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Ever since Stardew Valley captured our hearts two years ago, fans have been clamoring for one new feature above all others: multiplayer.
But the pixelated farming sim was never designed as a multiplayer game. It took a dedicated team from indie publisher Chucklefish over a year to build the networking code, but the results are stunning.
Currently multiplayer is only available on the PC version of Stardew Valley in a beta stage. Enabling the beta is incredibly simple thanks to Steam and GOG Galaxy’s built-in beta features. Publisher Chucklefish has outlined the specific steps for hosting and joining games.
Once the beta patch is applied, it’s a simple as one player hosting a co-op match and the others joining. You can continue your same games and build cabins for joining players, or simply start a a fresh farm with those cabins already built.
Joining a co-op game feels a bit like being a sidekick in another person’s story. The host player gets the house while joining players are regulated to smaller cabins away from the mailbox and roads (although the inside of the house and cabin are about the same).
Everyone gets their own starting tools, energy bar, and freedom to tackle whatever they wish. Having multiple farmers running around tackling different projects opens up a whole new world of speedy efficiency.
One player can explore deep into the mines, upgrading their pickaxe and returning with artifacts and ore. Another can make loads of money improving their fishing skills, while one person keeps track of crop rotation and watering needs.
Share the Wealth
Players still have to work together for one crucial reason: everyone shares the same chunk of money. If someone upgrades their pickaxe, you may not have enough cash to buy seeds at the start of the next month. One player may be gathering wood to buy a chicken coop, but another grabs 300 wood from the storage chest to repair the bridge at the beach.
Coordination between players becomes key. An unruly player could easily tank the entire farm, much the same way they can destroy your hard-earned work in Minecraft or Terraria. That being said, the community around Stardew Valley seems genuinely sweet and earnest.
If playing with friends and family and those who have a shared goal of success, Stardew Valley is absolutely magical. Sharing money becomes a wonderful exercise in mutual responsibility and future planning. Can we splurge on a new fishing pole right now? Do we have enough cash to get all our crops started next month? Are you going to spend all day fishing again? Yes, yes I am.
The shared money pool also acts as an interesting teaching tool for shared bank accounts with couples. Just as in real life, couples need to maintain an open, honest dialogue when it comes to spending and saving money. Making big purchases without consulting your co-op partners could result in hurt feelings, unfinished projects, and a disastrous experience.
Having multiplayer characters with a shared money pool also provides an interesting quirk to the game’s balance. Previously the game was balanced by having tons of stuff to do each day, but with a limited pool of time and energy. Time remains a factor but multiple players means multiple energy bars worth of tasks that can be accomplished per day. This seems like a huge advantage until you realize you also have that many more tools to upgrade in the early game.
Although still technically in beta, I’ve found multiplayer to be extremely stable, with only a few minor hiccups and stutters. The biggest issue is that one-time rewards, like the chests every five levels of the mines, are only given to the person who opens them. Already Chucklefish has responded, and they’re fixing it so everyone gets a chance at the unique loot.
When Stardew Valley first launched my spouse and I sunk dozens of hours into it. We played our own separate games but loved updating each other on how we were building our farms, and any neat little tips and tricks we found. It’s one of the few games she has logged more hours that I did, and I practically play games for a living.
The 1.3 multiplayer update has rekindled our mutual enjoyment of the charming indie game. I cannot thank the designers enough for pledging to add a highly requested yet significantly challenging feature, and following through so successfully.
Stardew Valley’s multiplayer is available via beta on PC. The 1.3 update is coming next to Switch, followed by PlayStation 4 and Xbox One.