DirectStorage improves game loading times, but not as much as you may think

Martin Brinkmann
Mar 26, 2022
Updated • Mar 26, 2022
Games
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Microsoft announced the DirectStorage API for Windows PCs back in 2020. The technology that debuted on the company's Xbox gaming system promises faster loading times of games by eliminating IO bottlenecks.

directstorage benchmark

First announced as a Windows 11 exclusive, Microsoft revealed in 2021 that DirectStorage would also come to the company's Windows 10 operating system. Microsoft released a preview in the same year, but it took until March 2022 for an official release.

DirectStorage benefits from fast storage solutions, especially from state of the art NVME storage solutions. Microsoft did not provide benchmarks up until now, and it was not clear if benchmarks would show gains as impressive as Microsoft claimed they would be.

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At this month's Game Developer Conference, Luminous Productions technical director Teppei Ono showcased the benefits of DirectStorage. The company's Forspoken game makes use of the new API on Windows and loading times are indeed reduced thanks to the use of the DirectStorage API.

The decrease in loading time depends on a number of factors. As a result, it varied from scene to scene the director demoed during the presentation.

NVMe storage devices are faster than SATA SSD storage devices. The NVMe-powered PC loaded two of the three demo scenes in 1.9 seconds with DirectStorage. It took the SATA SSD 3.4 seconds and 3.7 seconds respectively to load the same scene.

Without DirectStorage, loading times increased to 2.4 seconds and 2.1 seconds on the NVMe-powered PC, and to 4.1 seconds and 4.5 seconds on the SATA SSD device.

The following table highlights the performance of the storage devices with the DirectStorage API and the Win32 API.

 NVMeSATA SSD
Scene 1 Win32 API2.6 seconds5.0 seconds
Scene 1 DirectStorage2.2 seconds4.6 seconds
Scene 2 Win32 API2.4 seconds4.1 seconds
Scene 2 DirectStorage1.9 seconds3.4 seconds
Scene 3 Win32 API2.1 seconds4.5 seconds
Scene 3 DirectStorage1.9 seconds3.7 seconds

The biggest performance gain on the NVME-powered PC is 0.5 seconds for the loading of a scene, the lowest 0.2 seconds. For the SSD-powered PC, the biggest gain was 0.8 seconds and the lowest 0.4 seconds.

Platter-based hard drives benefit from DirectStorage as well, but not nearly as much. The loading time exceeded 20 seconds for all scenes, and the DirectStorage gain dropped the loading time by about a 1 second.

NVMe and SSD storage devices benefit from DirectStorage in PC games. Mileage varies a lot depending on the scene in question and the hardware that is used. The gains are noticeable, but some games may find them not as impressive as Microsoft made them out to be when the company announced the API. Gains look to be in the 10% to 25% region for most scenes.

The benchmarks are from a single game demo. It will be interesting to see if other games show similar loading time improvements.

Now You: are the gains what you'd expected them to be?

Summary
DirectStorage improves game loading times, but not as much as you may think
Article Name
DirectStorage improves game loading times, but not as much as you may think
Description
A demo of the game Forspoken at the GDC 2022 conference compared loading times of the new DirectStorage API with the old Win32 API.
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Ghacks Technology News
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Comments

  1. Anonymous said on March 26, 2022 at 10:42 am
    Reply

    thats weak…all the hype, just for this…

  2. ilev said on March 26, 2022 at 11:09 am
    Reply

    Another Microsoft hoax.

    1. Yuliya said on March 26, 2022 at 3:49 pm
      Reply

      Not really. Remember the whole “PS5 has the fastest SSD, no PC can compete xD” marketing bollocks a while ago? As soon as it was out everyone with a brain realised that a Samsung 970 Evo (NVMe off PCIe 3) was actually faster. This is just Microsft’s way of making normies feel happy, when in reality they had to do nothing.

    2. Corky said on March 26, 2022 at 6:56 pm
      Reply

      As willing as i am to pour scorn on Microsoft a 10-20% improvement is anything but a hoax.

      IDK why everyone’s so focused on improved loading times from DS, yes it improves them but its main advantage is streaming assets during gameplay, at least it will be when Microsoft add GPU decompression support.

    3. Anonymous said on March 26, 2022 at 8:01 pm
      Reply

      @ilev

      If it’s a Microsoft Hoax ilev. Can you prove it’s a Hoax ilev??

      I don’t think you can!

      Lol

  3. Anonymous said on March 26, 2022 at 10:22 pm
    Reply

    Can we call it DMA 2.0?
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Direct_memory_access
    DMA did help but, was not a game changer either.

    1. Corky said on March 27, 2022 at 9:55 am
      Reply

      No because even with DMA the CPU still has to load the resources into memory before something can access it, yes DMA cuts out one of the steps involved but unless something is programmed to load what it’s going to need into system memory in advance of needing it it’s largely pointless.

      Especially so when you’re talking about compressed game assets that maybe in the 100’s of gig range, most PC’s don’t even come with enough system memory to even keep a single decompressed file in memory let alone the multiple that would be needed for a GPU to directly access them.

  4. Tom S said on March 27, 2022 at 1:19 am
    Reply

    What a clown answer.
    Do you even understand numbers and percentages? Obviously in this case the difference won’t be too much in ms but the improvement is there, if you count the File IO Speed there was a 69% increase in speed.
    There will be many other cases where the loading times won’t be 2 seconds… that’s the point.

    This is actually a bad example, especially for the ignorant and clueless people who can’t understand basic mathematics.

  5. Mortov Molotov said on March 27, 2022 at 7:56 am
    Reply

    I suppose this wasn’t a game optimised for DirectStorage API ? Or am I wrong?

    If not, it will be interesting to see the numbers when executed on an optimised game.

    1. Martin Brinkmann said on March 27, 2022 at 9:33 am
      Reply

      They compared the regular version with the optimized version. So yes, it used the new API.

      1. Mortov Molotov said on March 27, 2022 at 10:18 am
        Reply

        Bummer then. Up until now, I was on the fence regarding buying a PCI 4.0 NMVe for future proofness…

        Looks like I will invest in a different kind of hardware than storage.

      2. Mortov Molotov said on March 27, 2022 at 10:57 am
        Reply

        Bummer… I was on the fence regarding buying a pci 4.0 nvme for future proofness… will invest in a different kind of hardware than storage.

  6. mike gee said on March 27, 2022 at 3:30 pm
    Reply

    i think people instead of just bashing microsoft (and everything) for once actually dig into what directstorage will supposedly do.

    where increasing loading speed was a part of directstorage api the more exciting aspect was gpu decompression which hasnt been implemented yet in directstorage. with that the gpu can access the storage directly and in theory allow for most game assests to load in real time thus eliminating pop in and would allow game file sizes to be smaller since they wouldnt have to have multiple versions of the same assest.

    also, i wouldnt judge a technology when the game that is displaying it is still 6 months away from release.

  7. lickma said on March 29, 2022 at 1:36 pm
    Reply

    I think people are missing the point of it. It mostly affects the developers.

    They don’t have to design around a limited amount of assets into VRAM. They don’t have to make certain areas of the game a designated asset loading zone anymore to allow time for loading new assets into VRAM so it’s ready when you enter into a new area of the game. They also have to package their assets a certain way to maximize the limits of the VRAM. Which this gets rid of.

    Now they can design the game without this barrier and assets load as it’s needed without having to go through the vram.

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