Microsoft readies DirectStorage API, faster loading Windows games coming soon
Some of the more resource-intensive AAA games available right now on PC are benefitting mostly from 3D accelerating techniques delivered by discrete GPUs, but a smooth gaming experience does not always come down to high frames-per-second and low frame-times. One may argue that snappy loading times and mitigating the dreaded detailed texture pop-up effect could play a significant role in ensuring an immersive gaming experience. However, these two aspects also rely on the storage components, and, although lightning fast NVMe SSDs have been around for more than a decade, the full potential of this technology hasn’t really been tapped for PC games. Back in 2020, Microsoft promised to solve this with the introduction of DirectStorage, which is already working to some degree on the latest Xbox consoles, but it looks like Windows PC-based games could very soon take advantage of this tech, as the company just announced that the first DirectStorage SDK is now available to be integrated in games.
The press release notes that developers can access the aka.ms/directstorage resource page to download the NuGet repository with all the needed redistributable packages, along with the GitHub repo with samples and necessary docs, plus the latest version of PIX for Windows. Microsoft will also offer an in-depth DirectStorage presentation with tips and tricks at GDC on March 22.
Gamers who want to fully take advantage of the DirectStorage feature can start preparing their systems by upgrading to Windows 11 (Windows 10 is compatible but not all features are available). Microsoft claims that DirectStorage benefits can be seen on any kind of storage device (yes, even HDDs); nevertheless, NVMe SSDs are recommended in order to maximize I/O performance. A list with games supporting DirectStorage will be released soon.
Microsoft is already working on even more ways to offload work from the CPU, and, according to the roadmap included in the press release, the next major feature to be included is GPU decompression (RTX IO in collaboration with Nvidia). This will allow game developers to more efficiently control resources and how hardware is leveraged. Furthermore, Microsoft vows to continue optimizing, integrating feedback, and improving on the existing runtime implementation.