DirectStorage 1.1 is now available for PC, GPU decompression could offer 3x faster loading

Several weeks ago, Microsoft announced that DirectStorage 1.1 was “coming soon” to PC, and now the time has officially arrived. DirectStorage 1.1 is now available for any developer looking to use the technology in their game. For those unfamiliar, the DirectStorage API allows PC developers to stream from NVMe SSDs more efficiently, potentially reducing processing overhead. It was one of the hottest aspects of the Xbox Series X/S “Velocity Architecture,” but the new API brings DirectStorage to the PC.

When initially released, DirectStorage for PC improved data transfers to the CPU, but version 1.1 also improves decompression by allowing developers to offload them to the GPU. Here’s Microsoft’s more detailed description of exactly what DirectStorage 1.1 and GPU decompression bring to the table…

“Games require huge amounts of data to create immersive worlds – every character, object and landscape […] represents hundreds of gigabytes of data. To reduce the overall package size of a game, these resources are compressed. When a game is run, assets are transferred to system memory, where the CPU decompresses the data before it is finally copied to GPU memory for use as needed. Transferring and decompressing these assets on game devices greatly contributes to load times and limits the amount of detail that can be included in open world scenes.

DirectStorage 1.0 improves the data transfer part of this process. Advances in Windows 11 combined with DirectStorage allow developers to utilize the higher bandwidth of NVMe drives. DirectStorage compatible games installed on NVMe drives should expect to see load time reductions of up to 40%. After improving this part of the pipeline, developers will next want to improve decompression performance.

Typically, the work of decompression is done on the processor because compression formats have always been optimized for processors only. We provide an alternative method in DirectStorage 1.1 by moving the decompression of these assets to the GPU instead – known as “GPU decompression”. Graphics cards are extremely efficient at performing repeatable tasks in parallel, and we can use this capability with the bandwidth of a high-speed NVMe drive to do more work at once. As a result, the time it takes to load an asset decreases, which reduces level load times and improves open-world streaming. »

Based on Microsoft’s highly optimized tests, DirectStorage 1.1 with GPU decompression can load up to 3x faster than DirectStorage 1.0.

DirectStorage for PC has a lot of potential, but not much support so far. Square Enix’s Forspoken, which will be released in January, will be the first game to take advantage of the technology after horror game Scorn clarified that it was not using it. Hopefully more support is to come.

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