nVidia announces RTX 2000 series GPUs and foreshadows the future

After two years of waiting, nVidia has finally announced their new RTX 2000 series graphics cards and it looks like the long wait between generations may have been worth it as today’s announcement shows off some very impressive technology. Plenty of tech sites are covering this in more detail than I can hope to provide to you but I want to apply today’s announcements and think about the future of a couple of titles that many of you play right now.

The short version of today’s announcement

The GTX 1000 series of cards has been the top performers for many flight sim enthusiasts over the last couple of years (along with AMD’s RX Vega cards). The cream of the crop has been the GTX 1080 and GTX 1080Ti cards which command considerable power and an accommodatingly high price point.

During the bitcoin mining rush, these cards were sometimes going for hundreds over their MSRP price and I’ve seen some up in the $1,500 range. Fortunately the rush and the scarcity of those cards has ended and prices are coming back down.

Today’s announcement ushers in a new generation which nVidia is calling their RTX 2000 series with the RTX 2080Ti at the top of the heap, and the RTX 2080 and RTX 2070 filling in the high and middle high end of the range. A 2060, 2050 and other “lesser” variations are expected to be announced in the coming days and weeks.

geforce-rtx-turing-630-u
This is what the new codename ‘Turing’ RTX 2000 series graphics core looks like

There are two main highlights starting with vastly improved and increased graphics processing power of these new cards is the first thing that should make flight sim enthusiasts sit up and take notice. The new cards (based on what nVidia calls their Turing architecture) are, according to nVidia, 6-times faster than the previous Pascal-based generation and early indications put the new RTX 2070 far ahead of the previous generations GTX 1080Ti.

The other part and the one that I want to focus on is called ray-tracing and its one of the “holy grails” of graphics rendering. So, what is it and why might it matter to flight simmers?

Tracing those rays

The big change here is how lighting and shadows are drawn in a scene. Until now, developers have used a variety of technologies and tricks to make scenes look pretty convincing but they all use the same basic techniques to make things like shadows and reflected light look convincing enough to pass for real at least some of the time.

Still, these tricks are often only convincing some of the time and there are times where the whole thing breaks down and that’s when you notice how much this is still a video game and not an approximation of real life.

Ray tracing uses a technique where all of the rays of light in a scene are calculated. This method is actually simpler in many ways compared to the advanced techniques used to try and approximate light and shadow in a scene. Ray tracing, in short, uses a technique that is much more like the way light works in real life and that means that its ability to mimic real objects is really good. The problem? It requires plenty of calculations to make it work – and until now it was out of reach. Now, it’s within reach.

Still confused about ray tracing? Check this video out from Engaget for a fairly straightforward explanation.

Ok, so how does that affect us in the flight sim world? Well, at the moment, it won’t have any effect as none of the series that we currently play (IL-2, DCS, War Thunder, etc.) have support for this technology built-in (not that we know of anyways). It will likely require a considerable effort to upgrade their game engines to support DirectX 12, DXR (Microsoft’s ray tracing system) and make necessary changes to their game engine to support lighting scenes in this way.

With the doors now open to this technology via the new nVidia cards and announcements coming from AMD on offering a competing technology soon, it’s only a matter of time before this type of tech makes its way into DCS, or IL-2 or War Thunder. When it does, it will offer visuals and lighting that offer a more physics based approach to accuracy and that means that aircraft will look more real than ever before, shadows in cockpits will be rendered with accurate precision, and reflections off glossy and matte surfaces will look more accurate than ever before.

Sometimes these demos tend to be done in a kind of artificial scenario that tends not to be reflected by real video games. That is kind of true in the demo called ‘Project Sol’ which you can watch below.

But now let’s see what this is like when applied to a real game engine. nVidia has announced that 21 games will be supporting this technology including some blockbuster titles scheduled to launch soon. One of those titles is the World War II themed combined arms based Battlefield V. Check this out to see what the effect can do to a game that is still mostly using the traditional rendering system but has incorporated ray tracing into many of the effects.

