Microsoft announced the imminent availability of DirectStorage 1.1, which is set to introduce the highly awaited GPU decompression feature to the API.
While the first release of DirectStorage on PC focused on enhancing the data transfer so that the API could take advantage of the much higher bandwidth of NVMe drives, the decompression of assets was still handled by the CPU, becoming a bottleneck in the process.
GPU decompression, on the other hand, can be much faster. In the comparison shown by Microsoft, the scene loads nearly three times faster, and the CPU is almost entirely freed up to handle other tasks if needed.
While there's a variety of decompression formats, DirectStorage 1.1 is set to add a brand new one called GDeflate, which was developed by NVIDIA. John Spitzer, VP of Developer and Performance Technology at NVIDIA, said in a statement:
NVIDIA and Microsoft are working together to make long load times in PC games a thing of the past. Applications will benefit by applying GDeflate compression to their game assets, enabling richer content and shorter loading times without having to increase the file download size.
According to Microsoft, GDeflate's compression is designed to take advantage of a GPU's parallel data processing capabilities while also providing sizable bandwidth amplification with NVMe drives.
Even if it was made by NVIDIA, GDeflate will work across all vendors thanks to dedicated drivers. Intel and AMD both released statements. Murali Ramadoss, Intel Fellow and GM of GPU Software Architecture, said:
Intel is excited to release drivers co-engineered with Microsoft to work seamlessly with the DirectStorage Runtime to bring optimized GPU decompression capabilities to game developers!
Scott Herkelman, senior vice president and general manager of AMD's Graphics Business Unit, stated:
DirectStorage 1.1 with GPU decompression will enable developers to unleash their creativity, delivering more detailed and visually stunning worlds. We have worked closely with Microsoft to ensure the best possible experience on AMD devices and platforms.
If the aforementioned drivers are not available, the API will fall back to an optimized DirectCompute implementation, though it won't be as performant in all likelihood. As such, it is recommended to get ahold of the drivers once they are released.
It should be noted that a year after the DirectStorage developer preview, we're still waiting to see the first commercial game implementing the API. We thought it would be Forspoken, but then Square Enix delayed the game to January 2023. Most recently, Ebb Software stated Scorn would support DirectStorage, but it turns out that's only true on Xbox Series S|X. As such, Forspoken will likely be the first game after all. While speaking about the API's implementation process at GDC 2022, Luminous Productions noted the need for GPU decompression, though it is presently unclear whether Forspoken will be updated to take advantage of DirectStorage 1.1.