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 little too grand right now, the developer of the upcoming tech showcase game pronounced now claims that loading times of one second 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 loaded during that time – instead, we saw cutscenes and gameplay samples where pronounced took 1.9 seconds, 1.7 seconds, and 2.2 seconds to get us there, thanks to the way DirectStorage offloads the streaming of graphics resources from the CPU to the GPU.
You might be wondering if that’s significantly faster than running games without Instant Storage† 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 plates of a hard drive, and from an NVMe SSD over a slower SATA-based drive, the current implementation of DirectStorage in pronounced removes just 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.
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.
In general, he says, most PC games don’t take nearly as much advantage of fast NVMe SSD as pronounced, claiming that most games have loading times in excess of 10 seconds. In my experience the fastest loading times I’ve seen were on Final Fantasy VII Remake Intergrade on a PS5, which can take as little as 10 seconds from the time you exit the PS5 home screen to the time you can move your character, four to five times faster than on PS4. It is not clear whether pronounced counts from app launch to playable gameplay or not.
Of pronouncedOno 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 pronounced FidelityFX Super Resolution 2.0 will support temporary upscaling for higher effective resolutions or faster framerates, which the team says took less than a week to integrate into the game.