Boy howdy have I been loving Stardew Valley. It's nearly a perfect game, and the developer ConcernedApe has stated that he'll continue to work on it for some time. I view it as a nearly perfect title with very little in the way of flaws. In fact, the biggest flaw I find is that I wish there were just more of everything in the game. More quests, more content, more everything because I've been enjoying it that much.
That said, simply uttering "MORE STUFF PLEASE" isn't terribly helpful. Over the 130+ hours of my play, I noticed some weak points of the game that I feel could be improved or expanded upon. Some of these come down to objective measures (such as the usefulness of the Spa), and some come down to taste or story reasons (such as things involving Joja Corporation). Either way, here's 12 Things I'd Like To See In Stardew Valley!
1. JojaCorp should be a more tempting choice.
One of the themes of Stardew Valley is getting away from the cold, corporate life and getting back to nature. That theme is represented within Pelican Town by JojaMart. JojaMart undercuts Pierre's General Store by offering coupons that severely undercut Pierre's prices ... for the NPCs.
JojaMart as a whole isn't worth it on this factor alone. However, if you purchase a JojaMart Membership for 5,000G, the mechanics of the Community Center change. The Bundles that you must complete are replaced with straight-up purchases at JojaMart, the prices at JojaMart (normally higher than Pierre's) drop down to the same level as Pierre's, and the store is open a bit more often.
An argument can be made that spending money instead of collecting goods would be a bit easier than collecting the dozens of individual items for the bundles, but in my experience it wasn't all that difficult to gather everything. You could certainly do it for much cheaper than what JojaMart will charge you.
So my question is this ... why go with JojaMart at all? If anything, the corporate antagonist ought to actually be tempting. Buying a JojaMart membership should reflect these values by giving you cheaper prices than Pierre, but at the cost of more expensive renovations to the town. As it stands, there's not much temptation for taking the "easy way out," as it were, and I view this as a weakness of this particular mechanic.
2. The Spa isn't terribly useful.
The Spa is initially closed off to the player until an earthquake on the third of Summer opens the pathway to it. It's a mildly underdeveloped area with only a few gameplay uses. Some trees, branches, and stones will pop up every now and again, so it mildly expands your foraging opportunities. Some heart events take place in that area. Trains pass through there, and you might be able to nab a few free items that fall off of the cars.
The main draw of the Spa is the enticing warm waters. Going into them will restore your health and stamina over a period of time completely for free. There's several issues with this, however.
Harvest Moon: Back to Nature had hot springs that you could use, and they were positioned relatively close to your farm and the mines. It was easy enough to go into the mines, hop into the hot springs, and pop back out. It was practical. The Spa in Stardew Valley, however, takes much more time. You have to walk to the area, enter the building, walk (not run) through the changing room, and finally enter the water (still at a walking pace) in order to restore your health and energy. This restoration process takes several hours.
The time it takes to actually use the Spa, as well as its out-of-the-way location relative to your usual routine, makes it all but useless. This can be easily remedied, though. The Spa could give the player a buff that lasts a few days. This buff could have a beneficial effect that makes going to the Spa worthwhile. Perhaps it could increase their maximum health and energy temporarily, or perhaps it could restore both of these things over time. The buff could last a few days to a week.
Some sort of positive, long-term benefit to visiting the Spa will make it a worthwhile thing to integrate into your routine in Stardew Valley. But as it stands, the Spa isn't useful at all.
3. It'd be nice to automate more things on the farm.
An argument can be made that "technology and the easy way out" are the sort of enemy in Stardew Valley considering the origin of the player working at a soulless Joja Corporation job. However, there's already a bit of automation in the game with things like sprinklers.
There are an awful lot of chores that could be automated in any number of ways. For instance, petting your cows is nice, but what if you could get the equivalent of a Happy Cow Brush to pet your animals? How about a plow that you could attach to your Horse to till your fields faster? Perhaps there could be some kind of automated crop collection system.
There's also the issue of opening the doors of your Barns. This is something that many players do every day, and automated garage doors have been a thing for a very long time. It would be a sensible option to have.
