“Natural Evolution of Our Ideas”: CDPR on Ray Tracing in Cyberpunk 2077 and Switching to DirectX 12 Ultimate

At the end of June, CD Projekt RED and Nvidia announced that Cyberpunk 2077 will support four ray tracing effects at release: ambient lighting and shading, as well as realistic reflections and shadows.

Jakub Knapik, art director for visual effects and lighting in the studio, told PC Games Hardware about working with the technology, and also explained why she confidently switched to DirectX 12 Ultimate.

 

While working on the engine, our goal was to create a platform that would use physics-based rendering and a realistic approach to lighting across all platforms.

This approach made ray tracing a natural development of our ideas, the next step in evolution. We’ve been working on a hybrid solution that adds on top of existing designs and replaces our lighting subsystems with ray-traced equivalents.

This gives us base parity and doesn’t need to create separate lighting options. At the same time, we are getting a significant leap in quality in the areas that we found the most useful for the game. We can work on them further depending on our specific needs.

Jakub Knapik
art director of visual effects and lighting

Knapik believes that the main advantage of ray tracing is the use of the entire 3D space, not just the objects on the screen.

 

We used soft shade from the sun and got amazing results. Any object visible to the eye casts a shadow that softens with distance.

We also ray traced the glow from the sky, and in combination with our global illumination system this results in a realistic effect.

We also use ray tracing for surfaces like displays and neon signs to show a realistic soft glow with perfect shadows at night.

Of course, we also use ray traced diffuse shading and also work on reflections.

Jakub Knapik
art director of visual effects and lighting

Knapik admitted that implementing ray tracing in parallel with existing engine systems was challenging, but he believes the difficulty may vary from case to case.

 

Each engine is created for specific needs. Ours is designed to feature incredibly detailed Night City with insane amount of assets and verticality. All global illumination works in real time together with local light sources, dynamic day / night and weather conditions.

Jakub Knapik
art director of visual effects and lighting

Finally, Knapik clarified that the move to DirectX 12 Ultimate for the studio was easy, even though it meant dropping support for Windows 8.

 

Due to the fact that Microsoft introduced support for DX12 in Windows 7 SP1, the game will run on systems with it. We will be tweaking and testing Cyberpunk 2077 on Windows 7 to iron out any rough edges. Unfortunately, Windows 8 didn’t get this support for DX12.

As for DX 12 Ultimate, the game will run smoothly on maps compatible with it, and the Ultimate features let you squeeze more out of hardware.

We chose DX12 for two important reasons. First, it is the standard API for Xbox platforms, and since the game is coming to Xbox One, we wanted to move to that API as soon as possible.

Secondly, it is the birthplace of DXR (ray tracing). Considering that we had planned to do DXR from the beginning, the decision to choose DX12 was pretty straightforward and obvious.

Jakub Knapik
art director of visual effects and lighting

Technologies such as ray tracing included in DX12 Ultimate are fully compatible with AMD GPUs with RDNA 2 architecture and Nvidia RTX 20-series graphics cards.

This will make it easier to work on the PS5 and Xbox Series X versions of Cyberpunk 2077, but CD Projekt RED is not going into details yet.

Cyberpunk 2077 is now scheduled for release on November 19th. The game will be released not only on PS4, Xbox One and PC, but also on PS5 and Xbox Series X as soon as these consoles become available.

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