Q&ERA: Chucklefish discusses Wargroove, Starbound, Stardew Valley, and more!

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This Q&ERA was organized by Emily.

Q&ERA
offers an opportunity for our community to learn more about the gaming industry from those that are part of it. This involves batches of questions, submitted by users and then selected by staff, which will then be given to industry members to answer. Our intent is to bridge the divide between the gaming community and the gaming industry. We want to encourage engagement between those who talk about games and those who make them. (Note: Questions will be curated as interviewees won't have time to answer every single one. Also, there may be certain topics that interviewees are not able or allowed to comment on.)

Introducing our guests: Chucklefish, the publisher of Stardew Valley, Wargroove, Starbound, Pocket Rumble and more!

Chucklefish is an independent games studio founded by Finn Brice and based in London, UK. They develop and publish their own games and occasionally provide support to other developers. Chucklefish is best known for developing 2016's Starbound, as well as publishing 2013's Risk of Rain and 2016's Stardew Valley. They can be found on Twitter interacting with the gaming community at @ChucklefishLTD.


Game Info:
  • Wargroove is a turn-based strategy game for up to 4 players, in which each player takes control of an army and its commander unit to wage war on their enemies! Wargroove is designed to be easy to pick up, with accessibility at the forefront of its design, and very difficult to master, with deep gameplay mechanics that complement strategic play. The game is being developed by Chucklefish. According to Wargroove's website, the game is planning for release on Nintendo Switch, Xbox One and PC.
  • Stardew Valley is a country-life RPG for PC/Mac/Linux, Xbox One, PlayStation 4 and Nintendo Switch. Stardew Valley was developed solo by ConcernedApe (Eric Barone) and published by Chucklefish. You've inherited your grandfather's old farm plot in Stardew Valley. Armed with hand-me-down tools and a few coins, you set out to begin your new life. Can you learn to live off the land and turn these overgrown fields into a thriving home?
  • Starbound is an action adventure game developed and published by Chucklefish. Starbound takes place in a two-dimensional, procedurally generated universe which the player is able to explore in order to obtain new weapons, armor, and items, and to visit towns and villages inhabited by various intelligent lifeforms. Starbound was released in July 2016 for Microsoft Windows, OS X, and Linux. and is in development for Xbox One, PlayStation 4, and PlayStation Vita.
  • Pocket Rumble is a streamlined, beginner-friendly 2D fighting game inspired by SNK's classic fighters for the Neo Geo Pocket Color. It retains all the gameplay elements that make traditional Street Fighter-style fighters great, but reduces the level of execution and memorization necessary to the bare minimum. Experienced players can learn the game fast and be able to focus on deeper elements of strategy and mindgames, new players can learn the ins and outs of fighting games without being overwhelmed!
The following Chucklefish staff will be answering your questions:

CEO / Designer - Finn Brice
Games Producer / Artist - Rosie Ball
Technical Director - Rodrigo Monteiro
Artist - Lu Nascimento
Artist - Adam Riches
Technical Designer - Stephen Alexander
Programmer - Tom Coxon
Artist - Jay Baylis
Artist - Doris Carrascosa



 
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Question 1 -- Member: Papaya

“What makes being an indie developer, working on multiple indie games, publishing multiple indie games, a unique challenge?”

Rodrigo (Chucklefish): One of the many challenges is that, being a small team taking on so many responsibilities, everyone on the team has to be very flexible and learn to wear many hats! It’s not enough to settle on only one area of expertise. But I believe that we have learned how to balance all the different aspects together.

Stephen (Chucklefish): It can be really exciting to have a number of promising projects going on around you, and it’s not unusual to want to be involved with all of them, even if it’s just in some relatively minor way.
 
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Question 2 -- Member: Pancracio17

“How do you look for the games you want to publish? Do the developers approach you or do you find them somehow?”

Rodrigo (Chucklefish): It’s a mixture of both! Sometimes we approach a team that has developed something that we think has a lot of potential, and sometimes they approach us. We have a lot of eyes in our team keeping track of interesting indie games that might fit our portfolio.

