Microsoft has a major update going out for Windows 10 right now. The October 2018 update includes DirectX R (DXR). This is the newest version of Microsoft’s DirectX graphics library, which enables developers to access a PC’s rawest processing power. This will finally brings native support for ray-tracing 3D light technology to the operating system.
This is great news for Nvidia and anyone who spent money to purchase its new RTX video cards. RTX is Nvidia’s brand of ray tracing, and it is heavily focused on it as the future of computer graphics. The RTX 2080 and 2080 Ti launched in September. The 2080 is $800, and the 2080 Ti is $1,200. And while both are great for traditional game rendering, a total of zero games support their namesake feature RTX.
But as Nvidia explains in its blog, the Windows 10 October 2018 update is an important step in bringing RTX to consumers.
“This is huge for two reasons,” reads the Nvidia blog. “DXR provides an industry-standard application programming interface (API) that gives all game developers access to GeForce RTX’s hardware support of ray tracing. And DXR adds support for ray tracing to the Windows operating system, so DirectX 12 Windows PCs can now execute the applications that support real-time ray tracing.”
I’m going to update my RTX test rig right now. Let’s find out what this means.
Does DXR/RTX matter?
It’s still impossible to say if RTX matters or even if it will ever matter. The idea is that it should replace the rasterization technique that is fast but requires a lot of attention from developers and artists. We know that ray tracing looks better because it’s what they use for CGI in films to create realistic lighting. But what’s hard to gauge is if ray tracing is such a drastic improvement that it’s worth the price.
Nvidia thinks it’s inevitable, which is why it’s betting on it.
Of course, Nvidia has made some bets that haven’t paid off in the past. It’s PhysX physics tech and its TressFX hair modeling have both fizzled out to varying degrees. But the reason that Nvidia and AMD are the only two companies still making high-end graphics cards is because Nvidia forced the industry to switch to its hardware transform-and-lighting process.
And the reason that RTX may end up closer to hardware T&L instead of PhysX is because developers want it.
“Top game studios are already developing titles featuring real-time ray tracing on Nvidia GeForce RTX GPUs,” reads Nvidia’s blog post. “Three blockbusters will be supporting the technology: Battlefield V, Metro Exodus and Shadow of the Tomb Raider. Other developers have announced support for Nvidia RTX as well.”
It’s not unusual for a new Nvidia feature to get support from its partners, but ray tracing should save developers time and money over time. That’s a big incentive to hasten its adoption.
And now that Windows 10 supports ray tracing, maybe that future is finally upon us.