Nvidia Ray Tracing is Great for Gaming, IMHO – CES 2019
In My Humble Opinion
I see a fair share of collective groans when Nvidia announces a proprietary feature. The RTX series of cards introduced DLSS, as well as Ray Tracing. Even though the company has been incredibly excited about the new features, many consumers and reviewers are claiming they aren’t a big deal. I get it. PhysX was meant to bring immersive gaming experiences to the action. However, I noticed some heavy gaming lag when tons of particles were flying. Why is Ray Tracing any different?
For me, the key is seeing something a feature does that makes me wish I had it all along. At first, Ray Tracing seemed somewhat gimmicky. The Nvidia demo showed reflections on swords and pieces of metal armor. If you do a close up like the demo does, it looks interesting. On the other hand, how much are those tiny patches going to be noticed during game play? Then I saw all the water reflections. On top of making the water look a ton more realistic, I couldn’t help but wish I had Ray Tracing back in the days of playing World of Warcraft.
That’s Ray Tracing, but DLSS?
There’s Anti-Aliasing, and there’s DLSS. The former uses a trick that blurs the pixels around straight lines. It gives the appearance that a line is smooth, even though the object being rendered is jagged. The key to smooth lines isn’t making something smooth. If you put just about anything under enough magnification, it will look jagged. If the imperfections are small enough though, the eye can only see smoothness.
Nvidia mentioned that they render an image at around 16,000 x 32,000 pixels. Even if that number isn’t exactly right, the image size is astronomical! After rendering an image at that size, their super computers can learn how to reproduce that image at smaller resolutions. Rather than blur the edges, DLSS is learning how to render the image right off the bat in ways that make edges look smooth. The programming involved is an impressive feat, and provides far better performance than intensive AA settings.
However, the results aren’t game changing to me. I don’t mean that I don’t appreciate it a ton, but I can see how the jagged lines aren’t something that will stand out to me during actual game play. Even in my CES coverage, the best way to show the technology off was to freeze the benchmark. Should we be happy about DLSS? Absolutely! This is still a great technology that adds to the quality of the game image, and it can actually improve performance in certain ways. It’s not on the level of Ray Tracing, but the fact that the improvement isn’t at the cost of performance is great.
The RTX 2060 Announced
The best news is that Ray Tracing and DLSS are much more affordable with the RTX 2060. Not only does it support the latest features, but it has great FPS performance as well. Even though gaming titles are bound to take a while to catch up, these are some of the best features Nvidia has released. Ray Tracing does come with a performance hit, but I think smoothing out the performance over time will be worth it. DLSS is a feature that doesn’t seem to hit performance. Even if the visual impact is not as noticeable to everyone, it’s still worth having.
Another thing I’ve noticed is articles pointing out that Mr. Huang has been defensive about RTX tech. I feel like I understand entirely. Even though gamers want the best experience possible, we can’t translate that into nothing but raw FPS and 99th percentile. While I understand that those are very important, at some point we have to make the games look better on a raw pixel level. The more hardware companies take that mantle up, the easier it will be for game developers to make beautiful games. Even though I haven’t been thrilled about Nvidia’s proprietary features in the past, I still feel like RTX is doing a much better job than before.
We still have more CES 2019 coverage on the way so come back later.