Ray Tracing and DLSS – Where Are They?

Nvidia’s Turing keynote occured on August 21, more than two full months ago as of this writing. If we’re honest, it was essentially a ray tracing keynote, with Nvidia talking up that specific feature of Turing in lieu of discussing the actual rasterization performance.

I had written a brace of articles shortly after, recapping the Nvidia event, and also a deep-dive of Turing itself. Regarding ray tracing, I had concluded with the following:

“In the end, I fundamentally believe we are just at the beginning of a completely new era of PC gaming. This sounds an awful lot like hyperbole, and I certainly don’t blame you for thinking so. After all, how many times have we heard that before?

The difference here is that ray tracing, unlike 3D and VR, has long been the holy grail of PC graphics. The desire to emulate the real world has been there since the dawn of PC gaming. All these methods such as physically based rendering, ambient occlusion, and the like are proof of this desire to emulate the real world. I believe ray tracing in PC graphics is still at its infancy, but the genuinely revolutionary leap in hardware and software engineering done by Nvidia simply cannot be downplayed in the slightest. This is truly a remarkable achievement and an inflection point in PC graphics and real-time rendering. I’m so very much looking forward to what happens next.”

I still stand by my sentiment here. I still believe that ray tracing is a genuine inflection point in PC gaming and the industry overall. However, I still maintain what I had brought up several times:

“We still need to wait for real-world performance testing to truly gauge the power of these cards. Only then will we know what is truth and what is hype.”

As of this writing, we know of the following list of titles slated to receive DLSS and ray tracing. It’s an impressive list with a mix of genre and high profile titles. However, it is now November. It’s two and a half months since Nvidia’s Turing keynote, and more than a month after the launch of 2080 and 2080 Ti. In that time, the 2070 has seen release as well.

We still have no ray tracing or DLSS.

Of course, Microsoft needs to release their October Update (if they can still call it “October”) which enables DXR required for ray tracing. The update has been delayed multiple times due to bugs and has yet to release. As a result, games like Shadow of the Tomb Raider and Battlefield V — both of which are available today — lack ray tracing.

This naturally may lead to frustration and concern from gamers, primarily because absolutely none of this is in their control. They were shown DLSS and ray tracing from Nvidia more than two months ago, with the promise that these features would arrive “soon.”

But since the keynote, there simply hasn’t been any updates regarding ray tracing and DLSS from Nvidia or the developers. Certainly, without the Windows updates, there’s really nothing the developers can do regarding implementation.

But this naturally brings up some questions. Was Turing shown off too soon? Will we even see ray tracing in 2018? Zooming out, will we even see it during the Turing generation?

Personally, I am of the opinion that Turing was shown off too soon. There is no greater proof of this than the total lack of DLSS and ray tracing features in current games. Developers simply need more time to implement these features, and Microsoft needs to iron out their Windows 10 issues. Additionally, trying to find a 2080 Ti right now is nigh on impossible given its ludicrously low inventory.

I’m honestly not sure why Nvidia released their cards when they did. Certainly, they were in no danger of competition from AMD — keep in mind, AMD still have no product to compete with the 1080 Ti. As a humble critic, it certainly appears that Nvidia released Turing too soon.

Will we see ray tracing in 2018? Honestly, I don’t know. Given the current trajectory of Windows 10’s issues with the update allowing DXR, it seems increasingly unlikely. But keep in mind, even if the update releases tomorrow, that does not mean that ray tracing will suddenly appear then and there. Developers still need to implement it. In other words, if we receive the update tomorrow, we could realistically still be kept waiting some time for devs to update their games.

Finally, will we see ray tracing during the Turing generation? This might seem like I’m making a mountain out of a molehill, but I think it’s an interesting question worth exploring. Circling back to something I mentioned above, Nvidia has no competition from AMD in this space. And everything I’m seeing from AMD right now points to no ray tracing from them in the immediate future.

If we realistically assume that a GPU generation lasts 18 months to two years, I think it’s reasonable to expect ray tracing this generation. However, I don’t think we’ll expect ray tracing until 2019, and I very much expect a “Gen 1” implementation of these technologies.

So then, to round things off, I’m still looking forward to ray tracing. I still believe it’s an inflection point in PC gaming and the industry overall. But as a consumer, more than two months removed from Nvidia’s keynote, we must ask where these technologies are. Unfortunately, we just need to wait and see.

Written by
A highly opinionated avid PC gamer, Poorna blindly panics with his friends in various multiplayer games, much to the detriment of his team. Constantly questioning industry practices and a passion for technological progress drive his love for the video game industry. He pulls no punches and tells it like he sees it. He runs a podcast, Gaming The Industry, with fellow writer, Joseph Bradford, discussing industry practices and their effects on consumers.

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