Enlisted is one of the many upcoming games that features support for real-time ray tracing technology for stunning lighting results. Do note that the rendering technique has been around for a while, albeit not in real time until the new Nvidia GeForce RTX graphic cards were released. However, with next-generation consoles supporting hardware-accelerated ray tracing as well, the technology has become more of a buzzword to measure next-generation capabilities.
Speaking with SegmentNext in a recent interview, publisher Gaijin Entertainment CEO Anton Yudintsev was asked just how ray tracing will impact Enlisted as well as the future of gaming. Yudintsev answered by pointing out a misunderstanding (or a misconception) that many have whenever ray tracing is mentioned.
Basically, that people often confuse ray tracing with path tracing, and that games either have ray tracing or not. On the same note, people often conceptualize ray tracing as a switch that can be turned on or off based on hardware specifications. Yudintsev clarified that the excitement around the technology on next-generation platforms has more to do with developers getting access to much-needed tools to better the overall process.
Both ray tracing and path tracing result in absolutely beautiful visuals, and each comes with a unique set of pros and cons. The push for more powerful hardware specifications has now made it possible to render ray tracing in real time, something that was not deemed possible a decade or two ago. It all comes down to cost and managing resources. However, as pointed out by Yudintsev, the word is just an umbrella term and mostly all current and upcoming games feature the lighting technique in some way.
In reality, while some games/demos (for example, the Minecraft demo) can provide full Path tracing rendering, it is usually very limited (Minecraft or Quake scenes are not as rich in content as most modern games).
At the same time, some kind of Ray Tracing/Ray Marching has been used in games for a while now. It could be some sophisticated dedicated RT solutions (presented by several companies), or as simple as screen space reflection (which does screen space ray traversing, while it is not ray-triangle intersection) – but most modern games do use some kind of ray tracing, to assist common rendering, enhancing visual fidelity or for gameplay reasons. Projectiles, for example, usually depend on ray tracing (usually done in CPU).
Having dedicated hardware to speed up ray tracing allows to achieve better quality / higher performance of both existing techniques or add some new.
It doesn’t have to be either “unbiased path tracing rendering” for everything or “no ray tracing”. It is not an “all or nothing” choice for developers. It is just another (very useful) tool in the box.
It is unlikely that the coming generation (or even next one) will be able to give us the ability to create better overall visual quality using just and only path tracing, without conventional rasterization.
With all of that said, Yudintsev noted that ray tracing should also not be taken as just marketing or something not useful. He added that developers are always looking to “provide the maximum” to players by staying within reasonable boundaries. The next-generation consoles, as well as the new graphic cards, will help developers in that regard by opening up “new interesting techniques” with which to handle ray tracing technology.
Besides already known or presented enhanced reflections, better shadows, global illumination and ambient occlusion, there are some less obvious promising tricks. As a simple example, ray tracing allows faster generation of conventional shadow maps for many smaller dynamic lights, by hiding the cost of a rendering setup.
As for Enlisted, the online first-person squad shooter looks to recreate some of the most expansive battles from the World War 2 era such as the Battle of Moscow and the Battle of Normandy. The first public playtest was held last month for PC and took players to the suburbs of the town of Volokolamsk.