Stardew Valley - contact@rockpapershotgun.com (Brendan Caldwell)

Stardew Valley s mutliplayer launched a couple of weeks ago, letting farm owners roll around in the dirt with up to three pals. But the landowning host player must be present if friends are to plant tomatoes, and that head player also has the final say over decisions such as when you all go to bed. Landlords, eh?

But what s this? It s a handy mod that lets farmhand underlings get on with their daily routine without the host. Well, sort of. There are some big drawbacks. The host still has to leave the game running on their PC, for instance. But as a stopgap for those wanting a more traditional server-ish muckabout, it could be useful. (more…)

Owlboy

Release day for an indie developer sounds like it’d be a celebration. Years of work have finally reached a successful conclusion. They can sit back, relax, and wait for the adulation and money to roll in. But it's not really like that. “I heard a lot of people speculate what this would feel like and I was never really sure what would happen when we finally hit launch,” says Simon Stafsnes Andersen, head of Owlboy maker D-Pad Studio. “The reality was ... conflicting.”

The truth is that launch is not an end. It’s the start of something else, and with that fresh start come many struggles that are born in the intensity of game development. This is true for almost all modern game developers, but it's especially dramatic for indies who have spent half a decade or more quietly working on their dream project. After you've put all of yourself into a game, what comes next?

Life before launch

It s not healthy to make a game on your own. I built up resentments and worries on the way, that Iconclasts was weird, too specific to me.

Joakim Sandberg

“The final push was probably some of the most emotionally draining and turbulent months of the entire nine-year development cycle,” Andersen says of the final few months working on Owlboy. He and his four-strong team worked practically every waking hour to make the deadlines for its physical release. “We were all really burned out by the time we were close to the finish line and it in many ways didn’t feel like it was going to be real. We didn’t have time to feel anything at that point. Our only concern was to deliver on what we had set out to do.”

Eric ‘ConcernedApe’ Barone felt much the same. Stardew Valley’s four-and-a-half years development ended with him working 12-hour days, seven days a week, and he was fixing bugs and making last-minute changes right up to the end. “I remember staying up all night shortly before launch day in order to fix a major bug that would've ruined it.”

But not all crunch is specifically about work hours. Ben Porter is programmer, designer and art director of MoonQuest, a platformer with Terraria-style exploration and crafting in distinctly weird generated environments. He managed to work nine-to-five days before its July Early Access release, but after six years, he was exhausted—and also a new dad. “Luckily my daughter had started to sleep through the night so I started to get more rest and could concentrate for longer,” he says. But final rounds of testing threw up all kinds of unanticipated new issues that had to be fixed.

Yoku's Island Express, a pinball adventure.

For team Villa Gorilla, the multiplatform release of its wonderful pinball-platformer Yoku’s Island Express was handed by its publisher, Team 17, who governed a carefully plotted series of submission deadlines. “It’s a super-intense period, but nice because we could tick off individual problems to tackle,” programmer Jens Andersson says. “But even at that point, you know there’s stuff you want to change but it takes a lot of work and it’s not worth it. The side effects might make the game worse.”

For Joakim ‘Konjak’ Sandberg, the final weeks of making the sprawling platformer adventure Iconoclasts, which he created entirely on his own for eight years, were quieter. He spent the time testing and trying to promote it, contacting streamers and press, but he was feeling extremely anxious.

Release day

“It’s not healthy to make a game on your own,” Sandberg says. “I built up resentments and worries on the way, that Iconclasts was weird, too specific to me. I didn’t know how people would react to it, which I think is normal, but I worried.” He spent much of launch day in and out of sleep, checking streams to see if it was being played yet, waiting for the hour his publisher would launch it. He was worried that he’d done too little promotion, thought streamers wouldn’t bother playing a story-driven game. Would it grab anyone?

Barone was in a state of nervous excitement, also not knowing how the game would be received. He knew there was hype around it. “Still, there was a big unknown, and that always causes some stress. I had poured my heart and soul into Stardew Valley for four-and-a-half years, in private. For that to suddenly be revealed to the world was both exciting and terrifying.”

Stardew Valley became an indie phenomenon, but that kind of success comes with its own burdens.

