NVIDIA Releases Drivers For DXR On GeForce GTX, New Demos And What To Expect For Performance

Justic RTX
NVIDIA has an obvious vested interest in seeing ray tracing technologies take off in a big way, both in the way they are adopted by developers and implemented into games, and how it is all received by consumers. To further showcase what ray tracing can do, NVIDIA has released some demos, and the best part (depending on your perspective) is that they run on past generation Pascal hardware.

That's right, the latest examples of ray-traced visuals do not require a GeForce RTX series graphics card, though RTX hardware (RT and Tensor cores, essentially) will still offer the best experience. More on that in a minute, but first let's have a look a video NVIDIA put together that describes the different kinds of ray tracing techniques that are available to game developers...

It's a neat video that breaks down the various ray tracing technologies into consumable chunks, including ray-traced ambient occlusion, shadows, real-time reflections, and global illumination. Not every game that bakes in ray-traced visuals will implement the full suite of technologies. It just depends on the kinds of visual effects a developer is after, balanced with a goal for hardware demands.

That said, ray tracing is not out of bounds for previous generation hardware, not from a technical sense, anyway. Microsoft's DirectX Raytracing (DXR) API is the key. So with a driver update, NVIDIA is opening up DXR support on GTX hardware, including not just the GeForce GTX 1660 Ti and GeForce GTX 1660, but also Pascal parts like the GeForce GTX 1080 Ti.

Performance takes a hit on GTX hardware, of course, and more demanding games just aren't going to spit out playable framerates on some cards when the ray-traced switch is flipped on. Here's a peek at some of NVIDIA's own internal benchmark results...

Ray Tracing Benchmarks
Click to Enlarge (Source: NVIDIA)

NVIDIA is careful to temper your exceptions with ray tracing performance on Pascal and Turing GeForce GTX hardware, stating that performance will be lower than GeForce RTX class hardware and visuals fidelity won't be as good. However, you're at least able to get just a small sample of what's possible with full RTX hardware on tap.

bfv dxr nvidia
Click to Enlarge (Source: NVIDIA)
Tracing rays for realistic lighting, reflections, and shadows is computationally heavy. It can also result in remarkably beautiful visuals that are more realistic than what is possible with traditional rasterized rendering. To give a glimpse of this, NVIDIA released a couple of new ray tracing showcases. The first of those is Atomic Hearts.

When Atomic Heart launches next year, it will feature RTX support, with ray-traced ambient occlusion, real-time reflections, and shadows. Enabling RTX will add a "massive amount of detail," NVIDIA says, to mirror the properties of materials from the surrounding landscape.

"Previously, reflecting much of this detail was impossible, and what could be reflected was seen at a far lower level of fidelity, without accurate representation of curved surfaces, or real-time updates of on and off-screen reflections," NVIDIA says.

NVIDIA also talked about the addition of real-time ray tracing and Deep Learning Super Sampling (DLSS) to Justice, one of China's most popular MMOs. Here's a look at what a difference RTX can make...

Justice Ray Tracing

NVIDIA is hosting several images that allow you to adjust the slider, as shown above, to compare what different scenes look like with ray tracing and DLSS turned on versus having them disabled. NVIDIA also notes that Justice is the first game ever to feature real-time ray-traced caustic effects, which are light rays re-focused or scattered after hitting reflective or refractive surfaces.

Finally, NVIDIA is also calling attention to a reflections tech demo that we have seen before. Created by Epic Games in collaboration with ILMxLAB and NVIDIA, this is more of a future vision for where ray-traced visuals can ultimately go, delivering cinematic experiences in games.

One of the main takeaways from all this is that ray tracing is not an all-or-nothing affair. There are different implementations, and different levels of those implementations. Hence why support is being opened up to GTX cards built around Turing and Pascal.

This gives developers and consumes alike a way to get their feet wet with ray-traced visuals, before jumping in whole-hog with brand new hardware. You can download the new GeForce Game Ready drivers with DXR support on Pascal-based graphics cards right here.
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