When Microsoft unveiled the technology underneath its Xbox Series X console, the new DirectStorage API was described as a crucial component to improve input/output operations in games thanks to multiple I/O queues, prioritization, and decreased latency. This would help reduce CPU overhead and ultimately unlock the hardware's I/O potential, leading to shorter load times and a better overall experience.
Microsoft eventually revealed that DirectStorage would be ported to Windows PC, too, and could work in tandem with similarly aligned technologies such as NVIDIA RTX IO.
With a limited developer preview scheduled for this Summer, we couldn't resist asking 4A Games Senior Rendering Programmer Ben Archard about it as a follow-up to the press roundtable tech Q&A dedicated to Metro Exodus Enhanced Edition.
Microsoft is releasing DirectStorage API to PC soon, how beneficial do you think it could be to open world-ish games like Metro Exodus for example?
Ben Archard: Well, the key word there is beneficial and I think it will be very much so. Faster read access doesn't just allow for faster loading times, but also faster asset streaming. So that not only seems to promise more content in the environment but potentially more varied content as large assets such as high resolution textures and geometry are able to be paged in and out more rapidly. That will hopefully be boosted even more by the smart content fetching possibilities offered by tech like Sampler Feedback. So yes, I think we are seeing some very nice new technologies coming up that really open up the potential of that kind of storage.
During April's Game Stack Live 2021 developer showcase, Microsoft shared some additional information on how DirectStorage will work on Windows PC. All DirectX 12 GPUs will be compatible, though DirectX 12 Ultimate graphics cards are expected to be optimal; on the SSD front, PCIe 3.0 drives are supported alongside the newer PCIe 4.0, though again the SSDs that support the latter PCI Express standard will probably get a bigger performance boost.