Stardew Valley's Creator Has Won The Hearts Of PC Gamers

Stardew Valley's Creator Has Won The Hearts Of PC Gamers

A cult fandom has already formed around Steam's hottest farming game, Stardew Valley. At the centre of it all is the game's designer, Eric Barone. Also known as ConcernedApe, Barone is a beloved figure who is stealing the hearts of virtual farmers everywhere. Barone made Stardew Valley on his own, and that feat plays a big part in his fans' narrative. "One guy made this over the course of four years," is something you will often hear from other Stardew Valley players. "ONE GUY." It's an observation tinged with awe and disbelief that a game as massive as Stardew Valley could be made by a single person.

I've been playing for nearly 40 hours and have barely scratched the surface. I've still got plenty of livestock to unlock, cuties to romance, fish to catch and mines to explore. I'm on the lower end of the playtime spectrum, too. The game has actively been designed to be played for as long as the player wants, and many people are already clocking in hundreds of hours of game time.

Stardew Valley costs $US15 ($20), and that money goes a long way. The game has been out for a little over a week, but the game has already gotten four different updates with a variety of different bugfixes, tweaks and even added secrets. ConcernedApe made it clear from day one that he was listening to players, and it showed. Shortly after release, many players complained about a quirk relating to the player-character's walking speed. A day later, ConcernedApe fixed it, along with a bunch of other things people were having trouble with. Two days later, there was yet another patch with more changes.

And if the bigger updates aren't helping, players feel like they can reach out to ConcernedApe directly to get help:

Stardew Valley's Creator Has Won The Hearts Of PC Gamers

Most of his Twitter timeline consists of exchanges like that. The developer directly responds to people and troubleshoots their issues with them. He's pretty active on Reddit, too.

ConcernedApe has also been building goodwill through the promise of additional content down the line. Four player co-op is in the works. Additional romance options may be coming, and the combat may get more fleshed out. Right now, he's mostly focusing on bugfixing, but once he's done, he says he's looking to add more "substantial content". As if the game weren't massive enough already.

Players have noticed all his hard work. Over in the Stardew Valley subreddit, you can find a ton of posts where players are thanking ConcernedApe for his attentiveness:

Stardew Valley's Creator Has Won The Hearts Of PC Gamers

If not outright worrying about his well-being:

Stardew Valley's Creator Has Won The Hearts Of PC Gamers
Stardew Valley's Creator Has Won The Hearts Of PC Gamers

It's been a special time for the game's players. One day, all of what Stardew Valley has to offer will be catalogued in great detail in a Wiki somewhere. For now, though, the game feels so huge and unknowable that first-time players are experiencing the magic of discovery. Think of what it must have been like to be the first players getting to know how Minecraft worked. That's Stardew Valley, right now. And since the game will continue to evolve and change through updates, there's the feeling that the $US15 ($20) price tag is a long-term investment.

Stardew Valley's Creator Has Won The Hearts Of PC Gamers

ConcernedApe is just the sort of singular creative figure video game audiences are hungry for. People want more Hideo Kojimas, or at least, they want the myth of Kojima. We want auteurs who allow us to marvel at seeing their strong, clear visions brought to life within a video game. We want to feel like the digital worlds we explore actually have an attentive god who actually took the time to handcraft every single stone, tree and river — or in this case, every single pixel — just for us. To play Stardew Valley is to feel loved, or at least grateful, that somebody cared enough about the player to make a game with so many small, whimsical details.

Stardew Valley's Creator Has Won The Hearts Of PC Gamers

ConcernedApe's approach to development isn't particularly unique. Any game launch is 'all hands on deck' time for a developer, triple-A or scrappy indie alike. This brand of community outreach is also common for small teams who can't just farm out bugfixes to a QA department.

