GDC—Nvidia announced several new features for its Gameworks SDK yesterday. GameWorks SDK 3.1 includes three rendering techniques related to shadows and lighting, plus two beta PhysX techniques.
The first, called Volumetric Lighting, lets developers more realistically simulate how light passes through the atmosphere. That technology is likely most familiar in Fallout 4. Hybrid Frustrum Traced Shadows, or HFTS, produces shadows that are hard near an object with smooth transitions to softer shadows as the distance from the object increases. HFTS is included in Tom Clancy's The Division. Finally, Voxel Accelerated Ambient Occlusion (VXAO) "calculates shadows in world-space using all scene geometry." Nvidia says this technique is its highest-quality algorithm for ambient occlusion yet. VXAO just debuted in Rise of the Tomb Raider.
The PhysX libraries entering beta with SDK 3.1 are PhysX-GRB, an advancement of PhysX’s rigid-body physics library that's primarily billed as a performance improvement, and Flow, a fluid-dynamics technique that lets devs simulate volumetric smoke and fire without relying on a bounding box.
Nvidia has also stated its intent to release the source code for some of these libraries on GitHub. The company says that the source for its Volumetric Lighting and FaceWorks demo is available now, while source for HairWorks, HBAO+, and WaveWorks will be available "soon."