Latest Steam Client Update Rolls Out Shader Pre-Caching For OpenGL/Vulkan
Written by Michael Larabel in Valve on 14 December 2017 at 05:40 AM EST. 10 Comments
VALVE --
The latest Steam client release on Wednesday rolls out OpenGL and Vulkan shader pre-caching by default.

Valve's Steam betas the past few months have been working on pre-compiled GPU shader caching while now it's rolled out to everyone by default for both OpenGL and Vulkan games. From Wednesday's announcement:
New feature: Shader Pre-Caching. Whenever possible, depending on hardware and driver support, Steam can download pre-compiled shaders for your specific video card. This reduces load times and in-game stuttering during the first few launches of OpenGL- and Vulkan-based games on supported hardware. This feature may use a small amount of additional bandwidth as Steam uploads and analyzes a shader usage report after each run of the game. The feature can be disabled via a new entry in the Settings dialog.

Any regular Phoronix reader should know that Mesa in the past months has supported an on-disk GLSL shader cache for RadeonSI and now even for Intel while the NVIDIA driver has offered a shader cache for even much longer. The Vulkan drivers have also supported an on-disk cache now too for games not handling caching on their side. It basically allows reusing compiled shaders rather than having to spend the time recompiling shaders on subsequent runs.

This Steam feature is basically about pre-populating the shader cache prior to running the game the first time. Rather than needing to "warm up" the shader cache yourself, Steam would automatically download the pre-compiled shaders for you so you could have a faster experience right out of the box.

It will be interesting to see how well this works considering the shader cache is only compatible with each given GPU and that specific driver version, so if you are a habitual Mesa Git upgrader or otherwise using some obscure GPU/driver combination, you are unlikely to see any difference.

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Michael Larabel is the principal author of Phoronix.com and founded the site in 2004 with a focus on enriching the Linux hardware experience. Michael has written more than 10,000 articles covering the state of Linux hardware support, Linux performance, graphics drivers, and other topics. Michael is also the lead developer of the Phoronix Test Suite, Phoromatic, and OpenBenchmarking.org automated benchmarking software. He can be followed via Twitter or contacted via MichaelLarabel.com.

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