Playing Stardew Valley with another person is more fun than I expected. The idea of tilling virtual soil with a buddy was something I was looking forward to, for sure, but actually doing it makes me feel like I don't want to play the game any other way.
Screenshot: Stardew Valley
The allure of co-op multiplayer was a huge selling point for Stardew Valley, even though it didn't launch with the feature way back in 2016. After waiting for two years, the game had proved fun enough for me that I wasn't sure multiplayer was even something I wanted any more.
That changed when I created a new farm and actually started playing with someone else. Suddenly, some of the minor annoyances of the game make sense, and the gameplay feels fresh and new.
If you're interested in joining the beta, which right now is only available on Steam, right click on the game in your Steam library, go to properties and enter the beta access code "jumpingjunimos", then click Check Code. From there you should be able to select the beta from a drop down list. If you do join the beta, Chucklefish recommends you backup your save files.
Unfortunately, if you do want to play co-op, you're going to have to make a new farm. If you're the host of the co-op farm, you'll be able to play that save solo, but the friends you can invite to join you will not be able to. They can join you using an invite code, via an invite through Steam or over a LAN. They can drop in and out, but as soon as the person who started the farm quits the game, everyone else will be kicked.
On the upside, their progress will be saved for the farm hand they make for your farm, meaning that all that levelling up they do in their fishing skill will be retained every time they join your game.
When you make your new co-op farm, you can start with up to four additional cabins, where your friends will sleep and be able to decorate. You can opt to have them closer together to encourage cooperation, or far away from each other so that players can branch out on their own.
For Marzipan Farm, I decided I wanted to have the cabins closer to us. After inviting my friend Sara to join me, we got to farming, and started making money hand over fist.
I'd always kind of hated how short Stardew Valley days are, but with more than one person the pacing of the game feels more fair. By the time it got dark on our farm, Sara and I had always done all the work we needed to do, and our farm had expanded a lot in only a few days. Before our first harvest of parsnips, we were even making around 1000 gold a day because both of us could fish, forage and mine, covering way more of the map than before.
Your friends don't need to be on the same screen as you when you play, and can wander all throughout the map doing whatever they want. If you can't find them, just check the map. It doesn't tell you where the NPCs are, but it will tell you where your friends have gone off to.
Kotaku's social media manager Seung Park joined me today, and he headed to the mountains while I was checked in at the blacksmith. Screenshot: Stardew Valley
All of you will be sharing the same income and resources, though, so it's probably a good idea to check in before you buy or craft stuff. Once, when I told Sara over Discord that we'd probably have the 300 wood to repair the bridge at the beach by the next day, she told me that she'd actually been using some of that wood to make footpaths on our farm. Oops.
That independence from each other is nice, though. Sara and I talked a little bit about how we played on our own farms. On one of her saves, she made it a mission to have one of each animal, whereas I had gone hardcore into the brewing and mayonnaise business. Just having another person around will make me play parts of the game that I usually don't, and I can still obsessively brew wine every winter if I want to.
The only thing all players need to do together is go to bed, as the game won't start the next day until everyone has turned in for the night.
One of the cutest new features for multiplayer are the emoticons. By pressing T you can text chat with other players, and if you click on the smiley face in the text box, you'll summon a list of pixelated emoticons. Just look at this bunny:
Screenshot: Stardew Valley
I have played many games of Stardew Valley at this point, but multiplayer definitely made starting again worth it for me. Sara and I both started talking about the design improvements to make to our farm - we actually really did need those footpaths - and the industries we'll get into as the seasons change.
It reminded me a little bit of the week I spent volunteering on a farm in university. I was working alongside people who were all concentrated on making sure different parts of the farm were running smoothly every day, and then we all went to bed basically as soon as the sun went down.