Ray Tracing

What is Ray Tracing?

Ray tracing refers to a specific process in which the path of light taken to create images through pixels is used. This technique helps in simulating light more realistically including the scenes and the objects involved.

From the technical point of view, ray tracing is a technique which allows physically rendering shadows, reflections, refractions, and indirect lighting more accurately by using several rendering algorithms.

Understanding Ray Tracing Technology

What is Ray Tracing

The main purpose of the process of ray tracing or tracing the path of light is to select the accurate color based on the reflection of the light when it falls on an object.

The process involves traveling from the source of light to the object and further onto the camera view.

It actually judges how exactly the light bounces off the objects in the room.

Ray tracing technology and its use in computer graphics is miraculous and actually revolutionary so much that it has accomplished buzzword status.

Most graphics cards are embracing the paradigm shift offering gamers with exciting images and things that they have been long waiting for.

Now take a look at ray tracing closely and what exactly does it have in it that changes the game utterly.

Typically, 60 or 12 frames per second are required for a game to run smoothly.

This means that it needs to compute every frame at a very high speed, in fact in around 16 milliseconds.

This is much different and a lot faster in comparison to a film frame which can take 8, 12 or even 24 hours to render one single frame.

With the ability of ray tracing technology to process light effects in real time, it enhances the rendering power of the graphics cards significantly if it supports this exciting technology.

It can then produce ray-traced images extemporaneously which eventually results in a tectonic shift for the gaming visuals.

There is special ray tracer software that helps in simulating the track of each of the light rays emitted from a virtual light source to the lens of the virtual camera.

Each of these virtual rays may traverse through the volumetric atmospheres.

These can be anything such as smoke or a fog. It then interacts or falls on any material surfaces which can be a metal surface, glass, or water, for example.

All of these objects are modeled and designed by the engineers and artists as these are rendered by the ray tracer.

This eventually affects the appearance of the scene.

However, advanced ray tracers also add more excitement to the scenes by incorporating extra computations such as radiosity, inter-reflection, and caustics.

This helps in further simulating even more complex behaviors of light.

In simple terms, the ray tracing technology functions in almost the same way as light does in real life, where light comes to you.

The process involves:

The only difference in ray tracing with that in real life is that everything here typically travels in the opposite direction.

This means that inside the software, the ray-traced starts from the camera lens, which is the viewer.

It then moves outwards along with the path of the light and bounces off multiple objects.

It may sometimes take on the reflective properties and color as well. It moves on this way till the correct light source, or sources are determined by the software exactly that would have affected that specific way.

This process of reproducing vision backward is considered to be much more efficient and easy for a computer to handle in comparison to attempting to trace the rays of light the other way around – that is from the light source.

Doing it in this way would have been much more difficult since it would have required considering all those thousands of billions of photons entering into the eyes of the users.

It would have needed a lot of computing power in order to make a large number of calculations by the computer in a second.

It would simply not have been optimized or efficient enough to make things look anything near realistic.

This also ensures it renders only those light paths that fit into the field of view of the user.

This does not consume a lot of computing power to show what is in front of the user in comparison to trying to do it from all the light rays that are emitted from different sources of light in a particular scene.

Therefore, the developers and engineers thought the best solution to go ahead is to trace only a few selected numbers of rays, maybe a dozen of them,  that are more important and look feasible rather than trying mapping every single one among hundreds or even thousands of rays per pixel of light emitted by the source.

It would be a sheer waste of computing power and energy.

It is then left for the machine learning algorithms to smooth everything out by filling the gaps – a process that is commonly referred to as ‘denoising.’

Typically, there are different modules of denoisers used in this case to bring together the ultimate image.

However, when it comes to gaming, typically real-time ray tracing is a mixture of conventional rasterized graphics and ray tracing.

This specific process typically works in a much better way. At first the basic structures are rasterized.

Then, the Graphics processor uses ray tracing to work out on the lighting effects such as shadows or reflections.

This process offers results that are best of both worlds in which along with the wonderful image quality an outstanding rendering speed is also assured. This helps in dealing with even the most complex interactions of light while modeling.