Villa Gorilla's Andersson felt more confident. The rigours of testing, along with all his experience as a dev at Starbreeze made him feel somewhat confident that Yoku’s Island Express was a good game. “But you can never be certain. You don’t necessarily know what your game is.” It’s hard to see a project when you’re so close it for so long; he knew that he’d have to wait until the reviews before he’d get a coherent outsider's view. To take their minds off it, the team planned a tiki-themed release party. “That was an interesting experience, reading the first reviews at the party. A little risky!”

Whenever you work very intensely with something and then suddenly you re done, there s an emptiness, a hole; there s nothing driving you any more... A lot of people just stay in bed for a couple of weeks.

Jens Andersson

For Ben Porter, MoonQuest’s launch on a Saturday morning was all about going through a checklist: unlocking the website, making the trailer public, unlocking the game on itch.io and the Humble Store for his Kickstarter backers, and pressing the big ’Release Game’ button in Steam. He then started promoting the game on Twitter and Facebook, posted an update to backers, sent emails to gaming sites, contacted friends. “And on and on. It was a pretty intense few days.” He was worried that the game wouldn’t technically work, and knew that it couldn’t on some PCs, especially those without dedicated graphics cards.

The Owlboy team were at Anderson’s house, having scrambled to fix some final issues. “At some point, with great hesitation, we announced it was time to hit the launch button. We did, and you would think this would be the pivotal moment.” In fact, the moment fell flat, since they couldn’t check that it was live and functional, so they had to dig out an old laptop and install Steam on it. “We stood there for 20 minutes of absolute agony before we finally knew if the game we had spent a decade on was live and working. The second the intro screen booted up the entirety of the team broke down in tears at the same time.”

Life in the aftermath

“I got drunker than I’ve ever been in my life because I was so anxious,” says Sandberg of the hours after Iconoclasts released. He watched one streamer get a soft-lock—a crash—and quit. “That stuck with me for many days.” He fixed the bug instantly; it was to do with pressing certain buttons during a cutscene, an action so esoteric that it didn’t come up in testing. “But that’s what happens. And three months later I was in hospital.”

Sandberg’s anxiety had continued after launch. He worried about his financial security and felt like he’d wasted the last 10 years of his life. Every time he saw a bug he felt like he’d failed. Every time he read criticism of Iconoclasts he’d fall into a hole for an hour. These stresses combined with long-standing personal issues lead to a breakdown. Sandberg admitted himself to a psychiatric ward. He only stayed three nights, but came out having learned his breakdown was exacerbated by his social isolation during development. 

“The way I made the game, I sat by myself thinking it’s what I had to do and nothing else, and this is where I am now,” Sandberg says. It’s taken him a long time to get back to work, porting Iconoclasts to Switch, and he's still finding it tough. But the experience has taught him an important lesson: “Don’t squander your close friends. The most important thing is to be able to walk away, to take weekends. I didn’t do any of that.”

Despite its colorful pixel art, Iconoclasts deals with some dark themes.

“Whenever you work very intensely with something and then suddenly you’re done, there’s an emptiness, a hole; there’s nothing driving you any more,” says Villa Gorilla’s Andersson. He says that during development he’d look forward to the end, playing more games, having a drink, sleeping in. “But more often than that you wake up feeling depressed. A lot of people just stay in bed for a couple of weeks.”  

The most intense feeling of relief, pride and happiness I think I ve ever felt in unison. It quickly gets replaced by feelings of doubt.

Simon Stafsnes Andersen

Villa Gorilla also had to say goodbye to a couple of developers who were hired just for Yoku’s Island Express. “It feels so sad to break up something that was working so efficiently, but you can’t stay in that super-productive mode forever. You sort of wish you could because you could put out more games!” Andersson has experienced this lull several times. “Perhaps you have to go through this hump to become inspired and creative again,” he wonders. “I just know it’s no fun. It’s terrible.”

Simon Stafsnes Andersen felt many emotions at Owlboy’s release. “The most intense feeling of relief, pride and happiness I think I’ve ever felt in unison. But only for a brief while. It quickly gets replaced by feelings of doubt. What happens now that people are playing it? Are there negative reviews? How is our community doing? Did someone discover a bug? What do we do now in terms of promotion? It turns out the feelings you have before the launch never really go away.”

