When I first started playing NS2 (engine test and early beta) I had a Nvidia card. When I started the game it would always load within a few seconds. Later on I upgraded to an AMD card, and from then on the first time I start NS2 after a reboot it would take up to 30 seconds until I get to the menu screen. Recently I got a new computer with a Nvidia card and the game loads the menu screen within seconds again every time.
So what I had:
Nvidia: Always short loading times (to the menu screen)
AMD: Long loading time only after a reboot, short time otherwise.
Is this just a coincidence, was it specific to my setup, or is it consistent with what some of you have experienced?
This is the kind of thing that goes on behind close doors on normal game releases, where they are optimizing it right up until the end. You guys are just getting to play with a version of the game that normally only the developers see.