A Five W’s retrospect of the Year of Stardew Valley

Who: Concerned about Apes? Don’t be.

The creation of independent game designer, Eric Barone, Stardew Valley was a labor of love. Under the name ‘ConcernedApe ‘ he worked not just making a spiritual successor to the beloved classic ‘Harvest Moon’, he forged the way for a renewed interest in this genre. Many older gamers remember with fond memories the early Harvest Moon games, and often share the feeling that the series drifted away from the early praise worthy roots. We were happy to see Barone not only share these feelings, but actually do something about it.

What: Farming! That is what audiences want! (Wait, What?)

Stardew Valley is not just some Harvest Moon knock off. It builds on elements that made the precursor game so beloved. Taking these elements and expanding on them, rather than reinventing them completely. It has a focus on farming, but rest assured, you can play this game in many different ways. Adventure, discovery, and mysteries to be solved.There is also a huge focus on relationships with the various townsfolk. It is with these emotional bonds that people are hooked by the game. And hooked to this day.

When: Just a year? That doesn’t seem right…. but…

While the game was released a year ago, it had hit Steam Greenlight in the fall of 2012. By all accounts ConcernedApe had been working on this game since 2011.So making a game like this, by yourself, in five years? That is some true hats off effort. Fans were not disappointed on the release and the game sold gang busters. Now looking back, it seems Stardew Valley has taken up its very own spot in the minds of gamers.

Those that follow it, are refereed to ‘Stardew Valley Clones’. The brand has broken away from comparisons of Harvest Moon and become very much its own thing. A hard thing to accomplish when developing something so heavily inspired by a true piece of gaming history. So here we are a year later, and it is firmly imprinted on us. Few gamers do not know of it, at least in passing. It is here, and it is likely here to stay for the foreseeable future. As time ticks on, more of the promised features (like multiplayer) will be added. Even though Barone now shares the workload, this is still very much his project.

Where: From PC darling to New Console excitement!

Initially it was just in the hands of PC gamers, but as the popularity grew, so did request for a console port. By December of 2016 it was out for both the PlayStation 4 and Xbox one. More exciting is the discovery that it will also be released on the Switch by the end of 2017. It seems a deal has been struck between the handlers of Stardew Valley and Nintendo, as the Switch is getting first crack at console Multiplayer. On his twitter account, Barone made sure PC fans knew they were getting multiplayer first. When dealing with farming games, I suppose it pays to remember your roots. (Obligatory farming pun quota filled)

Why: No seriously. Farming?

So, a year later, the game is still going strong. A loyal fan base that revisits it with new found passion at nearly every update. But why? Why Farming? No seriously? I can try to explain while speaking from personal experience. This here was a game, that while the constant time pressure is a large mechanic, it is ultimately relaxing. Relaxing and optimistic. Even if I ran out of time for some task one day, I would always know there would be another day waiting, where I could take care of any problems then. And honestly, that is an encouraging message that we don’t see often in video games. In Stardew Valley, your choices matter. But few things can be broken beyond repair.

Congrats to all involved in the release of Stardew Valley and the killer year that came with it. I hope 2017 is just as exciting for all of us.

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