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Valley Forged: How One Man Made the Indie Video Game Sensation Stardew Valley (gq.com)
320 points by benbreen on Sept 28, 2018 | hide | past | favorite | 120 comments

I really love stories about people who become totally, utterly absorbed in something, to the point where they obsessively spend time on it, in a kind of natural sense that does not require checklists, reminders, etc. It's just always their top priority, like an addiction, except with meaning and depth.

I envy the absorption in a creative activity and also the growth they experience in terms of their skills. Think about it - at this point this guy isn't just a great programmer, he is also an accomplished designer, artist, writer and musician. A true renaissance person.

I'm quite focused compared to many people and I don't waste a lot of time with social media, television, etc., but I'm nowhere near like this guy.

About four years ago I decided I wanted to learn a second language and I poured a lot of effort into learning Spanish over a three year period. I got to the point where I could carry on a conversation with a Spanish-speaking person quite naturally, read the news in Spanish, etc., but I never felt entirely fluent. Then things got busy and my attention shifted and now, a year after I was last really actively learning, I know my skills have deteriorated.

I want to get back into it but I'm struggling to find the motivation. It feels like work and I already work hard. And truthfully, it always felt like work, it's just that I really wanted the experience of understanding and being able to speak another language. I got to that point, but I don't feel like I took it far enough - and this seems true of so many things in my life. Pretty good programmer (at one point), decent enough entrepreneur, not a bad father, solid writer, crappy musician but having fun with it, kind of fit but not terribly so, etc. In short, jack of all trades, master of none.

I realize I'm rambling a bit, but to tie it back to where I began, obsession seems like a bit of a cognitive shortcut to me, a path to excellence that feels less like work and more like addiction. Is that true or am I just intellectually lazy? I want to dive into something, to find something that holds my attention raptly for the long term and generates true personal growth along the way, but I don't know what that would be, and in four decades of living on this planet I don't think I've ever come across anything that fits that bill.

I literally sat down last spring and focused on this problem with a bit of brainstorming and philosophizing.

My goal was to figure out what parts of me added up to being a coherent whole as a person, at least w/r to career. (With other aspects, too, but mostly "what should I spend my time on, really?")

And this kind of thing is never wholly about skills, interests and talent - they are starting places, but personality and natural tendencies were a much bigger factor in my judgment.

And it helped. I found some insights about what I could/wanted to do, my personal principles, and how I might put these things together in the form of a career - like, ah, yes, I like teaching things and advising, but no, I don't want to do it in the form of formal education. And so on, probing different aspects of the process and teasing out what was most and least painful and working towards "mostly painless so that I can really focus on perfecting it".

Then over the summer I tested out some of these ambitions and found where I was and wasn't limited - like, if I wanted to teach, could I do it by streaming? After working through the logistics I realized that I had something more like lectures in mind, which would communicate better as video. Then looked into video editing and polishing up my voice work and realized that I needed more than one format to do everything I wanted. So I decided that I would have a "multimedia blog" with writing coming first, but lots of images and supplementary content.

So I started on that, and have posted a few articles and shared them(mostly with friends). I don't post at a high rate but it is proving to be a good way of directing my writing energy away from comments like this one(hmm...)

Since the season has changed, I'm probably due to try evaluating myself again and looking for another way to inch forward and focus on what topics and techniques I'm meshing well with.

Wow. I understand what you mean completely, in my gut. The feeling of throwing yourself into something completely, not to better yourself or to prove anything, but simply because you must, is probably the greatest feeling in the world for me.

I used to be like this when I was younger. I remember spending my summer break in my room learning a 3d modeling software just to make some stupid animations... It was this internal drive that I want to accomplish this that waned through the years I think

> I really love stories about people who become totally, utterly absorbed in something, to the point where they obsessively spend time on it, in a kind of natural sense that does not require checklists, reminders, etc. It's just always their top priority, like an addiction, except with meaning and depth.