And, of course, there's the idea of collecting things from Animals. There are milking machines and electric shears. Surely Stardew Valley could conjure up some sci-fi machine that just works and handwaves the specifics.
The last question would be where these things would come from? Well, it just so happens that Maru (daughter of local carpenter Robin) has an aptitude for building robots and other machines. Surely she could assist mom's store with some automatic improvements for the player's farm?
4. There's an awful lot of unemployed people in Stardew Valley—why not give them a job?
Everyone in Stardew Valley has a schedule but not everyone has a job.
One of the nice things about Harvest Moon: Back to Nature was the ability to hire little forest sprites to work on your farm. They would care for your animals, harvest your crops, or do whatever you asked them to do. You'd have to build a relationship with them first, and then actually using their services would weaken your relationship with them, requiring additional gifts.
Stardew Valley could use something similar. Give one or more of those slackers a job. They could be paid a percentage of the profits and free up the player to do other things. Perhaps you would need to have a certain amount of hearts with them before they would work for you—after all, would you take a job from somebody you don't know who just moved to town? He could have a murder dungeon in his basement!
The ability to hire help (along with or as an alternative to the automation discussed in #3) would let the player turn from a simple farmer into an enterprising businessman. And it would certainly lighten up some of the tougher parts of the story about people who talk about their financial hardship or other difficulties. Why not give Kent a job now that he's home from the military rather than letting him stand around outside all day? How about hooking up poor old Linus who has to forage for food and sometimes resorts to rifling through the town's trash?
5. Your pet could help on the farm, too.
Early on in the game you'll receive either a dog or a cat. Both of them basically run around your home and farm and occasionally block you from moving because they're in the way. That's about it.
It would be nice if your pet actually had some kind of in-game usage. Perhaps your Dog could dig stuff up on the farm or automatically pick up and deposit any stray branches that are laying around. Perhaps the cat could hunt vermin and occasionally bring home some worms or something similar.
This could be balanced out, perhaps, by requiring an upgrade to your farm. Your pet already has a tiny unsheltered area for themselves a bit northwest of your house. Perhaps you would have to pay Robin to build a doghouse or some kind of cat tree before your pet will start being useful.
Right now the pets are admittedly adorable but otherwise useless. A real farmer would put their pets to work, and you should be able to as well.
6. Decorative furniture is nice, but it would be great to see more functionally useful furniture, as well as more versatility with existing furniture.
There's an awful lot of Equipment and Furniture available in Stardew Valley. I'll address the Equipment in the next point largely, although some of the weaknesses of Furniture apply to Equipment as well.
To start, Furniture just isn't functionally useful. It's purely decorative right now. It'd be nice if your wife and kid would actually interact with it purely on the basis of aesthetics and immersion. Cabinets, Dressers, and similar bits of Furniture with visible storage could act functionally similar to Chests and provide more storage for the larger pieces.
There's also the issue of rotation—some Furniture and Equipment just can't be rotated. If you'd like to have your Television facing a different direction or rotate a Recycling Machine, that's just not an option available to you right now. It'd be nice to have everything face a certain way so as to be more aesthetically pleasing should the player feel so inclined.
Perhaps one of the biggest "functional" bits of Furntiture is something integrated into the house. Once you buy the first upgrade, you'll get a Kitchen along with a refrigerator. Cooking recipes requires that you have the ingredients either in your inventory or in the refrigerator, but the refrigerator only has as much space as a Chest. This means that if you plan to store a wide variety of items for cooking, you'll likely have to resort to storing a few chests nearby.
A nice choice would be iceboxes, freezers, or fridges that you could craft or buy that act similarly to the built-in refrigerator. Maru comes into play here again; if she can build a robot, she could certainly put together a refrigerator. It could alternatively be a fixed upgrade that you could do to your kitchen—there's a lot of counter space but only the stove and the fridge are functional in any way.
7. It'd be cool to have more ways to refine produce, and the refined produce could be more variable in value.
Currently you can plop most Animal produce into a corresponding machine that will give you a straight upgrade. Eggs go into a Mayonnaise Machine and produce Mayonnaise, which is worth more money. There's really not any reason to avoid doing it other than not having the Mayonnaise machine itself.
