Over the past week especially we have gone back and forth a bit with the publisher on the cut list, and coming up with that list is always a tricky balance. I present below a list of considerations that have to be taken into account to ensure your game is going to ship when it needs to -
1) Contractual Obligations - Yikes! This is the stickiest part, because there are always certain metrics defined in your contract. If the RC date is set though, and there isn't enough time remaining to get all of that in, contract discussions have to take place. As the Producer this is slightly over my head on this project in particular, but if you are in a small indie team with a contract then you need to keep yourself and your publisher in constant check of the realities defined in your contract.
2) Making the Publisher Happy - Do you ever want to work with them again? Do you want them to actually sign off on your milestone deliveries? I'd imagine you're going to answer yes to at least one of these questions, so this problem is going to apply to you. Publishers always expect the world to be delivered on the drop of a dime, so if you want them to be happy then you'll have to make conceptually ridiculous demands. Does this mean burning longer hours at work? Does this mean spending more of the budget that you'd like? Sometimes.
3) X Amount of Remaining Work and Y Amount of Remaining Resources - Happens to everyone, and I can guarantee you Y is less than X in this situation. How badly do you want to crunch your team and yourself? What is going to make the publisher at least somewhat happy? What is essential that is remaining? What is just 'fluff' that is remaining? Answering these questions means leaning hard on your leads, lots of e-mails and phone calls with the publisher, and a bit of battling with QA.
No one likes to cut anything. The publisher doesn't want anything cut, and you don't want to cut anything because the feeling is always that the more content there is the better. You'll you have to cut work that has already been done, because the required work to finish a feature, mini-games, etc. is going to be too much in relation to the more essential content remaining. Sometimes less is more though, which is always a hard sell to the publisher, because they have fewer bullets for the back of the box. Do we half ass all the remaining features/content, or do we cut off all the fat and make sure that what we do ship glistens?