AMD has unveiled the first technical implementation of Microsoft’s DirectStorage API: SmartAccess Storage. According to AMD’s Chief Architect, Frank Azor—and parroted by marketing director, Adam Kozak, in our Computex pre-briefing—it’s designed “to get you out of the load screen and into your gameplay faster than ever.”
The new SmartAccess Storage tech is “a suite of technologies supporting Microsoft’s DirectStorage, that utilises SmartAccess memory, along with new AMD platform technologies, and Radeon GPU asset decompression, to improve both game load times and texture streaming.
“We’re so excited about this new technology,” they both say.
And we’re excited about DirectStorage. Anything that can leverage the power of modern SSDs to lighten the load on the CPU, and get us gaming quicker, and potentially deliver vast, seamless open worlds with no loading or asset-stuttering, gets a big thumbs up from us.
It uses the innate power of the GPU to take care of all the asset compression and decompression tasks, something the processing grunt and memory bandwidth modern graphics cards are eminently capble of doing.
“Traditional game loading takes a significant amount of compute power to decompress the game’s data,” says Azor, “requiring the CPU to do the decompression and data transfer, which introduces latency, and this takes up considerable system resources.”
DirectStorage, and therefore SmartAccess Storage, offloads a lot of work from the CPU, but you’re also starting to use the full performance of modern NVMe storage, something that has been hobbled by most development still having to take laggardly hard drive storage into account.
But screw those guys, we want to actually make use of those damned SSDs for gaming.
AMD isn’t the only GPU company doing this, however. Nvidia announced its own RTX IO tech back at the dawn of the Ampere generation. It’s also built on DirectStorage, which it says offers 100 times the throughput and 20x lower CPU utilisation compared to traditional CPU decompression.
Of course the whole thing will require games to be developed with the still as yet unreleased Microsoft DirectStorage API, which is why we’ve seen nothing of RTX IO despite being dangerously close to another new Nvidia GPU generation.
But given that AMD has promised we’ll here more information in the coming months, I’d suggest a summer release is likely. Though which games will ship with it, aside from Forspoken, in a year where there don’t seem to be any other games launching, is still unknown.
I sure hope we don’t have to wait until October for one second load times.