It was way back in 1990 ray tracing technology was successfully used in a Graphics Processing unit.

Since then a lot of research has been done in this specific field to use this algorithm natively and successfully in most of the consumer graphics cards.

However, according to the records, it was in 1982 when a real time ray tracer was used for the first time in the LINKS-1 Computer Graphics System.

It was built by a team of 50 students led by professors Shirakawa Isao, Ohmura Kouichi, and Kawata Toru at Osaka University’s School of Engineering.

This huge parallel processing computer system had as many as 514 microprocessors of Zilog Z8001’s and iAPX 86’s in equal distribution and successfully rendered realistic 3D computer graphics by using high-speed ray tracing.

Later on, the system with the same arrangement was used to create the first 3D planetarium video of the world using ray-tracing computer graphics.

The image of the whole heaven was presented at the Fujitsu pavilion at the 1985 International Exposition in Tsukuba.

Ray tracing technology also helps the computer scientists and the animators allowing them to explore uncharted avenues that this technique opens up. There is now no need to draw each frame of an animation work by hand.

The movement of an object can be easily simulated by a ray tracing algorithm by following a set of complicated frame correction steps.

The technology allows them to include fancy effects to the images that cannot be produced by traditional artists easily and quickly.

In addition to computer graphics, ray tracing is also used in architectural designing projects.

It helped the architects to produce more realistic images with illumination effects to their clients.

It was much better than some vague sketches drawn by hand with sparse use of ink and watercolors or any other form of conventional rendering methods.

Combined with the radiosity process, backward ray tracing technique is therefore one of the most preferred methods for the architects when it comes to image rendering.

Backward ray tracing is also used in TV and theater lighting.

This technology helps to create a more complex lighting setup even before the production begins by the lighting designers and directors.

It saves them from the hassles of physically setting up lighting with hundreds of individual lights and aiming, filtering, positioning, switching on and off, dimming, or redirecting them continuously.

Ray tracing technology is also very helpful for the engineers such as mechanical engineers, lighting designers and solar energy researchers and is often used by them in a physical environment.

Apart from getting more photorealistic images, the technique allows the engineers to envisage and analyze illumination levels, different criteria for visual performance and luminance gradients, and even research on radiant heat transfer.

This helps them to create solar energy concentrators for applying in aerospace.


One of the most significant benefits offered by the ray tracing technology is that it offers a more realistic image which improves the gaming experience on the whole.

Another important benefit of ray tracing technology is that it can imitate different optical effects.

This includes reflection, refraction, scattering, depth of field, motion blur, caustics, soft shadows, ambient occlusion and chromatic aberrations or dispersion phenomena.

Add to that, ray tracing can not only reproduce light but can also be used to trace the path of sound waves by simulating it in the same way as it does to trace the light rays.

It can, in fact, simulate any given form of physical waves of any particle phenomenon with some sort of a linear motion.

Therefore, with this ability of the ray tracing technology to simulate light and sound most effectively and appropriately, it seems to be the most viable option to use in computer graphics.

It improves the quality and output of the sound design and image rendering, making the video games as well as the user experience much more immersive with more realistic rendering of echoes and actual reverberation.

Apart from offering a great photorealistic result, ray tracing also helps in making storytelling in games much more interesting and believable because it is the realistic images that helps in making the stories much more convincing to the gamers.

It is very easy this way to deliver more contexts to a specific scene of a game.

It is very easy for the developers to create much more artistic visuals that make the gaming experience for the gamers much more immersive once again.

This can be designed to make it much more cinematic and magnificent with more beautiful and better reflections, even on water surfaces.

Therefore, ray tracing technology offers much more realistic replication of transmission of light in comparison to other image rendering processes such as rasterization which emphasizes more on creating realistic recreation of geometry.

This process cannot create shadows and reflections by using the algorithms as realistically as ray tracing technology or algorithms can.

The computational freedom of every ray makes the ray tracing technique more open to a fundamental level of parallelization.

However, high utilization under such situations may be quite difficult to accomplish in practice due to the deviation of ray paths.

Is Ray Tracing Necessary?

