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Nvidia’s going HAM on ray tracing at GDC and AMD’s on the Zen 2 hype train

There are a huge number of Nvidia sessions dedicated to ray tracing and RTX tech and AMD's quietly whispering about 3rd Gen Ryzen

Star Wars ray tracing

We’re already barrelling along through 2019 and that means we’re getting mighty close to the Game Developers Conference in March. Traditionally the San Francisco-based event is where we get a little more insight into the newest PC gaming technologies, either just released or coming soon.

And it’s no different this year as GDC will see AMD divulging a few more details about the Zen 2 CPU architecture which will form the beating heart of the 3rd Gen AMD Ryzen processors launching in the middle of this year.

Certainly not to be outdone, Nvidia is also going to have some representation at GDC too. In fact there are 25 Nvidia-specific sessions with a huge number of them relating to – and this is probably going to come as no surprise – real-time ray tracing and RTX technologies. In fact 17 of the Nvidia sessions relate to either ray tracing, DLSS, or Turing-based shading techniques. By contrast AMD is only presenting, or being involved in running, nine sessions across the conference, though it is also presenting alongside Nvidia too and doing its own RadeonRays ray tracing session too.

There isn’t a specific AMD Zen 2 architectural deep-dive planned for GDC, but the AMD Ryzen Processor Software Optimization session, presented by AMD’s Ken Mitchell will contain details of the exciting new CPU design.

The session details on the GDC scheduler say:

“Join the AMD ISV Game Engineering team for an introduction to the AMD Ryzen family of processors followed by advanced optimization topics. Learn about the Ryzen line up of processors, profiling tools and techniques to understand optimization opportunities, and get a glimpse of the next generation of “Zen 2” x86 core architecture. Gain insight into code optimization opportunities and lessons learned with examples including C/C++, assembly, and hardware performance-monitoring counters.”.

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So yeah, there’s just a glimpse of the design going into the 3rd Gen Ryzen chips, but the fact that it’s being referenced specifically in terms of gaming optimisations is still positive. The Zen 2 architecture should offer some extra IPC performance which will help it either catch up with, or potentially overtake, Intel’s processors from a gaming point of view. All very exciting.

AMD Zen 2 chiplets

But keen to get more devs onboard the RTX train – y’know, the one you keep seeing trundling along through Metro: Exodus – Nvidia is going hard as the proverbial in order to spread the word among the game developers community that real-time ray tracing is do-able, and worthwhile, now that its RTX range of Turing graphics are here. Not only that, but that the deep learning goodness of DLSS, and the new Turing shader techniques, can deliver improved performance in even the toughest games.

Nvidia is producing a hardback book designed to entice developers towards the undoubted thrill of coding real-time ray tracing into their games, just in time for publishing around GDC. Ray Tracing Gems will also be released online free of charge, just in case you can’t make it out to California this year.