Ray Tracing – Is It Worth The Expensive Upgrade?

You probably know by now that the RTX range of NVidia graphics cards have arrived. You probably also know that they cost nothing short of an arm and a leg. The big selling point is, of course, that RTX unlocks the fancy new ray tracing technology. Or; the ultra-advanced graphics technology that allows for real time light simulation.

For those that are keen on keeping up with the latest, cutting edge technology, you might have stopped to ask yourself if the outrageous prices of RTX enabled cards is really worth it. After all, the last graphics jump wasn’t quite so expensive, and really didn’t amount to much for a few years. So is there any reason to jump on this one?

What Is Ray Tracing?

Ray tracing is a graphics technology that literally simulates rays of light. Paths are traced, hundreds of thousands, or even millions of times per second, allowing for astonishingly accurate simulation of light. Visually, the effect is impressive, and it has been used in computer animated movies for a few years already. At this point, if you only use your PC to access the best online pokies sites, you’ve probably already stopped reading. No ray tracing is needed.

The most notable effect is that light can be directly influenced and manipulated in real time, impacting a digital world in convincing ways. For example, 100% accurate reflections are possible in shiny surfaces. Or light may even be diffused through certain surfaces, like curtains and other thin materials, or bounced around a room to cast splash illumination. As far as graphics go, it is the absolute bleeding edge.

But, is it necessary in a game, simulated in real time? In animated movies, which are rendered over many, many hours, the process is not real time, it is gradually applied, given how demanding the tech is.

The Cost

As it stands, video games largely use tricks, illusions, and other such techniques to create light. But, it ultimately looks convincing, and serves the purpose. In order for ray tracing to be possible in a game, an enormous amount of resources are required, hence the expensive RTX range of cards.

To put it bluntly; ray tracing is largely not necessary in video games. Even making it possible drastically impacts the performance of the game, making even overly priced RTX graphics cards struggle. The question can easily be raised as to why such advanced light simulation is needed, when system resources could be used for other, more interesting video game innovations.

On the other hand, technology often moves forward in big, clumsy steps. As video games head into a new generation, ray tracing may well become the new standard. In this case, the best solution may simply be to wait, and let prices settle, before leaping onto the next wave of graphics. With the new consoles almost upon us, adopting ray tracing now would be the equivalent of leaping ahead of the cutting edge by almost a year.