Microsoft Introduces DirectStorage: A Revolutionary Technology? - item

Microsoft Introduces DirectStorage: A Revolutionary Technology? - item

Microsoft Introduces DirectStorage

Microsoft, through its official blog, has announced the release of DirectStorage for Windows, the now famous technology implemented on Xbox Series X used to drastically reduce the loading times of video games. This particular tool guarantees very short waiting times to be able to switch from one scene to another and literally load the game environments, even the most complex and detailed, with increasingly improved performance.

With the help of SSDs that have almost completely supplanted traditional head hard drives in the PC scenario, we are more and more accustomed to lightning-fast loading of levels that until a few years ago caused us long waits between levels and the other of a game. The latest generation consoles, albeit with some differences between the two competitors Sony and Microsoft, have welcomed this technological step, immediately presenting devices equipped with solid state memory units.

An explanation of how DirectStorage will work on GPU, CPU and SSD. For those who have opted for a high-performance PC, they have so far been able to count on multiple technologies that lighten the load on the processor and video card to enjoy excellent performance. Microsoft has decided to take a step forward in favor of PC players with Windows 10 and 11, making available further support for the usability of games or particularly elaborate content. Although DirectStorage was initially envisioned as an exclusive feature for Windows 11, Microsoft has decided to back off, aware that the latest OS has not yet reached all users. For the sake of correctness of information, however, it should be noted that this API, according to the company, will have better performance and optimizations on the last operating system which remains the recommended one.

The DirectStorage SDK just published, as mentioned at the beginning, aims to cancel or at least reduce the loading times of, for example, large and full-bodied open world games, setting continuity between a scene as standard and the other. Obviously this process is not automatic for the titles already on the market with the developers will be called to implement this technology within their products.

Nvidia recently published how integration on RTX IO improves performance. Quoting the words of the official release we can learn in more detail the task of the SDK and how it will evolve in the future: "DirectStorage offers developers everything they need to move to a new input / output model for their games and we are working on more ways to take the load off the CPU. Data decompression via the GPU is the first thing in our roadmap, a feature that will give developers more control over resources and how the hardware is used. "

The work done by Microsoft therefore focuses on making the GPU and SSD communicate directly by limiting the involvement of the CPU in this process. This means that a large part of the processing load is shifted directly to the graphics card, lightening the weight that the processor is usually required to support on "heavy" games, such as today's open world. This skill shift aims to free up central processor resources without impacting framerate, better and more precise texture quality as well as the obvious reduction in loading times.

The first game we will see natively supported by DirectStorage will be Forspoken. Most read now

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From what we understand, this software solution, once implemented, will not be within everyone's reach anyway: in order to benefit from the improvements that this technology is able to create / once the developers have integrated it) we will first need to have a very recent video card and an NVMe SSD. According to the statements reported to date it does not appear that DirectStorage will require additional additional software and there will be integration by manufacturers, such as NVIDIA which has renamed RTX IO its line of compliant products.

To see a first example of DirectStorage in action we won't have to wait much longer. During the Game Developers Conference to be held next week, AMD along with Luminous Productions will present a technical demonstration of the implementation of Microsoft technology within Forspoken, which has recently been postponed to this fall. To be able to see the SDK used on a large scale instead, we should certainly wait until 2023 and find out which developers will decide to implement this solution by trading loading times and performance or image quality.

This also in consideration of the weight I specify each title. It is difficult to think of a zero impact on the graphics quality or the frame rate of very demanding games if the graphics processor is called upon to render a scene while it is decompressing a large data stream.

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