Crops can be put into a Preserves Jar or a Keg to either double or triple their value as a general rule. If we're talking pure money here, Preserves Jars aren't even a factor as soon as you can afford to make Kegs.
The goods you will find on an everyday farm are used for much more than food. There's plenty of industrial goods and chemicals that come from farms, and it would be cool to have certain plants have unique interactions in ways similar to how Wheat and Hops get special results from the Keg (Beer and Pale Ale, respectively, as opposed to Wine.)
One universal example might be a "Packing Machine." You could input goods and perhaps Refined Quartz as a sort of fuel and have "Packaged _____" come out and increase the value.
Another example would be a "Press" that lets you, well, smoosh things. Certain plants could be turned into dyes with such a machine, for example.
As a whiskey-drinking man, I view it as a downright travesty that Stardew Valley doesn't have a way to distill hard liquors. We have Potatoes, and my half-Russian/half-Polish ancestry drools at the prospect of turning potatoes into vodka. A Distillery would be a neat feature and mechanically could work different to Kegs by allowing you to keep rolling over a product—vodka put into the distillery turns into twice-distilled vodka, etc., with each stage becoming more valuable.
And lastly, since Wine is a thing in the game, a cool investment mechanic would be the ability to keep Wine & Cheese stored in some fashion so that it can "age." Hold onto a bottle of Wine for a year and watch as it becomes more valuable!
8. People like to show off their farms, but there's no in-game way to do it.
Some people are awfully proud of how their farms look, and they'd love to show them off. The problem is there's no easy way to do it in-game.
Now, I'm sure that the dedicated fans of the game would immediately point to the Stardew Valley planner (where you can upload a save and have it render your farm) or other third-party services such as upload.farm. (Boy, talk about a straightforward name on that site!) These are neat solutions, but these are not in-game solutions. And what happens to people when the game gets ported to consoles?
It would be great to have a "Screenshot entire farm" button. It could automatically generate a screenshot on Steam that you could upload. Consoles have their own forms of social media sharing as well—as an example, I see #PS4Share an awful lot these days on my Twitter.
As with all things, third parties have stepped up to give people something they wanted—the ability to show off their entire farm in one image. Even so, this is a feature that really should be natively in the game and well-integrated with whatever platform it happens to be on.
9. It would be nice to be able to see cutscenes again, and I'd like all cutscenes to be skippable.
There are loads of cutscenes that you can see in Stardew Valley. Unfortunately, short of going on YouTube you can't see them again.
It really stinks when I accidentally click the "Skip" button and miss out on an event I'm looking forward to. Mind, it doesn't stink enough that I'd be willing to force quit Stardew Valley and restart the entire day.
It'd be great if there were some way to watch the cutscenes again in Stardew Valley. Perhaps the restored Community Center could have a little movie projector added to it, or perhaps you could buy one from one of the merchants after completing a quest.
Oh, and while we're on the topic of cutscenes—I really wish that the existence of the "Skip" button was a bit less schizophrenic. Okay, I get it, I've seen the Flower Dance. I'd really like to be able to skip it and other unskippable events just like I can skip every other cutscene if I feel so inclined.
10. I'd love to be able to buy more stuff from the stores.
A lesser-known mechanic in Stardew Valley is that Pierre's General Store will start carrying items you sell to Pierre once you've reached a certain threshold. Aside from the benefits of giving you money immediately as opposed to waiting for the next day, this helps ensure that you'll be able to reacquire produce should the need arise. Supposedly the villagers will comment on having bought items from your farm through the store, though I've yet to experience this myself.
As stores go, however, the selection of items you can purchase is awfully sparse. I can't imagine a general store that doesn't carry some of the basic staples of life, such as Milk and Eggs. The selection in Pierre's General Store could do with some baseline improvements to seem a wee bit more realistic.
