Faster Game Load Times on Intel® Arc™ Graphics with DirectStorage 1.1

Sharp textures, rich shaders, and complex geometry make games look great, but high-fidelity assets take more time to load. That time could be cut by more than half with DirectStorage 1.1 on Intel Arc GPUs.

Throughout the past two years, Intel worked closely with Microsoft* to co-engineer and optimize DirectStorage, a new game assets transport and compression technology. The co-design with Microsoft enables the DirectStorage 1.1 runtime to discover and invoke highly optimized and high-performance driver-resident GPU decompression for Intel GPUs, including the recent Intel® Arc™ family of GPUs.

The Intel® Arc™ graphics driver 101.3793 includes the DirectStorage 1.1 optimization for Intel Xe architecture, and offers the immediate value in DirectStorage enabled workloads, or games of reduced load-times, for systems equipped with Non-Volatile Memory (NVMe) SSDs. For the long term, and with a larger install base of NVMe storage systems, DirectStorage redefines the way we look at assets streaming, and opens up a whole new world of exciting advances for the next generation of games. The early benefits of DirectStorage incentivize the adoption of NVMe, and bring us closer to the longer-term vision.

DirectStorage stack on Intel Architecture
DirectStorage stack on Intel® Architecture

Software Advances with Modern Hardware

As mentioned in the Microsoft preview blog, DirectStorage takes advantage of the improvements of modern NVMe devices, and the power of GPUs, to improve load times for games. DirectStorage for Windows* makes file-loading an integral component of the graphics API. It greatly reduces the complexity of loading disk assets into DirectX* 12 resources, while providing high performance—and, on Windows* 11, leverages a lower overhead I/O path to reduce CPU overhead.

DirectStorage provides industry-standard GPU decompression on any DirectX* 12-capable devices. Intel and Microsoft made sure that the DirectStorage 1.1 API is not simply enabled, but also highly performant—and highly efficient on Intel GPUs.

Below is a performance comparison running a DirectStorage sample. The sample measures the total loading time, from compressed data reads on the storage system to availability of uncompressed data to the GPU.

Figure 2. Demo running on the Intel® Core™ i9-12900K CPU; the measured bandwidth is 7.88 GB/s.
Figure 3. Demo running with DirectStorage1.1 GPU decompression on Intel® Arc™ A770 16GB; the bandwidth increased to 21.67 GB/s.

As shown, DirectStorage 1.1, with the Intel-optimized software stack, provides a 2.7x improvement over a non-GPU accelerated path for the above workload running on a 16-core CPU. The performance benefit comes from highly optimized GPU decompression, and more efficient asset transfers to the GPU.

We’re committed to adopting new graphics technologies rapidly and we’re excited to see DirectStorage GPU decompression in action on Arc A-series products. We’ll keep you updated as game developers adopt the new API.

For developers looking to learn more about DirectStorage 1.1, please follow this link to reach GameDev content.

Sreenivas Kothandaraman, Intel Principal Engineer
Hisham Chowdhury, Intel Principal Engineer
Allen Hux, Intel Software Graphics Architect

Posted by

Zachary Hill - Intel Arc Graphics

Zachary Hill

November 7, 2022

Workloads and Configurations

Notices and Disclaimers

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The products and services described may contain defects or errors known as errata which may cause deviations from published specifications. Current characterized errata are available on request.

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© 2022 Intel Corporation

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