Stardew Valley developer says there were times when he almost quit

March 9, 2016 by Kris Ligman

Eric Barone spent four years as sole developer on the densely detailed harvesting simulator Stardew Valley -- and his work isn't done.

We don't like to admit it, but there's a tendency -- among players, among the press -- to glamorize the indie developer 'lifestyle.' Bootstraps! Rags to riches! A single man (it's almost always a man, in this narrative) dedicating himself with monk-like venerance to the labor of some exquisitely charming platformer or puzzle game, one which goes on to immediately top every sales chart upon its release.

Sadly, that doesn't usually happen. For every Jonathan Blow, there are an untold number of developers whose names we'll never know, who poured years and countless resources into something which never got off the ground, or which sank instantly upon launch. And even if you do happen to become that one lucky developer out of a hundred indies, that doesn't mean the road to get there was easy.

Take Eric Barone, developer of Stardew Valley, an excellent homage to Natsume's Harvest Moon series with many deep, overlapping gameplay systems from farming to dungeon spelunking. We loved it! But it was also a game which took, on average, ten hours of every day of Barone's life, for four years. And not all of it was smooth or happy.

"There were times during development that I didn't feel like working, that I even wanted to quit entirely," Barone tells Gamasutra. "Looking back, I think the development was characterized by phases of [high] productivity followed by phases where I hardly worked at all. [...] I'm not sure if there was any technique to it or if it was just a quirk of my brain chemistry."

Barone is quick to stress that even during periods of low motivation, "I did always have a ridiculous amount of faith in myself [...] It does help if you can absolutely convince yourself that you're destined for greatness."

Stardew Valley is unquestionably a high-quality game and the praise it has received is well-earned -- no one is disputing that. But since Barone's game has gone live on Valve's Steam storefront, his work days have only gotten longer. He now spends up to 15 hours a day responding to bug reports and other user issues. The dedication is laudable, but Barone is still only one person, who has already more than put his time in making Stardew Valley what it is. Hopefully he'll find some relief soon, or at least some friends to help make his promises of future expansions a reality.

(Top image source: PC Gamer.)

Kris Ligman is the News Editor of ZAM. Owning a cat is the closest they will ever get to farm life or monster hunting. You can say hi to them on Twitter @KrisLigman.