Microsoft’s DirectStorage could improve load times by 200%

Microsoft has just introduced GPU decompression in their new DirectStorage API, bringing it to version 1.1. GPU decompression can bring big performance gains in games — Microsoft promises up to 200% improvement in load times. Unfortunately, it’s still too early to get excited – we may not see DirectStorage for a while.

Microsoft’s DirectStorage is new software that will help games take advantage of the blazing fast load times of NVMe SSDs. As DirectStorage development progresses, Microsoft has just announced that version 1.1 of its new software is on the horizon, and it’s coming with a significant update that includes GPU decompression.

Normally, the decompression tasks are performed by the processor and not by the graphics card. But since GPUs do a good job of running the same tasks over and over again in parallel, Microsoft decided to try to shift some of that decompression work from the CPU to the GPU. Using graphics cores in modern GPUs has proven effective in significantly reducing game load times.

In its tests, Microsoft managed to reduce the loading time of resources from 2.36 seconds to just 0.8 seconds. For gamers, this means faster loading screens, faster world building in open-world games, and a general performance boost when loading resources. Microsoft plans up to 200% faster performance, which is three times faster than without GPU decompression.

Using GPU decompression also reduces CPU usage by 85%.

AMD, NVIDIA and Intel are working on drivers

Microsoft expects DirectStorage to work on both Windows 11 and Windows 10, but the former will get a few more optimizations that could make the API more powerful on Windows 11. AMD and NVIDIA are already working on drivers that support DirectStorage. With its new Arc Alchemist graphics cards, Intel also has such drivers on the way.

DirectStorage certainly looks impressive and can provide realistic performance gains for gamers. Unfortunately, we are still far from seeing this technology spread widely. In fact, despite reaching version 1.1 soon, DirectStorage is not yet commercially available – and won’t be for some time.

So far, only one title has been announced as providing access to DirectStorage: Forspoken. The game is constantly delayed, and the latest update tells us that it will not arrive until January 2023. This means that Microsoft will not be able to present its new API until the beginning of next year. The good news is that once DirectStorage is here, it could be a very promising addition to Windows 11 and Windows 10.

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