Adam (Chucklefish): If you’re a developer with a great game, and you think it fits alongside the games we publish, send an email to [email protected] - We’re always on the lookout for something special!
 
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Question 3 -- Members: ghostemoji and Manfred

Manfred asks: “Is it intimidating or complicated to be the publisher of a huge success?”

Ghostemoji also asks: “What unseen difficulties or challenges are there for a small publisher when a game like Stardew Valley very quickly becomes a huge success? Are issues of scaling for demand still prevalent in some form when a game is primarily a digital release?”

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Stephen (Chucklefish): Any title we put out after a game like Stardew definitely creates this air of expectation. We’ve generally been very fortunate with the communities that surround our games, as was the case with Starbound, but now we’re in a position where we have access to a whole new audience that likely had never even heard of us before Stardew Valley. While we’d certainly like future projects we develop and publish to achieve a similar level of success, at the end of the day our primary goal is to put out great games. Hopefully in striving towards that goal, we’ll be able to live up to the expectations of our fans.

Rosie (Chucklefish): We definitely became more busy when Stardew launched, especially our tiny marketing team! ConcernedApe quickly had a lot of people contacting him interested in making merchandise, localising the game, and just letting him know they loved playing it - all wonderful things to hear when you’re a developer, but keeping track of it all is hard. Fortunately we had created an infrastructure that could handle this influx of attention after Starbound launched in 2013, and we were able to filter the information and (hopefully!) reduce the noise for the developer. We didn’t expand the team, but we did shift some of our in-house team from Starbound to Stardew Valley full-time when the demand was high. We were able to account for this and still launch Starbound out of Early Access in July 2016 through careful development planning.
 
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Question 4 -- Member: Alberto Mikulan

“What was the project that you were most proud to develop/publish and why? What was your most difficult project to develop/publish and why?”

Finn (Chucklefish): Starbound was definitely both our proudest and most difficult development achievement so far. When we came to Starbound most of the team was fresh into the industry, had very little idea how to follow through on a game or how difficult a task that is and somehow we managed it. What we ended up with was pretty good too! In terms of Publishing, all of our partnered developers are amazing.
 
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Question #5 -- Member: jariw

“What tools do you use to develop your games?”

Rodrigo (Chucklefish): From a programming perspective, our different projects are written in different languages (C++ for Starbound and Wargroove, Rust for Spellbound), with each team member using different IDEs and text editors (ranging from Visual Studio to Vim). We use git for source control (Most of the office uses GitExtensions or GitKraken).

Lu (Chucklefish): For our pixel art assets (including animation) we currently using Aseprite - for sketching and concepting I use Clip Paint Studio - and I think other artists in the studio use Photoshop :)

Stephen (Chucklefish): For video and audio work we mostly use the Adobe creative suite, especially Audition and Premiere Pro. For scripting and configuration work, Sublime Text has been a super helpful program that makes it easy to edit a lot of files at once, and to pinpoint any syntax errors we may have made.
 
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Question #6 -- Member: Regiruler

“Outside of online netcode, which we’ve already heard the issues with, what is keeping Pocket Rumble so long? What is the current rough estimate as to when Pocket Rumble will see release?

Rodrigo (Chucklefish): Our commitment is to release a high-quality version of the game, so it has been delayed until it reaches the high bar of quality that we expect of this release. But stay tuned and hopefully you’ll get some news on that front soon!
 
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Question #7 -- Member: Air

“I’d like to ask when is Wargroove coming out if possible? Thank you.”

Rodrigo (Chucklefish): We currently don’t have a more specific release than other than 2018! We don’t want to rush the release, so it will come out when we believe that it’s ready!
 
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Question #8 -- Member: Pooh

“Wargroove is often compared to Advance Wars, are there any other games that you would say have significantly influenced the design of Wargroove?”

Jay (Chucklefish): Wargroove is primarily inspired by Advance Wars and, to a lesser extent, Fire Emblem. You’ll also see a lot of inspiration from the Sega Saturn series Dragon Force, which not only depicts the “two armies clashing” paradigm that we use for battle scenes but also has some interesting “alternative” strategy game unit types. Our approach to the Commander designs is more in line with fighting games - the cast are all quite varied in terms of appearance, personality and fighting style. Rodrigo will also vouch for our map editor being heavily inspired by the Starcraft map editor in terms of functionality.
 