Stardew Valley has the benefit of narrative, though. It's not just that one guy built this humble game that's tearing up the Steam charts, or that PC gamers were probably hungry for Harvest Moon-type game. It's also about the nature of the game itself. Stardew Valley is all about farming. Think about the image that brings up: I picture a humble guy, in overalls, tending to his crops day in and day out. It's hard work, sweltering under the sun and tending to his soil, but he's growing something real and nutritious, not that junk you can buy at a fast food place.

Farming is decent, honest work, and it's easy to see ConcernedApe as a decent, honest worker. He tends his game, always listening to his customer's needs, taking the time to personally respond to individual complaints. He stands in contrast to the factory farms and corporate business of his big-budget competitors, rolling up his sleeves and doing his best to grow something good. In an era where people are constantly feeling vaguely screwed over by big-budget video games, it's a narrative a lot of us can get behind.


Comments

    Man, I love this game so much, and this makes me love it even more...

    Noooooooo! I've given up gaming while the semester is in full swing! Don't do this to me!

      Man up and throw your career away to play video games.

      You know you want to.

      Im closing in on the 50 hour mark on steam and I have only had it a week. Its pretty good!

      Last edited 04/03/16 3:08 pm

        NOOOOOOOOOO! DONT DO IT SMURF!

        MUST....

        RESIST....

        TEMP....

        Fuck. I bought it. Damn you.

          If your study doesn't work out you can always become a farmer.

      Studying is over rated. Get much better results when you leave it all to the last minute and then work like mad to get it done. Prepares you very well for the work force too!

      Moral of the story: Play now, work later.

    Terribly sad news. Without their hearts they won't much longer.

    Not suprising since it looks rpg maker. They probably bought it when they realised it wasnt. Not all pirates lie when they say they buy what they like. I pirate when publishers charge australia tax/dodgy dlc practices then buy when its more reasonable. 700 games on steam now so I would hardly say Im not supporting developers.

    Wonder if it was inspired by Harvest Moon o_O

    The other article said it was a bit like Rune Factory as well as Harvest Moon. Is that correct? Or is it just a farming sim?

      I haven't played Rune Factory but in my mind its like the SNES version of Harvest moon with way more features and things to do.

    Soo looking forward to purchasing and hopefully playing this weekend. Been craving that feeling from Harvest Moon 64, one of my all time favourites that I still fire up from time to time.

    "or that PC gamers were probably hungry for Harvest Moon-type game"

    Yes, yes I was. So much so, then through in a narrative and happy days!

    It's great to see that he's so involved with the fans, and also that the fans are supportive of him.

    I thought I'd mention here that many devs at larger companies have the same mindset as ConcernedApe, except the "organisational overhead" often gets in the way.

    In Concerned Apes case:
    Who is responsible for design questions: ConcernedApe
    Who is responsible for programming questions: ConcernedApe
    Who is responsible for QA: CA
    Who is responsible for PR: CA
    Who is responsible for CEO type stuff: CA

    As soon as you involve more than one person, it muddies the water. People can't just answer on the spot (unless it's your own area etc), you might have to consult with someone else, or a whole team etc. Even though you might know the answer to part of the question, perhaps you have to discuss it with design first, or check with QA etc.

    Going even larger size companies: perhaps the answer to the question is involved in part of a major marketing campaign and can't be released separately or you "waste" the resources that went into that etc.. there can also often be rules etc that only certain people interact with customers.

    Throw publishers on top of all that, and you end up with "can't say anything without running it past some number of other people who might not even be in the same timezone as you or full time on the project" etc.. it can be a real struggle to get anything said at all. =(

    For my part, it has been nice working as part of a smaller team on smaller projects again. I've been able to go back and forth on the forums with our players a number of times to respond to suggestions and issues with the games.

    I fell asleep playing the other night and sadly the world kept turning. Missed the Ice Festival and got slugged 1000g for someone picking me up from where I'd collapsed in exhaustion and putting me to bed.

    JUST... ONE... MORE... DAY.... zzzzzzzzzzzzz

    I played Havest Moon.So I like this mod because gameplay and character is so amazing.

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