At GDC 16 we rolled out the GameWorks 3.1 SDK with three new rendering technologies that will help your game to shine: Volumetric Lighting, Voxel Accelerated Ambient Occlusion (VXAO) and Hybrid Frustum Traced Shadows (HFTS),

Gaming is such a unique medium. It’s huge. A good game is like watching a movie, reading a book, taking a road trip, partying with friends and winning a contest, all at the same time. The pace of innovation really thrills me too.

The PC ecosystem is so open and scalable. Anyone with a few hundred dollars or access to a school computer can get started in game development, and for the price of a 10-year-old car you can have something akin to yesterday’s supercomputer on your desktop.

But the story of PC hardware is only one chapter. The battle to keep software moving along is just as intense. While it is possible in theory to write a killer game on a tiny budget, the high production values that gamers demand require serious developer commitment. With so many frontiers in game tech and design, many developers find that they could always use more time, people and expertise to help bring a vision to life. More time to read and write SIGGRAPH papers; more coders to implement something new and exciting; more optimization to bring up the frame rate.

That is why I am proud to be on NVIDIA’s GameWorks team. NVIDIA’s contribution to PC gaming is paramount. Every generation of GeForce GPU brings new capabilities, improved efficiency and better performance. But as a developer, it can be a real challenge to keep pushing your tech, game design and team through the production cycle, hitting performance targets from notebook and console to gaming rig while the platforms change underneath you.

GameWorks is an important part of NVIDIA’s commitment to gaming, a commitment to help developers make better games than time and budget might otherwise allow, and a commitment to help deliver the highest quality images and simulation to gamers. The GameWorks team does the research, coding and testing needed to deliver tech and tools into the hands of developers who work hard to deliver each new generation of gaming satisfaction.

This year we are excited to roll out the GameWorks 3.1 SDK with three new techs that will really help your game to...ummm...shine: Volumetric Lighting, Voxel Accelerated Ambient Occlusion (VXAO) and Hybrid Frustum Traced Shadows (HFTS).

Volumetric Lighting

NVIDIA Volumetric Lighting implements physically based light scattering, a subtle but powerful atmospheric effect that combines shadow maps, geometry shaders and sophisticated filters to deliver just the right mood and tone. Volumetric Lighting will run on any GPU that supports DX11, and has been ported to consoles as well.

Learn more about Volumetric Lighting.

Voxel Accelerated Ambient Occulusion

Next, NVIDIA Voxel Accelerated Ambient Occlusion, or VXAO for short, is simply the highest quality ambient occlusion available in PC games today. VXAO’s world-space algorithm offers superior images, smoother response to camera movement, finer details and better accuracy than screen-space solutions. VXAO will run on any recent DX11-capable GPU, but is not intended to replace screen-space implementations for mid-range or budget platforms. For most games in development today, a gamer would want to see VXAO as a high-end option for those who have invested in the latest GPUs, while NVIDIA HBAO+ remains an excellent ambient occlusion solution for less luxurious systems.

Learn more about Voxel Accelerated Ambient Occlusion (VXAO).

Hybrid Frustum Traced Shadows

Third, NVIDIA HFTS is the most advanced shadow algorithm ever offered by GameWorks. Frustum Tracing means that the primitives of occluding objects are ray-traced from the light’s point of view to form a shadow on the receiving surfaces. The result is a very crisp, accurate hard shadow, which is then combined (hence the ‘Hybrid’) with a variable penumbra filter (PCSS, or Percentage Closer Soft Shadows) to soften the shadow as it extends away from the occluder, with fewer artifacts than were possible with other soft-shadow algorithms. Like VXAO, HFTS today is best as an upgrade selection for enthusiast-grade systems.

Learn more about Hybrid Frustum Traced Shadows (HFTS).