The tech which makes 3D movies look stunning has arrived in gaming and Intel Arc GPUs are fit to enhance games visuals with rays. Ready to step into the light with Intel?
Intel has been unveiling Intel Arc graphics’ suite of tech features lately, including Xe Super Sampling and HDR & VRR support. Another feature we’re excited to talk about is real-time ray tracing for games. Ray tracing is a method for simulating how light behaves with light paths traced from each pixel on screen, bounced off objects, and connected to their light origin. This method, technically called path tracing, allows for super realistic shading, reflections, refractions, and shadows in a way traditional rasterization graphics pipelines simply don’t.
Since it’s important to understand the difference, this distinction is the first topic of this video. Rasterization is the traditional method for rendering 3D scenes in games. Game objects in 3D space are projected onto a 2D plane (your monitor) with the color, texture, reflections, and of course shading all handled by subprograms called shaders. This method isn’t going away anytime soon – every game still uses raster techniques even if it supports ray tracing.
Rasterization is fast, effective, and established, so it allows developers to implement hybrid rendering and apply ray tracing to a few select areas instead of ray tracing the entire scene, which would be too intense for current computers to run smoothly. Gaming APIs such as DXR and Vulkan RT have been designed with hybrid rendering in mind and help developers improve rasterized renders with ray tracing effects.
Why is rasterization “stupid fast?” Intel and other GPU vendors have developed, and optimized over 2 decades, a set of specialized fixed-function hardware to assist compute engines such as Xe -cores. With Arc GPUs, ray tracing takes advantage of its own specialized hardware too with the new Ray Tracing Units (RTU). Each RTU includes two Ray Traversal Pipelines to quickly trace rays through the geometry structure and can handle 12 box intersections and a triangle intersection per cycle.
This set of ray tracing hardware gives Arc GPUs not only great peak rates but also great throughput in real world uses of ray tracing. But the Xe architects didn’t stop there: the last piece of this puzzle is our Thread Sorting Unit which helps implement what we call Asynchronous Ray Tracing. This deals with ray divergence and combines rays with similar hit shaders to ensure maximum utilization of the Xe-cores in simple and more complex scenes. All a bit techy? Perhaps colored boxes will help:
Let’s come up for air from this deep dive! Ghostwire: Tokyo is an excellent example of ray tracing with a load of lights and a surfeit of shiny surfaces. In our side-by-side comparison starting at 17:06 you can see TAP’s game on the left with RT on, and my game with RT off – but mine does include reflections in the form of “screen space reflections.” Tom’s reflections are persistent, crisp, and don’t disappear. I didn’t die in this game, but the blurry screen space reflections expired as soon as the object they were reflecting was off-screen, a limitation of rasterization techniques.
Let’s combine tech! With ray tracing on and XeSS enabled, but moving up to 1440p resolution:
Hats off to the stellar Intel engineers who have made this possible for the benefit of all us gamers who crave performance and visual quality. We hope you’ve enjoyed this dive into our ray tracing technology and its performance; we’ll be back soon with a teardown of an Intel Arc Limited Edition card and more technical info!
September 1, 2022
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