Epic Games have been busy showing off the capabilities on Unreal Engine 4 during GDC this week, unveiling an absolutely jaw-dropping real-time ray Star Wars tech demo using Nvidia’s RTX technology. RTX provides photorealistic reflections, shadows, and ambient occlusion. And, well, you’ll really just have to see it for yourself.

I mean, wow. Aside from a few slightly wonky animations, you’d be hard-pressed to tell the difference between this video and the actual movies. For a brief moment, I wondered if this was some sort of prank and this was actually a clip from the latest Star Wars film. A reminder as well that this isn’t some pre-rendered junk, this is all happening in real-time and possible with Nvidia’s current hardware. The lighting really does feel like the missing link between games and damn near photorealism. I’m sure it would look considerably less realistic if these were people being rendered rather than Stormtrooper suits, but it feels like a churlish to suggest that when this is the future of what Star Wars game may look like.

So all of this is possible right now on today’s hardware, but it doesn’t come cheap. This particular demo from Epic is running on an Nvidia DGX Station with four Tesla V100 GPUs connected via NVLink. Each Tesla V100 graphics accelerator retails for $8,699 and the entire DGX Station costs $60,000. It’s capable of running this tech demo at 1080p resolution, 24 frames per second.

As you can probably tell, we’re a long way off from this level of quality becoming mainstream. Real-time ray tracing will actually filter into games quite soon, but they’re going to be nowhere near the graphical quality of what we’re seeing it. Still, if we were to assume a doubling of GPU performance every 18 months or so, it’s theoretically possible that a $1000 Titan GPU could be capable of this sort of thing within about 5 to 6 years. That’s pretty neat, although I don’t think folks in 2023 are going to be too keen on playing at 1080p resolution. Still, baby steps.

What do you think of the real-time ray tracing technology on offer then? What year do you think we'll be able to achieve this with our home setups? Let us know!