Game Analysis: Stardew Valley


My first farm. 


Stardew Valley is a critically-acclaimed RPG farming simulator that avoids being a repetition, as the players follow the self-made routine they set for themselves.

Game Play Analysis

Formal Elements

The Basics


Name of the game Stardew Valley
The platform Pretty much everywhere from Android to Playstation VITA. (I will be talking about PC, though.)
Time played (should be at least 30 minutes) 107 hours
If you could work on this game (change it), what would you change and why? ‘Guides’ for new players. Of course, the game can be enjoyed without looking everything up, but it’s a sucky feeling to realize that you didn’t prepare for what the game offers later (because, well, you don’t, as a new player).

This may not be as much of a problem as I make it out to be, however, since most players buy Stardew Valley to play with their friends than to play alone (and their friends generally know what to do around the farm).


How many players are supported? A single-player version, and a multiplayer version (4 max, without modding). Through modding, however, this can be expanded as much as possible (as much as the host’s PC allows)
Does it need to be an exact number? no
How does this affect play? Multiplayer games have the cooperation element. individual save files can be pre-setted to be more multiplayer-oriented (shared vs. individual banks, larger maps, 4 individual corners of the maps)
Some types of player frameworks:

  • Single Player – like Solitare.
  • Head-to-head – 1 vs. 1, Chess.
  • PvE – Player vs. Environment, or multiple players vs. the game. Common in MMOs like World of Warcraft.
  • One against Many – Single-player vs. multiple (obvy).
  • Free-for-all – Every man for himself (1 vs. 1 vs. 1 vs. 1..). Most common for multiplayer games, from Monopoly to Modern Warfare.
  • Individuals Against the System – Like Blackjack, where the Dealer is playing against multiple players, but those players have no effect on each other.
  • Team Competition – Multiple vs. multiple, i.e. sports.
  • Predator-prey – Players form a circle and everyone’s goal is to attack the player on their left and defend themselves from the player on their right.
  • Five-pointed Star – Eliminate both players who are not on either side of you.


What are the players trying to do? Build- developing your farm, character, wealth, in the direction the player wants.
Some common objectives include:

  • Capture/Destroy – Eliminate all your opponents pieces (Chess).
  • Territorial Acquisition – Control as much territory as you can, not necessarily harming other players (RISK).
  • Collection – Collect a certain number of objects throughout the game (Pokemon).
  • Solve – Solve a puzzle or crime (Clue).
  • Chase/race/escape – Anything where you are running towards or away from something (playground game Tag).
  • Spatial Alignment – Anything involving the positioning of elements (Tetris or Tic-Tac-Toe or that game at Cracker Barrel).
  • Build – Advance your characters or build your resources to a certain point (The Sims).
  • Negation of another goal – The game ends if you perform an act that is forbidden by the rules (Jenga or Twister).


There are three categories of (what the book Rules of Play calls) operational rules:

  • Setup – the things you do at the beginning of a game.
  • Progression of Play – what happens during the game.
  • Resolution – How an outcome is determined based on the game state.


What controls are used? WASD for movement,

M1 to take actions

1-0 for using certain equipment/tools

E for inventory (TAB for shifting through the 3 bars of inventory slot)

Was there a clear introductory tutorial? No
Were they easy to understand or did you find yourself spamming the controller? PC control is mostly intuitive, but the individual components like the orientation of the character on M1 were pretty awkward for me to learn.

Resources & Resource Management

What kinds of resources do players control? Money (gold), Energy, Health
How are they maintained during play? GUI.

Money- top right

Energy- bottom right, a green bar

Health- bottom right, next to energy, a red bar (only shows up when the player is in the mines(PvE area), or has critically low health)

What is their role? money limits the things you can buy, as late-game items cost significantly more money.

Energy and health limit the player’s actions and challenges them to spend their day wisely.

A resource is everything under the control of a single player. Could be the money in Monopoly or health in WoW. Other examples are:

  • Territory in RISK The number of questions remaining in 20 Questions Objects picked up during videogames (guns, health packs, etc.)
  • Time (game time, real-time, or both)
  • Known information (like suspects in Clue)

Game State

How much information in the game state is visible to the player? Time, date, season (it rotates out what’s available), year (year 2 and 3 unlocks more items)

crop status, weather, NPC reactions/movements

A snapshot of the game at a single point is the game state. The resources you have, the un-owned properties in Monopoly, your opponent’s Archery skill all count towards the game state. Some example information structures are:

  • Total Information – Nothing is hidden, like Chess.
  • Info per player – Your hand of cards is only visible to you.
  • One player has privileged info – Like a Dungeon Master.
  • The game hides info from all players – Like Clue, where no one knows the victory condition.
  • Fog of War – In video games, where certain sections of the map are concealed if you do not have a unit in sight range of that area. You also cannot see other players’ screens, so each player is unaware of the other’s information.


