Crunch Time

I’ve never been in crunch before.

It’s not that different from grading marathons back at USC for final portfolios. The department would gather us up, stick six to ten of us in each room in the building, and make us grade all day. Each student portfolio needed to be graded by two teachers. So we spent something like 8 or 9 straight hours grading and eating donuts. Because if you’re going to stick people in a room all day and make them read frosh papers, you need to drug them somehow, and sugar is the most popular of the legal drugs.

I can’t speak for other gaming companies, but at Cryptic it feels a lot like that. Sometimes even with the donuts. We’ve been crunching for the last week and a half in anticipation of a visit from WoTC (the folks who own the Forgotten Realms/D&D IP we’re licensing). I have no idea what’s actually riding on this, but I know that our EP wants to show them something awesome. Which we can probably do. There’s lots of awesome stuff in the game, it’s just making it all run together smoothly.

So a lot of us came in last Saturday (which was actually kind of fun – I realize this is probably just the novelty of it, and that it will wear off soon). Most of us are staying late working to get things in game. I’ve been doing text passes on the tutorial and the subsequent four miniquests and one mainquest (mainquest is about 3 or 4 times as big as the minis, on average).

The crazy making part, for me, is that I never get to finish a zone. I’ll be working on the tutorial, say, and the designer will need it back to fix something (an FSM – which is what directs the complicated movements of the NPCs, or a cutscene, or what-have-you) and I’ll have to check the tutorial back in half done. I’ll start working on the first miniquest and be 3/4 of the way through that, and then the tutorial will be available. And the tutorial is higher priority, right? So I’ll go back to that, and check in the miniquest only partially finished. Rinse, repeat.

At the moment, I still have to edit a cutscene in the tutorial, and then finish one last miniquest and the mainquest. And it’s Thursday.

And the WoTC visit is Monday.

And FogCon is this weekend.

5 Responses

  1. I like the new blog! And I admire your ability to switch back and forth between mini-projects like that.

    Hopefully we’ll get to see you at FogCon at least for a little while!

    1. I hope so! I’m hoping for part of Saturday. Possibly Sunday, since I shouldn’t have to work then. Assuming there are still things going on Sunday 🙂

  2. Maybe I’m reading it wrong, but I like the fact that NPCs are controlled by a Flying Spaghetti Monster. It’s just like real life!

  3. Crunch was pretty reasonable at Cryptic on Champions, hopefully it will be on Neverwinter too. A little bit of judicious and well targeted crunch can be quite productive, but watch out for the deathmarch. That never ends well.

    I really enjoy crunch periods, where lots is being accomplished, I feel super busy and focused, and you can feel tangible progress being made. It is fun putting up a scaffolding, filling it in, and having an entire complex game system living and breathing in a matter of days. 🙂

Leave a Reply