Who made Stardew Valley? With a game that amazing and beloved, it had to have been a huge team effort, right? With dozens of people working around the clock to make it work?
Not exactly. Stardew Valley is the brainchild of Eric Barone, better known by his alias ConcernedApe. It took him four and a half years to complete and was released on February 26th, 2016. Eric was responsible for all of the coding, designs, writing, and music in Stardew Valley. Here are 5 things you need to know about the man behind the game.
1. Barone spent most of his life in Washington state
Eric Barone was born on December 3, 1987 in Los Angeles, but soon after his family moved to a suburb of Seattle. He hasn’t strayed far, living in and around this area ever since. As a young adult trying to make it, he held a few jobs unrelated to video games. Some of these include ushering at a Paramount Pictures movie theatre in Seattle, as well as working in a local Auntie Anne’s pretzel shop. At the latter of these two jobs, he met his longtime partner, Amber.
2. He was heavily inspired by Harvest Moon
As a child of the 90s, Barone played plenty of Chrono Trigger and Final Fantasy on the Super Nintendo Entertainment System. But when he first played Harvest Moon, the Japanese farming sim first released in 1996, he fell in love with the relaxing atmosphere that favored domesticity over violence. He told GQ,
“I liked that you could have relationships with the townsfolk, and even get married and start a family. That was something you couldn’t do in most games I played as a kid, and it made the experience much more personal. That you were living in a world that felt alive, time moved forward with or without your input… It was easy to imagine that the world was very much alive.”Eric Barone, GQ
Barone’s love of Harvest Moon eventually became a huge inspiration for the creation of Stardew Valley.
3. Before he Made Stardew Valley, Barone started out as a musician
In his late teens, Barone and his friend were in an “experimental electronic-pop duo called 17 Colorful Feathers.” Much of their music (including eleven separate albums) is available on Bandcamp. Their sound is reminiscent of the Gorillaz and the Presidents of the United States, with a little bit of Weezer thrown in. Barone also told a fan that he threw in a few references to his band in Stardew. This is particularly apparent when you compare the cover art for the album Modern to the sprite for the Bear who asks for “may-pal serrup” in Secret Note #23.
4. He Made a Few Other Games Before Stardew Valley
Barone didn’t have strong ambitions of being a game developer as a child, though he dabbled in a little computer science and programming. He spoke of making simple little Choose Your Own Adventure games. He frequently included a simple video game along with 17 Colorful Feathers album releases. One of these games is called 17CF Quest, inspired by point-and-click adventure games such as The Curse of Monkey Island or King’s Quest. Want to try the early ConcernedApe game for yourself? Great news! You can still download and play it here.
5. Stardew initially started as a way for him to practice coding
Barone graduated from the University of Washington Tacoma in 2011 with a degree in computer science. However, he struggled to find work after graduating and decided to teach himself how to code, specifically programming video games, as a way to make him more hirable. Stardew Valley began merely as a way for him to practice this new skill.
After four and half years, endless 12-hour days, and a little bit of strain on his personal relationships, Barone finally finished Stardew Valley in 2016. Originally published by the developer Chucklefish, Stardew is now published independently by Barone under his alias ConcernedApe on all platforms.
6. Barone was hesitant to bring on any collaborators at first
Ever the perfectionist, Barone hated asking for help, even from his publishers at Chucklefish. He eventually brought on playtesters named Bexy, Siri, and Prens, all of whom quickly accrued more than 500 hours in the game.
Since the release of version 1.3 in 2018, ConcernedApe has increased his team. Barone was particularly hesitant to code multiplayer, so for that monumental task, he brought on Tom Coxon. Coxon is also known for his work on the action-adventure RPG called Lenna’s Inception, as well as the open-world RPG Cassette Beasts.
For the mobile ports, Barone reached out to The Secret Police who also created the mobile game Dragon’s Watch. Sickhead Games worked on the console port, as they also had experience porting Slay the Spire, Celeste, and Octodad, just to name a few.
Many fans are extremely excited for the 1.5 update, which brought a ton of new content, to come to mobile. ConcernedApe and The Secret Police are working diligently on this task, and hope it will be done by the end of 2022.
7. Barone frequently interacts with Stardew Valley fans in online spaces
While he might be somewhat protective of his personal privacy, Barone is quite open about his video game-making process. He’s done several “Ask Me Anythings” on Reddit, known colloquially as “AMAs.” Through these, he has revealed that his favorite Stardew Valley season is summer, his least favorite part of the process was programming, and he has a particular fondness for Robin and Mayor Lewis. He remains quiet, however, on the “correct” pronunciation of Mr. Q, as well as who his favorite marriage candidate is.
Barone has also done several collaborations with the Stardew Valley YouTuber UnsurpassableZ. In September of 2021, the two of them devised a Stardew Valley tournament with a $40,000 prize. The tournament consisted of four four-person teams called Sandy’s Candies, Pierree’s Cherries, Krobus’ Crocuses, and Pam’s Yams. The winning team, Sandy’s Candies, was made up of Lilsimsie, brandiganBTW, Fuzzireno, and TheHaboo.
8. ConcernedApe has a new game coming out
In 2020 he announced that he’s working on several other projects, including at least two games set in the Stardew Valley universe. He has also announced his newest game, Haunted Chocolatier, in which the player runs a chocolate shop staffed by ghosts. While visually very similar to Stardew Valley, Barone says that all of the coding for this new game was done from scratch. In particular, he wants Haunted Chocolatier to have “a greater focus on combat” than Stardew does.
So far, there is no release date for Haunted Chocolatier.