Epic Games ‘Reflections’ GDC Demo Offers Peek at Gaming’s Cinematic Future

by Brian Caulfield

None of us have been to a galaxy far, far away. But all of us can relate to the discomfort experienced when you say say something awkward on the job — even if none of us work for someone who can send us to the icy planet Hoth.

Epic Games on Wednesday, in collaboration with ILMxLAB and NVIDIA, offered a sneak peek at gaming’s cinematic future with a stunning, witty demo featuring a pair of bungling stormtroopers who wind up out in the cold, literally.

The brief demo, titled “Reflections,” was shown during an Epic event held across the street from the Game Developers Conference in San Francisco, stunning gamers, press and industry insiders.

Running on our just announced NVIDIA RTX ray-tracing technology and NVIDIA GPUs, the demo offered a glimpse at gaming graphics that, to the untrained eye, are indistinguishable from movies. NVIDIA RTX brings real-time, cinematic-quality rendering to content creators and game developers.

“Now is a really exciting time for gamers and game developers,” Epic Games founder and CEO Tim Sweeney said in advance of the demo.

The demo showcased the graphics technique called ray tracing. Long used to generate cinematic special effects for Hollywood blockbusters, the technique relies on tracing the path of rays of light as they bounce off surfaces inside a scene. (See “What’s the Difference Between Ray Tracing and Rasterization?”)

The result is incredibly realistic graphics rendering that has been, until now, traditionally too computationally intensive for real-time use. That’s changing, though.

“There’s no other way to achieve the realism we need,”  Mohen Leo, director of content and platform strategy at ILMxLAB, said of ray tracing just before launching the “Reflections” demo.

Epic’s team along with ILMxLAB and NVIDIA began work on the demo in early December using our NVIDIA DGX Station, equipped with four Tesla V100 GPUs, Epic’s Unreal Engine and our NVIDIA RTX ray-tracing technology.

NVIDIA has also announced that the GameWorks SDK will add a ray-tracing denoiser module, helping game developers take advantage of new capabilities. This updated SDK, which is coming soon, includes support for ray-traced area light shadows, glossy reflections and ambient occlusion.

The GDC demonstration — which showcases techniques such as ray-traced reflections, ray-traced area light shadows and ray-traced ambient occlusion for characters — is just one piece of the technology story around ray tracing that will be unfolding this week at the conference.

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