Crunch time is a sometimes dreaded element of the gaming industry, when developers often have to work long hours to deliver games with the level of polish we (often not that politely) demand. Yet, not all experiences with crunch time are negative, as expressed by a very insightful blog post written by Naughty Dog Programmer Max Dyckhoff and tweeted today by star coder Corrinne Yu, who has been recently target of criticism exactly because of her willingness to work long hours to finish the level we saw in Uncharted 4‘s E3 trailer.
Dyckhoff’s crunch time had to compete with the situation of his family, so he managed to create a schedule that allowed him to take care of both The Last of Us, and his daughter, and did so quite successfully, and with the full support of his colleagues.
The crazy thing is, after something like nine months of doing this I didn’t feel the need to stop. After each previous crunch period that I’ve experienced, four in total, I’ve been dead to the world for a week or two. Exhausted, unhealthy, mentally weary, and in great need of a holiday. At the end of development for The Last of Us I felt great. I had been spending quality time with my daughter, I’d been cooking home cooked meals two or three days a week, I had been having playdates with her friends and even getting a babysitter once a month or so to hang out with friends or go to a movie. It was almost as if I was a productive and healthy member of society.
I also think it’s a sign of how fantastic Naughty Dog is how well they understood and accepted this schedule of mine. I would be in deep discussion with Bruce, Evan or any of my other coworkers, I could look at my watch and tell them I needed to leave immediately to pick up Cami, and they would bid me adieu and we’d continue in the morning.
Dyckhoff also mentions that crunch time at Naughty Dog isn’t something dropped on developers’ heads from above, but something they do because they love their job:
Please remember this was self-imposed. I work long hours because I love the project I am working on, not because I am pressured into doing so.
His experience is definitely interesting, and gives insight on the gaming industry that some might not expect. I’d definitely advise reading the whole post, and I can pretty much guarantee that it’ll be the best ten minutes you’ll spend today, at least for what reading is concerned.