How Was Stardew Valley Made by Just One Person?

This article is an excerpt from the Shortform book guide to "Blood, Sweat, and Pixels" by Jason Schreier. Shortform has the world's best summaries and analyses of books you should be reading.

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How was Stardew Valley made? Did one person really create the entire farming simulator by themselves?

Stardew Valley is one of the most popular farming simulators around, and it was created by one person: Eric Barone. To achieve this, Barone had to spend four years working on the game, putting in eight to 15 hours a day.

Find out more about the stressful conditions of Stardew Valley‘s development.

Development of Stardew Valley

How was Stardew Valley made? Schreier spoke to Eric Barone, the one-man team behind the beloved farming simulator Stardew Valley. Barone spent over four years working on the game, during which he says he put in anywhere from eight to 15 hours a day. He consistently told friends and family that it would be done in another month or two, but that timeline kept stretching since he had no supervisors pushing him to finalize and release the game. 

(Shortform note: Creating your own game like Barone did is more doable than ever thanks to the accessibility of programming software and how powerful personal computers have become. However, there are downsides to independent game development: Making a game by yourself is a hugely time-consuming endeavor (as Barone discovered) and one that you won’t get paid for unless your game does well.)  

Eventually, Barone struck a deal with a small publisher called Chucklefish Games, and Stardew Valley finally came out in February 2016. The game was an unexpected hit; it sold over a million copies in two months and made Barone a millionaire practically overnight. 

(Shortform note: Barone publicly distanced himself from Chucklefish Games in 2019 when the studio was accused of exploiting developers and relying on unpaid labor. He emphasized that he was the only developer who worked on Stardew Valley—implying that he wasn’t benefitting from unfair labor practices—and said Chucklefish was only responsible for publishing the game and implementing the multiplayer feature. Chucklefish released a statement in 2022 that didn’t directly attack Barone’s post but made a point of listing the numerous features and re-releases the studio handled as Stardew Valley’s popularity continued to grow beyond what they or Barone had ever imagined.)  

Schreier notes that Barone’s work situation didn’t improve after Stardew Valley came out; a few months later, Barone worked himself into burnout and couldn’t bring himself to work at all. Having so many players meant that Barone was suddenly under enormous pressure to fix bugs and release new features. He frequently pulled all-nighters to develop and release patches—small updates designed to fix problems in the game—but those patches often created as many issues as they solved. 

(Shortform note: Even in 2023, seven years after the game’s release, Barone was still developing patches for Stardew Valley, albeit at a much slower pace. In a Tweet from April 2023, Barone said that he was currently working on yet another update for the game that would add new content, including some much-requested new dialogue for its characters.) 

Barone took the summer off to rest before entering a cycle of intense work and equally intense burnout. He’d push himself for weeks to crank out new patches—then, he’d have to take weeks off to recover. 

(Shortform note: Burnout is more than simple fatigue; it’s a serious condition with symptoms including anxiety, insomnia, heart palpitations, and the inability to make even simple decisions. Furthermore, recovering from burnout often takes longer than just a few weeks or months—severe cases can require up to a year of rest. Forcing yourself to work before you’re recovered can trap you in a cycle of burnout like the one Barone found himself in. Trying to push yourself through a period of burnout can cause further mental, emotional, and even physical harm, up to and including death.) 

Schreier says that he got in touch with Barone in December 2016 to see how he was doing. Barone replied that he was exhausted, sick of Stardew Valley, and thinking about starting a new game with a more realistic timetable. 

(Shortform note: Barone, also known by his gaming alias ConcernedApe, announced that he’d begun work on a new game called Haunted Chocolatier in late 2020—although, as noted above, he continued developing patches for Stardew Valley even after beginning this new project.) 

How Was Stardew Valley Made by Just One Person?

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  • A rare look into the harsh inner workings of the video game industry
  • The four main challenges that video game developers face
  • Why Star Wars 1313 never made it to the shelves

Katie Doll

Somehow, Katie was able to pull off her childhood dream of creating a career around books after graduating with a degree in English and a concentration in Creative Writing. Her preferred genre of books has changed drastically over the years, from fantasy/dystopian young-adult to moving novels and non-fiction books on the human experience. Katie especially enjoys reading and writing about all things television, good and bad.

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