. This session is not intended as a public showcase for gamers, but rather as a tech demo for developers who want to learn how path tracing works in games.