This is precisely why I avoid checklists and reminders, unless it's for collaboration purposes, events, or managing tasks for team based projects

If I need a checklist for a personal project, this means I haven't built an obsession over something I really want to do.

The fastest way to build an obsession is just to rapidly explore as many topics as possible, and document things at a shallow level continously. Eventually you'll come across bits of metadata you left behind, realizing that you had already looked into this once before, maybe you should consider deep diving. This could be forked github repos, likes on videos, buying electronic parts and building shitty DIY projects lying around, music you've learned, etc

I think there’s a distinction between skills that you think would be cool to have (like learning a language), and areas that you feel drawn to.

I realise this is a difficult thing for most people to tap into. But I’ve thought about this, and I think that most of my “obsessions” have come about after seeing someone else doing something poorly, and thinking to myself “I bet I could do better than that.” If I follow that initial curiosity through, it often turns into a full-blown obsession.

Finding your own 'triggers' is really important, I agree.

For me it's when I can provide help to someone. I'll easily not get anything done for a week, hear someone struggle with something that I could solve with a bit of code (often gluing various API's together), and I'll get right at it.

I'm also triggered/motivated by 'optimizing' stuff in my life. If something in my life strikes me as suboptimal and some code might be able to fix it, I'll happily try to find the least effective but most educational or fun way to solve the problem (XKCD be damned[1]). My life is filled with the coding equivalent of rube goldberg devices, and it's almost a shame that nobody can actually see them.

[1]: https://xkcd.com/1205/

> Is that true or am I just intellectually lazy?

I guess it has to do with education too. If at some moment in your formative years you were taught that obsessing about anything is bad, then that idea can be still lingering below.

> in four decades of living on this planet I don't think I've ever come across anything that fits that bill.

Keep looking! But also, it's possible at 40+ that you may have already found it. Perhaps you've not given that thing the chance it needed for you to fall in love with it — the days and weeks of exploration and the obsessive iteration mentioned in the GQ article that it takes to grok something and absorb it until it feels like it's yours.

I'm almost your age and now rewinding my career path. I kept chasing different tech career paths hoping to find something that “fit the bill”, which only showed me that nothing was as interesting to me than what I started my career doing (game design/animation). It took a couple of changes to realise that:

- Reflecting on how I spend my free time and time on social media, and the speakers and personalities I'm fascinated by and naturally drawn to. (They are mostly game designers and devs.)

- Looking back at the work in the past that has made me happiest and most fulfilled.

From there it was a case of having the discipline to commit to it — I spend most mornings and evenings skilling up and having fun with game design and development, although my day job is still in front-end right now.

On the motivation side of things you mentioned, I don't think it's a case of “find the right thing and you'll find your motivation.” It's more a case of discipline, projecting your self now to your future self, and knowing a few psychological techniques. A couple of things have helped me with that, and they're at opposite ends of the “mind trick” spectrum:

1. Jonathan Blow (designer of Braid, The Witness, owner of Thekla, Inc) has several videos about dealing with lack of motivation that are worth watching:

- https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i7kh8pNRWOo

- https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ECwHZlvvVH4

- https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ryB_VQ__KeE

The pace is slow because it was delivered as a live stream and not a rehearsed talk, but stick with it — he has some great tips about becoming self-aware in order to recognise and reverse the more moderate feelings of malaise that are commonly experienced with any creative work.

2. Jocko Willink (retired Navy SEAL) has a good podcast dealing with motivation, discipline, and committing to your thing:

- https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yoEv5PxrDvs (a compilation of “best of” clips from his podcast).

With Jocko, I had to fight the urge to close the tab — it can be hard to stomach “just do it” pep-talks that feel like an audio embodiment of those motivational posters at first. But several things kept me listening to that, and I became hooked on his other podcasts:

- The idea that motivation can be summoned by cultivating the discipline to commit to a thing; motivation is not some external thing that you have to seek out and capture.

- The concept of procrastinating your procrastination — you might not feel like doing something from your routine today (be it exercise or hacking on a project or learning a language), but do it anyway; you can always not do it tomorrow if you feel the same.

