New DirectStorage 1.1 will tap GPU to speed up games even more

Microsoft said recently that it plans to release DirectStorage 1.1 by the end of 2022, improving scene loading times by a factor of three and dramatically speeding up PC games as a result.

Microsoft announced the original DirectStorage API in March, promising to dramatically speed up game loading times by optimizing gameplay with NVMe SSDs for PCs. Now, Microsoft is taking the next step: offloading the decompression of the game’s assets to the GPU, rather than the CPU, and speeding up games even further.

Microsoft said in a recent blog post that DirectStorage 1.1 will require basically the same hardware as DirectStorage 1.0: an NVMe SSD, plus any DirectX GPU that supports Shader Model 6.0. Microsoft makes clear that you’ll be able to play DirectStorage 1.1 games on any capable hardware, but that the DirectStorage advantages will only be seen on the SSD/GPU combination. Likewise, you’ll be able to play these games on Windows 10 or Windows 11, but Windows 11 includes optimizations in the I/O stack that allow the game to run most effectively on Windows 11.

Microsoft explained that most games compress their assets to save space, right up until the time they’re being used. This real-time decompression may save space on your hard drive or SSD, but it costs time and computational effort to perform. It also means that a GPU (which may not be in use until the game or scene loads) may be sitting idle, while your PC’s CPU may be stressed by all sorts of different tasks. Microsoft simply proposes switching which component is doing the work.

Microsoft said that scenes loaded three times faster using DirectStorage 1.1—0.8 seconds versus 2.36 seconds, specifically. “When DirectStorage 1.1 [is] released, it kicks off a new journey for game developers to make full use of gaming hardware and speed up load times for PC games over the next few years,” Microsoft wrote.

Microsoft isn’t saying when it will release DirectStorage 1.1 to consumers, just that it will release the API to developers before the end of the year. Those hardware and game makers will have a chance to test it before it’s released to consumers. Microsoft has said that it will be moving back to a single annual feature update for Windows 11, but it will add smaller updates pretty much anytime it wishes. It will likely be in these small updates that Microsoft releases DirectStorage 1.1, and its consequent improvements to your PC.

Flash Storage, Gaming, Windows 11

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