Microsoft to soon introduce DirectStorage 1.1 with GPU decompression for even faster game loading times
Back in March this year, Windows 10 and 11 received support for DirectStorage, opening up new ways to reduce game load times through optimized IO throughput, also freeing CPU overhead in the process. Initial DirectStorage 1.0 tests showed that game load times on an NVMe SSD are indeed lower, but saving up less than 1 second did not seem to make a meaningful impact. This is because DS 1.0 does not include GPU decompression, which essentially moves all game asset decompression tasks from the CPU to the GPU. Microsoft recently announced that GPU decompression will be added with DS 1.1 by the end of 2022, and offered a preview with estimated performance improvements.
Since GPUs are more efficient than CPUs when it comes to parallelized repeatable tasks, game asset decompression can be performed faster directly by the graphics processor and VRAM helped by the high bandwidth provided via an NVMe SSD. Microsoft’s highly optimized demonstration reveals that GPU decompression could be 3x faster compared to traditional CPU decompression. The added benefit here is that the CPU is completely freed up to handle other game processes. Admittedly, the demonstration only shows a relatively simple scene with reduced load times by less than 2 seconds, but the benefits should be more evident in complex game scenes.
In order to take full advantage of DirectStorage 1.1 with GPU decompression, Microsoft recommends a DX12 Ultimate video card, but any video card that is DX12 ready and supports Shader Model 6.0 should be fine. Obviously, a fast NVMe SSD is needed, as well, and Microsoft reiterates that Windows 11 is slightly better than Windows 10 in this case, as the newer OS comes with additional IO stack optimizations. For now, just a few games like the upcoming Forspoken and Witcher 3 support DS, yet the introduction of GPU decompression should speed up adoption.
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