- This was pretty hard-hitting for me: “That second that just went by. That counted. And so did that second. And in those precious seconds, you are either building, or you are decaying. You are either gaining ground or you are losing ground. In that second. And in every second.”

The interesting thing about the Valley Forged article for me was that Eric seemed to fall into it — he didn't set out on a path to find something to dedicate 5+ years of his life to, like those game developers in Indie Game The Movie who wanted to make games since childhood. He wanted to make a game to get better at programming, and that evolved into an obsession almost out of happenstance. I think there's a lesson there that throwing yourself into things that seem fun wholeheartedly and with discipline can yield better results than skimming topics at a shallower depth.

Eric is not only a genius who made a fantastic game but he's a nice, down-to-earth person. I met him once. He had a table at one of the PAX cons and was hanging out with fans, many whom had him sign stuff. This was after it had sold enough copies to make him a millionaire. He didn't have to be there, he choose to do it.

I think I met him at the same PAX. Really nice guy. Happy for his success.

While it is great to admire the care and dedication that went into this game let's not draw conclusions that Eric's approach is a widely applicable recipe to long term wealth and healthy relationships.

This is classic survivorship bias.

There are countless stories of one person obsessing over some project, making progress, sometimes even shipping the project yet not getting the recognition/fame/money.

Meanwhile they are losing relationships and health in the process.

The great novel is a common culprit, but the great app is a fast rising contender.

The main thing to remember is "building/shipping is not enough".

In fact the one intriguing thing glossed over in the article is how he managed to get a distributorship deal.

See that story: Did I just waste 3 years? [0] on a failed indie game.

[0] https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=18092108

Wow, this is amazing and old school - doing the art, sound, music, programming. I think the only advantage he had was he could look up anything on the internet and possibly find an answer to technical road blocks, he still had to polish and rework for five years (and not feel pressure to get or work a regular 9-5 and keep his relationship going, though it sounds like it may have been a close call there towards the end with the three playtesters helping immensely).

On that note, I highly recommend Papers, Please[1].

It's a one-person project as well, and a truly amazing work of art.

Played it with my partner to get all the endings and achievements; it's been an amazing experience.


What I loved about Papers, Please is that it was actually a proper, fun game. Depressing too, but fun. I rarely come across 'art project' style games that pull their weight game-wise.

It really does have excellent gameplay.

Although I wouldn't call the game depressing - I found the satire funny as hell.

Seconded. This game is amazing, maybe a little miserable/funny. glory to arstotzka!

Undertale is another one-man-band project like that.

There's also Dwarf Fortress[0].

0: http://bay12games.com/dwarves/

That one is technically a two-man band, but definitely still fits the pattern of someone dedicating their life to making a complex game.

To the credit of GP, in DF there occurs exactly the type of obsession (in dwarfs) that the original commenter talked about, so it's worth a mention even if its "single creator" is two brothers

And also the venerable RollerCoaster Tycoon


sawyer contracted out for the art (Simon Foster) and music (Allister Brimble). still a heroic individual effort though

Especially given that he wrote the whole thing in assembly.

And Touhou.

The Windows series of games are 16 years old today

It's still pretty successful worldwide, with major fan conventions and contents being released in PS4, Steam, etc. Quite an interesting phenomenon.

Actually, interestingly enough:

> But throughout the four and a half years, he never once reached out online by asking questions or speaking to another developer for advice. He hates asking for help.

Perhaps he did some searches but it sounds like he never interacted with a site like StackOverflow.

It seems to me that he only read answers, documentation, etc. Do not actively ask questions

True, I think that is the way most people use StackOverflow, searching, finding answers and not very often contributing in the form of questions, answers. I either find the question I have or something close enough that I can work from there to a solution. Rarely if I have something pressing that is time sensitive enough I go to the git repo page and look at the source and try to figure it out from there or see if anyone has suggestions there, or do a fork and try things with that.

