Eurogamer as part of a look back at the development of Halo 2, several Bungie staffers shared some revealing thoughts on the game's development. The end of development "crunch" was particularly difficult, with Chris Butcher noting that he would show up for work early and leave after 11pm "seven days a week, for months and months." He added that, while crunch time at Bungie has improved significantly, "The crunch on Halo 2 was, 'Oh my god, we're f***ed. We're all going to die."
The stress stemmed from a solid release date, which would see the game released just prior to the last major holiday season for the original Xbox. Still, Butcher said he prefers a deadline to the Blizzard / Valve "when it's done" philosophy. "The problem with 'when it's done' is that it would never have been done," said Butcher. He elaborated that the team was cutting features from Halo 2 within four months of the deadline.
Concerning the ambition of the original scope of the project, Butcher offers an interesting anecdote. "There's a famous drawing that someone did on a whiteboard in the team's space that shows a plane on fire trying to land on a runway, and people are jettisoning cargo crates out the back of the plane in order to try and get it on the runway," Said Butcher, adding, "Every crate has the name of a feature we had to cut .... In the end, we ran out of room on the whiteboard for all the crates."
Be sure to read Eurogamer's full piece, which covers plenty of other topics, including the reaction to the Arbiter and, of course, Halo 2's infamous cliffhanger ending.