Living a Creative Life: Lessons From the Making of Stardew Valley

I recently read a story in Blood, Sweat, and Pixels about the making of Stardew Valley. Stardew Valley is a popular video game that was released in 2016.

What’s remarkable about the game is that it was developed by just one person. Eric Barone did the programming, arts, and sound by himself. It took him four and a half years to finish the game.

The game was a success. In six months, it had sold 1.5 million copies! Eric Barone, who was twenty-eight and decided to make the game because he couldn’t get a job, was now a multimillionaire. He had 12 million dollars in his bank account.

The story contains useful lessons on living a creative life. Here are the lessons I learned.

1. Believe in What You Do

Working by yourself on something for over four years is not easy. In Barone’s case, his close friends and family kept asking him when the game would be released. He was burned out several times. Worse, the game made absolutely zero during that time.

But he kept going despite these. Why? How could that happen?

Well, the answer is that he believed in what he did. The game was inspired by Harvest Moon, a game he loved to play, and he believed that people would love to play a modern version of the game. This belief kept him going.

2. Have a High Standard

During development, he considered releasing the game before it was ready to make some money. But he eventually decided not to. He felt that the game wasn’t good enough at that time.

He had a high standard for his game. He even re-do many parts of it. This kind of standard made the game took a long time to finish. But in the end, people loved how polished the game was. It’s a labor of love.

3. Decide to Do a Hard Thing

He knew that making a game of that scale by himself wouldn’t be easy. But he decided to do it anyway. More importantly, he decided to finish it.

It’s hard to master all the skills necessary to develop a game. Normally, it would take a team with different specialties in it. But he decided to learn all the skills necessary and spent many hours honing them.

To build something significant, be willing to do a hard thing.

4. Focus

Starting something is one thing, but actually finishing it is another thing.

What allowed Barone to finish Stardew Valley was his focus. He spent almost all of his time on the project. There were times when he got bored and did something else (he once released a simple Android game that didn’t go anywhere), but he soon got back on track.

Without focus, you might not be able to finish what you have started.

5. Seek Inner Reward, Not Outward

What do you think he would do with the millions in his bank account? Buy a new car? Live extravagantly?

Well, not really. Much like Andreas Illiger of Tiny Wings, he barely changed his lifestyle. He lived at the same house and drove the same car. “I don’t need all the luxury”, he said.

It’s clear that his motivation is inward and not outward. The inner satisfaction that the work brings is the main reward, not fortune or fame. This is the sign of living a creative life.


These are the lessons I learned from the story. Applying these lessons can help you realize your potential to help others. As a result, you will get inner satisfaction. Oh, and you may make some money too.

Photo by BagoGames


  1. That kind of dedication is amazing and inspiring. Glad he was able to launch.
    Usually these kind of projects that take a long time to build end up not being finished and launched. It’s unfortunate, who knows where a project might go if it actually sees the light of day.

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