Microsoft Teases DirectStorage 1.1 With GPU Decompression For Much Faster Game Loading
DirectStorage is one of those technologies that perpetually seems to be just on the horizon. Except, Microsoft actually launched DirectStorage back in March of this year. You haven't heard much about it because it simply hasn't seen adoption in any game titles yet. That will probably change with the latest update, which adds the highly-anticipated GPU decompression feature.
GPU decompression is exactly what it sounds like: using the GPU to decompress assets rather than doing it on the CPU. Historically, offloading things from the CPU was done for the purpose of freeing up CPU time for other tasks, but with the advent of many-core CPUs, that's less of a concern now. Instead, the main purpose of GPU decompression is simply to perform said decompression much faster.
Microsoft's created a synthetic demo for the technology that cuts loading time of a simple scene with rotating avocados from 2.36 seconds to 0.8 seconds. That's a tremendous improvement, but as Microsoft itself admits, this sample scene is highly-optimized and may not necessarily represent real-world gains. The actual figure that Microsoft presents is around 40% improvement in load times for games.
Load times in modern games running from an SSD are already quite short, so we're not exactly streaming joyful tears over this announcement, but reduced load time is always a good thing. Microsoft of course says that DirectStorage 1.1 will work best on Windows 11 due to "additional optimizations in the I/O stack," but it will be available on Windows 10, as well.
Of course, you'll need an NVMe SSD to see the biggest benefit, as well as a GPU that supports Shader Model 6.0. That description includes most GPUs with Direct3D hardware feature level 12_0, going back to AMD's GCN 2 (Radeon R9 290) and NVIDIA's Maxwell (GeForce 900 series), although don't take our word as gospel on which GPUs will actually work with DirectStorage 1.1 because it will depend on driver updates from the manufacturers. You can use the Xbox Insider Hub app to check if your machine is ready.
Microsoft unfortunately declined to give a date for DirectStorage 1.1's release, saying only that it would have it out by the end of 2022. Likewise, no word on any future titles that are scheduled to ship with DirectStorage support. Hopefully developers get on the ball with the new tech sooner than later.