Microsoft will soon bring GPU decompression to Windows PC games. Following the launch of DirectStorage earlier this year, GPU decompression promises to be the next step in the ongoing effort to improve game load times on PCs. Microsoft says: it’s “one of our most requested features” from game developers.
GPU decompression works by transferring the work required to decompress assets in games to the graphics card instead of the CPU. Modern games contain huge amounts of assets such as characters, landscapes, and objects all compressed to reduce the overall size of a game.
“Normally, decompression is performed on the CPU, as compression formats have traditionally been optimized for CPUs only,” explains Cassie Hoef, senior program manager at Microsoft. “We provide an alternative method in DirectStorage 1.1 by instead moving the decompression of those assets to the GPU, also known as GPU decompression.”
GPU decompression frees up the CPU for other gaming tasks
Shifting this workload to a GPU can dramatically decrease loading times in games, even in areas where you move from one world to another. Microsoft claims this can be up to three times faster, freeing up the CPU for other gaming processes. “When DirectStorage 1.1″ [is] released, it marks the beginning of a new journey for game developers to take full advantage of gaming hardware and accelerate loading times for PC games in the coming years,” said Hoef.
These new improvements are coming soon to developers and will be available in both Windows 10 and Windows 11. Microsoft says there are “additional optimizations in the IO stack available for Windows 11 users”, so that’s the best choice for GPU decompression and DirectStorage in general.
GPU makers like Nvidia and AMD will also need to release compatible DirectStorage 1.1 drivers before Microsoft’s final release later this year. While DirectStorage holds the promise of blazing-fast load times we see on Xbox Series X consoles, we haven’t seen many PC games use this technology yet. pronounced was supposed to be the first major game to have DirectStorage support, but the title was delayed until January 2023.