Find all previous editions of the PCG Q&A here. Some highlights:
– Has the pandemic changed your relationship with games?
– Have you ever been a dirty dang cheat?
– What's the most valuable cosmetic you own?
Now that Grand Theft Auto Online's load times have been reduced, let's figure out which game is still making us stare at the same how-to-play tips for too long. Is it Civilization 6, Fallout 4, or any of the recent Total War games? Is it your own super heavily modded version of Minecraft or Skyrim? Or is it that one game you installed to an HDD by accident?
What game has the most annoying loading times?
Here are our answers, plus a few from our forum.
Robin Valentine: Total War: Warhammer. If you haven't got an SSD with loads of free space on it, you'll be waiting a long time for your orcs and dwarfs. On my sadly outdated PC, it takes so long to load up each battle that I could probably paint up two actual Warhammer armies and play with those instead. The developer's done great work over time cutting down both load times and the wait for AI empires to play out their turns, but on my hardware it's still a slog getting through a campaign.
I've got to give an honourable mention to Paradox's grand strategy games, too. Once you're in-game they're really snappy—it's the initial load when you boot the game up that's unbelievably slow. If I want a game of Stellaris or Crusader Kings 3, I need to make sure I know a long time in advance….
Phil Savage: Still GTA Online. Look, I know the latest updates shaved minutes off GTA Online's loading, but that still leaves upward of a minute that players are waiting to get into the game. On top of its many other small irritations—not least of which is the fact that you're unlikely to be put in the same server as friends on the first try, often forcing an immediate switch—that means there's still plenty of waiting around. GTA is pretty fascinating to me: it's still incredibly popular despite all of its issues, but I think its success surprised even Rockstar. It doesn't feel like a platform that was designed to still be expanding in 2021—over seven years after its original Xbox 360 and PS3 release. Its aging architecture is struggling to keep pace. Basically, there's no magic fix for its problems, and this patch, while welcome, only somewhat lessens the game's frustrations.
Natalie Clayton: I don't think Half-Life 2's loading times are bad, per se. But I remember playing through it the first time 'round on an ageing laptop with a bad hard drive, and the way that game's sudden, supposedly "seamless" level transitions ground the game to a halt drove me up the wall. You'd open a door, walk down a corridor, or turn a corner, and bam. The screen freezes and I'm sat waiting for the action to resume for a minute or two.
Jody Macgregor: The Sims 2 predates multiple-core CPUs and hyperthreading, so it doesn't seem to run any faster on a modern rig than it did back in the day. If you've got the Ultimate Collection with all the DLC, that adds to the load times, as do mods. Not to mention save file bloat, which means the longer you've been playing a save the longer the wait gets. If you chug the Elixir of Life, sims can keep on keeping on for a good long while. Even without that, or a 10GB custom content folder, this damn game from 2004 takes longer to get going than anything else I own.
Christopher Livingston: Hate to pick on The Sims more, but the The Sims 4 loading screens feel like they take a while, too. But what annoys me more is there's usually a weird transition from the menu music to the game music, which means they overlap for a few seconds, with both tunes blaring at the same time. It's one of those things you think someone would have fixed by now.
As a final complaint, I feel like every time I load into the game, my character (who is me) is always doing something embarrassing like taking a dump. I'm pretty sure I have never once quit the game while he (me) was taking a dump, but it still always works out that way. Welcome to the game. Here's you taking a shit.
Morgan Park: Most VR games. I've been playing every great VR game I can get my hands on over the past few weeks and I'm still not used to the long load times. As Nat mentioned above about Half-Life, the abrupt loading halts really suck in Half-Life: Alyx. Maybe it's a quirk of the Source engine that it can't shake, but I'd rather sit through Portal's telegraphed loading elevators than suddenly cut to a load in a hallway. Valve isn't the only culprit: Boneworks is a lovely physics sandbox that makes you sit through two long loads just to continue from your checkpoint. It wouldn't be so bad except that, in VR, I'm trapped in a grey void with nothing to do during loads. I can't just scroll Twitter for 60-90 seconds like I'm used to.
From our forum
Brian Boru: Sniper Ghost Warrior 3 for sure, that game is highly painful to launch. Click icon, wander off while Steam does its thing. SGW3 itself isn't too bad at this stage, except for one major stupidity: when you return, you get a screen with one and only one choice on it—press spacebar to 'Start'. How dumb is it to have that useless step in there? Press spacebar—this is the shortest step, so please yourself re whether to stay or go.
Screen to select Continue Campaign or Multiplayer. You definitely need to have something to do after this, unless your life is one long sequence of emptiness. I haven't actually timed it, as there's a good chance my clock would break down due to normal wear and tear while waiting, so I don't know how many minutes it is.
I usually launch the game while organizing dinner, I make enough trips past my PC that I can do these steps in passing—it's ready to play after dinner. Then I Alt-Tab out to whatever I want to do, before starting a game session.
What's actually needed? An icon with built-in 'Continue last session'. That's all, most of the time. One click, go do something, game's ready when you return.
OsaX Nymloth: First Witcher, before the Enhanced Edition. I actually didn't finish it because of these ultra long loading times. You could go and make yourself a tea or get a snack everytime you had to switch locations. And you had to switch locations a lot. I gave up on the swamps at some point. Vision of Geralt running to the city and back to the swamp AGAIN was too much to handle.
It wasn't till "ultimate edition" came along and I actually finished Wither. It was a good game and the loading times were really improved it didn't look like a medieval torment machinery anymore.
drunkpunk: Still GTA Online IMO.
Other notable mentions include BG3 (I suspect this will get optimized before launch, though, but right now even on my NVME it's pretty painfully long), RDR2 Online, and Pathfinder games after you put in a couple dozen hours into a save.
mainer: Fallout 4. I just stated playing again this week, and granted, I have modded it pretty heavily, but the loading screens when going from an exterior cell to interior cell, or interior to exterior, can be just be extremely long. Even with an RTX 3080, Samsung SSD, and a liquid cooled I9-9900K, i can still experience a load screen that's in excess of 1 minute, and that can really just kill the game flow. It doesn't happen with every load screen, but often enough to be a pain.
Rolfil: If you have a lot of mods, which you probably will, then Cities: Skylines is probably the absolute worst.
Pifanjr: I think the worst I've seen was Minecraft with a Feed the Beast mod pack. I think it took about 10 minutes every time I started the game and that was on a SSD.
I don't remember if I've played any games with long loading times during gameplay. Maybe the Mass Effect elevator rides, but that didn't happen all that often and it wasn't that much worse from some other games, that's just how it was before SSDs.