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Question #9 -- Member: Defuso

“Will multiplayer for Wargroove be available on day 1 of release? Will the multiplayer for Wargroove be cross-platform?”

Rodrigo (Chucklefish): Yes, multiplayer will be available on day 1. We’re hoping to have cross-platform between as many platforms as possible, please stay tuned for more announcements on this matter in the future!
 
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Question #10 -- Member: Pooh

“How is it working with Lu Nascimento (@Viiolaceus)? What has her impact been on the look and style of Wargroove? How did the team settle on the look of the game?”

Jay (Chucklefish): Working with Lu is great! Wargroove’s art direction is entirely based on early mockups that Lu developed for us. I don’t think there was much settling to do as we all loved the look of them. An interesting related tidbit is that Lu developed mockups for Wargroove with a fantasy setting and a modern day warfare setting - ultimately we settled on giving the game a fantasy aesthetic, as we felt it would be the most exciting to work on.

Lu (Chucklefish): I also secretly tried to make a version with animal based units but we quickly realised that wasn't what we wanted for the game.

Adam (Chucklefish): Here are some of Lu’s early concept sketches for Sigrid, one of the commanders in the game.


 
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Question #11 -- Member: ShinySunny

“I love the modding in Stardew Valley, will Wargroove allow modding for the PC version?”

Rodrigo (Chucklefish): Yes! We hope to have good support for mods on PC.
 
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Question #12 -- Member: ShinySunny

“I saw Wargroove’s trailer, and in my opinion, the movement and attack animations are too long for a strategy game. Will there be an option with x2-4 speed or skip animation all together for these animations like most strategy games?”

Rodrigo (Chucklefish): Yes, we’ll provide players with options to skip or accelerate the animations, if they so desire. Personally though, I’ve found in testing that the animations take a minimal amount of time compared to the THINKING, and I enjoy watching them no matter how many times I’ve seen them before.
 
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Question #13 -- Member: BackwardCap

“How large of a scope are you aiming for with the latest game’s world (Spellbound) that you’re creating?”

Rosie (Chucklefish): We are aiming for a game world similar in scope to Stardew Valley or a Rune Factory game, and we anticipate that the lore of the game will expand the game world even more!

 
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Question #14 -- Member: ILikeFeet

“Is Spellbound going to build off the same toolset you made for Starbound or are you going to change up the tools to help support a wider release?”

Rodrigo (Chucklefish): “Spellbound” is built upon new technology, written based on what the Starbound team learned from developing that game.
 
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Question #15 -- Member: Admiral Woofington and Dazraell

Admiral Woofington asks: “As a Harry Potter fan, I’ve been frustrated nobody has made a proper wizard school ‘simulator’ experience yet. Was that frustration what ultimately prompted your new project (Spellbound) or was it something else?”

Dazraell asks: “Can you tell us what served as your biggest inspirations behind Spellbound?”

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Rosie (Chucklefish): I have always been frustrated by that too, and we definitely spoke at the start about how every one of us has wanted to experience our own coming-of-age story in a magical school for a long time. We are inspired by a lot of other magical worlds as well as Harry Potter; books such as Garth Nix’s Old Kingdom series - Wyverley College has magic class taught by a Magistrix, and the character are fantastic portrayals of teenagers learning an ancient craft (with varying degrees of interest and ability.) The practical approach to magic in Terry Pratchett’s Tiffany Aching series has been another great inspiration, we love the idea that there’s magic in simply working hard and being prepared for anything!
 
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Question #16 -- Member: Nirolak

“Were you still considering making Wayward Tide? I got the impression that probably got shelved given we haven’t heard from it in almost four years now, but I see most of the social media stuff is still up for it.”

