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Unity engine revs up for real-time ray tracing support by the end of 2019

Vroom vroom!

Unity Technologies are bringing real-time ray tracing support to their popular Unity game-making engine by the end of the year, the company have announced today at GDC, paving the way for more games to take advantage of Nvidia's shiny new RTX graphics cards and their fancy pants reflection tech. And to give everyone a taste of what ray tracing looks like in their titular engine, Unity have teamed up with Nvidia and BMW to create a equally shiny spot-the-difference model of the 2019 BMW 8 Series Coupe.

The series of short video clips show both the real life Series Coupe next to its Unity ray traced counterpart, and I think you'll agree that they look pretty much identical. It's impressive stuff - much like every other real-time ray tracing demo I've seen - but and certainly a welcome step in the right direction for anyone aching to make the most of their new RTX graphics cards.

I wouldn't get too excited just yet, though, as it will probably still be quite some time before we start seeing this uber realistic reflection tech trickle down into actual Unity games. While Unity's High Definition Render Pipeline (HDRP) will be getting "production-focused" early access support for real-time ray tracing later today, the so-called "optimized preview solution" that will be available for all Unity users isn't scheduled to arrive until some point in the second half of 2019. As a result, you might want to hold off buying one of those new RTX 2060 cards, for example, until we know a bit more about what games will be supporting it and how long we'll have to wait before we can actually start using it.

Real-time ray tracing, in case you've forgotten, is one of the headline features of the new RTX graphics card family, allowing for photo-realistic reflections that previously haven't been possible on regular, old consumer PCs. Film studios such as Pixar have been using the tech for years now, but it also takes them aeons to render it all into the final product - which simply isn't practical when you're playing games. Nvidia, however, have come up with an AI-based solution in their new Turing RTX GPUs that allows for realistic, dynamic lighting in real-time. The only problem is that there's currently only a minuscule number of games that actually support it at the moment.

This should hopefully change now that Unity have announced support for it, though, so fingers crossed we'll start seeing more games with the same ultra swish lighting systems as Metro Exodus and Battlefield V in the not too distant future.

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Katharine Castle avatar

Katharine Castle


Katharine is RPS' editor-in-chief, which means she's now to blame for all this. After joining the team in 2017, she spent four years in the RPS hardware mines. Now she leads the RPS editorial team and plays pretty much anything she can get her hands on. She's very partial to JRPGs and the fetching of quests, but also loves strategy and turn-based tactics games and will never say no to a good Metroidvania.