Ray tracing is necessary if you want a more realistic 3D rendering of objects.

This specific technology helps in getting a shinier and more reflective look on any surface including water.

The images look more realistic, as said earlier, and you can relate things with real life very easily.

Well, that is all about it. Now, the question is whether or not all this is necessary, especially knowing the fact no particular technology is perfect, and that includes ray tracing technology.

Moreover, the other downsides of ray tracing technology may also make most of the average gamers vote against it, and one of the most significant drawbacks of it being a super high cost involved in its computation.

This high cost is often not affordable for a young person and it is not feasible for an average gamer.

Then, rendering realistic images with the help of ray tracing takes a lot more time as compared to other traditional methods.

This can prove to be very annoying while playing games, especially those first person shooters games that need a very high frame rate.

Also, in the case of games in general, this technology brings down the frame rate significantly even if you are using the latest and most high-end hardware.

Typically, it is seen that when you turn on ray tracing the drop in frame rate can be from 100 to 60 fps within an instant normally in most of the cases.

It is true that ray tracing will offer splendid images and visuals but it will seldom be able to significantly boost the quality of gaming.

Therefore, this may raise an important question, which is whether or not the simple difference in the quality of images is worth the performance being compromised resulting in a loss in its level.

Most importantly, there are a lot of incidents and examples of particular games that support ray tracing technology but fail to perform at the standard the gamers expected from it to.

Therefore, ray tracing is not only a pretty expensive option but you can easily get a graphics card of the previous generation at a much lower cost and still not lose out on a lot while playing those high-end games on your computer.

What is Required for Ray Tracing?

If you want to make the best use of the ray tracing technology, first of all you will need to have a computer that is equipped with a GPU or Graphics Processing Unit that is compatible with ray tracing.

All that said, it’s worth noting that if you want the best experiences with ray tracing, then you’ll need the best hardware in the first place.

Once you have that, you will need to create the primary rays for every pixel in the image.

Then you will need to test for ray-geometry intersection.

This means that you will need to find out whether or not a ray crisscrosses any of the items in the scene. For this you will need to loop over all the available objects in the scene for every cast ray.

Next, you will need to perform the trace function while ray tracing the inner loops.

These loops are over all the objects as well as the triangles contained by each of these objects.

The function to use here is called trace (). It will return true if the triangle or object has been intersected, or else it will return false.

Next, you will need to do the shading of the image with special focus on the color at the intersecting points.

For this you will have to consider four specific things such as:

Read Also:  What is Bit in Graphics Card? (Explained)

At this point you should remember that all surfaces may not reflect light in all directions in the same way.

Therefore, the amount of light after reflection will change in most of the cases when the position of the camera or the observer is changed.

With all these requirements, it is quite clear to you that ray tracing is quite a complex subject for the developers.

However, with the rate of advancement in this particular technology, most of the graphics cards will natively support ray tracing in the years to come.

However, as of now the most significant challenge to overcome seems to be memory management, which the developers need to overcome.

This is a more complex issue as compared to rasterization, mind you.

How Many Games Use Ray Tracing?

Back in time, just a few years back, there were only a handful of games that supported ray tracing and offered an exceptional visual experience to the gamers.

Over time, the list has grown in size considerably, with more new gaming titles in the pipeline waiting to get added to it.

Here is a concise list of games supporting this exciting and innovative technology arranged sequentially for you along with the names of the developers and the date of release.

Remember, all these games can be played on a Windows system with a few that even supports Apple, Android and others. Please check that before downloading any of these games on your computer.

Games Starting with A:

Amid Evil – Developed by Indefatigable and released in June 20, 2019

Atomic Heart – Developed by Mundfish and released in January 1, 2022 and

Avatar: Frontiers of Pandora – Developed by Massive Entertainment and released on January 1, 2022.

Games Starting with B:

Battlefield 2042 – Developed by DICE, Ripple Effect Studios, Criterion Games, and EA Gothenburg and released in November 19, 2021

Battlefield V – Developed by DICE, DICE Los Angeles, and Criterion Games and released in November 20, 2018

Boundary – Developed by Dalian Wei Lan Technology Co. and released in March 1, 2019

Brickadia – Developed by Brickadia Development Team and released in December 2020

Bright Memory – Developed by FYQD Studio and released in March 25, 2020 and

Bright Memory: Infinite – Developed by FYQD Studio as well and released on November 12, 2021.

