If you walk into the trailer below totally cold, you’d be excused for thinking it’s a pretty boring trailer. Shadow of the Tomb Raider is a game about descending into deep tombs, stalking soldiers, and uncovering hidden truths. So why is Lara just walking around a town square? This trailer is all about Nvidia’s RTX Ray-Tracing technology, and a chill evening in a small town is the perfect way to show it off.
There’s a lot going on here that’s hard to spot if you don’t know what to look for. A quick refresher on ray tracing might help. Light is one of the most difficult things to simulate in games, maybe even more so than liquids. As it is now, developers do a lot of guesswork when simulating light. The lighting we get now is heavily-estimated stuff that looks as close as developers can get it to the real thing. We’re often having to leave off major things that would change how a scene looks because even high-end video cards like the GTX 1080 Ti can’t reasonably handle the demands of ray tracing.
Ray tracing is the act of literally tracing rays of light and where they would bounce off of in a 3D-rendered scene. CG movies like Toy Story have been using this technique for years, which is why those movies have taken hundreds or thousands of hours to render. This has previously been all but impossible to do in real time without spending tens of thousands of dollars.
Nvidia’s RTX tech makes some ray tracing possible, and that’s what’s on display here. Watch in particular the kids with the sparklers, and the way the shadows mix around them. The lighting coming off the stage, too, and the way the colors of light blend together and create soft shadows on the ground is particularly notable.
As it stands, right now you’ll need an Nvidia RTX graphics card to get access to this tech, but it’s likely going to be something that will become more and more popular in the next few years as Nvidia helps developers get used to it, as AMD replicates it, and as we see it make its way – probably – into next-gen game consoles. If you want to try it out this year, though, you can do so for $700 when the Nvidia GeForce RTX 2080 launches on September 20, with games like Shadow of the Tomb Raider and Battlefield V taking advantage of the tech this year.