With DirectStorage, Forspoken loads in a second

With DirectStorage, Forspoken loads in a second

With DirectStorage, Forspoken loads in a second

GDC is a major event in the PC gaming calendar. In addition to giving developers a chance to showcase what they’ve been working on, it also represents a great time to highlight the technologies that will power tomorrow’s games. Luminous Productions’ Forspoken is a game that will take advantage of a lot of new technology, and it will be one of the first games to take advantage of Microsoft’s DirectStorage.

DirectStorage is designed to significantly improve game load times. If you’re not already obsessed with NVMe SSDs, you’ve probably missed the buzz around the technology: a high-speed I/O API that rivals Windows 10 and Windows 11, only it’s also optimized specifically for Windows 11.

The M.2 SSD uses DirectStorage to load the first scene in just 2.2 seconds.

DirectStorage is particularly effective at managing small files, and with it, Forspoken aims to reduce its load time from an average of about 10 seconds to one second on an NVMe SSD. You still need about 10 seconds when gaming on a SATA SSD and over 30 seconds when loading from a hard drive, but just a second on a next-gen NVMe SSD can be an attractive reason to upgrade to the latest version Technology.

Luminous Productions says DirectStorage aims to deliver NVMe M.2 SSDs with a throughput of 5,000MB/s or higher, which means that a large number of first-generation PCIe 4.0 SSDs are capable of delivering the required performance. The latest PCIe 4.0 drives are capable of 7,000MB/s, so it will be interesting to see if the best SSDs offer a performance boost, or if other factors mean it won’t make much of a difference. We’ll have to see when the game actually launches.

DirectStorage accelerates all stages of the asset loading workflow, from direct file loading to optimized decompression and GPU initialization and asset uploading. A key part of DirectStorage is that data loading can be performed in parallel, with multiple read requests being synchronized at the same time for faster load times, which is not possible with traditional file access.

In the demo, Teppei Ono, technical director at Luminous, showed Forspoken loading a selection of scenes consisting of about 20,000 files, 4.5GB in size. Load times for these scenarios are displayed on NVMe SSDs, SATA SSDs, and HDDs to show how DirectStorage differs from traditional Win32 APIs. The difference is significant.

Using DirectStorage to load the M.2 SSD for the first scene took only 2.2 seconds, while the SATA SSD took more than double the 4.6 seconds to load. Meanwhile, the hard drive clocked at 24.6 seconds. The second scenario had similar numbers, taking 1.9 seconds for the M.2 SSD, 3.7 seconds for the SATA drive, and 21.5 seconds for the HDD.

If you need a reason to dump your hard drive, this is probably it.

A further breakdown of this scene’s load time shows that direct data transfer with compression is only part of the picture, with the DirectStorage API boasting 4,839MB/s file IO speed compared to 2,826 MB/s for the Win32 API on the same drive. The difference in actual load times is not that noticeable, 1.9 seconds vs. 2.1 seconds for the Win32 API.

The demo really made it clear that optimizing the use of DirectStorage isn’t just a case of plugging it into the Luminous engine and forgetting about it. Significant optimization is required to take full advantage of the technology, and even then there are bottlenecks in scene setup and how to improve it further. One of them is decompression processing – DirectStorage plans to support direct GPU decompression in the future, which should further improve performance.

However, DirectStorage appears to be scrolling with faster load times and has the potential to provide an almost instant experience. There’s still a lot of work to be done, but it helps that Forspoken looks great, and it highlights what’s possible with the current state of the technology.

Forspoken will be released on October 11, 2022.

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Bart Thompson
Bart is's List Writer . He is from Houston, Texas, and is currently pursuing a bachelor's degree in creative writing, majoring in non-fiction writing. He likes to play The Elder Scrolls Online and learn everything about The Elder Scrolls series.