Games Starting with C:

Call of Duty: Black Ops Cold War – Developed by Treyarch, Raven Software, High Moon Studios, Beenox, Activision Shanghai, and Sledgehammer Games and released in November 13, 2020

Call of Duty: Modern Warfare – Developed by Infinity Ward, High Moon Studios, Sledgehammer Games, and Raven Software and released on October 25, 2019

Call of the Sea – Developed by Out of the Blue and released in December 8, 2020

Chernobylite – Developed by The Farm 51 and released in July 28, 2021

Chorus – Developed by Fishlabs and released in December 3, 2021

Control – Developed by Remedy Entertainment and released in August 27, 2019

Conway: Disappearance at Dahlia View – Developed by White Paper Games and released in November 2, 2021

Crysis Remastered – Developed by Crytek and Saber Interactive and released in September 18, 2020

Crysis 2 Remastered – Developed by Crytek and Saber Interactive and released in October 15, 2021

Crysis 3 Remastered – Developed by Crytek and Saber Interactive and released in October 15, 2021 and

Cyberpunk 2077 – Developed by CD Projekt Red and released on December 10, 2020.

Games Starting with D:

Deathloop – Developed by Arkane Studios and released in September 14, 2021

Deliver Us The Moon – Developed by KeokeN Interactive and released in October 10, 2019

DIRT 5 – Developed by Codemasters Cheshire and released in November 5, 2020

Dolmen – Developed by Massive Work Studio and released May 20, 2022

Doom – Developed by id Software and released in December 10, 1993

Doom Eternal – Developed by id Software and released in March 20, 2020

Dying Light 2 Stay Human – Developed by Techland and released in February 4, 2022

Games Starting with E:

Escape from Naraka – Developed by XeloGames and released in July 29, 2021

Everspace 2 – Developed by ROCKFISH Games and released in 16 June, 2020 and

Exit From – Developed by concole_ and Elendely and released on April 16, 2021.

Games Starting with F:

F.I.S.T.: Forged In Shadow Torch – Developed by TiGames and released in October 3, 2021

F1 2021 – Developed by Codemasters and released in July 16, 2021

F1 22 – Developed by Codemasters and released in July 1, 2022

Far Cry 6 – Developed by Ubisoft Toronto, Ubisoft Montreal, Ubisoft Berlin, Ubisoft Philippines, Ubisoft Bucharest, Ubisoft Pune, Ubisoft Odessa, Ubisoft Winnipeg, Ubisoft Montpellier, Ubisoft Quebec, and Ubisoft Shanghai and released in October 7, 2021

Five Nights at Freddy’s: Security Breach – Developed by Steel Wool Studios and released in December 16, 2021

Fortnite – Developed by Epic Games and People Can Fly  and released in June 30, 2020

Forza Horizon 5 – Developed by Playground Games, Turn 10 Studios, and Sumo Digital and released in November 9, 2021

Forza Motorsport – Developed by Turn 10 Studios and released in January 1, 2023 and

Fritz Chess 18 – Developed by ChessBase and released on March 14, 2022.

Games Starting with G:

Gears 5 – Developed by The Coalition and released in September 10, 2019

Ghostrunner – Developed by One More Level, 3D Realms, and Slipgate Ironworks and released in October 27, 2020

GhostWire: Tokyo – Developed by Tango Gameworks and released in March 25, 2022

Godfall – Developed by Counterplay Games and released in November 12, 2020 and

GRID Legends – Developed by Codemasters and released on February 24, 2022.

Games Starting with H:

Halo Infinite – Developed by 343 Industries, SkyBox Labs, Sperasoft, The Coalition, Certain Affinity, and Atomhawk and released in December 8, 2021

Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice – Developed by Ninja Theory and QLOC and released in August 8, 2017

Hitman 3 – Developed by IO Interactive and released in January 20, 2021

Hood: Outlaws & Legends – Developed by Sumo Digital Focus and released in May 10, 2021 and

House of Ashes – Developed by Supermassive Games and released on October 22, 2021.

