30 October, 2009
Crunch time is a big issue in the industry. It was one of first things I blogged about.
Surprisingly, nearly five years later, we still have crunch time. Okay, maybe not to the same degree in this case. :)
So, why does the industry have crunch time?
I’ve recently been working on a small project and wanted to try to get something playable by the end of the month. Of course, I’m writing this out, so either it’s going really well or not so well. (Hint: the latter.) But, I noticed that I was putting in a bit of “crunch” to get things closer to the goal.
I think crunch time is the result of two things:
1. Game development requires a lot of clever thinking. We often try to push the envelope, and that requires a level of creativity not found in many other fields. So, we have to plan things out, and when it comes to implementation we spend time thinking of ways to do things.
I noticed that much “crunch” was mostly just implementing things without as much careful consideration as I had been putting in previously. Whereas I had been trying to consider the better way to tackle a problem, this week I was just getting things into the system. Some of those things had to be changed later, but at least they were in.
Many game developers are introverts. This means that we like to sit around and over-think things. It often takes an extrovert screaming “CHARGE” and running toward the enemy to get us out of our endless contemplation. One way to force that situation upon ourselves is to push up against a deadline.
The question here is: will the benefit of getting my work done before the deadline be greater than the problems caused by just doing the work without necessarily considering the optimal solution? In larger companies, the deadline is set due to financial considerations, so missing the deadline can have negative consequences in monetary terms. It’s a lot harder to judge how much a less completely implemented feature is going to cost.
As I point out in that early article I linked before, there’s good crunch and bad crunch. This mostly depends on your motivation. If your motivation is internal, meaning you want to do a good job and meet the deadline for personal reasons, it can be good. If your motivation is external, an arbitrary deadline (even if you set it yourself) dictating your actions, then it’s not so good.
In this case, the crunch has been good for me. It’s gotten me to do some work that I keep putting off. It’s also pushed some of my personal plans forward. Once the project comes together a bit more I’ll share with everyone on here.
What do you think? Is crunch unavoidable? Or would game development just go on forever without meaning?