That aside, it wouldn't be a bad idea to see an extension of the buyback mechanic to other stores. If I sell Iridium Bars to Clint, I ought to be able to buy some from him in the future. If I sell Hardwood to Robin, she should have it in stock herself after some time. This would give players an incentive to take the time to travel to stores directly and make the world feel a bit more alive.
11. You typically visit people often and give them a lot of gifts. It'd be great if they returned the favor a little more often.
To be fair, this already happens to some degree. Once you reach a certain threshold of hearts, people will occasionally mail you recipes and gifts. You'll sometimes have a visitor stop by. It's rarely as frequently as you give gifts to them or visit them.
I don't know about you, but if I were practically holding a business together with the massive amount of money I put into it, I would think that the proprietor would stop by for tea every now and then or something.
I'd like to see Villagers drop by a little more often as you interact with them more. The balance of the relationships relative to the player just feels a little out of whack compared to how often NPCs interact with their other NPC friends.
12. Pelican Town and Stardew Valley have a lot of little problems that the player could fix—if only they were given the opportunity.
Pelican Town and the surrounding wilds of Stardew Valley feel pretty alive. Every Villager has their own schedule. People move around and do things. Aside from the strange lack of toilet facilities, the setting feels pretty realistic. That said, there are a lot of things in the game that you can't quite fix, and it would be nice if you could.
Let's start with the very first image in this article atop #1. If you elect to restore the Community Center via Bundles, JojaMart permanently closes. Hooray for buying local! And ... now the boarded-up JojaMart is doomed to sit there forever as an eyesore in Pelican Town. Closing JojaMart should open up that land so it can be turned into something useful.
Another example is Leah. Once you marry her, her cottage stays locked basically forever. To add to the issue, there are plenty of people who don't have a good home in Stardew Valley. Penny lives in a trailer with her alcoholic mother Pam, and Linus lives in a tent in the woods. I was in the Boy Scouts. I've been in a tent in the woods in Winter. It's cold. Very cold. And I wasn't wearing an outfit that appears to amount to a mishmash of animal pelts and leaves!
Of course, there could be very good reasons for some of these issues. ConcernedApe has talked about the possibility of a divorce mechanic, so it stands to reason that your ex-spouse's home would have to remain available if they were to move back out. Fair enough. But we have a town with an awful lot of land and a talented carpenter by the name of Robin.
I don't know about you, but if I went to the Mayor and said "Hey, I'd really love to pay Robin to build a cabin for Linus in the woods so he doesn't freeze to death," I imagine he would say yes.
There's plenty of people with pretty stinky home situations in the game. If the world of Stardew Valley were a bit more sensible, you'd be able to fix these situations by building or improving existing places. Call it a "Community Development Fund" that you can donate to via the mayor. Perhaps you could just make it so you can buy a plot of land and erect homes to rent or sell to people.
This would certainly be a bit involved as far as tasks go, but one of the overarching themes I've taken from Stardew Valley is a theme of helping people and discovering all of the goods things in a little town in the middle of nowhere. It's terrible that certain characters can't share in the same redemption and life-changing happiness that your character has been so fortunate to gain.
Heck, if I had to build the houses on my farm and lose some money (by way of less usable land), I'd do it. And I'm a min/maxing nutter who loves making money!
Don't get me wrong, Stardew Valley is a fantastic game. I absolutely adore it, I really do. And I'm really quite happy to hear that ConcernedApe is going to be continuing to improve upon the game for some time. I imagine that when I eventually do put the game down for a while, I'll probably be sucked right back into it the instant an interesting update for the game drops.
There's still a lot of work to be done in Stardew Valley. We'll be getting a co-operative gameplay mode, and I'm really curious to see how that will play out. There are going to be new marriage candidates in the next patch, and we're sure to see some new features and other interesting things added as time goes on. I don't know if my ideas are the best ones out there, but I think they highlight some areas that could do with improvement.
One way or another, Stardew Valley was made by a guy who is really passionate about his work and it will be interesting to see what he comes up with in the coming months and years.
What do you think of my ideas about Stardew Valley? Are any of the ideas I've come up with unreasonable or just flat-out dumb? What would you like to see in the game? Let us know in the comments below!