At 8:00 I’m sitting in front of my computer reading yet more e-mail and downloading the latest changes to our project. I spend most of the next ten hours tracking down an annoyingly difficult crash bug and trying to keep up with the constant flurry of e-mails. I’m drinking coffee like a maniac, four or five cups a day at this point, and even skipping lunch I don’t have enough time in the day to get everything done.
This is crunch. This is the dark underbelly of the game industry, when the plans have failed and now a hardcore push to the finish is all that can be done. Nose, meet grindstone. Whether or not this level of effort is required is hard to say: there’s a lot to be done, but it’s unclear if working 70 hour weeks will really result in a perceptibly better game in the end. I sure hope it does–it would suck if we all killed ourselves for nothing.
This is part of the reason that bad games get made. Nobody sets out to make a bad game, but when time gets tight and people are working their fingers to the bone, a lot of stuff ends up on the cutting room floor. Sometimes it is stuff that nobody will ever miss, like an extra level that was never any fun, or cut scene that didn’t impact the story. Sometimes it’s a more dramatic cut, like something that is required for the game to be enjoyable. But usually, these cuts are made because at the end of the day, the choice between shipping a bad game and shipping nothing at all isn’t even a choice. By the time crunch mode sets in, the money has already been invested and there must be some sort of return. Will our project turn out well? Right now it is hard to say if we’ll pull it off or just start in with the scalpel.
I get home and completely exhausted. Even as I type this my eyelids are heavy. Tomorrow is Saturday, and I’m getting up at 8 to go in again. Soon we will ship and I’ll be able to write more coherently. Soon we will ship and I’ll be able to think straight again.