Here we are. Crunch Time.
If you’re unfamiliar with the terminology, “crunch time” is that period of a game development project where you’re entering the final stretch and working your ass off to get everything polished and functional. In some companies, crunch time is easy to identify, because the rest of the project, working hours are pretty normal. On Splinter Cell Double Agent, where we’ve been pulling long hours for a year in a row… not as easy.
But I can see the signs now. We had a major crunch on E3, but this is the real thing. We’re finishing the game.
One important characteristic of crunch time is when you start losing track of the days of the week: with important deadlines on a Monday, for instance, Sunday will become one of your most busy days of the week, and Tuesday might turn out to be your weekend. Other times, you work for 15 days straight, and you find yourself hard-pressed to distinguish between Fridays and Mondays.
That’s when little rituals become most important for the team, as they mark the passage of time. So, we have Pizza Wednesdays, where I order pizza for the team in the evening. Some of us have Friday lunch at Saleya (a french Bistrot), where we order a few bottles of rosé and try not to think too much about the length of our lunch.
As for the passing of days, it is currently marked by my “First Certification updates” emails, which (in theory) keep everybody focused on the bugs at hand; they go out 3-5 times daily.
We exchange our weeks for milestones, and our hours for bug counts: a sure sign that the Crunch is upon us. A few more weeks, and we’ll have a game out.