Last Monday, Microsoft stated that DirectStorage would usher in “a new era of fast loading times and detailed worlds in PC games.” And while that may seem a bit too grandiose right now, the developer of upcoming tech showcase game Forspoken now claims that one-second load times are legitimately within reach.
Speaking at a GDC 2022 presentation about the technology embedded in the PC version of the game, Luminous Productions technical director Teppei Ono says the Square Enix title will flatten some scenes in one second, provided that your Windows 11 PC has an NVMe SSD capable of reading speeds over 5,000 MB/s.
That one-second loading time isn’t the case for every scene, and it didn’t actually show us any scenes that were loading during that time – instead, we saw cutscenes and gameplay samples where Forspoken was 1.9 seconds, 1.7 seconds, and took 2.2. seconds to get us there, thanks to the way DirectStorage offloads the streaming of graphics resources from the CPU to the GPU.
Please forgive the poor quality of these screenshots from the GDC stream. Screenshot by Sean Hollister / The Verge
You might be wondering if that’s significantly faster than games running without DirectStorage, and Ono admits the answer is actually no, not yet: while you’ll definitely see a massive speed boost from an SSD over the magnetic spinning platters of a hard drive, and of an NVMe SSD over a slower SATA-based drive, the current implementation of DirectStorage in Forspoken removes only one of the major I/O bottlenecks – others exist on the CPU.
And if you were hoping that DirectStorage would deliver better performance with ordinary spinning hard drives, the answer isn’t yet: “HDDs don’t deliver as expected due to hardware performance limitations,” says Ono.
Times are about the same for HDD with and without DirectStorage. Screenshot by Sean Hollister / The Verge
Impressive load times on both SATA and M.2, but not significantly different. Screenshot by Sean Hollister / The Verge
But, says Ono, “I/O is no longer a load-time bottleneck” – DirectStorage’s data transfer speeds are clearly faster for SSDs, and they could improve them in the future as they discover other CPU bottlenecks and take full advantage of Decompression of GPU items.
Look at that huge jump in I/O; Too bad we don’t see much in the game yet. Screenshot by Sean Hollister / The Verge
Overall, he says, most PC games don’t take nearly as much advantage of fast NVMe SSDs as Forspoken does, claiming most games have load times in excess of 10 seconds. In my experience, the fastest loading times I’ve seen on Final Fantasy VII Remake Intergrade on a PS5, which can take as little as 10 seconds from the time you exit the PS5’s home screen to the time you can move your character, four to five times faster than on PS4. It’s not clear whether Forspoken counts from app launch to playable gameplay or not.
With Forspoken, Ono says they also use other techniques to speed up loading times, such as preloading the game while on the title screen.
AMD also revealed today that Forspoken will support the temporary upscaling of FidelityFX Super Resolution 2.0 for higher effective resolutions or faster framerates, which the team says took less than a week to integrate into the game.