See what Stardew Valley looked like four years before it was finished

To mark the one-year anniversary of his life-in-the-countryside hit Stardew Valley, creator Eric Barone posted some "really old screenshots" of the game that he's kept lying around on his PC, and reflected on life before and after its release. "In some ways, it’s hard to believe that an entire year has already gone by since launch," he wrote. "Yet, at the same time, it’s been the longest year of my life." 

The reason, he explained, is that finally finishing and releasing Stardew Valley did not afford him the opportunity to slow down. If anything, it sounds like it was entirely the opposite. In the year since it came out, he has:

  • Released many patches to fix bugs and tweak gameplay
  • Done dozens of interviews
  • Answered thousands of messages/emails
  • Provided personal troubleshooting and technical support
  • Made many Business/Merchandise deals
  • Developed and released the 1.1 update
  • Exhibited at PAX and met many fans
  • Met Mr. Yasuhiro Wada, the creator of Harvest Moon
  • Flew to the UK to visit Chucklefish and collect an industry award
  • Built a decent computer and got a nice big desk (No more HP Pavilion propped on a Wii U box)
  • Worked with Chucklefish to make the console ports and localizations happen

"Considering that I had spent the previous 4-5 years in my own little bubble, working alone, doing essentially the same thing every day… and now suddenly to be thrust into the limelight… it was quite the change!" Barone wrote. "I’m happy about it, of course. I mean… it is a weird feeling, at first, to have something that once seemed so distant, so impossible… some pipe-dream that you fantasized about in the dead of night… actually come true. It takes some getting used to, and that’s part of what this last year has been for me."

The screens he posted date from 2012, when Stardew Valley was still called Sprout Valley and set in a smaller and less well-rounded countryside locale. But the "bones" of the game, as he put it, "were pretty much there" even all those years ago. So what took so long to get it finished? "Polishing" is the short explanation, although Barone's definition of the term is a little different than mine.

"I ended up re-doing nearly all the art several times. I redid the vast majority of the soundtrack. I expanded the NPCs way beyond anything you’d see in the 2012 version. I made the map way bigger and more detailed. I added JojaMart and the Community Center. I added tons of items. I totally changed the crafting system and the mines," he wrote. "I drew every single NPC with 4 different expressions, scanned them in, colored them… and then scrapped all of it. Then I went through probably 6 or 7 iterations of pixel art portraits before landing on the final ones."

It's a ridiculous amount of work, especially for just one guy, but you can't argue with the results, and it's great that he's been able to build Stardew Valley into such a success. (And build himself a decent PC, too.) Feast your eyes on a few more early-days Stardew (Sprout) Valley screens below.