He and the studio failed to hold a party; Anderson instead found himself feeling dread, the team swept into dealing with bug reports and watching streams for issues. And rather than working on the dozens of projects he foresaw himself launching into once Owlboy was done, he instead found himself having to take time off. “The unexpected element was honestly the exhaustion. We just couldn’t bring ourselves to start something immediately. I tried a number of times and eventually had to admit I just needed to get away from the office for a while to recharge. It’s a strange moment when you realise that you’re not actually a machine and it’s possible to do human things again.”

After many years of development, Porter still isn't finished with MoonQuest.

For Porter, MoonQuest’s Early Access release was just the start of the road to full launch. Happily, it came with the relief that it generated enough sales for him to keep working. “I also think my emotions are spread over the lifetime of the project, so I might feel a little happiness and anxiety every day, but I don’t think there’ll ever be a day where I feel super happy to have finished the game. Right now I’m excited to get straight back into development. ” 

And that means browsing the Steam forums for news of major issues and feature requests. “I’ve avoided the Steam reviews for now, but I see the game has a positive rating, which I’m happy with,” he says. After all, with release comes paying customers. Porter had already grappled with the idea of people giving him money for his work during MoonQuest’s Kickstarter campaign. “I felt really strange about it,“ he says. “I felt really indebted to all the backers, and this led to the game being delayed as I felt they deserved something better.”

For Barone, releasing Stardew Valley was a time of relief and pride. “I had been telling friends and family about this game I was making for five years, and I think many people were wondering if I’d ever finish it. The feeling of pride was more a sense of accomplishment that I was able to complete this gargantuan task.”

But it was strange to know it was out there. “I imagine it would be like raising a child and then seeing them leave your house for good. You’re still the parent, but they have a distinct life of their own now.”

After the launch, his routine changed; he spent more time on social media, dealt with technical issues and did interviews, responding to the game’s surge in popularity. It was a good problem to have, but after a month he had to take time off. With its success came a sense of responsibility, and with that, stress.

“But after a while, you acclimate to whatever your new situation is," Barone says. "That’s where I’m at now. I feel about the same as I always have, maybe a little more confident in myself. I’m happy that so many people love Stardew Valley, and that I now have the ability to continue doing what I love.”

Stardew Valley

In light of its multiplayer update last week, I had a rummage around in Stardew Valley's cabbage patch of player-made mods. My favourite find is Katekatpixels' ambitious Portrait Overhauls mod—which reworks all of the farming sim's characters, including their expressions and reactions. 

Take Pelican Town resident Emily, for example, who Katekatpixels has revamped here:

Likewise, here's Emily's new portfolio of gawks and glares:

Katekatpixels outlines more reworks on this Tumblr blog, and promises updates in the coming weeks and months on the project's Nexus Mods page. 

There, they say: "Portrait overhaul including all characters and all expressions/reactions. This was my first time creating pixel art! All interpretations of the characters are my own and originally I just developed this mod for my own game, but eventually thought I might as well share."

Coming soon, says Katekatpixels, are Mustachio'd Harvey, Leah "with smaller hair", Slimmer Abby, and Redheaded Maru. Volumised hair Haley—"I tried to capture a bit of her sass"—is another belter:

More information on Katekatpixels' Stardew Valley Portrait Overhauls mod lives on its Nexus Mods page.

Stardew Valley - contact@rockpapershotgun.com (Alice O'Connor)

Cutesy farm life sim-o-RPG Stardew Valley today added cooperative multiplayer in a free update, letting farmers invite several of their pals to help out around the homestead. Multiplayer entered opt-in public beta testing at the end of April, and now it’s finally ready to launch. Today’s update, version 1.3, also brings new things for all farmers to enjoy, whether they play with farmfriends or solo. Look forward to a new winter festival, new items, new character events, the option to respec skills, new monsters, and–most important of all–hats for horses.

(more…)

Stardew Valley

Stardew Valley's multiplayer is live now on PC. 

