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Why does GTA Online load so slowly? Someone thinks they can make it 70% faster

Don't get too excited or appalled just yet...

While I do occasionally dabble in GTA Online, the problem keeping me from playing more isn't the endless grind for money, it's the endless wait for loading. Five minutes or longer on an SSD seems ludicrous. While many (myself included) have assumed the wait is related to its peer-to-peer lobbies, one intrepid player has been rooting around in the code and discovered it might actually be something quite different. And their tweaking supposedly managed to cut load times by 70%. I'm wary of jumping to conclusions, but god I'd kill for faster loading.

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Over the weekend, reverse-engineering enthusiast "t0st" posted their investigation into GTA Online load times. They started out with load times of 1:10 to get into Story mode, and 6:00 for Online - about what I often see myself, I reckon. Not exactly zippy.

t0st reports digging into a CPU bottleneck on the loading process with a disassembler to figure out what was going on. They believe the bulk of the load time was going on parsing a JSON data file, processing and checking over 63,000 item and upgrade entries. And they think the way the game does it is very inefficient, and that it checks things they think it doesn't need to check. So they wrote a doodad to inject their own code into the process, replacing some functions with ones they thought would be faster. At the end, their load times came down from 6:00 to 1:50 - an improvement of 70%.

In theory, that sounds amazing. I would be surprised if the game did have two weird technical blunders which have caused problems for so many players so many years without Rockstar realising (centuries of communal human lives spent waiting!), but quite delighted at the prospect that it could be fixed. t0st certainly suggests that. I'm still wary.

This is all gleaned from one person's account of reverse-engineering code which they admit they don't fully understand. And if this is the issue, there could be some technical or security issue which didn't become evident in t0st's testing or... y'know, computer stuff. While player-made fixes and patches have rescued many games (here's lookin' at you, Bloodlines), they can also misunderstand issues, as we've seen in cases like Dark Souls 3's poise system and Cyberpunk 2077's memory budgets. We don't have a complete picture. I want to believe.

But at the very least, I am glad to have my curiosity satisfied with some sort of answer to what it's actually doing all that time. A "Huh, wouldn't have guessed that!" The post is an interesting read, too. But god, I'd play a lot more GTAO if it didn't take so long to start that I potter about the flat doing chores while I wait, only to end up getting kicked for being AFK because I miss when loading finally finishes.

I've contacted Rockstar for comment, but not heard back yet.

Disclosure: I have some pals who work at Rockstar on... stuff? idk.

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