Another one-person project, still under development http://www.itlurksbelow.com/. Granted this one person is David Brevik, of Diablo fame :)

Good read. But kind of underwhelmed how the author glosses over how the steps of how developer finally connected with the real world and got his creation out there.

I think many of us can relate to the obsession with detail, but hearing how the publisher discovered him and their impressions of his work would have been a nice pay-off.

This piece is mostly about the emotional side of it, and kind of romances the whole thing. I don't think you can take away much practical advice with such articles.

For example, when I read "working 12 hours a day, 7 days a week, for 4 years", that's just impossible.

And a Kotaku interview confirms this (http://www.kotaku.co.uk/2016/03/21/the-past-present-and-futu...):

>> Kotaku: How did you avoid burning out? How did you avoid coming to hate Stardew Valley?

Eric Barone: There were periods where I had an idea or something that I was really passionate about, and in that moment I would work like crazy. I actually just literally wanted to see that thing come to life as quick as possible because it was fresh in my mind. I had this fire to create that.

Then there would be other periods where I just kind of didn’t feel like working, so while I would sit there and attempt to work I probably did a lot of alt tabbing and just browsing Reddit and stuff like that. I would waste time, and I would be a lot less productive. <<

So he's human like all of us, but it's still really impressive what he was able to pull of, no question about that. He's an inspiration for all lone game developers.

I'm just saying, take all these articles with a grain of salt. It's journalists doing their journalist thing.

This is a great point.

The moment I read "12 hrs a day, 7 days a week" I felt very disappointed with my own style of working. I usually work at max around 1/2 to 1 hour a day, even though I spend 3 - 4 hours on the PC. But during binges of feverish thoughts, I lose track of time in work, and can easily not notice 4 - 5 hours consumed.

Don't be too hard on yourself. 12 hours a day is likely an overstatement. If not, going over 5 hours of intense "flow state" each day would bring diminishing returns.

You can be disciplined at staring at the screen, but you still need that genetative tide. That comes from what's yielded by not being obsessed by the immrdiate. So, again, in my experiencr, spending time present in the real world is beneficial for your ventures.

This was a really nice read. In the past, I've read or seen pieces detailing the personal story of a particular indie game developer, and often I walk away feeling kind of grated by their personalities (See "Indie Game: The Movie" for a particularly high octane example). But after reading it I felt warmed by how much you could see the artist in his art.

I recently started playing it multiplayer with my son ( 7 ). I had watched him play it solo before but didn't think it was my type of game. But boy, the amount of detail in the game is fantastic.

Wow, I didn't even like Stardew Valley very much, but there is a level of polish to that game that is unbelievable for a single person to have accomplished.

It'll be interesting to see if switching to Rust will enhance the already remarkable productivity of this game studio.


Stardew Valley is built on Monogame. Also Chucklefish is the publisher, not the developer...

Their new game is in Rust, not Stardew Valley. And you’re right that they were only the publishers for it.

Is there anything approaching the XNA/Monogame content pipeline in the Rust world? Something like Stardew Valley is hugely data-driven, and being able to leverage that tooling, not to mention solid cross-platform support, looks like a huge force multiplier.

I don’t think so, but it’s not an area I’m always the most up to date with. I’m guessing if it existed I’d have heard of it, though.

“Amethyst” and “piston” are the two engine projects. I’m not sure if studios are using them or I’d they're building something in-house.

We don’t have a white paper but Ready At Dawn is moving all new stuff to 100% Rust as well, excited to see where it goes.

What GUI library would you even use in Rust? Is the package ecosystem mature enough to support a game?

Most games that are writing their own engines aren't using traditional GUI libraries anyway, it will typically be something custom.

Well that's unfortunate. I was hoping Rust could get a graphics library out of that.

There's a all-Rust graphics library in the works, but projects like ggez are using a SDL wrapper for now which works OK.

