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Star Wars Short Created With New Gaming Graphics Technology Looks Unbelievable


CGI and special effects in movies don’t always look perfect, but they can come pretty darn close if there’s a big enough budget and a talented enough team doing the work. Video games, on the other hand, have always lagged behind, in large part because movie effects can take their sweet time to be produced, while graphics in games need to come together in tiny fractions of a second—but they’re about to catch up in a big way.

“Ray tracing” is a technique movie effects teams use to create realistic 3D imagery by digitally calculating the path of light through a given scene and how it would realistically interact with objects. As you might have guessed, calculating the path of each individual ray of digital light that makes up an image takes a lot of work on the part of the computers doing the calculation, which is why it’s really only used when plenty of time can be taken to render each frame of video ahead of time. However, Microsoft recently announced that the technology is finally being instituted for real-time applications (like games), and the results of different companies playing around with that capability are nothing short of amazing. (Ars Technica has some info on how the process has been optimized to make it more practical for real-time performance.)

Unfortunately, that comes with a catch. The demo Star Wars short above is rendering those unbelievable graphics in real-time, but it’s also running on incredibly powerful hardware that isn’t exactly accessible to the general public or used in any game consoles yet. It’s a bit of a peek into the future, but some more modest applications of the technology, used for certain lighting applications to boost the look of games that are otherwise doing things the old-fashioned way, are possible in consumer products by the end of the year. At least, that’s what Nvidia’s Tony Tomassi said on stage yesterday, during the “State of Unreal” presentation at the Game Developers Conference.

While we all eagerly await a time when the full scope of the technology on display above is built into all our gaming hardware, there are more demos to check out, showing off realistic dynamic lighting and reflection capabilities. Games are made up of a lot more than just the realism of their graphics, but such a huge leap forward in that department is exciting all the same.

(via The Verge, image: screengrab)

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Dan is many things, including a game developer, animator, martial artist, and at least semi-professional pancake chef. He lives in North Carolina with Lisa Brown (his wife) and Liz Lemon (his dog), both of whom are the best.