The insane hours from Halo 2’s development days are far behind Bungie. It almost killed the development studio!
If you’re familiar with the video game industry then you may know about crunch time. There could be even some crunch time where you work at today. The idea of burning the midnight oil to meet a deadline for a project is something I’m sure everyone can relate to from some point in their lives. However, within the video game industry, the crunch culture is a very real thing for some development studios.
Bungie is one of those studios that had dealt with the tiresome and dreaded crunch culture according to Luke Timmins, Bungie’s head of engineering. Thanks to Games Industry, we have spotted a recap of Luke Timmins Casual Connect USA conference where he reflected on the development time of Halo 2.
In particular, Luke stated that the work hours for Halo 2 was 50 hours a week with a brutal 18 months of crunch for Bungie. This is something I can only imagine left some developers tired and itching to get the project completed.
“The Halo 2 crunch almost killed Bungie as a company. It is the most I’ve ever seen humans work in a year and a half. It was brutal.”
Although going through a crunch is not always bad, there’s even the good type of crunch as Luke explained the time where developers who were delighted to go into crunch. This would be because of something they are truly passionate about along with the idea of working on something exciting.
With that said, the head engineer from Bungie also spoke of how this good crunch could quickly turn bad after the developers would get burned out.
After working on Halo 2, it was apparent that the development studio needed to make a big change.
“It almost killed us, and those of us that were left basically vowed, ‘never again.’ Never again can we put ourselves through that.”
“When your company is used to crunching, not relying on crunch to ship is now hard. Un-ringing that bell is very difficult. It requires changes to planning and culture, which takes a long time to do. It took us years and multiple games to move away from crunch philosophy.”
In fact, it took the development studio all the way up until Destiny 2 before they were officially rid of the idea of pulling another development time as they did with Halo 2.
Now the development studio allows developers to take 40 days off each year and managers seek out employees who have not taken a vacation. Ensuring them that it’s completely safe to do so and not worry about anything bad when heading back to work.