By William Lemons
For the last several weeks I have been extremely engaged playing the game Stardew Valley. It is a farming/simulation game with some light combat and dating sim game elements as well. It’s also pretty much the only thing I’ve been willing to talk to other humans about, so I am hoping that writing about it will get some of this off my chest and I can stop bugging the hell out of everyone else.
I think I started playing this game a few days after Christmas. According to the stats in Steam, I have spent 260 hours playing so far (if it were a job I would qualify for full-time). But the time logged while the game is running doesn’t even tell the full story.
I am what gamers call a “min-maxer.” I love to dig into game systems and figure out how to squeeze the absolute most DPS, money, XP, etc. out of a game quickly and efficiently. I have played games where I probably spent just as much time poring over calculations and progression models as I have actually playing the game.
I was a big fan of the Harvest Moon series of games for this reason, and when I got my hands on Stardew Valley late last year, I found another great game to scratch my min-maxer itch. With all of the features this game has to offer, there are a lot of different numbers to crunch.
Crops have detailed profit margins to calculate. There’s the initial investment for seeds vs. the payoff when you sell them, combined with the profit/day based on the length of time each crop takes to grow. Add on to that the decision to use fertilizer that can improve the potential quality and sell price of harvests, or one that can make them grow faster.
Animal raising is a bit simpler to manage. Animals are long term investments, and while some clearly have higher profitability than others, I am also required by my completionist nature to raise a couple of each in order to have access to animal products for cooking recipes and crafting materials.
With all of the crops you harvest and animal products you collect, you can turn them around and process them into Artisan Goods, such as cheese and wine, which will make each product even MORE valuable. It is expensive to get started, but well worth it when you can afford to do so. By my second year in game, I was giving Starbucks a run for their money with my massive coffee empire.
I guess if doing math and creating massive, automated farm plots isn’t fun for you, there are other things to do in Stardew Valley. You can buy and craft furniture to decorate your homestead. There are plenty of NPCs you can talk to and make friends with, and even get married and raise children (I finally started talking to other characters after about a year in).
There are also mines where you can battle enemies and dig up precious metals and gems needed for crafting and construction. You can forage plants in the woods or fish in the lakes streams and ocean. You can even dig up rare minerals and artifacts and donate them to the local museum.
Even with all of the time I have invested, I still haven’t done everything yet. I have also been looking into mods for the game, so my next step may be to develop a few small mods I’ve been thinking about. So, sorry everyone, but I am probably going to keep talking about this game for the foreseeable future.