DirectStorage 1.1 Available Now for PC, GPU Decompression Could Offer 3x Faster Loading

Nathan Birch
DirectStorage

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 dev hoping to use the tech in their game. For those unfamiliar, the DirectStorage API allows PC developers to stream more efficiently from NVMe SSDs potentially reducing processing overhead. This was one of the hyped aspects of the Xbox Series X/S’ “Velocity Architecture,” but the new API brings DirectStorage to PC.

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DirectStorage 1.1 Out Soon with GPU Decompression Powered by NVIDIA’s GDeflate Format

Upon initial release, DirectStorage for PC enhanced data transfers to the CPU, but the 1.1 release also improves decompression by allowing devs to offload it on the GPU. Here is Microsoft’s more detailed description of what exactly DirectStorage 1.1 and GPU decompression brings to the table

“Games require massive amounts of data to build immersive worlds – every character, object, and landscape […] adds up to hundreds of gigabytes of data. To reduce the overall package size of a game, these assets are compressed. When a game is run, the assets are transferred to system memory, where the CPU decompresses the data before it is finally copied into GPU memory to be used as needed. The transfer and decompression of these assets on gaming devices contributes heavily to load times and limits how much detail 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 make use of the higher bandwidth of NVMe drives. DirectStorage enabled games installed on NVMe drives should expect to see reductions in load times by up to 40%. After enhancing this part of the pipeline, developers will want to improve decompression performance next.

Typically, decompression work is done on the CPU because compression formats have historically been optimized for CPUs only. We are offering an alternative method in DirectStorage 1.1 by moving the decompression of those assets to the GPU instead – known as ‘GPU decompression.’ Graphics cards are extremely efficient at performing 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. As a result, the amount of time it takes for an asset to load decreases, reducing level load times and improving open world streaming.”

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

DirectStorage for PC has a lot of potential, but not a lot of support thus far. Square Enix’s Forspoken, which releases in January, will be the first game to take advantage of the tech after the horror game Scorn clarified it wasn’t using it. Hopefully, more support is forthcoming.

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