Espionage Cosmetics: What initially inspired you to start building Stardew Valley?
Eric Barone: I had always wanted to play a game like Stardew Valley, something that took the old school aspects of Harvest Moon and went a step further with them. That game didn't exist, so I decided to make it myself. I also really wanted to be an independent artist of some kind... to do my own thing and carve a space for myself without working a typical job. I believed that, even though I had never done anything extraordinary in my life, I had a great potential... and I wanted to fully realize that potential.
EC: For those that have never played the Harvest Moon series, can you tell us what influences can be seen in Stardew Valley and what are the most obvious differences?
Eric: The core gameplay of Stardew Valley is very similar to Harvest Moon. Planting seeds, watering them, harvesting the crops, raising animals... Stardew Valley goes a step further by giving players more flexibility and freedom to play their own way, yet at the same time providing more goals and guidance with a quest and crafting/leveling progression system. I took inspiration from the original Harvest Moon games, but then tried to take everything a few steps further.
EC: As the sole creator of Stardew Valley, what were the challenges and/or advantages of being the creative mind behind every piece of the puzzle?
Eric: The advantage of being a solo developer is that I have complete control in bringing my ideas and vision to reality. I also get to do a wide variety of tasks, which is satisfying and keeps my work from getting monotonous or stale. The challenge is to avoid getting lonely and to stay motivated without teammates to share the workload. It's a huge amount of work to do by yourself.
EC: What were the most important elements to you during the process, things/features that you wanted Stardew Valley to boast without a doubt?
Eric: I wanted the world to feel alive, so you could get immersed in it. That meant paying attention to little details, like having players catch a glimpse of a squirrel running up the tree. It also required a lot of work bringing all the townspeople to life. I kept working until I felt like the townspeople were real, with personalities that I was familiar with, like anyone in my actual life. Then it was just up to me to pay attention to them and tell their stories.
EC: Are any of the townsfolk based on or reminiscent of actual people? They're all so different and charming in their own way!
Eric: There is one character who is based off someone I know. Otherwise, the characters are just the result of the observations I've made of human behavior over the course of my life. I am always trying to figure out why people do the things they do, what motivates them. That helps me understand people better and create more believable characters.
EC: Upon its release and even now, Stardew Valley receives overwhelmingly positive reviews and has sold over one million copies! What was your initial reaction to its success?
Eric: I was blown away. I hoped Stardew Valley could do well enough that I could make another game, and not have to give up my dream of being an artist. I never imagined it would become one of the most popular indie games of the year. I am very happy about the positive response to the game. Many people have told me that Stardew is more than just a game to them, that it's touched their lives in a real way... that means a lot to me.
EC: Stardew Valley is about to release on Xbox One and Playstation 4! Are there any other changes or features on the horizon for Stardew Valley? What's next for you as a creator?
Eric: Multiplayer functionality is still being developed and will be patched into the game at some point. The game is also being localized into several languages, and also being ported to a few more platforms. Beyond that, I'm not sure. I do want to make more games in the future. I have many ideas.
I'm new to Stardew Valley myself, but am already having a blast! I can see how one could easily get lost in its bright colors, unique neighbors, and huge array of activities. I also found PC Gamer's Stardew Valley Guide rather helpful. Although, it doesn't seem to have improved upon my fishing skills. Catch of the day: Seaweed! (I spend a lot of time fishing in-game. Tis fun.)
Don't forget to grab some Stardew Valley nail wraps while you're here!
I've heard...they improve your fishing.