Will this Unreal Engine real-time ray tracing demo run on my 486DX?

Originally published at: https://boingboing.net/2018/03/22/will-this-unreal-engine-real-t.html


I still have this ancient issue of PC Format stashed away somewhere.

The disk in question included a version of POV-Ray, which is apparently still a thing. I never did figure out how to “make this image” using the supplied data; it was not an especially well-written article and I think all the textures were missing anyway. But I do remember that rendering the other sample scenes took a long, long, long time.


Unreal, sadly, didn’t make it to the N64, but Quake 1 and 2 did.

I remember that. I think I rendered some simple scenes but definitely nothing like the creepy clown.

(Also, I have every issue of PCF back to the very first stashed away in my attic, for some reason. I miss that mag.)

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Will it run Crysis?

Kind of surprised they’re going with their own and not not partnering up with anyone like Unity did:

But yeah, pretty useful tools all things considered.

I also do. We did LAN parties when Quake multiplayer was the latest thing, and one of us had a 21 inch EIZO CRT. Another guy lost his marbles when he saw it and insisted to use the rest of the weekend to render some stuff on the fastest machine in our network using POVray because he wanted to see it on this monster of a monitor.

He wasn’t very popular on this meeting.

It feels like it wasn’t that long ago when I first started working with 3D rendering, and ray-tracing was something that took many minutes to render a single 640x480 image. I couldn’t have imagined doing that* in frames-per-second (and in higher definition, no less). Blows me away.

*Well, some of that - these are only raytracing certain elements, i.e. the shadows and reflections, not everything. But still.

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UT “Better than quake?” Pfft. Scoff!


I’d tend to agree with Quake 1 and 2 being better than Unreal; but UT vs. Q3:Arena? Hardly a fair fight.

Edit: as for this ray tracing demo running on a 486, they didn’t have PAE until the Pentium Pro, so (even with a truly awe-inspiring budget) you probably couldn’t get enough RAM. And lack of computational speed is something you can solve with patience; but running out of address space not so much).


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The Unreal demo ran perfectly fine on my 486/66 back in the day.

Oh, not that one?


Oh yeah. It sounded great on my Gravis Ultrasound.

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I wrangle the Unreal Engine daily as part of my job and it is one fine piece of technology. That said I am profoundly skeptical as to ray tracing. I’ve been in computer graphics for a while and every couple of years, like clockwork, at SIGGRAPH or somewhere like that, somebody shows off real-time raytracing (which involves a lot of perfectly reflective spheres for some reason) and we’re all jolly impressed and then nobody ever does anyhing about it because even if we do get the supercomputers they’ve used to do it (and if you look at realtime raytracing demos from back in the day, we totally do thanks to modern graphics cards) we’ll inevitably use them to render non-raytraced graphics at a higher quality level and real-time raytracing, again, requires $150 000 in expensive hardware and a industrial-grade PSU.

Stuff like the DXR support they’ve just put into DirectX 12 is going to have its uses in adding that little bit extra to some scenes, but I have the gravest doubts that it’ll significantly displace the old ways of doing things until someone invents a way of doing it cheaply.

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