It’s easy to think of “crunch” in game development being something of a more recent phenomenon as we’ve heard more about it. It’s also easy to assume that your favorite games didn’t involve any, or at least involved less. But a recent talk at Devcom Digital by the director of Diablo 2, David Brevik, shines a harsh light on how much crunch led to the game’s release 20 years ago. It wasn’t a month or three months of crunch, it was more than a year of continual crunch to get the game into a launch state.
It wasn’t just me… Everybody was working on the weekends. Some people took time off – I recommended that some people take some time off – but most of the time we would work every day. We would order meals, we would give people sleeping bags and toothbrushes, and some days people would sleep in the office… It was a terrible grind at the end of this project. We were working, and summer became fall, and it was pretty obvious that we were not going to make it.
Brevik explains that the original target of Thanksgiving led to the start of crunch, but even once it was acknowledged that the game wouldn’t make that date, the crunch continued up to the actual gold master being prepared. In more than a year of crunch he estimates taking three days off; otherwise, he was there and working seven days a week along with the rest of the team. It’s a rather sobering reminder of just how much work goes into these games… and that crunch is, well, not a recent phenomenon at all.