Games Starting with I:

Icarus – Developed by RocketWerkz and released in December 3, 2021 and

Industria – Developed by Bleakmill and released on September 30, 2021.

Games Starting with J:

Justice – Developed by On Tilt Interactive and

JX3 Online – Developed by Kingsoft and released on January 1, 2016.

Games Starting with L:

Layers of Fears – Developed by Bloober Team and Anshar Studios and released in 16 February 2016

Lego Builder’s Journey – Developed by Light Brick Studio and released in December 20, 2019

Life Is Strange: True Colors – Developed by Deck Nine and released in September 9, 2021 and

Little Nightmares II – Developed by Tarsier Studios and Supermassive Games and released on February 11, 2021.

Games Starting with M:

Maneater – Developed by Tripwire Interactive and released in May 22, 2020

Martha Is Dead – Developed by LKA and released in February 24, 2022

Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy – Developed by Eidos Montreal and Eidos Sherbrooke and released in October 26, 2021

Marvel’s Spider-Man Remastered – Developed by Insomniac Games and released in August 12, 2022

Marvel’s Spider-Man: Miles Morales – Developed by Insomniac Games and released in January 1, 2022

MechWarrior 5: Mercenaries – Developed by Piranha Games and released in December 10, 2019

Metro Exodus – Developed by 4A Games and released in February 15, 2019

Metro Exodus Enhanced Edition – Developed by 4A Games and released in May 6, 2021

Minecraft – Developed by Mojang and released in November 18, 2011

Minecraft: Bedrock Edition – Developed by Mojang and released in December 19, 2016

Mortal Online 2 – Developed by Star Vault and released in January 25, 2022

Mortal Shell – Developed by Cold Symmetry and released in August 18, 2020 and

Myst – Developed by Cyan Worlds and released on August 26, 2021.

Games Starting with O:

Observer: System Redux – Developed by Bloober Team and Anshar Studios and released in November 10, 2020 and

On Air – Developed by RainStyle games and released on December 27, 2022.

Games Starting with P:

Paradise Killer – Developed by Kaizen Game Works and released in September 4, 2020 and

Pumpkin Jack – Developed by Nicolas Meyssonnier and released on October 23, 2020.

Games Starting with Q:

Quake II RTX – Developed by Lightspeed Studios and released on June 6, 2019.

Games Starting with R:

Raji: An Ancient Epic – Developed by Nodding Heads Games and released in October 15, 2020

Ratten Reich – Developed by Metall Adler Studio and released in September 1, 2022

Resident Evil 2 – Developed by Capcom and released in January 25, 2019

Resident Evil 3 – Developed by Capcom, K2, M-Two, and Redworks and released in April 3, 2020

Resident Evil 7: Biohazard – Developed by Capcom and HexaDrive and released in January 24, 2017

Resident Evil Village – Developed by Capcom and released in May 7, 2021

Ride 4 – Developed by Milestone S.r.l. and released in October 8, 2020 and

Ring of Elysium – Developed by Aurora Studio and released on June 24, 2019.

Games Starting with S:

S.T.A.L.K.E.R. 2: Heart of Chornobyl – Developed by GSC Game World and released in January 1, 2023

Serious Sam: The First Encounter – Developed by Croteam and released in March 23, 2001

Severed Steel – Developed by Greylock Studio and released in September 17, 2021

Shadow of the Tomb Raider – Developed by Eidos Montreal and Crystal Dynamics and released in September 14, 2018

Sniper Elite 5 – Developed by Rebellion Developments and released in May 26, 2022

Sonic Robo Blast 2 – Developed by Sonic Team Junior and released in December 7, 2019

Star Wars Jedi: Survivor – Developed by Respawn Entertainment and released in January 1, 2023

Stay in the Light – Developed by Sunside Games and released in 2019

Stray – Developed by BlueTwelve Studio and released in July 19, 2022

Super Mario 64 – Developed by Nintendo and released in May 2, 2020 and

Sword and Fairy 7 – Developed by Softstar Technology and released on October 22, 2021.

