Last month HEXUS reported on Microsoft's statement that DirectStorage "will only be available with Windows 11". However, things aren't so simple, or so bad for Windows 10 users, as a recent Microsoft blog post announcing the availability of the DirectStorage Developer Preview, clearly states that "games built against the (new) DirectStorage SDK will be compatible with Windows 10, version 1909 and up".
For a brief refresher, DirectStorage is an API designed to speed up game loading times from super-fast modern storage devices like NVMe SSDs. It first surfaced as part of the Xbox Series X/S Velocity Architecture and is claimed to aid the construction of "new immersive gaming experiences with vastly reduced load times". With the arrival of the first DirectStorage Developer Preview, we thankfully get a clearer look at the technology for Windows users.
In the new dev blog post, DirectStorage features are summed up in three bullet points:
- The new DirectStorage API programming model that provides a DX12-style batched submission/completion calling pattern, relieving apps from the need to individually manage thousands of IO requests/completion notifications per second
- GPU decompression providing super-fast asset decompression for load time and streaming scenarios (coming in a later preview)
- Storage stack optimizations: On Windows 11, this consists of an upgraded OS storage stack that unlocks the full potential of DirectStorage, and on Windows 10, games will still benefit from the more efficient use of the legacy OS storage stack
It is further explained that "because Windows 11 was built with DirectStorage in mind, games running on Windows 11 benefit further from new storage stack optimizations". In other words, games built against the DirectStorage SDK will work on both Windows 10 and 11, but the latter will benefit from storage stack optimizations. Developers don't have to do any conditional jiggery-pokery, once DirectStorage is implemented its benefits will be "automatically applied and scaled appropriately for gamers".
Windows 11 and a modern fast storage device were not the only originally stated requirements to enjoy the benefits of DirectStorage. Systems must also include a DirectX 12 Ultimate supporting GPU, like an AMD Radeon RX 6000 series, or Nvidia GeForce RTX20 or RTX30 series GPU.
Last but not least, users of older, slower storage tech on their Windows machines are assured that "DirectStorage enabled games will still run as well as they always have," on that hardware.
Windows Insiders are already playing with early releases of Windows 11, but DirectStorage isn't yet available in these easy to obtain test releases.