If you've been dying to put your friends to work on your farm (or maybe just want to give them a hand on theirs) then the latest bit of news from the Stardew Valley developers will definitely be of interest.
On Tuesday they dropped a progress update about the game's long-awaited multiplayer mode. After ironing out many of the major conflicts (a process which involved rewriting 15,000 lines of code, according to their blog) the team is now working on implementing their solution to a unique problem: the ability to add multiple people to what was primarily built as a solo experience.
They haven't just been tackling the technical hurdles (many of which the game's unofficial multiplayer mod, literally called Makeshift Multiplayer, struggles with too) but also the narrative ones. Guests will play farmhands, with cabins of their own on the host player's property. Some core elements like story progression and going to bed to end the night will only be controllable by the host, but guests will have their own inventories and will seemingly be able to interact with the world as normal. Users won't have to fuss with setting up servers to play together either, and farmer-farmhand marriage is also apparently on the table (which is especially good news for couples eager to play together).
Seminal farming series Harvest Moon's occasional forays into multiplayer over the years have been far less cleverly integrated. They've often used awkward lobbies and limbo states in order to invite other players to visit (when it's been available at all.) With that in mind, Stardew's multiplayer won't even need to be fantastic to surpass the series that inspired it.
But even as a huge fan of both, I'm personally taking this news with a grain of salt. Those who have been following Stardew Valley's development for a while are used to hearing about multiplayer after all; creator Eric Barone (a.k.a. ConcernedApe) was promising it years prior to the game's 2016 release. And the delay obviously isn't for lack of effort or commitment. Stardew is not and has never been the product of a large team with limitless resources. Shiny (and complex) new features like multiplayer are where that's most visible, and it's going to take time for them to polish a more solid, supported version of the feature than the Makeshift mod.
The time frame for this has shifted before and there's a chance it will shift again. That's not cynicism speaking, that's cautious realism. It's also why I'm not going to let myself get too excited about what's on the horizon for Stardew Valley… Maybe just a reasonable, patient , low-key level of excited, instead.