Games Starting with T:

Teardown – Developed by Tuxedo Labs and released in April 21, 2022

The Ascent – Developed by Neon Giant and released in July 29, 2021

The Day Before – Developed by Fntastic and released in   March 1, 2023

The Fabled Woods – Developed by CyberPunch Studios and released in March 25, 2021

The Idolmaster: Starlit Season – Developed by ILCA and released in October 14, 2021

The King of Fighters XV – Developed by SNK Corporation and released in February 17, 2022

The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time – Developed by Nintendo and released in 21 November 1998

The Medium – Developed by Bloober Team and released in January 28, 2021

The Moonlight Blade – Developed by Tencent Games and released in July 1, 2015

The Orville – Interactive Fan Experience – Developed by Messy Desk Interactive and released in 23 July 2019

The Riftbreaker – Developed by EXOR Studios and released in October 14, 2021 and

The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt – Developed by CD Projekt Red and released on May 19, 2015.

Games Starting with V:

Vampire: The Masquerade – Bloodlines 2 – Developed by Paradox Interactive and was released late in 2021.

Games Starting with W:

War Thunder – Developed by Gaijin Entertainment and released in December 21, 2016

Watch Dogs: Legion – Developed by Ubisoft Toronto, Ubisoft Montreal, Ubisoft Paris, Ubisoft Bucharest, Ubisoft Reflections, Ubisoft Leamington, and Ubisoft Mumbai and released in October 29, 2020

Wolfenstein: Youngblood – Developed by MachineGames and Arkane Studios and released on July 25, 2019

World of Warcraft – Developed by Blizzard Entertainment and released on November 23, 2004 and

Wrench – Developed by Missing Digit  and released on December 19, 2018.

Games Starting with X:

Xuan-Yuan Sword VII – Developed by Softstar Entertainment and DOMO Studio and released on October 28, 2020.

Does the GPU Need Ray Tracing?

Ideally, yes, Graphics Processing Units need ray tracing, and a higher count of it at that, such as the RTX graphics processors.

This will help the graphics cards to handle more complex and multiple graphics effects with much ease and present them more realistically with a much higher ray count.

Typically, ray tracing technology seems pretty simple in principle and easy to incorporate but writing routines or codes is the most difficult part of the process to work out the intersection of rays with the objects in the scene.

Though this issue can be resolved somewhat by using analytical and geometric solutions, it involves a lot of mathematical calculations.

Add to that, figuring out the intersection tests is also a very costly process.

However, leaving aside these downsides, the ray tracing technology is elegant and simple and helps a lot in solving the shading and visibility issues both in a single integrated framework.

Therefore, it is not surprising that the graphics cards of today need ray tracing.

If you look back a couple of years, in 2019, it was only NVIDIA that manufactured the only graphics cards that supported real time ray tracing technology.

Later on, due to the popularity and success, AMD followed suit.

There are lots of such graphics cards available out there in the market and some of these are the best.

However, choosing one of the best ray tracing- compatible graphics cards may be quite tricky.

There are a few older graphics cards that now support ray tracing technology but these are often found to struggle with their performance.

If you choose any older version of a GTX GPU, you will get a very low ray count which will offer you only basic ray tracing effects.

Therefore, make sure that you research well and read the reviews before you make your final choice.

Most of the high-end graphics cards offers ray tracing support and some of them are:

Now, which one you will choose will depend on your preference, the type of games you want to play on your computer and, of course, your affordability.

Here is a tip: If you want to have a decent gaming experience you should not settle for anything less than an NVIDIA GeForce RTX 2060.

However, if you want to have the best gaming experience, cough up some more money to get an NVIDIA GeForce RTX 2080 Ti.

The kind of experience you will get in this case will surely fill up the oversized hole in your wallet.


Therefore, coming to the end of the article, you can see that ray tracing technology today plays a very significant role in enhancing the gaming experience.

Therefore, the modern graphics cards need to be ray tracing compatible.