Indie Innovations: Stardew Valley
Welcome back everyone to this week’s edition of Indie Innovations. For this week, I’ll be diving into the sleeper hit of 2016: Stardew Valley. Selling well over one million copies, this farming-simulation role-playing game has become one of the most successful indie releases in recent years. While the game itself is impressive, what’s more impressive is the fact that it was developed solely by Eric Barone. How one man can design, program, and compose the music for this big of a game is beyond me, but it has become a shining example of what indie developers can achieve.
Not being a huge farming simulator fan myself, I found myself pleasantly surprised when diving into Stardew Valley. Beginning the game, you find yourself abandoning the stress and monotony of an office job to take over your grandfather's failing farm. You begin by clearing the land of unwanted debris and jump right into farming. However, farming is only a fraction of the distractions you can get caught up with in Stardew Valley. As you begin to explore the surrounding area of Pelican Town, you come across various activities. While farming is the main source of income, you can invest time in skills such as mining, fishing, crafting, and even combat. When you’re not tending to your crops or raising your livestock, you can engage in social interactions with the other denizens of Stardew Valley. Here, you can forge social bonds that may eventually blossom into romance, relationships, and ultimately, marriage. During these past-times, I often found myself in a meditative reflection on my own life and the simplicities that make the mundane more bearable. I honestly felt more nostalgia while playing this game then I have in years, and I attribute that to its incredible art design.
As I mentioned before, there are dozens of activities to keep you busy. Since it’s an open ended game, you can complete any tasks you wish at your own leisure. There are scripted events that happen every in-game year, but other than that you are basically on your own. If it’s winter and you don’t want to spend time tending your limited crops, you can go to the local mine and test out your combat skills on the various creatures that reside underground. If fighting isn’t your thing, feel free to partake in fishing, or perhaps even crafting new useful items from the minerals you gathered while mining. The systems in this game beautifully carry over into each other. For example, you can go to the mines to collect bronze ores. After enough ores have been gathered, you can smelt them into bars. Once you have bars, you can craft items such as better sprinklers that help with farming, which in turn will garner more money for yourself. The seamless integration of these various systems really gives Stardew Valley a surprising amount of depth that from the surface seems nonexistent.
While the game is open ended, there are certain goals that you can work towards. For instance, there’s a local museum that has various rooms to unlock by bringing certain items to them. For example, if you bring a certain number of crops to unlock a particular room, you will reveal helpful items or different areas of the map to explore. This helps give players incentive and a task to work towards if they ever get bored or stuck doing something over and over again. Given that you only have a certain amount of in-game hours in a day, I began to plan out my days and what I would do with each one. Embarrassingly enough, I often put more time and effort in planning my day in Stardew Valley than I did in my actual life.
Stardew Valley is simplistic in it’s design, but if you dig deep enough you can find a rich and rewarding game. Whether you want to farm and build a family of your own, or you’d rather go out adventuring and looking for treasure, it is truly your own prerogative. Either way, you will find yourself simply lost in this world. Whatever you choose to do, the game encourages you to be the best you can be and simply take in the joys and wonders of your life.