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Stardew Valley developer makes animated music video for Alvvays

A mouse-drawn adventure

Cass Marshall is a news writer focusing on gaming and culture coverage, taking a particular interest in the human stories of the wild world of online games.

Alvvays is an indie pop band based out of Toronto, and their latest music video is created by an unexpected artist: ConcernedApe, also known as Eric Barone. Barone is the developer of classic farm sim Stardew Valley and Haunted Chocolatier, an RPG currently in development.

The unexpected collaboration was the result of a series of fortuitous events. Molly Rankin, vocalist and guitarist for Alvvays, sent the developer an email asking if he would be interested in contributing a piece of art to the game. Barone accepted, and started coming up with ideas while listening to Alvvays’ Blue Rev album. “I felt like, ‘I can’t just draw an image, I gotta go all the way,” Barone says in a call with Polygon. “It’s just the kind of person I am. It’s hard for me to restrain myself to a very simple thing.”

While Barone is known for pixel art, like the little avatars and portraits that represent the farmer’s friends in Stardew Valley, he took a more experimental process with the music video. The characters travel through a series of surreal and textured environments inspired by side-scrollers.

“I had to learn new stuff too, because there’s a 3D section, and I’ve never done 3D stuff before,” says Barone. “I had to learn completely new concepts for that, but that was fun. And I might be able to use that in the future — I always thought I’d never make a 3D game, but after this I feel like I could and it would actually be kind of fun and interesting.”

Alvvays plays Stardew Valley often on tour, bringing several Switches on the road. “I think there’s like an element of humanity and empathy in Stardew,” says Rankin in a call with Polygon. “It’s meditative and just sort of this universe you can get lost in for a long period of time where no one really dies and everything is fairly light.”

The band was surprised at Barone’s initiative in creating an entire music video, but it synced well with the themes of the album. “It’d be safe to say we don’t want to make music that feels like being on the internet,” says Alec O’Hanley, guitarist, in the same call. “We actively do try to create work that reflects an earlier indeterminant era. Much of our favorite works accomplish that, whether it’s an album or a painting or a video game. We try not to delve too deep into nostalgia, but we also don’t consider that a dirty word. By any stretch.”