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Valve does what FromSoftware don’t, thanks to Steam Deck’s precaching update

A handheld video game console displays a high-resolution video game.

While Elden Ring‘s recent launch has been a massive critical and commercial success, it continues developer FromSoftware’s streak of leaving players in a technical lurch. Even on the newest Xbox and PlayStation consoles or the highest-end PCs, Elden Ring still manages to turn in somewhat unsteady performance for various reasons.

In the case of one unoptimized aspect of the game’s PC version, someone outside FromSoftware has swooped in to save the day. Usually, this kind of PC gaming story comes thanks to enterprising modders from the gaming community at large. In Elden Ring‘s case, however, the fix comes courtesy of an unlikely source: Valve, the massive company who runs the Steam storefront.

And Valve’s fix, so far, only works on Steam Deck.

Compiling more stutter than shaders

Shortly after Elden Ring‘s launch last month, Digital Foundry correspondent Alex Battaglia delivered a comprehensive look at Elden Ring‘s PC version and found that, no matter what PC he tested with, Elden Ring exhibited frequent, erratic frame-rate stuttering. Even his highest-end PC (Intel Core i9 10900K, RTX 3090), running the game at a paltry 720p resolution with all settings at their lowest, suffered from the same stuttering.

How is that happening on a thousands-of-dollars PC? As Battaglia says, Elden Ring exclusively runs on Windows 10’s DirectX 12 API, which “takes away the responsibility of the game’s memory management threading away from the driver.” As his team at Digital Foundry has comprehensively shown in the past, a game that has not been “fully baked” before it starts running can send players into a universe of constant shader-compilation stutter.

Elden Ring suffers terribly from this in its default state on PC. The game halts to generate the crucial parts of any new event: a new animation, a new enemy, a new explosion type, and so on.

You probably don't want <em>Elden Ring</em> to stutter the first time it generates this massive murder-crab's animations.
Enlarge / You probably don’t want Elden Ring to stutter the first time it generates this massive murder-crab’s animations.


The same thing can happen in games that lean on the Vulkan API, as well. Avid PC gamers have likely run into games that pause either upon their first boot or after any major changes (patch downloads, manual graphics toggles) to compile shaders. Forza Horizon 4 and 5 are both popular examples of this in action on PC. Their shader compilation process is so long, you may as well go brew a cup of tea while you wait. But the wait pays off: your game isn’t interrupted whenever a new thing emerges in its massive, virtual world.

Since Elden Ring is FromSoftware’s largest open-world game yet, stuttering isn’t an issue that can be shrugged off. Nobody wants to be killed because a game-freezing stutter allowed a massive, detached, eight-finger hand to go from far away to in your face. So far, FromSoftware has not announced any plans to directly address Elden Ring‘s frame-rate stutter on PC, though the developer did mention a “frame rate phenomenon” in a blog post shortly after the game’s launch.

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