Microsoft teased the arrival of its DirectStorage 1.1 API almost a month ago, and it is now available (opens in new tab) for developers to get started with its newly implemented GPU decompression functionality. Remember, Direct Storage 1.1's headlining ability is accelerating game load times by as much as 40%, depending upon the game and PC hardware configuration.
In a blog post heralding the arrival of DirectStorage 1.1, Microsoft wrote mostly to the audience of developers, pointing to guides, resources, and describing what’s new from a technical viewpoint. The key confirmation is that “GPU decompression and GDeflate [are] now available.” But there are a number of performance increases and bug fixes to Direct Storage in general, too.
The utility value of DirectStorage going forward will depend on a variety of things. On the consumer side, PC gamers will need modern hardware to feel any benefits, with at least a DirectX 12 + Shader Model 6.0 GPU, plus a fast, modern storage device like one of the latest NVMe SSDs.
In the demos showcased last month, Microsoft shared a screenshot (see how to take screenshots in Windows) where DirectStorage 1.1 was used in a pretty ideal setup, and it loaded a ‘game’ scene up to 3X faster than an earlier API. Moreover, the GPU-powered decompression reduced CPU loads significantly. But, of course, whether your CPU or GPU has more ‘spare time’ will depend a lot on the game engine and your hardware.
Importantly for the adoption of this data loading acceleration API, some optimized drivers are already ready. Microsoft linked to support pages from key PC hardware partners like AMD, Intel, and Nvidia (opens in new tab) in its blog. If you follow the respective links, you can learn more about each vendor’s work to support DirectStorage 1.1.
AMD highlights the important fact that “DirectStorage is a feature that must be enabled by (game) application developers to realize the benefits.” Thus, end users can’t just wait for a new GPU driver. Sadly, AMD hasn’t confirmed whether it has already implemented DirenctStorage 1.1 support in a shipping driver or if it is something we have to look forward to.
Nvidia says that the current Game Ready Driver (version 526.47) includes optimizations for GDeflate. It provided some performance comparison charts showing the clear advantages offered by GPU decompression in game / level loading.
Intel says its Arc graphics driver 101.3793 includes DirectStorage 1.1 optimizations for Intel Xe architecture on systems with NVMe SSDs. It also kindly shared some performance examples. In its example featuring a system using an Intel Core i9-12900K CPU and Arc A770 16GB GPU, the decompression bandwidth was increased from 7.88 GB/s to 21.67 GB/s.
So, game developers can, at last, begin in earnest implementing DirectStorage 1.1, with the carrot at the end of the stick being significantly shorter loading times and faster game data streaming. We look forward to seeing the improvements to available games coming as patches, as well as new games coming with DirectStorage 1.1 enabled from launch.