Seeing Keanu Reeves make an appearance at E3 to promote Cyberpunk 2077, an upcoming dystopian role playing game in which he is a part of, was a delightful surprise. Less surprising, but no less welcome, is that developer CD PROJEKT RED is working with NVIDIA to support real-time ray tracing on GeForce RTX hardware (and perhaps other cards as well—more on that in a moment).
"Cyberpunk 2077 is an incredibly ambitious game, mixing first-person perspective and deep role-playing, while also creating an intricate and immersive world in which to tell its story," said Matt Wuebbling, head of GeForce marketing at NVIDIA. "We think the world of Cyberpunk will greatly benefit from the realistic lighting that ray tracing delivers."
Neither NVIDIA nor developer CD PROJEKT RED have said that a GeForce RTX series graphics card will be required for real-time ray tracing, though it's probably a safe assumption that it will be too demanding for GeForce GTX cards, even though Turing and Pascal both technically support the feature by way of Microsoft's DirectX Raytracing (DXR) API.
NVIDIA did strongly hint that a GeForce RTX card will be needed, though, saying that "NVIDIA GeForce RTX is an official technology partner for Cyberpunk 2077."
Requirements aside, CD PROJEKT RED says the inclusion of real-time ray tracing will "add another layer of depth and vertically" to the game. Users who are able to enable the feature can expect to see lighting portrayed in a realistic way in a crowded urban environment, such as beaming reflections in puddles and having neon lights bounce off of murky roads and sidewalks.
The number of games that support real-time ray tracing, both those that have already shipped and those that will be shipping, is slowly growing. It is the stand out feature of NVIDIA's GeForce RTX series graphics cards—they include dedicated RT cores to assist the GPU with ray-traced workloads, in games that support the feature.
As time goes on, real-time ray tracing will find its way into a lot more titles. We are really just at the beginning of a shift from completely rasterized games, to ones that incorporate a mix of rasterized and ray-traced rendering. It will be interesting to see what kind of kick in pants next-gen consoles give developers, as it applies to ray tracing—Sony has already confirmed that the PlayStation 5 will support the feature, and it's likely Microsoft's Scarlett Xbox will as well.
Cyberpunk 2077 is due to release on April 16, 2020.