Saturday, 25 May 2024

The Journey to Success: Stardew Valley, Darkest Dungeon, and Valheim

Imagine waking up to find that the passion project you’ve been working on for years has become a massive success, beyond your wildest dreams. This is the kind of success that game developers hope for but few achieve. With so many games being released every day, it’s a challenge to capture people’s attention. However, there are success stories of developers who managed to overcome these challenges and create unexpected sensations, like Darkest Dungeon, Stardew Valley, and Valheim. Let’s take a closer look at these games and the experiences of their creators.

First Steps

When asked about their vision for the future, Red Hook Studios co-founders Chris Bourassa and Tyler Sigman admitted that they didn’t have a clear plan when they started their company in 2013. Their focus was on creating Darkest Dungeon, a gothic, dungeon-crawling RPG. The early days of development were far from glamorous. They worked in a borrowed studio, surrounded by rats and with human waste on the doorstep. Despite these challenges, they persevered and eventually created a game that has sold over 5 million copies.

Eric Barone, the creator of Stardew Valley, started developing the game as a way to improve his programming skills. It was never intended to become a big hit. Barone worked alone in his studio apartment, unaware of the success that awaited him. Stardew Valley has now sold over 15 million copies and continues to be popular years after its initial release.

Henrik Törnqvist, co-founder of Iron Gate Studio, faced his fair share of challenges when starting his company. Setting up the studio and coming up with a name was difficult, but it was all worth it when their game, Valheim, became an overnight success. Although still in Early Access, Valheim has already sold millions of copies.

Unbelievable Accomplishment

The developers of these games were astounded by their success. Bourassa and Sigman recall the Kickstarter campaign for Darkest Dungeon, which surpassed its goal within the first 24 hours. They were grateful for the audience that their game attracted. Barone remembers the surging popularity of Stardew Valley and the excitement of being recognized by Yasuhiro Wada, the creator of Harvest Moon. It was a dream come true for him.

Now What?

After achieving such tremendous success, the work for these teams became even more intense. Barone describes the period after Stardew Valley’s launch as the busiest time in the entire development process. Törnqvist explains that they had to respond to the growing community and seize new opportunities, which became a full-time job.

For Bourassa and Sigman, managing expectations became crucial during Darkest Dungeon’s Early Access phase. They were mindful of their large player base and wanted to satisfy their fans while staying true to their vision. Barone faced the challenge of surpassing Stardew Valley with his next game. He wanted to show that he could improve and create a legacy for himself.

Growing Pains

Despite their incredible success, the teams behind Valheim, Stardew Valley, and Darkest Dungeon didn’t immediately scale up their operations. Törnqvist believes that gradual adjustments and refinements have contributed to Valheim’s ongoing success. Red Hook Studios focused on the relationship between the co-founders and the project itself.

Barone, who initially considered building a team for Stardew Valley, realized that he couldn’t let go of his creation. He preferred working alone and taking full responsibility for every aspect of the game.

Moving Forward

Barone acknowledges the challenges of following up on a massive hit like Stardew Valley. He has been working on two new titles, one of which he is developing entirely on his own. Both projects offer unique opportunities for him to grow and create.

Törnqvist and his team are committed to the ongoing development of Valheim. They plan to focus on gradual changes and smaller content drops between major expansions. Red Hook Studios has already released Darkest Dungeon II in Early Access and is excited about the improvements and risks they’ve taken.


The journeys of the developers behind Stardew Valley, Darkest Dungeon, and Valheim are testaments to the power of perseverance and passion. Despite their struggles and doubts, they managed to create games that resonated with millions of players worldwide. As they continue their journeys, these developers remain committed to delivering quality experiences and staying true to their visions.


1. Are there any plans for sequels to these games?
Yes, Darkest Dungeon II is already in Early Access, and both Eric Barone and Henrik Törnqvist are working on new projects. Barone has been developing ConcernedApe’s Haunted Chocolatier, while Törnqvist and his team are focusing on Valheim’s ongoing development.

2. How did the success of these games impact the developers?
The success brought new challenges and responsibilities for the developers. They had to manage expectations, handle a growing community, and make decisions about scaling up their operations. However, they remained passionate about their projects and committed to delivering quality experiences.

3. What advice do these developers have for aspiring game developers?
Their advice is to stay true to your vision and work on something you’re passionate about. Persevere through challenges and don’t be afraid to take risks. Building a strong community and engaging with players is also essential for success.

4. What are the future plans for these developers?
The developers are focused on the ongoing development of their current projects. They are excited about the opportunities and challenges that lie ahead and are dedicated to delivering quality experiences to their fans.

5. Can I play these games on multiple platforms?
Yes, all three games are available on multiple platforms, including PC, consoles, and mobile devices. Check the official websites or digital storefronts for specific platform availability.