Adam (Chucklefish): I was initially hired at Chucklefish to work on Wayward Tide! The idea was to have a second, smaller scoped game in development alongside Starbound. Ultimately it became clear that Starbound needed all hands on deck, and as a result the decision was made to put Wayward Tide on the back burner. From then on, everyone was focused solely on getting Starbound to 1.0. It’s possible we could come back to it, but we’ve learned so much in the four years since that it would likely be something very different.

 
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Question #17 -- Member: Retro

“This April will mark five years since Starbound pre-orders began. Obviously you can’t (and shouldn’t!) discuss upcoming features, sequels or major overhauls and such, but *philosophically*, where would you like to see Starbound in another 5 years? What do you feel is missing that you’d really like to say or do with the game?”

Finn (Chucklefish): Honestly, 10 years is an incredible amount of time in gaming terms, I think ultimately we’d be happy if the community is still enjoying the game in 10 years. That said, we’d love to revisit the Starbound universe one day in another project. There are still parts of Starbound we’d like to give a little bit more love to, and you’ll see some of that in upcoming patches. My personal push is to flesh out space and exploration content further.
 
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Question #18 -- Member: davepoobond and Shogun

Davepoobond asks: “Is controller support something that will be added to Starbound?”

Shogun also asks: “Can we ever expect controller support for Starbound?”

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Jay (Chucklefish): Controller support is actively being developed for the Xbox version of Starbound, and is definitely a unique design challenge as the game was never designed with controllers in mind. I am not sure yet on the complications of bringing that back to the PC version once the Xbox version is released, but it is definitely something we’re interested in!
 
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Question #19 -- Member: SwitchedOff

“Are there any plans to add touchscreen controls to the Switch version of Stardew Valley for those who prefer to play that way?”

Tom (Chucklefish): We did experiment with touchscreen controls early on in the development of the Switch version of Stardew Valley. After a lot of playtesting, we came to the conclusion that it just didn’t work as well as the Joy-Cons, and we didn’t want to put out something unpolished. Touchscreen controls work best when the whole UI is designed around them, which is not something we’re planning for Switch right now.
 
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Question #20 -- Member: GRW810

“It has recently been reported that [Stardew Valley] is the most successful digital-only title on Switch. Could you divulge any further, more detailed information about regional or global Switch sales and how it compares to other platforms?”

Finn (Chucklefish): Unfortunately this isn’t information we’re able to give. The Switch has been great fun to develop for though and I can promise we’ll continue to support it with future titles.
 
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Question #21 -- Member: Papaya

“Do you think that Switch has the potential to be number one spot for Indie developers? It was Stardew Valley’s second best platform (behind PC), right?”

Finn (Chucklefish): I think for indie developers to thrive they really need to take a platform agnostic approach to console development. Indie titles are inherently niché and you simply can’t afford to lose the large chunk of players that each of the platforms represent. Chucklefish is working to ensure its projects end up on every possible platform from here on out.
 
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Question #22 -- Member: AuthenticM

“Will you add a French localization to Stardew Valley? The game is already available in many languages, but not French. I love the game and would love it even more if I could play it in my native language. Moreover, my sister would also love the game if she could play it, but she would need a French localization, as she only speaks French. Please consider localizing the game in French.”

Doris (Chucklefish) : Je peux confirmer que le Français fait partie des langues qui seront ajoutées lors d’une prochaine mise à jour courant 2018. En tant que seule française dans le studio, j’ai aussi hâte ! (:
 
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Question #23 -- Member: Pachimari

“I think the mobile gaming community is dying to know, if there is any chance you will revisit the thought of a mobile release for Stardew Valley? It has seen plenty of success on Steam, Switch and various platforms, and the gameplay style seems tailor made for tablets especially. There’s a big void for this particular type of premium game on the App Stores.”

Finn (Chucklefish): Unfortunately we’re not currently in a position to confirm or deny work on a mobile port of the game.
 
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Question #24 -- Members: legacyzero and LycanXIII and Overflow

Legacyzero asks: “Is Starbound still planned for PS4 and Vita?

LycanXIII asks: “Been looking forward to Starbound on the PS4 since it was announced at E3 2014. How are the ports coming along for consoles?”

