Before we get into this week’s topic, I would like to give a shout-out to Makai, the one who gave me the idea of this topic a while back. Make sure to go check out their blog!
For one of my last blog posts for this semester, I thought it would be fitting to introduce you to the creator of Stardew Valley. You may be surprised when I say this, but one person created the game entirely by themselves. Seems pretty insane right? Eric Barone is the creator/developer that worked solo and created Stardew Valley (you may also know him as ConcernedApe).
First, before getting into the insights about how Eric developed the game, I want to give you a bit of background information on Eric. He lives in Seatle in an apartment where all of his development of the game took place. Like many people, he developed a love for video games at a young age. As he grew older and was going through school, he read about the video game industry but turned away from it. With the underpay and the overworked culture, of the video game industry, Eric turned to study computer science at the University of Washington Tacoma. After he graduated, he struggled to find and be hired for a “normal” job under his study. It was quite stressful for him because he wanted to be able to provide a great life for his girlfriend, Amber. Eric realized that he needed to improve on his skill set and he started to learn code and he taught himself how to program games. This is where the creation of Stardew Valley begins. The creation of Stardew Valley wasn’t actually planned. Eric intended to stay on his path of finding a job within the computer science field, but once he started to learn how to program games he was hooked.
When creating the game, Eric started small and expanded. He would focus just on one element like the player, navigable areas, gameplay, etc. Eric describes his process of creating the game as create, move on, and re-create.
Eric is very tedious with his work and he would go back to past things created and improve them. For example, the character portraits for the villagers were redesigned at least ten times throughout development. At first, they were created with basic line drawing, but then Eric got into pixel art. He said he put thousands of hours into practicing pixel art.
“Ultimately, I wanted the game world to feel like a living place. I wanted you to forget that it was a video game and to feel like these people had a life of their own.”Eric Barone
Eric wanted to create a true experience for players. He wanted people to be indulged in the game to the point they forgot they were playing a game. Because of this goal, Eric spent much time on the same, four and a half years to be exact. And you can imagine working on a project that long could have an effect on a person. Towards the end of the development of the game, Eric started to lose hope. He began to become unconfident about the game. However, towards the end of the development stages, he got some support from the game. A contact at Chucklefish (video game developer and publisher based in London) introduced Eric to three twitch streamers that later played the game for Eric and helped him with catching bugs and providing feedback. These streamers ended up player over 500 hours!
After long hours of testing and a last-minute bug that delayed the game’s release, in two weeks’ time, 500,000 copies of the game were sold and received great reviews. This turn out was unexpected by everyone, but it was well deserved.
I think it is always important to take a look at the developers of the games we love and adore. Knowing that Eric Barone took his time to create a game that brings me joy makes me grateful and appreciative for his work and craft. To this day I am still amazed that he did everything from the art, music, gameplay, dialogue, cut scenes, etc. If you want to learn a bit more about his story, below is a link to an article about an interview that Eric had with GQ!