Game Mechanics Analysis: Stardew Valley

Stardew Valley title screen, a variation of which appears on screen as you start the game.

Stardew Valley is a simulation role-playing game developed and published by ConcernedApe in 2016. You play as a former office worker who wants to escape city life and moves to their grandfather’s old farm on the edge of a small town.

The game was made over the course of four years, with Eric Barone (the sole member of ConcernedApe) working alone on the project. Once released, it became a critical and commercial success, selling over 10 million copies across multiple systems by 2020.

Example of a fairly-developed form, including sprinklers and artisan goods stations.

Eric Barone originally made the game as a sort of modern equivalent of the Harvest Moon games, a series he enjoyed but felt it had become progressively worse over time. It’s inspired by other games, including Minecraft, Terraria, and Animal Crossing. He worked on Stardew Valley as an effort to improve his computer and art skills in the hopes of getting a job with his computer science degree.

The game can be played in a variety of ways. You can fight monsters in the mines, you can fish in the ocean, you can talk to the people in town, you can raise animals, or you can simply just farm some crops. You can also eventually specialize in artisan goods (which is the best way to make a lot of money in a reasonably short amount of time).

Two players fishing in the river the runs through the town. You can also fish at the beach south of town, and a lake at the foot of the mountain.

The mechanics are rather simple in Stardew Valley. There isn’t a lot of complexity in its gameplay. You plant your crops, water them every day (weather it be rain, sprinklers, or a watering can), and eventually you can harvest and sell them. Rinse and repeat. Most of the joy in the game comes from the collection aspect of it, where you steadily improve your farm over a long period of time. It’s fun to interact with all of the townsfolk, giving them gifts based on their individual preferences, and occasionally competing with them during some of the yearly festivals.

If you want more information about the game, here’s the official website:

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One thought on “Game Mechanics Analysis: Stardew Valley

  1. I’ve played Stardew Valley, and I think it’s a really great game that’s strangely addicting. I think the main thing to take away from the game design is how good its replayability is. While you do progress throughout the game, the core of your options for each day remains mostly the same. Something to consider might be: what makes that core game loop so simple, yet so enjoyable?

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