What Exactly Is Ray-Traced Lighting In Video Games

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A screenshot of Nvidia using ray tracing in one of the scenes in Battlefield V.
A screenshot of Nvidia using ray tracing in one of the scenes in Battlefield V. Nvidia

Modern-day video games have really improved in terms of aesthetic appeal. If you compare 2019's releases to the past, there is definitely a seismic difference. If you have been following video games lately, then you have probably heard about ray-traced lighting, and its talk of taking games to the next step, and now consoles are said to be getting in the action starting with the PS5. But what exactly is ray tracing?

Essentially, ray-traced lighting is a significant upgrade that will soon hit the wider world of gaming. It is still pretty much in development, but some studios and console manufacturers are already confirming its arrival to their respective platforms.

Also known as ray tracing, the goal of the technique is to make the rendering of lights and shadows more advanced and lifelike. In fact, movies and TV shows are fond of using it in an attempt to create and blend amazing CG works with real-life scenes.

There is a catch, though – ray tracing can take a toll on processors, as it requires extensive server farms in order to pre-render graphics. However, game developers and graphics card manufacturers such as Microsoft, AMD, Nvidia have put up initiatives that will make ray-traced lighting a possibility in real-time games.

As a rendering technique, its primary goal is to create a graphical image completely based on virtual light. So, in a sense, it will be used to replace traditional methods of rendering lighting effects. This results in a more lifelike depiction of a scene. Since light is rendered in a way that it would interact similar to its real-world counterpart, the gaming experience becomes more immersive and lifelike.

Games with far better lighting effects translate to better-looking in-game scenes. Players can feel like they are really interacting and playing inside a world that behaves far more realistically than the games they are experiencing right now.

It is worth noting that ray tracing is not just a fluffy tweak to graphics. It is not just about slightly changing how shadows work. To give you a better idea of how it can work, Nvidia has released trailers with upcoming games meant to support ray tracing. One of these videos is down below:

Expect to see ray tracing used as a selling point for new consoles and PC hardware as we move into the next generation.

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