First announced back in 2016, Concerned Ape's farm 'em up supports four player co-op that's said to be "nearly identical to singleplayer", but with three pals. In MP, you'll work towards a common goal. Any singleplayer game can be converted by having Robin build one or more cabins on your farm, too. 

As you might expect, one player serves as the host and can invite three other bodies to their game—which can now be accessed via a 'co-op' button on the title screen. In turn, this activates the new co-op menu. 

From here you can choose to: host a new game, re-host an existing game, join a new farm, re-join a farm, join a LAN game, and enter an invite code to join a game (the latter of which allows for Steam and GOG crossplay).

More on all of that can be found in update 1.3's patch notes. There, you'll find all that's new in Stardew beyond multiplayer support—such as travelling festivals, new character events, new garden pots, and the ability to change professions among other things. 

As an ex-barman, ex-plumber, ex-labourer, and, wouldn't you believe it, an ex-farm assistant, I like the sound of that last one. 

Stardew Valley - ConcernedApe
 This update is a significant change for Stardew Valley... Not only does it include a good amount of new content (new items, events, etc.), but it also includes the long-awaited addition of co-op multiplayer!

New Features:
 
A traveling festival comes to town

For three days in winter, a traveling festival visits Pelican Town. Unlike a normal festival, farmers can come and go as they please, and the location isn't "locked out" at any point (there's no setup). Pelican Town is different for a few days, and most of the townspeople's schedules change to reflect that. The festival offers farmers a once-a-year chance to acquire unique items, purchase an original work of art from the famous Lupini, enjoy some live entertainment, and more....



A winter mystery... and a new collection type

In winter, farmers might encounter a strange event... which will ultimately grant them the ability to start a new, "secret" type of collection. This new ability will surely result in unusual new adventures and greater knowledge...



Help someone out in town...

Farmers who have made great progress for themselves will have the opportunity to help someone in a significant way...

New Character Events

There are new character events, some of which grant you permanent bonuses. There are also a couple of "secret" events that you'll only encounter if certain conditions are met.



Skull Cavern Changes
  • 3 new monster types added (more powerful versions of familiar enemies)
  • "Treasure Rooms" added (rare chance of finding a room with a chest containing useful items... including two that can't be found any other way)
  • A new reason to attempt a deep dive...
Ability to change professions

If you regret your choice of profession, or simply want to try out something new, there is now a way to change your professions. It comes with a price, however...



Signs

Signs are craftable items which are available to you from the very beginning of the game. Any item in Stardew Valley can be "clicked" onto the sign, and it will display that item (the item won't be consumed).



Decorations

A variety of new outdoor decorations have been added, including many that are "seasonal", meaning that their appearance changes with each season. Multiplayer makes decorating even more fun.



Auto-Grabber

An expensive item that can be placed in a barn and automatically harvests milk and wool from the animals each morning.

Garden Pots

Garden pots allow you to grow any crop indoors year-round. Think of them like one-tile greenhouses. When placed outside, however, they only grow crops that are in-season.



New Crop

There is a new crop that only grows indoors.

Fireplaces are now furniture

This means you can move your fireplace around, and also buy a couple of different kinds of fireplaces.

Hats on horses

You can now put hats on your horse. Enjoy... (this was actually an original intended feature in Stardew Valley two years ago, but I never finished it and had completely forgotten about it. Now it's finally finished)



 

Now, a more in-depth look at how multiplayer works...

Stardew Valley now supports up to 4 player co-op. Co-op is nearly identical to single-player, but with 1-3 other friends playing together with you to achieve a common goal. Any single player game can be "converted" to a co-op game by having Robin build one or more cabins on your farm.

One player serves as the host, and the other 1-3 players connect to the host in order to play. Therefore, the host must be in-game at all times when the group wants to play.

The new update adds a Co-op button to the title screen. Clicking the button will bring you to the co-op menu, from which you can:
  • Host a new co-op game
  • Re-host an existing co-op game
  • Join a new farm (provided that any of your friends are hosting and have a cabin available for you)
  • Re-join a farm (provided that the host is in-game)
  • Join a LAN game (by entering the IP address of the host)
  • Enter an invite code (generated by the host) to join a game (this allows for Steam/GOG crossplay)
When hosting a new game, you'll have some new options available to you:
  • "Starting Cabins" gives you the choice to start a new game with 1-3 cabins pre-positioned on the farm. If you decide to go this route, you'll have two "Cabin Layouts" to choose from: "Nearby", which places the cabins close to one another, encouraging a communal farming style, and "Separate", which places the cabins far apart and allows for more independence.

