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Ray Tracing Video Game Graphics Come to Mobile via NetEase and Huawei in World First

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Chinese internet company NetEase and tech giant Huawei have joined up to develop the first use of ray tracing in a mobile game, a momentous achievement in the world of gaming graphics. Ray tracing is a method of visual effect that allows light to behave the way it would in the real world, reflecting and refracting off surfaces in a given field of vision.

In a game without ray tracing, an explosion wouldn’t be mirrored in the sleek windows of surrounding office buildings, a fire wouldn’t cause dark walls around it to glow and flicker, and the sun wouldn’t bounce off the surface of a lake into your character’s eyes.

Hollywood has used ray tracing for some time. It proved instrumental in animated classics such as Cars, allowing automobile characters in the 2006 film to reflect their surroundings in a visually captivating way. But it’s one thing to use the tactic in film graphics, where editors have ample time to allow media to render. The process is infinitely more difficult in video games — players move in real time, and the computer program must adapt its light reflections in order to render images in time with the players.

US tech and gaming company Nvidia in 2018 introduced graphics cards that allowed players to experience ray tracing in PC games. But mobile phones simply didn’t have enough processing power to offer gamers the same experience.

That changed last Tuesday, when NetEase showed the first mobile gaming application of ray tracing, for which it used Huawei’s Kirin 990 SoC chipset, which is used in its Mate 30 phones. For the demonstration, NetEase used footage from its popular MMORPG title Love is Justice.

Tuesday’s unveiling, however, was just a demonstration. NetEase did not say when ray tracing would be widely applied. Mobile players will have to wait to enjoy the visual splendor of realistically reflected light.

Zach Hollo
    J. Zach Hollo is a RADII contributor currently based in Guangzhou. He recently competed a master's degree in international affairs at National Chengchi University in Taipei, where he studied as a Fulbright scholar. Before that, he taught English in China's Hunan and Henan provinces. As an undergraduate, he attended Northwestern University's campus in Doha, Qatar, where he majored in journalism.