Microsoft has announced that a new version of DirectStorage will be available to game developers before the end of 2022, and it will take on a major step towards speeding up SSD loading times.
DirectStorage, the Xbox''s first full-feature, provides quicker load times and improved performance loading game assets in big open world titles, as well as it was first released back in March.
What Microsoft has now revealed (opens in new tab) (hat tip to Toms Hardware (opens in new tab)) is that DirectStorage 1.1, a new version with GPU Decompression technology, will be available very soon. Although there are stillnt any games that will benefit from it (yet well come back to this obvious crucial point).
DirectStorage (DS) will reduce load times of up to 40% for games on Windows 11 and this new piece of the DS puzzle, GPU Decompression, will offer something in the order of a tripling of loading time performance, according to Microsoft.
Decompression (of compressed game assets, which must be reduced due to their hefty volume) is normally done by the CPU, but Microsoft is doing it by switching this grunt directly to the GPU.
Graphics cards are extremely effective in completing repeatable tasks in parallel, and we can utilize that capability along with the bandwidth of a high-speed NVMe drive to do more work at once.
In a Microsoft demo, the company demonstrates that when DirectStorage is running with GPU decompression, scenes are loading nearly 3x faster, and the CPU is almost entirely freed up to be used for other game processes. (In the demo, the processor only saw 15% maximum use, by the way, compared to 100% usage when DS was not being used).
Bear in mind that this is a cherry-picked and highly optimized demo (in Microsoft''s own words), but it certainly promises some major beefy gains overall, which should see games that support DirectStorage loading and running much more smoothly all-round.
Forspoken is sadly not forthcoming (still)
While DirectStorage is designed with superfast NVMe SSDs in mind, it will still work with slower SSDs (and even hard disks, to a point) but the effect will not be nearly as significant. Windows 11 also has some advantage on the storage optimization front, which again will mean that DS will have increased impact. (Also, you need a modern GPU to operate, meaning one with DX12 and Shader Model 6 support).
Despite the progress on DirectStorage getting good, there are still no PC games capable of supporting the industry. We were supposed to be getting the first game to show off DS this month, Forspoken, but it has been postponed until January 2023 (and was already put back before then, therefore it''s a terrible day).
However, it''s still a few months away, assuming no further hiccups, but even then, it''s just one game. Itll certainly be a while before more support among PC game developers is adopted, but when it is, this might be a compelling reason to upgrade to Windows 11 for gamers (and a good reason to get an NVMe SSD for those who haven''t made the leap on the storage front).