Update August 21 at 5:32 pm: Further information has come out suggesting that 21 games will support nVidia’s “RTX” technologies of which only a few of those support the ray tracing features that are part of that collection of technologies.

Future tech now

For a long time now, ray tracing has been that long sough after tech that just wasn’t possible to do in real time with any kind of visual fidelity that would matter. Now, that is changing with software and hardware advancements opening the door to this technology.

It may not happen right away and we’re all going to need new video cards to really appreciate this but I can see some of our favourite combat flight sims take on the challenge of ray tracing in the flight sim world and that it may all happen sooner than some of us think. When it does, we’ll be treated to images that will be more real looking than ever before.

For now, we’re seeing a foreshadowing of what will eventually become common place graphics technology. It’s going to be pretty exciting.

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10 Comments Add yours

  1. Drex says:

    “The new cards (based on what nVidia calls their Turing architecture) are, according to nVidia, 6-times faster than the previous Pascal-based generation and early indications put the new RTX 2070 far ahead of the previous generations GTX 1080Ti.”

    Becareful with this statement from nVidia. This is not measured in game performance that we are use too, only in 6 times faster in Ray Tracing. So in games / sims right now, that 6x means nothing. The performance numbers in current games will probably be marginal gains at best once these new cards are reviewed. This is one reason they had to release the 2080Ti on the initial launch. (when has that ever happened?) The 2070 and 2080 performance gains wouldn’t be enough to entice current 1080Ti owners to upgrade. Should be interesting to watch play out.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. ShamrockOneFive says:

      That’s a fair point. Never expect those numbers to translate into direct performance gains in a game or sim.

      I’m still fairly impressed by the raw numbers and these should put some pretty high end performance numbers into many more hands.

      It’s the mid range RTX 2070 and the 2060 numbers that should be most interesting. At least to me.

      Like

  2. arkhamuk says:

    Cool. This will be interesting to see the reviews. It should help push the VR sims along nicely as well as peoples bank accounts. Im guessing the OEM overclocked version should be out by the new year,

    Liked by 1 person

    1. ShamrockOneFive says:

      Indeed, the added performance should make higher end VR gaming easier to achieve on a slightly better budget.

      Your guess would be similar to mine. We’ll see how quickly they can pump out the standard and OC cards.

      Like

  3. Jakub Vaněk says:

    Unfortunately for Box we need better CPU´s.
    My old Gtx980 has enough power for all games in 1920 res.
    For VR and Hi-res monitors sure it will be improvement.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Mischiew Rithe says:

    Well, the launch event is impressive, and we’ll soon see the first reviews. Still, I’ll be cautious and patiently wait for those reviews before any commitment (especially since I’d have to replace not only the GPU but the CPU and .. yeah, the motherboard).

    Like

    1. ShamrockOneFive says:

      That’s definitely the smart thing to do. As excited as I am about the long term prospects of new technology like ray tracing, it’s not something that will happen all at once. We’ve already heard that the RTX 2080ti can only just maintain acceptable framerates in some of the ray tracing demos/gameplay that we have seen.

      Still, it’s a start and I think there are really cool things that will come from this down the line.

      More practically, we’ll see what these new cards can do in more conventional settings.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Mischiew Rithe says:

        That’s the point, exactly. They seem to be onto something, and according to the numbers they give in the demos during the event, this board performs pretty well on existing games, but what about the real framerate on other titles? There still might be flaws and the talk on trained AI is opaque, it could be a clever way to increase the quality in most cases… or a smoke screen. Then it has to be implemented in what is dear to us – flight sims. I have no doubt it will be in due time, that leaves a moment to consider and read expansive reviews, and who knows, the price isn’t excessive but it can only become more affordable with time 😉
        Of course nVidia has a great team so I doubt it’s just desperate marketing talk. And the gate count on those chips is impressive, I’m always in awe of how much they achieve so quickly, every time they release a new product.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. ShamrockOneFive says:

        Once we start getting some real benchmarks and especially if anyone does any DCS or IL-2 benches, I will definitely follow up here!

        Like

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