Overflow asks: “Is Stardew Vita still coming and when? My girlfriend keeps asking. Don’t make me break her heart.”

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Jay (Chucklefish): Starbound is currently being ported for consoles - though we’re focusing on the Xbox version right now. It’s been both a technical and a design challenge, but it’s getting there! Here’s a preview of some UI changes which have been made for the console version:



Tom (Chucklefish): Stardew is still coming to Vita. Its small screen resolution and low-spec hardware have made it the most challenging Stardew Valley port yet for Sickhead Games, but it’s coming along.

Adam (Chucklefish): It’ll also feature cross-buy support, so if you already own Stardew Valley on PS4 you won’t need to purchase it again to play on your Vita. It’s worth noting however, that we’re unable to port multiplayer to PS Vita.
 
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Question #25 -- Member: Darrin

“What’s the likelihood of Starbound coming to the Switch? After Stardew Valley’s success on the system (congrats by the way), I feel as if Starbound would also do well and should be available to many who have yet to experience it yet. The idea of having Starbound on the go via Switch is appealing to me personally.”

Finn (Chucklefish): Starbound on the Switch is a huge technical problem. Despite the 2D graphics, Starbound is doing a great deal of simulation under the hood, and it’s difficult to see how we can get it to work on the switch. We’re still investigating and we’ll let you know if something changes.
 
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Question #26 -- Member: delete12345

"As a publisher, what tips and tricks can you provide for indie developers on how to pitch proposals / games to publishers like Nintendo?"

Rodrigo: Publishing on a console is a really big undertaking! I would recommend looking into partnering with a more experienced publisher to get the title on a console. Not only will they be able to navigate the contacts, legal requirements, and technical requirements, but you’ll be able to focus your time on the actual game development instead. As for pitching a game to any publisher, you need to make sure that your pitch accomplishes a few things: It must prove that the concept is commercially viable, it must be compatible with what the publisher is looking for (look for what kind of games they normally publish!), and you must prove that the team will be able to deliver. You also need to have a realistic budget and time estimate. Most publishers won’t take on a project unless you can either give them a really good prototype, or have a stellar track record with previously recorded games.

Stephen: It’s also generally a good idea not to open communications with, “I have this game idea, could you help me make it?” Generally we’ll only seriously look at a project if there is a clearly established concept, preferably with something playable. With the amount of pitches we receive, being able to communicate your idea quickly and clearly is very important.
 
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Question #27 -- Member: Hecht

“Given the success of Stardew Valley, what advice do you have for aspiring game designers?”

Adam (Chucklefish): Everyone at Chucklefish got here in so many various different ways that there is no one path to take to get into the industry. The best advice I can give is to just go for it and make something. Whether that’s taking part in a game jam, or just making your own little thing for fun. It doesn’t need to be a huge fully featured game to grab people’s attention. Often, showing that you can follow through and finish something is impressive in and of itself. I think for Eric, Stardew Valley was a true passion project - It shows through when you play the game, you can almost feel it!

Jay (Chucklefish): Don’t just be inspired by other games, find inspiration outside the medium. The most exciting games I personally played of the last five years were the ones that felt fresh and inspired by people’s life experiences and interests in film/art/literature outside of the typical game paradigms.

Stephen (Chucklefish): I think it’s also important to be willing to stretch yourself and learn new skills to expand your repertoire. While being highly specialized in one area can do a lot for you, having some flexibility in multiple fields can be incredibly valuable on a small team.

Tom (Chucklefish): It might be different in AAA, but for indies at least, being a great game designer is not enough. There is so much involved in game development that everyone has to take on multiple responsibilities. Developing skills in other areas as well - e.g. art, programming, music, business - will make yourself more valuable as a team member and a game designer. Eric was not only an aspiring game designer when he began Stardew Valley, he was also a very skilled artist, coder and musician.
 
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That concludes our second Q&ERA.

ResetEra would like to thank everyone at Chucklefish Games for taking time out of their busy schedules to answer our community's questions.

