Apple imitates Microsoft by putting fast SSDs to work in games

At Apple’s WWDC 2022 event, the Cupertino company announced a handful of new gaming features for its Apple silicon-powered Macs. one was Upscaling MetalFX (opens in new tab), its own feature to rival AMD and Nvidia’s current FSR and DLSS offerings. But the other sounds exactly like Apple’s own version of Microsoft’s DirectStorage technology.

Apple has announced the Fast Resource Loading API for Metal 3, the latest version of its graphics framework. The fast resource loading API “minimizes wait time by providing a more direct path from storage to the GPU so games can easily access the high-quality textures and geometries needed to create expansive worlds for realistic and immersive gameplay” .

A lot of buzzwords at the end, but does it sound familiar?

DirectStorage is a storage technology (opens in new tab) created by Microsoft and defined for use by Nvidia and AMD with their respective RTX IO (opens in new tab) and SmartAccess Storage (opens in new tab) technologies. Essentially, it redirects assets from your fast storage drives, bypassing the CPU and slow APIs, straight to the GPU for one-frame rendering. Thus reducing overall latency, maximizing the bandwidth of an NVMe SSD and speeding up load times.

DirectStorage was originally a Windows 11 exclusive feature, but it has since been announced that it is also going to windows 10 (opens in new tab). There are probably other requirements for DirectStorage: probably a supported GPU and a fairly fast SSD. We don’t know how fast this SSD needs to be, but probably PCIe 4.0 or better bandwidth for the full effect.

Now it looks like Apple plans to integrate a DirectStorage alternative into its own graphics programming model. It makes sense – Apple has full control over its own silicon these days and can put all the constituent parts together to make it run smoothly. Its latest silicon, the M2 apple (opens in new tab), also promises to deliver 35% more graphics performance than its predecessor. So this is timely.

(Image credit: Microsoft/Reddit)

Apple’s fast resource loading API isn’t really a competitor to DirectStorage, however. Apple’s silicon doesn’t work well with Windows systems, or vice versa. But it shows that these technologies – upscaling, NVMe storage APIs, etc. – are starting to become the new norm for gaming on all platforms

Don’t forget, Xbox also uses a version of DirectStorage and game developers on the platform now have access to AMD’s Upscaling Technology in the Xbox GDK (opens in new tab). The PlayStation 5’s Kraken and IO subsystem also operate in a similar way.

Metal 3 is being introduced (opens in new tab) alongside No Man’s Sky and Resident Evil: Village later this year, though no exact date has been given. It’s very possible that DirectStorage will arrive in early PC games alongside the next generation of GPUs in the second half of the year, meaning these two technologies arrive at a similar time frame. There are still no firm dates for either of them, however.

We know that AMD plans to release SmartAccess Storage together with developers Luminous Productions at Forspoken, and has already shown how load times can decrease from 10 seconds to just one second (opens in new tab) with the feature activated. So there’s at least one good reason to be excited about its arrival.

Goodbye, loading screens. We knew you very well.

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