Man vs creation. Stardew Valley History (Topic)

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Man vs creation. Stardew Valley History


Human versus creation. This is how you can describe the process of creating your own game when you work alone. Few independent developers manage to make a good game to become legendary. Yes, we have Marcus Persson with his Minecraft, Toby Fox and Undertale, but how many similar developers, whose projects haven’t taken off, despite the titanic work that they probably put into their game. This is what we are talking about in our article about the reasons not to make the development of your game a permanent job. But today we will tell you about the exception, the man, from the book "Blood, Sweat, Pixels", who turned development into work and became a millionaire. This is the story behind the creation of Stardew Valley.

Love and Japanese Games

The story of the iconic Stardew Valley farm simulator began when its future creator Eric Baron met Amber Hageman while they were both working in a shopping center; she graduated from high school and he went to college. The couple started dating and soon found out that they both liked Harvest Moon, a Japanese series of games about building and developing their own farm. So, they sat side by side in the evenings playing Harvest Moon: Back to Nature on the PlayStation.

In 2011, the couple began to live together in the house of the Baron's parents. He, who graduated from college with a computer science degree, tried to find a job but failed interviews due to his modesty. Over time, Eric realized that instead of protracted job searches, being nothing, he should create his own game [but just in case, not abandon the search, but combine with the development]. Sell it, and then get a job somewhere with at least some experience behind your back.


Eric had a clear idea of the future project. It was supposed to be his own version of Harvest Moon, but much better. In addition, in 2011, this series of games was in complete decline and lost fan love. Eric was going to make the game in just a few months and then list it on Xbox Live Indie Games, a popular store for independent developers. He was eager to make the game himself and without anyone's help.

I'll quit, honestly ... tomorrow

Using a limited set of tools called Microsoft XNA, Eric began writing the basic code that would allow 2D characters to move in space, as well as importing some sprites from Super Nintendo (SNES) games and hand-drawing all the animations. There was no methodology in his work, and as Eric himself said in one interview, he did everything by typing, relying on luck. By the end of the year, he gave up looking for work and devoted himself entirely to a game called Sprout Valley, later renamed Stardew Valley.

The game concept was simple. You create a character who, according to the plot, quits his job in a large corporation, along with life in a metropolis. He moves to the small village of Pelican Town in a house inherited from a relative to become a farmer. Eric wanted the gameplay to be as enjoyable as possible, and also to add multiplayer to the game.


Since the couple lived with their parents, there was no need to pay rent. But over time, they decided to move into a small house in downtown Seattle. Eric spent 8 to 15 hours a day at the computer, so Amber had to provide for their small family. In parallel with her college studies, she worked as a barista and nanny. Someone else would not have stood this, but she supported her lover, because she knew how much he worked.

One of the things the Baron really needs help with is planning the work. He worked hard, but not efficiently. Today Eric drew backgrounds and sprites, tomorrow he wrote music [he played in a band in college, so he knew how to do it]. He didn’t have a demo deadline, no major exhibitions to push him. He could spend days polishing different parts of the game as much as he saw fit.


The couple's parents were constantly interested in when Eric would finish, but he could not say anything other than: "I need another month or two". So he constantly replied that he needed more and more time. Talking to Jason Schreyer with Kotaku, he admitted: “I think if I had just said that I need five years, no one would have understood me for sure.”

Smooth combustion

By mid-2012, he launched the site of his game, posted the first developments and received good feedback. By this time, he had ditched the Xbox towards the PC and put the game in the newly emerging Greenlight on Steam. In it, users could vote for their favorite games, and those who received more votes received a place in the store.

Then the potentially successful game was noticed by the publishing house Chucklefish, and offered the Baron to conclude a contract under which the publisher would take 10% of the sale, he agreed. Only then did Eric realize how lucky he was to find out that other publishers row up to 40% of the revenue. Already in 2013, many users voted for Stardew Valley and the game got a place in the store. He wrote on his website that he will do everything possible to get the game out as quickly as possible.


