Nvidia Debuts Toolkit to Push Game Developers Toward Ray Tracing

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Nvidia kicked off GDC (Game Developers Conference) 2019 yesterday by expanding ray tracing support to certain non-RTX GPUs and bringing ray tracing support to the Unreal Engine 4 and Unity game engines. Today, the company introduced the GameWorks RTX toolkit in an attempt to encourage developers to incorporate the graphics technology in their games.

GameWorks RTX aims to "help game developers implement real-time ray tracing effects in their games." Nvidia said the tools are available to developers under the open source GameWorks license and that it will have plugins ready for Unreal Engine 4.22 and the 2019.03 Unity release.

More information about GameWorks RTX is available on Nvidia's website. The company described its main features as such:

  • RTX Denoiser SDK – a library that enables fast, real-time ray tracing by providing denoising techniques to lower the required ray count and samples per pixel. It includes algorithms for ray traced area light shadows, glossy reflections, ambient occlusion and diffuse global illumination.
  • Nsight for RT – a standalone developer tool that saves developers time by helping to debug and profile graphics applications built with DXR and other supported APIs.

Nvidia CEO Jensen Huang accidentally leaked the news that Unreal Engine 4 and Unity would add ray tracing support during a February 14 earnings call. Now it's official: Unreal Engine 4.22 and the 2019.03 Unity release will both support the technology. A preview of Unreal Engine 4.22 is available now; Unity will show off its ray tracing support on April 4 with a "custom experimental build."

Both of these announcements--ray tracing support coming to Unreal Engine and Unity and the introduction of GameWorks RTX--are supposed to make it easier for developers to use the technology. Nvidia's decision to expand ray tracing support to GTX products with a driver update is supposed to give those developers more of an incentive to even consider the feature in the first place.

It's no secret that RTX graphics cards aren't selling as well as Nvidia hoped. While bringing real-time ray tracing to GTX products takes away one of the RTX line's exclusive features, Nvidia is hoping that gamers who get a taste of ray tracing will be more inclined to buy an RTX graphics card, which use their dedicated RT (ray tracing) cores to offer better performance.

In the meantime, expanding the "ray-tracing capable GPU installed base" to "tens of millions" as Nvidia put it, will give game developers a reason to experiment with the feature, especially since it'll be easier to use thanks to the Unreal Engine and Unity updates as well as GameWorks RTX. The company is clearly using GDC 2019 to convince devs that it's time to support ray tracing.

Nathaniel Mott
Freelance News & Features Writer

Nathaniel Mott is a freelance news and features writer for Tom's Hardware US, covering breaking news, security, and the silliest aspects of the tech industry.