I wish nothing but the best for this guy, but I think it's kind of sick how we romanticize and valorize people who do nothing but obsessively work and neglect their relationship with their partners and magically pull off their project in the end to become rich. It's a gross fantasy. At least this doesn't have the "vindictive and abusive" genius aspect of these stories you typically hear like in the Steve Jobs archetypes or whatever. He seems like a nice person and I really like his game. I just think its incredibly sad that this is perceived to be something to aspire to.

I don't think that the developer could have possibly imagined that he would get rich. I'm sure that he was scared that he wouldn't break even with a living wage until it already in the market.

While I agree that it's uncool to ignore your partner to an abusive degree, it sounds to me like they communicated about it and she was consciously and proactively supportive. (I would support her owning a significant cut of the profits, even if they ever split up. She sounds incredible to me.)

The main reason that I hit reply, however, is that when it comes to having a passion project that consumes you, it doesn't feel like work. Some of the happiest moments of my life have been when I've been able to shut out the world and focus 100% of my energy on something I am deeply committed to. I think that it is pure, noble and for people like me, the way in which we are most fulfilled. It's not a job but a calling. I 100% get it. I also appreciate that it's not for everyone.

However, just because you don't understand it does not mean that it's somehow less than the ways you choose to spend your time. What you see as sick, I see as privileged.

I found out about this from reading Blood, Sweat and Pixels [1]. What really struck me about this whole story is the fact that his partner was able to support him for the entire duration he was working on the game (close to half a decade). That's a tough sell for any relationship, and if you ask me the real hero of this story is his partner who believed in him enough to support him all the way to the end. I would love to be in that kind of relationship.

[1] https://kotaku.com/i-wrote-a-book-about-the-making-of-unchar...

I read the same book. Came away from the chapter on SDV thinking, "Wow, I'd be divorced if I'd tried that." That's some unbelievable love and commitment, and I'd say he's quite a lucky man.

> That's a tough sell for any relationship, and if you ask me the real hero of this story is his partner who believed in him enough to support him all the way to the end.

I'm very surprised you feel that way. It's actually the other way around in my experience. I personally am and know many 30 something couples where one partner has a steady mid to high income job and the other partner is going for a moonshot starting up. It you can afford to support your partner taking a shot like that, why wouldn't you?

Because you’re sinking a huge amount of money into someone’s passion project, for which you may or may not have received equity before being broken up with. Being able to afford something is not a binary situation in which “yes” means you should do it unconditionally.

Wow... no. You're committed to a life with someone and want them to be happy because their happiness is your happiness. Money is way less important than being happy in life with someone.

But this is about marriages or similar commitment, not "before being broken up with", and also not "unconditional", you need to think it's good for your partner too.

It is possible to support a partner without treating them as an investment

Hmm context matters I guess... folks I'm referring to have generally been together for a decade... So they may have a somewhat different take on relationship.

Replying to self: I meant “unconditionally” as in without consideration of other factors — not meaning to imply that conditions should be attached to the money.

I agree with earlier comments about this coming off sexist: if genders were turned, would you say a husband was the 'real hero' behind his wife's business success?

By the way, he had more support - started the game in 2011, published it to greenlight on Sep 2012, got a publisher in 2013... (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stardew_Valley#Development)

1. Agreed - supporting your partner through weeks and months is one thing; but half a decade is a whole relationship in itself. It is a tremendous commitment on both sides.

2. Great book and I can wholeheartedly recommend it; on one hand it's stories on video game industry and its characters - on the other hand it's a primer on complex project management as well.

Well, let's be honest here; it really depends on the job she has, for example if she is an anesthesiologist is exponentially easier to support her partner than if she has a low-paying job like barista or something alike.

it's not only about the money young fella. A long and uncertain project without any income like that is a tough sell for any relationship.

You say it's not about the money, but then you mention income again. What is it about then?

Lots of things - ambition, status, judgement from others, resentment that you’re not able to do the same.

Money is probably a prerequisite to being able to do that at all, but it’s not the entire deal.

>it's not only about the money

Yes, I saw that. But saying something like that and then mentioning nothing but money (income) is a little confusing.

