Microsoft has announced that the new version of DirectStorage will be available to game developers by the end of 2022 and will be an important step forward in accelerating loading times on SSDs.
As you may know, DirectStorage is a feature that first appeared on the Xbox that offers faster loading – and better game resource loading performance in big open world titles – and first appeared on Windows PCs in March.
What Microsoft has now revealed (opens in a new tab) (hat tip to Tom’s gear (opens in a new tab)) is that DirectStorage 1.1, a new version with GPU decompression technology enabled, is coming soon. Although there are still no games that will benefit from this (more – we’ll come back to this, of course, quite important point).
Microsoft has already told us that DirectStorage (DS) will cut load times by up to 40% – for games on high-speed NVMe SSDs running on Windows 11 – and this new DS puzzle piece, GPU decompression, will offer something to triple your time performance loading, the company promises.
Usually decompression (compressed game resources that must be smaller due to their huge size) is run by the CPU, but Microsoft switches that work directly to the GPU.
Microsoft explains: “Graphics cards are extremely efficient at performing repetitive tasks concurrently, and we can use this ability along with the bandwidth of a high-speed NVMe drive to get more work done simultaneously.”
In a Microsoft demonstration, the company showed that when DirectStorage is running with GPU decompression, compared to traditional CPU decompression, “scenes load almost 3 times faster and the CPU is almost completely freed up for use in other game processes.” (Incidentally, in this demo, the CPU only saw 15% of its maximum utilization compared to 100% of its utilization when DS wasn’t in use.)
Now remember that this is a curated and “highly optimized” demo (in Microsoft’s own words), but it certainly promises some serious overall benefits that should make games that support DirectStorage load and run much smoother. -round.
Analysis: Forspoken unfortunately not coming (still)
It’s worth noting that while DirectStorage was created with superfast NVMe SSDs in mind, it will still work with slower SSDs (and even hard drives, to some extent); but the effect will not be as pronounced. The storage acceleration technology will also work well on Windows 10 PCs, but Windows 11 offers advances in storage optimization, again meaning DS offers more impact. (To run the DS, you also need a modern GPU, which is one that supports DX12 and Shader Model 6).
The main catch is that despite the successful progress with DirectStorage, there are still no PC games that actually support the technology. This month we were going to get the first game to show DS, Forspoken, but it was delayed until January 2023 (and has already been retired early so that’s a bit disappointing).
That said, it’s still only a few months – assuming there won’t be any further problems – but even then it’s just one game. It will undoubtedly be a while before the broader support is adopted by PC game developers, but when that happens, it could become an important reason to upgrade to Windows 11 for gamers (and an equally good reason to get an NVMe SSD for those who have not yet made a jump on the front of the magazine).