World of Warcraft – Ray Tracing in Shadowlands

World of Warcraft – Ray Tracing in Shadowlands

Although World of Warcraft is a sixteen-year-old game, it does not have visuals that are decades old. The game’s technology has been enhanced with each expansion, and the new Shadowlands expansion last autumn added a subtle but essential new feature to the scenery: ray tracing.

An important note: To enable ray tracing in World of Warcraft, your desktop gaming machine, or a gaming laptop, you should have bought a pc or laptop with an RTX graphics card if you want ray tracing support. If you don’t know anything about gaming hardware in general, the guys behind the ASCINC website compiled a great list of the best laptops for World of Warcraft. All the laptops listed there enable you to play WoW smoothly on max settings with all the ray tracing visual effects.

Subtle because Warcraft’s lighting is already a considerable component of the game; a single map may contain hundreds of light sources, and that’s before weather effects (which include ambient and natural lighting), and other sources of illumination are included.

So, if you’re expecting a BAM, now-you-see-it-now-you-don’t effect from ray tracing, you could be disappointed.
Ray tracing, like a piece of soothing music, may improve your immersion in the old MMORPG. Some say that there is no visual improvement, but if you know where to look, you can notice the difference.

What is ray tracing, and which graphics cards are capable of using it?

Raytraced Sphere

Ray tracing converts light into pixel streams, allowing for the calculation and display of the movement of those streams in real-time. When ray-traced light strikes an item, the pixels bounce off, reflecting and refracting to create realistic effects, including natural shadows that move with the thing. Rays that have been absorbed, reflected, or refracted can hit other things and modify them again.

The technology has been used in pre-rendered materials for a long time (animated movies, pre-rendered game cinematics). Still, it wasn’t widely employed in gaming until recently, when the finest graphics cards began integrating the technology to speed up the process to acceptable game rates.

While ray tracing-capable graphics cards were released in 2018, most PC games using the technology didn’t enter the market or receive upgrades until late last year. Ray tracing is currently available in console games for the Xbox One X and Playstation 5.

NVIDIA included native ray tracing functionality in its Turing and Ampere graphics cards. However, minimal ray tracing capability was patched into previous models starting with the 1060s. For AMD cards, the options are more limited: the 6800, 6800 XT, and 6900 XT all enable ray tracing, but they’re all quite hard to come by.

Lightning in World of Warcraft: Shadowlands Expansion

Layering effects, ranging from broad ambient sunshine or darkness to particular spotlights thrown by discrete objects – such as a torch, a light fixture, or even an NPC – are used to generate lighting in World of Warcraft.

It varies according to the time of day, weather, global location, indoor or outside locations, map phases, local lighting, and other factors. Light may be baked into vertices as well as injected dynamically at runtime.

Depending on where you are standing, you may see one or more of them. Lighting is usually baked in during the construction of an extension, so the zones included in each new extension incorporate the latest lighting features available at the moment. Traveling through the vanilla zones, each expansion, and into Shadowlands provides you a 16-year tour of Warcraft lighting technology.

Given the variety of content developed for WoW throughout the years, and the fact that we support both ancient content and modern ray-traced lights, you can assume our lighting model has a lot of variance.
A map can feature thousands of lights, each of which has an effect on performance. However, in order to keep the CPU load low, engineers cheat a bit.

Lights identified as ray-traced shadow casters also have the effect of determining if a pixel is shaded by that light.
To scale the impact for different levels of technology, there are features like draw distance, buffer resolution, and rays per pixel.

Why ray tracing in World of Warcraft after all?

So why put such a complicated, resource-intensive system into a revered old game like Warcraft? WoW is known for supporting low-power PCs, and it will operate on a Mac laptop with integrated graphics. Blizzard’s balancing effort between innovation and a hardware-friendly approach includes support for ray tracing.

Blizzard is continually exploring methods to increase World of Warcraft’s graphic quality while keeping the game’s trademark graphical style. Ray tracing seemed like an excellent method to improve visuals while also making our environments more immersive.

Ray tracing is a technique that is projected to become more popular over time, so most gamers should be able to play on systems that support it. This is a fantastic method to help hobbyists today while also opening the path for ray tracing to become more widely available in the future.

Engineers had to find out how to implement ray tracing lighting while maintaining the look and feel of Shadowlands for players who would never be able to use it.

WoW is meant to be played on a wide variety of hardware, from high-end, powerful integrated GPUs on one end to entry-level graphics cards with ray-tracing capabilities on the other.

Because they want to emphasize the game developer’s value of “playing the game first” by not allowing their excitement to implement new features to impact players with older hardware negatively, the team discourages the implementation of new features hoping that it will not affect the overall gameplay experience.

Blizzard employs ray-traced shadows as an optional way to improve the visuals without incorporating them into gameplay mechanics.

Ray Tracing: What’s different from gamers perspective?

As for the other topics in this article, you’ll witness the effects of Warcraft’s ray tracing in the game’s shadows, and generally, they will be improved, not wholly new. When a player moves their character in the game, it casts a shadow, and that cast shadow is more detailed as a consequence of ray tracing.

Because distant lights aren’t producing nearly as much light as closer ones, shadows created by those lights may seem less sharply defined and may be softened to match the characteristics of light in the actual world.

More lighting in the game may produce more realistic multi-shadows than previously, which is why being in the appropriate spot can cause them.

How did the developers of World of Warcraft (WoW) determine which lighting would produce ray-traced shadows?

Blizzard used ray tracing technology to provide its artists with the necessary tools to enable this functionality across the game. If the designers wanted to use ray tracing, they could have turned it on whenever they installed a lighting source in the game.

According to Anderson, the varying parameters of lighting height, color, intensity, casting radius, and so on may all impact the overall aesthetics of a space. In light of the “many lights” statement, our artists will need to consider which lights add to the player experience when computing ray tracing rather than just enabling shadow casting for that many lights.

In which zones can you observe the effects of ray tracing in Shadowlands best?

Many people who experimented with ray tracing turned it on and off in Shadowlands without seeing much of a change, so if you were one of those people, you probably didn’t search in the proper places or on the correct items.
Ray tracing doesn’t drastically alter WoW’s lighting, but it does improve it more subtly. Although you may see the impacts if you look, it doesn’t mean you can’t ignore them.

My ideal lighting condition is when I can see individual lights producing shadows or witness several shadows thrown by the figure. The shadow and the player follow the player as he passes past the light.

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