In what order do players take their actions? real-time (single-player or multiplayer)
How does play flow from one action to another? early in the day would be used for tending the crops, after that maybe talking to the NPCs, and fishing late at night (example)

alternatively, players can plan as much as they want and set aside specific days to do certain activities.

Some structures include:

  • Turn-based – Standard board game technique.
  • Turn-based with simultaneous play – where everyone takes their turn at the same time (like writing something down or putting a card down in War).
  • Real-time – Actions happen as fast as players can make them. Action-based video games.
  • Turn-based and time limits – You have this long to take your turn.

Player Interaction

Some examples:

  • Direct Conflict – I attack you.
  • Negotiation – If you support me here, I’ll help you there.
  • Trading – I’ll give you this for that.
  • Information Sharing – If you go there, I’m warning you, a trap will go off.

Theme & Narrative

Does it have an actual story structure? Yes. The player moves to Pelican Town to escape their grueling day-to-day job, and shape a brand new country life for themselves.
Is it based on a historical event (or similar)? Not historical, but it is in the realm of realism.
Does the theme or narrative help you know how to play? roughly, but not quite. the tutorial sets up the story and also identifies who the mayor and the carpenter of the town are(who are significantly less important than, say, the shopkeeper or the blacksmith), and also teaches about the farming mechanic.
Does it have emotional impacts? The game is supposed to be a relaxing break from reality, in a world where the player is free to explore the new world given to them.

I really enjoy how the in-game main character decides to start a whole new life portrays the real-life player buying the game as a means of escapism.

Also, look for en media res (does it start in the middle of the game)? when the character faints (from either energy or health depletion), the character wakes up on his bed, with some items missing from his inventory (randomly). They’ll also be owed a sum of money(1,000 g maximum) to the villager doctor.

The Elements in Motion

How do the different elements interact? the player does things to complete their short-term or long-term goals.
What is the gameplay like? planting crops, watering crops, foraging, fishing, mining, combat in the mines, befriending the NPCs, feeding livestock and petting them, completing bundles(collecting sets of different items) to help revitalize the town
Is it effective? the game gives you things to do and also makes it part of your gameplay routine (for example, specifically harvesting tomatoes for a bundle)
Are there any points where the design choices break down? It can definitely get a little repetitive, so the game has measures to prevent it. Nothing has a ‘hard due-date’ set by the game itself.

Map design is a bit unintuitive, but there’s also uniqueness coming from the environment looking like a rural town.

Design Critique

Why did the designer make these particular choices? modernistic pixel art style with calming sound design.

as I mentioned before, Stardew Valley is a game grounded on escapism. players can hop on and immediately feel relaxed by the environment.

Why this set of resources? it feels as realistic as possible while being a doable workload for a single developer.

The ambient sound of the game is honestly the best. Some of the ambiances are bird wings flapping, squirrels squeaking, grass being rustled, and ocean waves. They make what Stardew Valley feels real.

What if they made different decisions? I personally like the pixelated, yet full-detailed art for the character portraits. Stardew Valley benefits from its light-but-not-pastel color scheme as well.
Does the design break down at any point? No.

Graphics & Sound

Does the game art pair well with the mechanics? Both are simple, so yes.
Did you find any bugs or glitches? Not myself, but there are exploits. The developer, ConcernedApe, is frequently addressing them through the updates.
What about sound? Amazingly beautiful. If you haven’t heard of them yet, please do so here, you won’t regret it!
Can you spot any technical shortcuts? None, that I know of.

Various Stages of the Game

To wrap up, some things to keep in mind (as if there aren’t enough already) as you play: Energy conservation is important, but also don’t keep all of your food for ‘later’.

There’s no ‘playing wrong’, but there are ways to optimize your play. It doesn’t matter though, there aren’t any consequences.

Don’t forget NPC hearts, and giving them gifts if you want to take their hand in marriage. They decrease over time if you don’t talk to them.

save some of your low-tier items (no stars) just in case an NPC wants them.

What challenges do you face, and how do you overcome them? Community center bundles require the player to collect multiple things throughout their gameplay to unlock some buildings and additional contents.

Other challenges are primarily created by the player based on the things they wish to accomplish.


Is the game fair? yes- it doesn’t bash the player for wanting to do things they want to do.
Is it replayable? Are there multiple paths to victory or optional rules that can change the experience? there are benefits to restarting in a new save, but most things will stay the same. A good replayability feature I can think of is different farm layouts and marriage options (6 bachelors and 6 bachlorettes)
What is the intended audience? casual RPG players who want a relaxing, farming simulator experience
What is the core, the one thing you do over and over, and is it fun? farming/fishing/foraging, the action itself is not but the accomplishment of the goal is fun.

This analysis form was adapted from



Mr. Le Duc’s Game Analysis Resources

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