Our admin team would also like to thank everyone who submitted questions. If your questions weren't selected for whatever reason, there will be plenty more Q&A sessions in the near future.
 
Oct 24, 2017
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#30
Note on the Image and Form Q&ERA: This has unfortunately been indefinitely postponed until the developers have time to answer your questions. We will continue to organize and publish other Q&ERAs in the meantime.
 
Oct 25, 2017
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#32
Question #9 -- Member: Defuso

“Will multiplayer for Wargroove be available on day 1 of release? Will the multiplayer for Wargroove be cross-platform?”

Rodrigo (Chucklefish): Yes, multiplayer will be available on day 1. We’re hoping to have cross-platform between as many platforms as possible, please stay tuned for more announcements on this matter in the future!
Another one to add to the list.
 
Oct 25, 2017
4,892
The Hundred Acre Wood
#36
Thanks to Chucklefish for participating! Glad my questions got answered, and it's awesome to see that concept art! I'm kinda curious to see the animal-based characters, because the dogs in the game are so cute.
 
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#37
Question #22 -- Member: AuthenticM

“Will you add a French localization to Stardew Valley? The game is already available in many languages, but not French. I love the game and would love it even more if I could play it in my native language. Moreover, my sister would also love the game if she could play it, but she would need a French localization, as she only speaks French. Please consider localizing the game in French.”

Doris (Chucklefish) : Je peux confirmer que le Français fait partie des langues qui seront ajoutées lors d’une prochaine mise à jour courant 2018. En tant que seule française dans le studio, j’ai aussi hâte ! (:
OH QUE OUI !!
 
Oct 25, 2017
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I really hate seeing more and more devs saying it's hard to get things onto the Switch. I mean, it's not their fault of course, it's just disappointing.

Great questions and answers, thanks guys for doing this and special thanks to those at Chucklefish for taking their time to answer these great questions.
 

Pal

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Oct 25, 2017
526
#41
Question #22 -- Member: AuthenticM

“Will you add a French localization to Stardew Valley? The game is already available in many languages, but not French. I love the game and would love it even more if I could play it in my native language. Moreover, my sister would also love the game if she could play it, but she would need a French localization, as she only speaks French. Please consider localizing the game in French.”

Doris (Chucklefish) : Je peux confirmer que le Français fait partie des langues qui seront ajoutées lors d’une prochaine mise à jour courant 2018. En tant que seule française dans le studio, j’ai aussi hâte ! (:
Cette nouvelle fera le bonheur de bien des gens!
 
Oct 25, 2017
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#45
Wargroove and Spellbound have potential to be the next huge hit akin to Stardew. Everyone definitely has their eyes on anything this publisher puts out.
 
Oct 25, 2017
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#46
Really enjoyed reading this Q&A. Great work, Emily!
Chucklefish really seems like one of the more successful indie developers/publishers, hope they stay around for a good while.
 

legacyzero

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Oct 26, 2017
3,334
#48
Question #24 -- Members: legacyzero and LycanXIII and Overflow

Legacyzero asks: “Is Starbound still planned for PS4 and Vita?

LycanXIII asks: “Been looking forward to Starbound on the PS4 since it was announced at E3 2014. How are the ports coming along for consoles?”

Overflow asks: “Is Stardew Vita still coming and when? My girlfriend keeps asking. Don’t make me break her heart.”

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Jay (Chucklefish): Starbound is currently being ported for consoles - though we’re focusing on the Xbox version right now. It’s been both a technical and a design challenge, but it’s getting there! Here’s a preview of some UI changes which have been made for the console version:



Tom (Chucklefish): Stardew is still coming to Vita. Its small screen resolution and low-spec hardware have made it the most challenging Stardew Valley port yet for Sickhead Games, but it’s coming along.

Adam (Chucklefish): It’ll also feature cross-buy support, so if you already own Stardew Valley on PS4 you won’t need to purchase it again to play on your Vita. It’s worth noting however, that we’re unable to port multiplayer to PS Vita.
That’s excellent news! I’ve put WAAAAY too many hours into Starbound. If anybody here hasnt played it yet, spelunking is SUUUUPER addictive