Nvidia showing off the GeForce RTX 20-series at PAX Australia

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Nvidia was front and centre at PAX Australia this year, giving customers a chance to go hands-on with their new Nvidia GeForce GTX 20 series.

We were ushered to a quiet space off the show floor where we could get a look behind closed doors at the power under the hood.

Nvidia launched its next-generation GeForce RTX 20-series graphics cards on September 20, starting with the GeForce RTX 2080 and GeForce RTX 2080 Ti.

These new cards all use the new Nvidia Turing architecture, which boasts more cores than the previous generation Pascal architecture, along with significant updates that should deliver more performance per core.

The two main features we were drawn to are the real-time ray tracing, and the deep learning Tensor cores.

What is ray tracing?

Ray tracing is a rendering technique that can produce more realistic lighting effects. The algorithm traces the path of light, and then simulates how that ray of light interacts with objects before hitting the camera or player.

Ray tracing has been used extensively for CGI in animated films and TV shows, mostly because server farms can make these calculations when rendering the final product. You may be familiar with the concept if you know the difference between ‘live’ and ‘pre-rendered’ cutscenes in games.

Why should I care about ray tracing for games?

Nvidia’s new G20 series cards along with Microsoft’s DirectX Ray Tracing (DXR) API means that more developers are starting to support ray tracing.

Until I had seen Ray tracing on the RTX in action I thought current video game graphics standard of rasterization was fine…

On watching the Star Wars video below, I noticed reflections in armour, shadows and light from off screen interacting with the subjects. This is what ray tracing provides, an increased sense of immersion.

Nvidia has somewhat cursed me now because I’m going to be disappointed when I don’t see a reflection in a puddle or light from an explosion in a car door.

This is all well and good, but developers will need to provide ray tracing for you to get the most out of the Nvidia G20 cores.

According to Tony Tamasi, senior vice president of Content and Technology at NVIDIA, the ray tracing features in games will begin to ramp up as developers get on board.

“Thanks to the AI and hardware light-ray acceleration built into GeForce RTX GPUs, games using these futuristic features are right around the corner.”

We got the opportunity to play Metro Exodus with a button to turn RTX on and off. The results surprised me. The game felt darker and scarier with RTX on, shadows were darker and when holding a light source you felt a greater sense of realism to the effects.

I was even gently chastised by the Nvidia team for turning off RTX when entering a dark cavern because global illumination without RTX let me find secrets easier.

The atmosphere created by ray tracing ends up being one you miss when it’s no longer being shown to you.

At least 11 games have announced support for Nvidia’s RTX ray tracing.

Here’s the current list:

  • Assetto Corsa Competizione from Kunos Simulazioni/505 Games
  • Atomic Heart from Mundfish
  • Battlefield V from EA/DICE
  • Control from Remedy Entertainment/505 Games
  • Enlisted from Gaijin Entertainment/Darkflow Software
  • Justice from NetEase
  • JX3 from Kingsoft
  • MechWarrior 5: Mercenaries from Piranha Games
  • Metro Exodus from 4A Games
  • ProjectDH from Nexon’s devCAT Studio
  • Shadow of the Tomb Raider from Square Enix

Tell me about the Turing Tenser Cores

The other half of the Nvidia equation on bringing us better looking games is the Tenser core.

Using deep neural network processing, GeForce RTX GPUs also support Deep Learning Super-Sampling (DLSS), a technology that applies deep learning and AI to rendering techniques, resulting in crisp, smooth edges on rendered objects in games.

This AI-based anti-aliasing algoritm can offer improved image quality compared to other algorithms, the trade off is that developers will need to send their games to Nvidia to be run through their supercomputer.

“If you’re unfamiliar with DLSS, this new RTX technology uses the power of deep learning and AI to train the GPU to render crisp images, while running up to 2x faster than previous generation GPUs using conventional anti-aliasing techniques. You’ll be hearing much more about DLSS, NVIDIA RTX ray tracing, and the other features of GeForce RTX graphics cards in the coming weeks,” Nvidia says.

DLSS isn’t an instantly noticeable difference unless there’s a lot of action happening on screen. The main improvement you’ll likely find is a higher frame rate over other systems. Tenser cores are aiming to keep you at that smooth looking 60+ frames territory.

Here’s the complete list of DLSS supported games:

  • Ark: Survival Evolved
  • Atomic Heart
  • Dauntless
  • Darksiders III
  • Deliver Us The Moon: Fortuna
  • Fear The Wolves
  • Final Fantasy XV: Windows Edition
  • Fractured Lands
  • Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice
  • Hitman 2
  • Islands of Nyne
  • Justice
  • JX3
  • KINETIK
  • Mechwarrior 5: Mercenaries
  • Outpost Zero
  • Overkill’s The Walking Dead
  • PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds.
  • Remnant: From The Ashes
  • SCUM
  • Serious Sam 4: Planet Badass
  • Shadow of the Tomb Raider
  • Stormdivers
  • The Forge Arena
  • We Happy Few

Is the Nvidia GeForce 20 series worth the price tag?

If you’ve looked at the list of games above and seen some that stand out like PUBG or Battlefield 5, you’re going to be awfully tempted by the GeForce RTX 20-series.

The brief time we had with ray tracing for Metro Exodus has certainly made me a believer in the verisimilitude of improved lighting effects.

So when it comes time to upgrade, it may be worth weighing that  AUD$1,899 price tag.

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