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DirectStorage Coming For PC To Improve Game Loading Time And Detailing
Even though you might have the best possible GPU and the latest NVMe-based SSD, most of the modern AAA titles take a lot of time to load. This is an issue that is related to software API rather than hardware and Microsoft is all set to fix the same with DirectStorage API for PC.
DirectStorage API is designed for the Velocity Architecture to Windows PCs. Microsoft claims that it offers best-in-class IO tech to both PC and console, especially for gaming. A PC and a game that can support DirectStorage will reduce the game load time by a huge margin.
DirectStorage Will Revolutionize The Gaming World
Though there have been advancements in the storage solution spectrum like NVMe based SSD that can offer more data bandwidth when compared to an HDD. However, most of the modern computers are unable to use these technologies fully due to the unoptimized storage APIs to handle the high number of IO requests.
Games have evolved a lot over the last few years and most of the AAA titles are around 100GB in size and in return, they take a lot of time to load. Modern PCs handle this in a smart way by breaking assets into smaller pieces such as textures and they only load the pieces that are required for the current scene.
Though this process is very efficient, it generated a lot of IO requests that the current storage API cannot handle. This means a PC fitted with the latest NVMe SSD might not be able to fully utilize the bandwidth offered by these drives.
It is having a fast car and a multi-lane road but you won't be able to drive faster due to the speed restrictions. A PC with an NVMe storage system is said to solve this issue by opting for a new API. Microsoft claims that the DirectStorage API not only improves the game load time but it can also improve the in-game graphics.
The Technical Aspect Of DirectStorage
A previous generation PC might only be able to offer a 50MB/s asset streaming budget, which if we divided into smaller 64k block sizes, there will be around 100 IO requests per second. A modern computer with NVMe SSD will have more than 1GB/s asset streaming budget (2.4GB/s on the Xbox Series X) that can easily handle more than 35,000 IO requests per second.
The current storage API handles each IO request one at a time, which worked very well for older games. However, with modern PCs running AAA titles, software API also becomes a bottleneck, where it will not be able to fully use an NVMe SSD bandwidth.
And most of the IO requests are compressed they have to be decompressed before a CPU or GPU could render the scene. DirectStorage will use the best current and upcoming technologies to improve game loading and graphics quality.
The current storage API is inefficient on a PC with an NVMe SSD based storage solution. DirectStorage reduces per-request NVMe overhead and enables many-at-a-time batched IO requests. So, a game developer has to optimize the title to make it load faster and offer better graphics quality.
Why DirectStorage Meant For NVMe Based PCs?
NVMe SSDs not only offer higher data bandwidth, but they also come with NVMe queues, that can easily handle gaming workloads. When compared to an HDD or a SATA SSD, an NVMe based SSD can multiple queues and each queue can contain many requests at a time.
Current storage APIs also have additional requests like that might not be important for completing IO requests and DirectStorage also takes care of this.
When Will Be DirectStorage API Available For Consumers?
Microsoft is working closely with industry partners to standardize the DirectStorage API. The company has confirmed that the DirectStorage API will be available for game developers by 2021 and is likely to go official in 2022.