Star Citizen Alpha 3.3-1

Star Citizen developer comments on real-time ray tracing; “a massive headache”, “might give us subtle improvements”

Since real-time ray tracing is the hottest thing these days, some PC gamers wanted to know whether ths highly anticipated space opera game, Star Citizen, will support it. And while we don’t have any confirmation yet, Cloud Imperium’s Ben Parry has shared his thoughts regarding this new tech.

As Parry said when asked about RTX, he expects that if Cloud Imperium uses it, it’ll be a massive headache and time-sink but might give them some subtle improvements in looks or performance if they get it right.

When asked for clarification as real-time ray tracing is said to be easy to implement and could actually make the life of game designers/graphics artists easier, Parry said:

“It’s more likely to be a case of “We’ve got a test-bed scene for a ray-based environment lighting technique, it works for one type of light so far, here’s a list of things you can no longer safely have in a room without it breaking, with rough probabilities of how likely we are to work out a solution”

The added headache is that whatever we offered would have to be an “as well” feature rather than an “instead”, developing a feature for a single manufacturer’s top-end cards means also maintaining feature parity for everyone else’s hardware.”

Parry then expanded on what he meant with “as well”.

“Sorry yes, I should have been clearer. By “as well” I meant we’d have to maintain support for two modes:
1) A mode that uses raytracing (though probably not exclusively) in some way to get its results
2) A mode that doesn’t use raytracing, but can achieve a similar look without changing the art assets or lighting setup.

As an example, when we ported over the voxel fog, we intended for it to be an “as well” feature because it’s expensive to run, but eventually ran with it as an “instead” feature because it interprets the fog parameters totally differently, and drastically changes what does/doesn’t work in terms of light placement.”

Parry admitted that he’d love to use real-time ray tracing in order to enhance the game’s shadows. Parry also admitted that real-time ray tracing is currently – and for the foreseeable future – the only technique via which game developers can offer correct reflections in their games, however that’s also something that will need additional workload.

“The “headache” part is writing all the management code that will be needed, eg. to calculate lighting/shadowing on objects that aren’t on screen.”

In conclusion, Parry admits that real-time ray tracing is an exciting new tech and that he’d love to experiment with it, however it will bring additional headache to the team, and right now Cloud Imperium has other high priority tasks on the roadmap.