Henrik Poulsen , pp. 29. TEK/avd. för interaktion och systemdesign, 2009.
The development of Graphics Hardware Technology is blazing fast, with new and more improved models, that out spec the previous generations with leaps and bounds, before one has the time to digest the potential of the previous generations computing power. With the progression of this technology the computer games industry has always been quick to adapt this new power and all the features that emerge as the graphic card industry learn what the customers need from their products. The current generations of games use extraordinary visual effects to heighten the immersion into the games, all of which is thanks to the constant progress of the graphics hardware, which would have been an impossibility just a couple of years ago.
Ray tracing has been used for years in the movie industry for creation of stunning special effects and whole movies completely made in 3D. This technique for giving realistic imagery has always been for usage exclusively for non-interactive entertainment, since this way of rendering an image is extremely expensive when it comes to computations. To generate one single image with Ray Tracing you might need several hundred millions of calculations, which so far haven’t been proven to work in real-time situations, such as for games.
However, due to the continuous increase of processing power in Graphical Processing Units, GPUs, the limits of what can, and cannot, be done in real-time is constantly shifting further and further into the realm of possibility. So this thesis focuses upon finding out just how close we are to getting ray tracing into the realm of real-time games.
Two tests were performed to find out the potential a current (2009) high-end computer system has when it comes to handling a raster - ray tracing hybrid implementation. The first test is to see how well a modern GPU handles rendering of a very simple scene with phong shading and ray traced shadows without any optimizations. And the second test is with the same scenario, but this time done with a basic optimization; this last test is to illustrate the impact that possible optimizations have on ray tracers. These tests were later compared to Intel’s results with ray tracing Enemy Territory: Quake Wars.