A friend of mine quit his job as a software developer to become a full time dance music producer— his girlfriend is a doctor, though, so it wasn’t a huge burden to support him for the three years it took for him to start getting paid.

Even anesthesiologists need quality time with this partner

Agreed. Would have been nice to hear a little more from her in this piece. While I deeply admire Eric for his incredible talent and follow-through, his partner must have gone through hell to facilitate his ambitions.

> his partner must have gone through hell to facilitate his ambitions.

Concerning the financial side of this, I think "must have" is a bit of an overstatement. A family with one or more children is often supported by a single income (and, from my recollection of reading "Blood, Sweat and Pixels", I don't think it mentions them having children, though I could be wrong).

Not at all trying to diminish what she did, however!

Do the spouses of stay at home wives go through hell too? If there was enough income to have only one wage earner then it wasn't hell.

It's not just income though- people like to spend at least some time with their partners, and from the article:

"Eric’s duties as partner had slipped drastically behind his personal ambition to perfect the game. He guiltily recognizes Amber felt lonelier and lonelier as he pushed on, but he did little to address it—he still worked 12 hours a day on the game, often going straight from his desk to the theater for an evening shift."

This is an entirely different level than a stay at home spouse. The article mentions he worked part time during this period, and that his girlfriend is currently attending college. So this is not a situation of a sole income earner, but rather a man so obsessively dedicated to a project that it consumed nearly all aspects of his life.

They do if they end up divorced. If you are earning enough money to support your spouse, guess what? If you get divorced, you get to continue doing that!

You will support your spouse directly via alimony, usually for a period half the length of your marriage, but if you were married 10 years or longer, this does not apply and there may be no set end to alimony. Mine was $1800 per month for 4 years.

I have 40% shared custody of my kids (they actually spend more non-school hours with me, but I digress) and still have to pay $1700 per month in child support, because (at least in CA) you are required to maintain the same standard of living as the children had during the marriage.

It may not be about income and finances during the marriage, but if it goes wrong, and you are the one that has been providing the support, prepare to swallow some very bitter pills.

Depending on where they live, a single income family is perfectly reasonable.

Many families only have a single income. It's not rare or extraordinary.

more context from link:

> four-and-a-half-year journey from a college graduate being supported by his girlfriend to a sudden multi-millionaire

That’s an incredible book. A bit off chapter but it’s a shame Obsidian can’t seem to catch a break.

> and if you ask me the real hero of this story is his partner who believed in him enough to support him all the way to the end

Yeah. Just like the real victims of war are women and children. /s

No, she is not the "real hero", supporting is nice but it is just supporting. To be honest many men support their wives, I know countless families where the men is the provider and the women go to study for years or just shopping and sitting in cafes. There is nothing special about it and I don't understand why when a woman does it suddenly she is the "real hero".

Agreed. The notion that "Wow, any woman would've left this man for a guy who makes more, so this is an extraordinary relationship" sorta reinforces the assumption that men must be the breadwinner in any normal relationship.

In the context of a society with gender norms like ours, it is special and probably quite unusual. And typically in male-supported households the woman is responsible for housework and child care, which clearly wasn’t this developer’s primary occupation. We can certainly hope for a world where this sort of thing is commonplace, but it’s not the one we’re in right now.

> with gender norms like ours, it is special

forgive me, but gender norms have changed even in eastern europe. Is america that left behind?

> forgive me, but gender norms have changed even in eastern europe. Is america that left behind?

Labor force participation rate for women, by country:

US 56%, Lithuania 56%, Estonia 56%, Germany 55%, Finland 55%, Latvia 55%, Austria 55%, Portugal 53%, Ireland 53%, Spain 52%, Luxembourg 52%, Slovenia 52%, Czech 52%, Slovakia 52%, Armenia 51%, France 51%, Hungary 48%, Bulgaria 48%, Belgium 48%, Albania 47%, Ukraine 47%, Serbia 46%, Greece 46%, Croatia 45%, Romania 44%, Macedonia 42%, Italy 40%, Moldova 39%, Bosnia 35%, Turkey 32%

Iceland 73%, Norway 61%, Sweden 61%, Denmark 59%, Netherlands 58%, Belarus 58%, Russia 57%, United Kingdom 57%

What you are (intentionally?) not saying is that the rate of women participating in the workforce is steadily on the rise since decades while otoh the rate of men steadily drops.


