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Saturday, June 15, 2024

Microsoft introduces its DirectStorage API which promises to reinvent game storage

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Microsoft has finally released its DirectStorage API to game developers. This means one of the most promising features of the Xbox Series X is coming to the PC.

DirectStorage promises to bring faster loading times thanks to optimized NVMe SSD accesses. Previously, a game could only perform one in/out access at a time. This didn’t present any issues in the days of hard drives, but now that most gaming PC’s have SSDs that can transfer gigabytes per second with hundreds of thousands of in out operations per second (IOPS) it’s clear that a better method was needed. Enter DirectStorage.

DirectStorage lets an NVMe SSD to reach its full performance potential by allowing multiple I/O operations concurrently. It allows assets to be transferred directly to the GPU, leading to better efficiency. 

Most game assets are compressed which means the CPU needs to be accessed before loading the asset. In the future, DirectStorage will introduce support for GPU file compression and decompression tasks, something the enormous processing power and memory bandwidth of a GPU is naturally suited for.

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When combined, DirectStorage should lead to faster game loading and level transition times, more detailed textures and fewer in-game popups. We’ll take all of that thanks!

Microsoft hasn’t yet revealed the names of any games that will use the technology and that’s a little surprising. Though, Games developed by Microsoft studios or Xbox exclusives are sure to come first. Third party developers will have to dedicate development resources and given that there haven’t been any supporting game announcements, it might be some time before we see it in action on the PC.

Previously, Nvidia announced its RTX IO technology, which is built on top of DirectStorage. Nvidia promises many of the same things including rapid file decompression and fast load times that are well suited to games that feature open worlds or very detailed textures.

DirectStorage will be made available to users of Windows 10 and Windows 11, though of course MS recommends the use of Windows 11 for the best results. The company will talk more about DirectStorage at the Game Developers Conference on March 22.

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