Alternatively, you can start with no pre-positioned cabins and instead build them yourself (via Robin).


  • "Profit Margin" adjusts the profit margin of goods that you sell. You can choose between "Normal" (the original Stardew Valley amount), "75%", "50%", and "25%". This is, in effect, a way to increase the difficulty of the game. For larger groups of experienced players, it might be desired. However, keep in mind that there already is some "scaling" of difficulty built into the game, since each player will need to upgrade their own tools, upgrade their own houses, buy bigger packs, etc.


In co-op, all players share the same pool of money, and are working together on the same farm. The state of the game world, including the main storyline, is shared between all players. However, each player has their own private inventory,  skills, achievements, collections, relationships, quests, and crafting/cooking recipes.

When it's time to go to bed, all players must enter their beds. Only then will the day end.

Players can marry each other by crafting a "wedding ring" (An old Zuzu City tradition), and offering it to another player. If the other player accepts the ring, the couple is now engaged.

The chat box allows you to communicate with each other... with the help of nearly 200 custom Stardew Valley emojis!



 
Here's a trailer:

https://youtu.be/-vlBE3vSfNU

 
I hope you enjoy the new update!


-Ape
Stardew Valley - contact@rockpapershotgun.com (Dominic Tarason)

You’ll be able to play relaxing farm life sim Stardew Valley with up to three friends this August 1st. The long-awaited multiplayer mode has been available as an opt-in open beta since late April, but the developers reckon it’s finally ready for prime-time.

The multiplayer update includes some new additions to the world, online or off, including new quests, heart events and (most importantly) hats for horses, as detailed in the (tentative) patch notes here. Below, a trailer giving us a peek at what communal farming looks like in action.

(more…)

Stardew Valley

The moment we have all been waiting for is finally (almost) upon us: Creator Eric Barone, aka ConcernedApe, announced today that the official Stardew Valley multiplayer update will be out on August 1.   

Barone said that the release version of the update won't feature any "significant changes" from the beta that's currently underway. "Just a few last-minute bug fixes," he tweeted. He also clarified that split-screen or couch co-op will not be supported. 

If you don't want to wait for those last-minute tweaks and fixes before jumping into the Stardew multiplayer (but for some reason haven't done it already), instructions for opting in to the ongoing beta are available on Steam. Once you've got that done, you might as well go whole-hog and dive into Community Farm, a 24,000-tile map with support for ten virtual farmers at once—Stardew Valley's native multiplayer only supports four. 

Stardew Valley

There's finally a release date - 1st August - for Stardew Valley's big multiplayer update, which has been in public beta testing now for several months.

This is just for Stardew Valley's PC version, however. The multiplayer update will launch at a later time on Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4 and Xbox One (and not at all on PlayStation Vita).

Here's a new trailer:

Read more…

Stardew Valley

Technically, Stardew Valley multiplayer was designed for four players, but technicalities have never stopped modders before and they're sure as hell not going to slow their roll for Stardew Valley, of all games. Case in point: Community Farm, a content pack by modder SgtPickles which comes fully loaded with a massive 156x156 map and support for 10-person multiplayer. 

Not long after Stardew Valley multiplayer came out, modders worked out how to remove the player cap so all your friends (and all their friends) can play on one farm, but that still left the issue of building everyone a cabin without turning your farm into a cramped neighborhood. I'm not sure if Community Farm is compatible with the Unlimited Players mod, but I dearly hope it is, because it could solve that problem by giving everyone some wiggle room. In any case, it's a great map for large friend groups who want to farm together. Have a look at the whole, massive thing: 

You and all your friends will need the Stardew Valley modding API (SMAPI) and the map pack MTN (More Than Necessary) to get Community Farm working. Visit its Nexus Mods page for download and installation instructions. 

...

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