Eric Barone likes to work alone. Better known to fans as "ConcernedApe," Barone created Stardew Valley over the course of four and a half years entirely by himself. As his massively successful farming sim nears its four-year anniversary, Barone says he doesn't want to change the way he works much. That said, he is self-publishing Stardew Valley on most platforms now—according to Barone, that added responsibility will actually make his job easier in some ways.
Earlier this month, Barone announced that he took over publishing responsibilities for Stardew Valley on the Nintendo Switch from indie developer and publisher Chucklefish. A few weeks earlier, Barone issued a statement on his relationship with Chucklefish after multiple people accused Chucklefish of not compensating them fairly for work they contributed to 2016's Starbound. Barone noted in his statement that Chucklefish's only direct involvement with the development of Stardew Valley was the addition of multiplayer net-code, and that he had already taken over publishing duties for most platforms as of December 2018. Now, Barone is the publisher of Stardew Valley on all platforms, save for iOS and Android.
Barone was happy to field some questions via email about self-publishing, how it fits with his perfectionist approach to development, and on what the future holds for Stardew Valley and other projects.
USgamer: Broadly speaking, what does self-publishing mean to you as a creator?
Eric "ConcernedApe" Barone: As a creator, self-publishing means that I have full responsibility for my own game. I've always had complete creative control over Stardew Valley, but now that control extends to the business and marketing side of things as well. In general, I tend to prefer doing things myself... it's part of the reason I made Stardew Valley alone. I can be very particular about certain things, and self-publishing makes it easiest for me to be able to fuss over the little details that I care about.
Earlier this year you made some job postings to help you continue building Stardew Valley. Are you at all interested in forming a studio, or do you intend to keep making games mostly as a solo creator?
With my move to self-publishing, and my own desire to spend some more time working on a new project, I decided about a year ago that I would form a small team to help me continue supporting Stardew Valley. I've followed through on that in a very slow and cautious way... currently the team is just me and one other person, whom I work together with to continue supporting Stardew Valley. I am also working on a new unannounced project completely solo.
I don't have plans to expand in any major way in the near future... I prefer to keep things very small, and I want to be closely involved with everything... I think ultimately it is in the best interest of Stardew Valley and my future games.
A lot of discussion in Stardew Valley's community has focused on how there's not much to do after marrying or having kids. Do you plan to build out Stardew Valley in this direction in the future?
Yes, this is a continuous area of improvement for the game, and It's definitely one of the most common things people request. The new 1.4 update does add some depth to post-marriage life... some additions that I'm proud of and I hope are very heartwarming for players... but I know there will always be more that can be done.
From a big picture standpoint, what do you hope Patch 1.4 will add to Stardew Valley?
I've been unofficially calling 1.4 the "everything" update because it touches pretty much every aspect of the game in some way or another. One of my major goals was to add in a lot of "quality of life" features that make the game more convenient and effortless to play. There are some really simple things that were missing from the game that really improve the experience, like being able to press TAB on PC to switch from one row of your inventory to the next, or to be able to hover over an item and get an indication as to whether it's required for any of the community center bundles or not.
There are lots of things like that in this update... once players experience them, I think they'll wonder how they ever managed to play the game before! From a big picture, I see 1.4 as bringing a whole new level of polish to Stardew Valley, as well as adding in lots of rich and rewarding content to the game.
Do you have an update on when multiplayer will come to the Xbox One version of Stardew Valley? Can iOS or Android players expect multiplayer in the future?
I'm doing everything in my power to see the Xbox update released as soon as possible. I don't personally do the console ports, but from what I've gathered, every console has different tech and different requirements to meet, and getting this 1.3 version on Xbox has proved to be especially challenging. That being said, the update is very close to being ready... the core multiplayer functionality is entirely operational, but the update has been failing certification due to problems with peripheral (but still important) features like friend invites and voice chat. Getting these things just right in order to pass certification has proved difficult for technical reasons that are specific to Stardew Valley and the Xbox. Despite the technical hurdles, there is progress being made and I'm confident that the update will be ready very soon.
As to mobile multiplayer, there's still currently no guarantee that it will happen... it may end up being possible, but I'm not comfortable saying "yes, it will happen" at this stage. However, I think I can speak for everyone involved in the mobile port in saying that we'd love to see the feature come to mobile eventually.
Do you hope to self-publish future games? If so, can you share any thoughts you have on how you'll balance the roles of developer and publisher?
Yes, I will likely self-publish future games. One thing that will help make self-publishing easier for me in the future is that I'm not really big on marketing. My hope is to continue making games that are compelling enough to market themselves by word of mouth. So, with that approach, my time will be mostly spent on development.
For more on Stardew Valley, check out USG's guides section and read Nadia Oxford's examination of how Stardew Valley became the most downloaded Nintendo Switch game of 2017.