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Gears 5 dev: “Having dedicated ray tracing hardware is huge.” But just not on PC

In a studied, deflecting response to questioning about The Coalition’s plans for Gears 5 on the next-gen consoles, studio art director, Colin Penty, has been talking in very excited terms about the potential for ray tracing on the Xbox Scarlett console. It’s just a shame the developers weren’t excited enough to enable ray tracing on the PC version.

But whose fault is that? Is it down to the devs not being able to put the money and effort into supporting a resource-intensive pretty for a still small install base? Is it that Gears 5 on PC is an AMD-sponsored game and that currently precludes it from entry into the roped-off ray tracing VIP area? And does that mean you can’t stick ray tracing support into your game unless you’re a card-carrying GeForce RTX groupie?

Given that The Coalition is a Microsoft studio, and it was Microsoft that created the DirectX Raytracing (DXR) API which feeds the RTX hardware from Nvidia, you’d think it would be a natural fit to have ray tracing featured in Gears 5. But no, for reasons as yet unknown.

The interview was conducted by Gamespot (via Guru3D), where the question was asked about what The Coalition will be able to do for a next-gen version of Gears and its chunky, gun-toting, cover-shooting protagonists on Microsoft’s upcoming Xbox Scarlett console.

“We don’t have anything to announce right now in terms of Gears with the new hardware,” says Colin Penty, “but I’m definitely super excited about what the new hardware could do. Having dedicated ray tracing hardware is huge.”

We already know from the E3 reveal that Xbox Scarlett is going to have dedicated ray tracing hardware. But whether that’s baked directly into the custom AMD processor – sporting Zen 2 CPU tech and Navi GPU silicon – or some sort of separate ray tracing co-processor on board, is still not clear.

“Next-gen ray tracing,” so says the Scarlett sizzle trailer. “It’s real-time because it’s hardware-accelerated, for the first time ever.”

For the first time ever… in consoles. We’ve had hardware-accelerated ray tracing on the PC for a year now. It’s just that it’s only in the hands of one GPU manufacturer, and whether Nvidia is keeping a tight hold on RTX support for specific partners, or an AMD sponsorship negates its possible use, the install base will remain small until it’s open to all.

We’re hopeful AMD will join the ray tracing party in 2020 with next-gen RDNA cards – potentially the touted ‘Big Navi’ – because having both consoles and both GPU manufacturers supporting it is the only way to ensure it becomes a standard feature in all PC games, and not just an occasional feature at the bottom of a settings screen.

Whatever happens with the next-gen consoles, and the hardware accelerated ray tracing AMD is bringing with the second-gen RDNA GPUs, it’s clear that right now it’s a far bigger draw having the advanced technology enabled on a console than it is being able to utilise the feature on today’s gaming PCs.

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