Valve has stealthily updated Steam with improved Vulkan and OpenGL support, updating the client with a feature that reduces load times and instances of framerate stuttering that can occur the first few times the game is launched.
I hadn’t actually realised this was even a thing, but evidently, it is. Essentially it’s to do with the shaders which Vulkan and OpenGL use to render visual effects such as lighting, shading and particle effects. Gearing these towards any given PC can take a little bit of time, resulting in a drop in performance as your computer compiles this data. As a result of this change, Steam will now download and pre-cache the game’s shaders ahead of launching it.
“Whenever possible, depending on hardware and driver support, Steam can download pre-compiled shaders for your specific video card,” explains Valve. “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.”
By default, this setting is now enabled in Steam, but it should be highlighted that additional bandwidth may be used in order for Steam to receive and upload the data from the shader usage report. If you’re not a fan of this, then the feature can be disabled in your Steam settings.