World of Tanks – Ray Tracing Explained

World of Tanks will soon support real-time ray-traced shadows. Thanks to this cutting-edge technology, the smallest details on players’ tanks will give more soft, natural and realistic shadows—check it out!

We’re Still Moving Forward!

After the release of Update 1.0 in March 2018 and the large visual upgrade of World of Tanks, our consistent work on the new Core engine never stopped. We’ve implemented concurrent rendering support, while discontinuing support for Windows XP and DirectX 9. Thanks to these steps, we were able to move forward and introduce new technologies to the Core engine. One of these technologies is Ray Tracing, a rendering method which has long been the “Holy Grail” of computer graphics. Just take a look at these amazing ray-traced pictures!

What Is the Challenge?

One of the biggest challenges in game development is the correct implementation of shadows. It’s a truly challenging task to create realistic shadows using modern graphics cards. Dynamic tank shadows in our game are currently made using the common Cascaded Shadow Mapping technology, which is based on the use of regular textures. Their resolution is limited, which leads to the following issues:

  • Shadows are not detailed, and when approaching a shadow, you can see its jagged and uneven edges (known as “aliased” shadows).
  • So-called “Peter Panning”. This term derives its name from a children’s book character whose shadow became detached and who could fly. This effect makes objects with missing shadows appear to be detached from and to float above the surface.
  • At a distance of more than a hundred meters, tank shadows disappear.

The level of detail of our tanks at some point overtook the level of detail of their shadows, and we wanted to fix that disparity. Theoretically, it would be possible to increase the resolution of shadows, but this would lead to a greater load on the graphics card and a drop in FPS. Instead, we turned our attention to the latest technology of creating shadows using Ray Tracing, allowing for dramatically more lifelike shadows.

Invaluable Assistance From Intel

While we were looking for a solution to the problem of creating soft and realistic shadows on tanks, our long-standing partner, Intel, offered to share their expertise and to assist us. Intel Advanced Rendering engineers helped with high performance kernels and optimizations. Thanks to concurrent rendering support and the ability to parallelize the rendering we’ve implemented in Update 1.4, the Intel Embree technology was perfect for our game.

As a result, we can now recreate tank shadows in higher quality; their smallest details giving super-realistic soft shadows when sunlight hits them. Visually, we are now one step closer to physically accurate shadows that exist in the real world. Real-time ray-traced shadows further immerse you in an atmosphere of furious tank combat and provide an even more enjoyable gameplay experience, so check it out!


Do I need a special graphics card with Ray Tracing support to see new shadows?

No, you don’t. Our implementation of Ray Tracing technology will work with all graphics cards that support DirectX 11 API and higher. You can enable/disable this function manually in the game settings.

To check how this technology works on your PC, you can try it now in World of Tanks Encore RT. Download this stand-alone application, turn on Ray Tracing and enjoy the upgraded visuals!

How will Ray Tracing affect my PC’s FPS?

When this option is disabled, the FPS of your computer will not change. But when Ray Tracing is on, you will sacrifice some FPS depending on your graphics card.

Will Ray Traced shadows be used for all objects in the game?

As the first step we chose to include Ray Tracing shadows for the “main actors” of our game – tanks, the intact vehicles (not destroyed)”; their smallest details will give super-realistic shadows when the sun hits them.

What are the ray-traced shadows’ quality settings?

There are four settings options:

  1. Turned off. Tanks cast normal shadows, as in the current version of the game.
  2. High. Vehicles have high-quality hard shadows which remain clear at any distance. However, these shadows are not physically correct.
  3. Maximum. It is at this stage that the physically correct “soft shadows” appear. They become more blurred as they move away from an object that casts a shadow.
  4. Ultra. The quality and appearance of shadows remain the same as at the Maximum setting, but are created using the denoiser algorithm.

What’s Next?

Recreating incredibly soft and natural shadows is just the beginning of the Ray Tracing Era in gaming graphics. Thanks to this technology, we’ll be able to recreate realistic reflections, ambient occlusion, and global illumination in real time. But this is something for the more distant future.

Real-time ray-traced shadows will already become a reality in World of Tanks in one of the upcoming updates. Stay tuned and good luck on the battlefield, Commanders!

0 thoughts on “World of Tanks – Ray Tracing Explained

  1. While i run the game on high and my card is theoretically capable of doing full-on tracing (reflections n such you find in some fps) … it is NOT built with the Ray-structure. (1060, 6gb)

    Cards like the 2xxx series, if i recall correctly, would be the ones that can not just display it, but won\’t shred your FPS down to 10% … since they are literally built for this.

    YET since it is just for shadows, for now, i will give it a try anyway.
    My card does run very stable on high settings (the core engine is quite epic i have to admit) and if its just for shadows and not back breaking reflections in some collapsing farm building window, i guess it can handle.

    Worst case: OFF [X]

  2. Sounds good.

    1) it\’s only shadows and only on tanks, so the impact on Fps should not be terrible.

    2) it\’s using a different technology than what Nvidia has in mind with their hardware implementation. Meaning that while it will probably not make use of dedicated RT cores in RTX GPUs (thus limit how much dedicated hardware can tank performance costs), it will be available to everyone.

    3) We can say all we want about how bad WG is at balancing their game, but one thing they\’re very very good at doing is optimizing. There are few modern games that can brag about being able to display graphics this good on old hardware, so I have no doubt they found a way to make Ray Tracing reasonable.

    1. \”1) it’s only shadows and only on tanks, so the impact on Fps should not be terrible.\”

      Running the Encore program the average performance loss is 33-50% when RT is enabled.

      1. Yep, got to test it a few hours after my comment. I am now disappointed because the visual improvements are minor yet the performance loss is huge. If that\’s with shadows alone I\’m scared for what will happen when they attempt Ray traced reflexions and AO, which actually bring a noticeable difference to the graphics of the scene.

        I hope they\’ll take some time to improve and optimize it further. I\’d rather have them drop support for older hardware and take advantage of hardware accelerated ray tracing instead of trying to work on older hardware that will not reach 60fps anyway…

        That technology has a lot of potential but it needs to be optimized.

        Also the \”maximum\” preset does not have any reason to exist, the amount of noise just makes it look worse than all other presets.

      2. I don\’t know if you noticed … but in the tech demo there where several other effects enabled that are not in the game.

        1. To be honest I haven\’t noticed any of these other effects. Not that I don\’t believe you but can you list some so I will know what to look out for when I check them out?

  3. did they change something about graphic requirements in the last 2 patches? 2 patches ago I had to lower my graphic settings to minimum to be able to play FL( it worked on medium settings for as long as I remember) and in this last season of FL even on minimum settings im having less than 20 fps which I find to be borderline unplayable….before I hade 40-50 fps

        1. No. There is a new folder called \”win64\” in the WoT installation folder. Open that and run the WorldOfTanks.exe from that folder.

    1. The guys in charge of the graphic engine are not the same who are in charge of balance. You can tell because one team is very good at what they do while the other is a bunch of incompetent crayon eaters.

  4. Realistic lighting….. YAY!!!!! So glad this is more important that fixing the other problems with the game; like solid object boundaries being further than visible edges, still broken MM, etc.

  5. I really liked this comment on the forum, so I\’m going to post it here aswell, credit to WoT_RU_Doing:

    \”What RNG value does each ray get? Will they go to completely random places like everything else in the game?\”

    Personally I really like RT, but I find it quite weird that WG is so keen on having realistic graphics in a game full on unrealistic bullshit like clowncars and RNG…

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