In most developed countries the rate is slowly but surely reaching equal levels.

not what i asked. Something that happens 50-80% of the time is not special.

The problem often starts, when the power dynamic in such a relationship suddenly swings around. It takes somebody well grounded to reality, to survive this with love.

I dont think it’s accurate to describe Auburn Washington as “semi-rural”

Yeah, Auburn itself within the city limits is Seattle/Tacoma suburbs, so that sounded weird. There are definitely semi-rural areas with an Auburn address, east of Highway 18, and maybe that's where he lived.

What is the software he is using to create pixel art?

In the photo in the article, about halfway down with the tree, it looks like Paint.net


Not what he used, but I can highly recommend Aseprite as both an excellent piece of software and a really great example of software sold well.

No hidden tricks, no freemium, no download manager or account logins. Just good software as an executable. Pay the money, download the standalone exe and enjoy.

I love the game and loved Harvest Moon, I thank Eric for his work and his dedication.

It's pretty impressive that he worked on it alone, including art and music.

Man, I really wish there were some more detail on Eric's workflow. After all, one man creating all these assets and managing all this sounds like a nightmare without some sort of organizational system


Which copied blatantly from Harvest Moon. But regardless, if it was so easy to blatantly copy from previous iterations, the new Harvest Moon wouldn't be significantly worse than Stardew Valley.

It didnt copy it, its an improved spinoff made by the original harvest moon devs.

And you've already been told that the creator of Harvest Moon and Rune Factory thinks Stardew is great.

Do you think no one but Wada Yasuhiro should make farm RPGs? That seems like a shabby thing to wish on a genre you claim to love.

There's this weird mental block that some people have when talking about games especially. Do something for the first time, and you're a visionary. Do it for the 100th time, you're polishing well-proven ideas. Do it for the second time, and you're a filthy uncreative hack. It's like calling Sonic a Super Mario ripoff, or Half-Life a Wolfenstein ripoff.

I noticed it a few years back when Minecraft was taking off. Any voxel-based building game was immediately labeled a "Minecraft ripoff" by the same people who praised polished, unambitious platformers and shooters and RPGs. Usually they'd never heard of Minecraft's inspiration Infiniminer, just like you apparently haven't heard of Harvest Moon...

Something similar seems to be going on in Wikipedia's summary of how the new Spider-Man game was received:

> The game received praise for its gameplay, graphics, and story, while being criticized for familiar open-world tropes and lack of innovation.

( https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Spider-Man_(2018_video_game)#R... )

Some might argue that if you nailed the gameplay, the graphics, and the story, it shouldn't really matter how much "innovation" you have. By hypothesis, the game looks and feels great. What's left to criticize?

Probably the trend of open world fatigue that has been kicking around the last few years. Games pushed for larger and larger worlds until the public realised that it's only great as long as the worlds are interesting, feel "alive" and are easy and fun to get around in.

Map size seems to be shrinking back down, or at least not be the main selling point for open world games nowadays, and there has been significant criticism of the objective style missions that seem to have become the "fetch quest" of the genre.

> objective style missions

I'm very curious what you mean by this. Are you talking about all the "craft this" etc. achievements in Minecraft?

I’m not that familiar with Minecraft. I mean the kind of mission where the objective is repeated numerous times across the map, eg. Climb x towers (Assassin’s Creed), blow up x enemy encampments (Just Cause), etc.

This style of side mission just pervades open world games nowadays. Spider Man is no different with its towers, street crimes, environmental cleanups etc. but the world is a joy to get around in so I enjoy it a lot more than other similar games.

