How to play Stardew Valley multiplayer

Two years after Stardew Valley developer ConcernedApe listed multiplayer as one of the upcoming features in the game, an open beta is finally blooming. Loading the version of the game that allows for co-op is easy enough and available through both Steam and GOG’s client. Here’s everything you need to know to get in, get started with Stardew Valley multiplayer, and make the most of your cooperative farming space.

Stardew Valley multiplayer: Getting in

The Stardew Valley developer blog gives a detailed explanation with screenshots on loading the beta version of Stardew v1.3. The short version is that you’ll right-click Stardew in your Steam library and select Properties. Under the Betas tab, change the drop-down option to "beta-Help test new updates before they go live!" and enter the access code "jumpingjunimos".

You can revert back to the stable version of the game by returning the drop down menu to "none." GOG’s option to opt-in to game betas is similar, and covered in this GOG support article.

Steam will then download the beta version which you can access as normal through your game library. A word of warning: be sure to either back up your game saves manually or by using Steam’s built-in backup function under Properties>Local Files>Backup Game Files. Although Stardew v1.3 is near at hand, this is still a version in progress and save corruption is always possible. 

If you want to revert to the stable Stardew version, use the files you backed up rather than loading a save that was opened in v1.3 in any earlier version of the game. You’ll also want to uninstall any mods you were using with a previous version of the game, bearing in mind that any saves relying on those mods will likely be unusable in v1.3 for now.

Stardew Valley multiplayer: Getting started

Stardew’s multiplayer does not support split screen co-op, so make sure whoever you plan to play with has their own copy of the game and has opted into the beta through their Steam or GOG client. Co-op relies on the new farm building called a cabin. You must have cabins on your farm for each friend you plan to invite, maximum being three. Luckily, each cabin is relatively cheap, requiring only 100 gold and 10 stones for the most basic structure. You can either begin a new farm with cabins already pre-built for you or load an existing save into singleplayer to commission a cabin from Robin the carpenter before opening the same save in co-op.

Now that you have a farm and at least one cabin to shove your friend in, start your game through the co-op button on the main screen and scroll near the bottom of Stardew’s options menu. You can invite a friend via LAN, by reading off your invite code for them to enter, or in Steam by right-clicking their name in your friend list and selecting "Invite to game." You can play with friends on either Steam or GOG by using the invite codes. Saves are stored on the host player’s machine, meaning others cannot play after the host leaves the game but the host player can choose to play alone without friends who had previously helped in the save. 

Stardew Valley multiplayer: Getting acquainted

The most important things to remember in co-op Stardew are what you share with your friends and what you don’t share. These things remain separate 

  • Skill levels
  • Inventory
  • Relationships (meaning if your real life significant other, like mine, still thinks they’re going to woo Jodi away from her husband you can pursue your own successful relationship while they bark up that tree).

What you do share:

  • Farm space
  • Gold
  • Most importantly, your time

It makes complete sense that in a shared game the clock would march on regardless of who happens to be organizing their inventory or perusing Pierre’s store. What I forgot is just how much time I spent doing those things while playing alone. I may well have spent equally as much of my days in some kind of menu, causing the game’s clock to pause, as I did actually running about. In co-op, the clock stops for no farmhand and the days fly by at a breakneck pace. 

The sun is always setting hours before I feel like I’ve gotten done what I had hoped to accomplish (too realistic, right?) and without my partner and I ever managing to communicate what we’d be working on. The pressure to perform quickly isn’t a defect with the co-op design, but it’s a new way of thinking about playing that I had to consciously adjust to. If you absolutely must pause, the host player can press the default key T to open the text chat window and type "/pause" to force freeze the game.

Inevitably, a friend will log off with something in their inventory that you needed. You can pilfer what they held out on you by checking what looks like a dresser inside their cabin. If you choose to invite friends to one of your existing saves, they will create a new character and begin with a basic set of tools, no skill levels, and only the starting amount of daily energy. My partner was forced to dig through my abandoned clothes and weapons to find hand-me-downs that would let him dive into the lowest levels of the mines, while also finding that he didn’t have the energy to water all the crops on my farm. 

Apart from time constraints, a few other oddities are worth noting. While in co-op mode, you will not be able to move or demolish your farm buildings from Robin’s store. Presumably this could create conflicts if your friends are inside of a building you demolish or are standing where you hope to move one. For a constant organizer like me, kicking my partner out so I could edit our farm’s arrangement in singleplayer every so often is not ideal. You may also notice that you can sleep in your friend’s bed, either together in the same bed or simply by going home to each other’s cabins at the end of the day. It doesn’t affect the game at all that we could tell, just a funny thing my partner and I noticed because we wanted to see if it was possible. 

My first several hours in Stardew’s co-op beta were a constant litany of "It’s 11pm already?!" and "Wow, what did you just buy?", but the growing pains that came with readjusting our play style have been worth it. Stardew Valley’s multiplayer mode has been several years in the making by now, but the time has been clearly well-spent given that my time playing went so smoothly.