Then Eric's mad marathon began. He rewrote the game, rewrote large parts of the code, added new mechanics, redrawn sprites 15 times. After 2 years of development, he realized that he had become much more experienced and why not redesign the game and bring it to perfection? However, the harder he worked on the game, the more he thought he could make it even better.

The couple started having money difficulties. Amber was unable to go full time due to exams. Eric decided to get a job as a doorman at the Paramount Cinema [just a couple of hours part-time job]. Here the problems began. The Baron began to get depressed. After almost three years of continuous work, exhaustion, he thought: “I have a degree in computer science, and I work as a doorman in a cinema. What a disgrace". He began to hate his game and did not want to develop it anymore, sometimes he lied that he was working, and during this time he played Civilization all day.

One day he could hate his game, and the next day he could admire again. By 2014, Eric could no longer work. He was sick of Stardew Valley, with which he had been in continuous contact for three years, sitting completely isolated from society in a small room. He took a month off and switched to making an Android game about the blue pear. She came out so-so, and Eric realized that he did not want to make games on phones. However, he realized that he still needed long breaks from Stardew Valley.


"I create squalor"

In 2015, Amber got a job in a laboratory and did not mind being the only breadwinner in the family. However, one day she looked at Eric's project and was amazed at how wonderful the game was. She undertook to convince her lover to release her. The Baron was at a loss. He wrote on his website that he will release the game when it is ready. It is almost complete, but he cannot give exact dates.

He ran into several problems. First, the development took a lot of time, and even a project like Stardew Valley, after four years of development, was unfinished. So, Eric didn't finish the game's marriage mechanic. Second, he was alone and it pressed on him. Always alone, all four years, even without banal conversations with colleagues on the topic "where is the industry heading." Alas, this is the price for creative freedom. Third, he has lost objectivity. He created all 90% of the aspects of the game himself, and looking at what happened, he could not figure out whether he liked it or not.


You can harvest, go on dates and hang out with cute people at the annual egg festival. An interesting world surrounds you, but is it really that way? And the music? And the mechanics?

“I thought my game was bullshit. Towards the end of development, I seriously thought that I had created something wretched and shitty that people would not like ”- Eric Baron.

Wake up Mr. Baron, great things await you

In September 2015, a group of Chucklefish employees posted an hour of their Stardew Valley stream on Twitch and the public was in awe. At the end of the year, Eric made a decision - he has nothing more to add to the game. However, the last promise must be fulfilled - multiplayer.


By this time, Eric and Amber moved to their friends in a new apartment and rented it four together. Then he realized that multiplayer would take another year of development. The fans could no longer wait, and Eric himself was ready to wring his hands just not to work on the game. He made a decision that the simulator will be released on February 26, 2016 and will cost $ 15. Chucklefish convinced Eric to do a PR campaign and give a couple of Twitch streamers access to the game. A month later, Stardew Valley became the most played game on the court, and Eric himself staged what Rockstar would call the Death March. He spent almost days at the computer correcting the latest mistakes. And on February 26 the game was released, and its creator did not want to look at sales, as he was sure of a failure.

Six months later, Eric was preparing to present the game at PAX. There, millions of fans from all over the world will be gathering to get an autograph from the author of the most successful indie project in the history of video games Stardew Valley, which topped the bestseller lists.


A year later, Eric became a multimillionaire, he and Amber were in no hurry to spend this money, deciding to continue saving, continuing to live their modest life. He received calls from Sony, Sega, Nintendo, and other mega-corporations inviting him to dinner parties. He also met his idol Yasuhiro Wada, the creator of Harvest Moon, who admitted he was in awe of Stardew Valley.


The story of the creation of Stardew Valley is not just a story about how a person overcame and received recognition on his own, but also a wonderful story of love and support. In 2017, Eric Baron honestly told Jasonuy Schreier that he would be realistic and thinks he will spend two years on the next game.

The Topic of Article: Man vs creation. Stardew Valley History.
Author: Jake Pinkman