When Microsoft announced Windows 11, it presented the release as the best operating system for gaming, and it had a few features to back up that claim. Since launch, Microsoft has worked to bring features like Auto HDR and DirectStorage, which debuted on Xbox consoles, into the Windows ecosystem.
But one important feature is still missing: Quick Resume.
Quick Resume is a feature on Xbox that allows you to pause three games (or more in some cases) at once and switch between them in seconds. It seems easy enough – just create a save state, right? But Quick Resume has a lot more to offer. With Microsoft working to bring other Xbox features to the latest operating system, it’s only natural to expect the feature to come to PC. It’s possible, but Microsoft is far from able to flip a switch to make the feature operational.
More than suspend
When I originally started researching this piece, I found an easy fix for Quick Resume on PC. Open the Resource Monitor in Windows when you’re done with a game, pause the game process and resume when you’re done. Minimal performance impact, and it works with most games. But Jason Ronald, who led development of the Xbox Series X/S hardware, said Quick Resume wasn’t quite that simple.
“To give some context, it probably took us two to two and a half years of development to make Quick Resume as solid as it is,” Ronald told me, also noting the work the team was doing on the feature contribution has -start. The reason – Quick Resume doesn’t only Lock a process that you can access later.
Ronald explained that the Xbox Series X/S runs three operating systems at the same time: the highest for the user interface and menu, the middle for the game itself, and the lowest for direct access to the hardware. It’s the interaction between the bottom two that makes Quick Resume possible. Ronald said you can think of them as virtual machines. The middle tier, where the game is, is put into hibernation, which captures the full state of the machine, and this is written directly to the SSD via the lowest-tier OS.
This system is far from suspending a process, and it’s the reason you can return to Quick Resume games after unplugging, upgrading, or abandoning the Xbox Series X for weeks. Now, to get something like Quick Resume on PC, you’d have to run your games through a virtual machine, save the state to a hard drive, and hope nothing went wrong when you came back.
This is not uncommon on PC. You can save a virtual machine’s state to your hard drive, just like Quick Resume, and the vast majority of PC emulators support save states, which do exactly the same thing. Variables make the difference. A save state for a PS2 emulator is fairly straightforward given the limited number of variables, but the “anything goes” approach on PC makes the same system much more complicated.
PC is the wild, wild west
The biggest hurdle to Quick Resume on PC is the wide range of hardware available – and I suspect most enthusiasts are already aware of that. However, Ronald also pointed out the variety of software on the PC that creates some major obstacles.
“They also have a more complex software environment,” Ronald said. “A lot of PC gamers customize their rigs, there are custom drivers that are unique to different graphics cards, and you have mods on top. The PC is definitely a lot more complicated.”
My question was about shop windows. Xbox Game Pass on PC is great, but Steam and the Epic Games Store are where most titles are available. Ronald didn’t specifically say that other storefronts wouldn’t work with PC – given enough work and Microsoft’s relationships with Valve and Epic, anything is possible – but he did say it adds another layer of complexity.
One contributing factor is the game packaging, or how all of the final assets for a game are grouped for delivery in a digital storefront. Although storefronts on PC share similarities with packages – both Steam and the Xbox app, for example, automatically install dependent frameworks as part of the installation process – there are also many differences.
Which part of the game will be installed first? How are updates provided? Which files are encrypted by DRM and where are they located? None of these questions are difficult to answer for a closed ecosystem like an Xbox console, but they present hurdles in the dozens of storefronts and launchers available on PC.
Ultimately, that defeats the point of Quick Resume on PC if not thought through properly: “We don’t want to get into a situation where it works on this game but it doesn’t work on this game, or it works on this showcase.” against the window. What we want to offer is the most consistent experience possible.”
DirectStorage is the beginning, not the end
Much of the discussion about Quick Resume on PC came from Microsoft bringing DirectStorage to PC – a storage API behind Xbox’s fast load times. DirectStorage and Quick Resume are closely related; So close, in fact, that some merged DirectStorage products arrive on PC with Quick Resume.
Ronald quickly dispelled this assumption: “Quick Resume itself is definitely a lot more complicated than the DirectStorage API.”
DirectStorage is a foundation that could pave the way to Quick Resume on PC, but it doesn’t inherently make that feature tick. To enable Quick Resume at all, you essentially need a mirror of Xbox’s Velocity architecture, which combines a fast PCIe SSD, the DirectStorage API, hardware decompression blocks, and sampler feedback streaming. And that’s the starting line of development for a feature like DirectStorage.
There are complexities on console, and a PC environment only multiplies them.
Ronald said that Quick Resume wouldn’t be possible “unless DirectStorage was [on PC] and stable in the ecosystem”, but it’s important to remember that it took the Xbox team over two years to make it stable in a closed console ecosystem. Even then, says Ronald, a small number of games can have issues – perhaps they’ll resume with broken or missing audio, or in the case of online-only play, they’ll just launch you back to the main menu.
That complexity exists on console, and a PC environment only multiplies it. After learning about Quick Resume and talking to Ronald, I began to understand how much effort can be put into a seemingly simple feature. And if Microsoft were able to get something like Quick Resume working on PC, it could have implications far beyond just resuming some games.
For now, however, Quick Resume is in limbo. It’s possible we’ll see it on PC in the future, but there’s still a long way to go. “I don’t want to say never,” Ronald said. “But right now, our focus is on bringing things like DirectStorage to PC, and that could open up the possibility in the future.”
This article is part of ReSpec – an ongoing bi-weekly column featuring discussion, advice and in-depth coverage of the technology behind PC gaming.
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