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NVIDIA Also Releases Tech Demos for RTX: Star Wars, Atomic Heart, Justice Available for Download

We've seen NVIDIA's move to provide RTX effects on older, non-RT capable hardware today being met with what the company was certainly expecting: a cry of dismay from users that now get to see exactly what their non-Turing NVIDIA hardware is capable of. The move from NVIDIA could be framed as a way to democratize access to RTX effects via Windows DXR, enabling users of its GTX 1600 and 1000 series of GPUs to take a look at the benefits of raytracing; but also as an upgrade incentive for those that now see how their performance is lacking without the new specialized Turing cores to handle the added burden.

Whatever your side of the fence on that issue, however, NVIDIA has provided users with one more raytraced joy today. Three of them, in fact, in the form of three previously-shown tech demos. The Star Wars tech demo (download) is the most well known, certainly, with its studies on reflections on Captain Phasma's breastplate. Atomic Heart (download) is another one that makes use of RTX for reflections and shadows, while Justice (download) adds caustics to that equation. If you have a Turing graphics card, you can test these demos in their full glory, with added DLSS for improved performance. If you're on Pascal, you won't have that performance-enhancing mode available, and will have to slog it through software computations. Follow the embedded links for our direct downloads of these tech demos.

NVIDIA Extends DirectX Raytracing (DXR) Support to Many GeForce GTX GPUs

NVIDIA today announced that it is extending DXR (DirectX Raytracing) support to several GeForce GTX graphics models beyond its GeForce RTX series. These include the GTX 1660 Ti, GTX 1660, GTX 1080 Ti, GTX 1080, GTX 1070 Ti, GTX 1070, and GTX 1060 6 GB. The GTX 1060 3 GB and lower "Pascal" models don't support DXR, nor do older generations of NVIDIA GPUs. NVIDIA has implemented real-time raytracing on GPUs without specialized components such as RT cores or tensor cores, by essentially implementing the rendering path through shaders, in this case, CUDA cores. DXR support will be added through a new GeForce graphics driver later today.

The GPU's CUDA cores now have to calculate BVR, intersection, reflection, and refraction. The GTX 16-series chips have an edge over "Pascal" despite lacking RT cores, as the "Turing" CUDA cores support concurrent INT and FP execution, allowing more work to be done per clock. NVIDIA in a detailed presentation listed out the kinds of real-time ray-tracing effects available by the DXR API, namely reflections, shadows, advanced reflections and shadows, ambient occlusion, global illumination (unbaked), and combinations of these. The company put out detailed performance numbers for a selection of GTX 10-series and GTX 16-series GPUs, and compared them to RTX 20-series SKUs that have specialized hardware for DXR.
Update: Article updated with additional test data from NVIDIA.

NVIDIA RTX in Action at CES 2019 Trailer for Upcoming Atomic Heart

While adoption of NVIDIA's RTX ray tracing technology has been slow, the potential for the technology is undeniable. Games like Battlefield V have shown us how some increased optimization work can bring interesting, improved visuals at even the lowest setting of the technology. More games will eventually come out with NVIDIA's RTX technology - Metro: Exodus being one of the most hyped, high-profile one, but one other gem was presented when NVIDIA announced their RTX series: Atomic Heart.

At CES 2019, developer Mundfish outed another trailer that shows off the ray tracing capabilities embedded in this China Miéville-esque game. An FPS game with USSR inspirations, NVIDIA's RTX will be used for accurate reflections and deeper shadows, much like in Remedy's also upcoming Control. The game is still ways, ways off, though - Jensen Huang does say this is what "next-generation gaming will look like"; and it's expected that the developer will only release a closed beta for the game come 4Q 2019. That's a lot of time between it being showcased as an NVIDIA RTX title and its actual release. Still, take a look at the video below for some more renditions of NVIDIA's RTX tech and what ray tracing can bring to the table.

Games With NVIDIA RTX, Part 3: Gaijin Studios' Enlisted, Assetto Corsa Competizione, Atomic Heart

Gaijin Studios also went on stage with their Enlisted game to showcase their particular implementation of NVIDIA's RTX - the first we've seen that was based not on Direct X 12, but on Vulkan. The highlights pointed out stuck with RTX's strengths, naturally, but particularly, with the ease with which the global illumination system was implemented. Essentially, the fact that Enlisted features massive, dynamic maps with up to 64 square kilometers, destructible environments and indoors and outdoors lighting conditions means that pre-baked illumination solutions just wouldn't cut it in any way - there were just too many variables to consider. RTX implemented via Vulkan was, for the studio, and as they put it, the tool they never knew they couldn't live without.
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