DirectStorage API for PCs promises faster game loading times

Martin Brinkmann
Sep 2, 2020
Updated • Sep 2, 2020
Games, Hardware

When Microsoft announced the next Xbox console some time ago, it highlighted some features of the console's underlying architecture to demonstrate its power. Next to DirectX 12 Ultimate, which Microsoft confirmed would be coming to Windows PCs as well, it was the DirectStorage API that got gamers around the globe excited as it promised to eliminate IO bottlenecks to improve loading times significantly and as a consequence, pave the way for improved details in games.

The company notes:

With a DirectStorage capable PC and a DirectStorage enabled game, you can look forward to vastly reduced load times and virtual worlds that are more expansive and detailed than ever.

The same bottlenecks exist on modern Windows PCs, even those with the latest motherboard technology and blazing fast SSD and PCIe technologies.

Microsoft revealed on its DirectX Dev blog that the DirectStorage API will come to Windows PCs. According to the announcement, the company plans to bring a first development preview of DirectX Storage "into the hands of game developers" in the next year. It is likely that the technology will be integrated into Windows 10 Insider builds first before it becomes available to the general Windows population.

Modern computer games have evolved a lot over the past decade. The rise of faster computer hardware, processors and video cards, high resolution displays and new display technologies, have forced developers to find new ways to load the data quickly from storage devices. One of the methods divides textures and other data into smaller chunks to improve loading times at the expense of an increase in IO operations.

Current storage APIs were not optimized for high numbers of IO requests according to Microsoft. Even modern PCs are not able to "fully saturate the IO pipeline", and Microsoft DirectStorage technology addresses the issue.

The company notes that DirectStorage will improve the PC gaming experience in two primary ways:

  • Improve loading times of games.
  • Allow games to be "more detailed and expansive than ever".

Closing Words

Real-world usage will show how much of a performance boost DirectStorage provides once it lands in stable versions of Windows. The technology needs fast storage devices, specific NVMe devices according to Microsoft's announcement; this limits the reach of the new feature. Games will play just fine on PCs without the new technology according to Microsoft.

Now You: Do you play games on PCs? What is your experience regarding loading times?

DirectStorage API for PCs promises faster game loading times
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DirectStorage API for PCs promises faster game loading times
Microsoft plans to bring the DirectStorage API to Windows PCs. The API promises faster load times for games.
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  1. Leslie said on September 4, 2020 at 2:32 am

    “Current storage APIs were not optimized for high numbers of IO requests according to Microsoft.”

    Umm…Didn’t Microsoft MAKE the storage APIs of it’s own operating system? So you’re saying your own stuff is crap? That it’s not able to scale with modern hardware?

    I’m shocked, shocked I tell you.

    Well, maybe not that shocked.

  2. acetesz said on September 3, 2020 at 4:33 am

    Vulcan is the best API now, DX sucks

    1. No said on September 3, 2020 at 2:23 pm

      Vulkan. But yes, I agree.

  3. Whoot said on September 3, 2020 at 3:14 am

    You were listed on Techmeme! Looks like the tracking software that the use on me is working well lol

  4. Jeff said on September 2, 2020 at 8:21 pm

    So even if you have a blazing fast NVMe SSD, next generation GPUs required probably for this.

    Nevertheless it is a fix for the INSANELY-BLOATED-GAMES-of-today problem.

  5. Bob Red said on September 2, 2020 at 7:14 pm

    return of the SMARTDRV.EXE?

    1. Corky said on September 3, 2020 at 6:32 pm

      Smartdrv was a disk caching program, putting data from HDD into RAM, this is very different as it aims to bypass the CPU and RAM altogether.

      Currently if the GPU needs access to data it has to issue a request to the CPU, the CPU then either loads the data from a HDD/SDD and send it onto the GPU or, depending on how well your caching is working, send the data that’s already in the RAM onto the GPU.

      The idea of DirectStorage is to bypass all of that and allow the GPU to access the HDD/SSD/RAM directly, where it would be most noticeable is when streaming in textures, levels, or other data as you’re cutting out the middleman (the CPU).

  6. Waseem Abdul Rahman Tambe said on September 2, 2020 at 1:53 pm

    Hey Martin, Just an typo here “Modern computer games have evolved a lot over the pat decade….” other than that great read :)

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