To use another example of an open world game, take Breath of the Wild which has a huge world but with a lot less of these typical trappings of modern open world games, apart from the korok seed hunting.

For a period of time, FPS games were called "Doom clones".

Not to mention the still-current terms: Roguelike and Roguelite (the second of which I find unnecessarily derogatory).

I've never seen "Roguelite" as derogatory at all. It's an annoyingly awkwardly neologism, but we legit need a name for the genre that makes heavy use of Roguelike elements (permadeath, procedural generation, emergent combinations of elements) while completely ditching traditional Roguelike gameplay (turn-based RPG dungeon-crawling). Games like Spelunky and FTL and Dead Cells clearly draw inspiration from traditional Roguelikes, but they just as clearly aren't Roguelikes themselves.

I don't think half of the people in Roguelike scene really know - or played - Rogue. It's just a genre name these days, implying permadeath, mazes and (often) ASCII art.

I generally prefer Roguelites and don't really see why the term would be derogatory...

The developer makes doesn't attempt to hide that he started out making a clone of Harvest Moon to sharpen his programming skill and because he was frustrated he couldn't play HM on his PC. It grew from there. As it happens, the developer of HM has great respect for the developer of SV: https://www.pcgamer.com/the-creators-of-stardew-valley-and-h...

What a disingenuous comment. You could say this about almost every other work.

You meant Harvest Moon, right?

IIRC, the maker has said HM was his inspiration. The expansions left him less than happy and he decided to do what he wanted himself.

It's similar in concept but the execution is different.

You could say the same thing about every side-scrolling fighting game.

You think it was a lot easier because instead of having to come up with an idea and work on it for 7 years, he just had to work on it for 7 years?

Well, yeah. It sucks when you work on something for a few years and it turns out to be not fun. Starting with a proven idea is easier, for sure.

my ex loved this game. i'm a sucker for gamer chicks.

I know it isn't the point of the article but...damn, this guy couldn't get a job. Like the easiest thing was to spend thousands of hours developing this game? Hm, kind of sad.

I feel like you are, indeed, missing the point: this guy wasn't successful despite his passion project. He was successful because of his passion project.

For those of us who know exactly what they would do with the opportunity to spend thousands of hours on a calling, this guy is an inspiration.

It wasn't a calling, it was something he did when nothing else worked. I am sure he enjoyed it, he wouldn't have done it otherwise...but that isn't my point. My point is that it isn't inspiring...at all.

It would be interesting to know what he actually thinks but I know because I have actually been in that situation (unf, more than once). It isn't fun, it is soul-destroying to pour your being into something you love with no reward. Even if you are "successful", that initial experience of feeling trapped taints it (indeed, the whole point is that you are immune to notions of success/failure and the experience changes your notion of success...if you come into thinking about success then you will get washed out in a few months).

And he was successful despite it. He would have done okay whatever he did. It is just a little unfortunate that he had go down that path, imo.

Is it possible that we read a completely different article?

He was a huge fan of Harvest Moon and he wanted to make a spiritual successor. Paragraph 3: “I think it makes sense that I worked entirely alone,” Eric says. “I wanted to do all the music, the art.”

The article does talk about how he was not getting hired for the jobs he wanted, and he knew he'd have to level up his skillset. However, it's also self-evident that within a year he'd secured a publisher and taken an advance... so his job search became an educational pursuit which became an opportunity to build something that by any sane definition is a labour of love.

I'm not weirded out that you're not inspired, because it doesn't sound like you're the sort of person that would become inspired to create something like what's described. And that is fine, right?

Many of us, however, are inspired by stories like this. It's not just video games, either... but Braid comes to mind as an example of something that could never have come from Electronic Arts. It's also the only game that Roger Ebert conceded constitutes art.

For what it's worth, I'm sorry that your projects didn't work out. Arguably, if doing something you love isn't its own reward, then you might be doing the wrong thing.

More likely couldn't get a job he liked.

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