There aren’t a lot of story driven games in the farming genre. In fact, there’s one game that comes close to it and it’s rune factory, but that’s a flip of a coin because the main goal of rune factory is to farm and get marry just like the other farming simulator. This goes for harvest moon and especially for stardew valley.
What I mean by a story driven farming simulator is that you have a centralized plot: beginning, middle, and end. The games ends after xxx amount of hours you play into it. In stardew valley, you can put 400 hours in and still not “beat” the game. Same goes with harvest moon, and most other indie farming simulators out there as well. This is what we call, “open ended” game where the game never ends. You can continue farming, and mining but you will never beat the game. That’s why this game genre is called cozy games or farming genre. It’s about life and breathing that life into that game. You’re pretty much living a 2nd life in a fantasy world.
I want to compare my game to stardew valley since I get criticize for being a stardew valley copycat. Which it isn’t.
I’ll start off with Harvest Island doesn’t have any dating at all. There’s no marriage candidates. You don’t grow older and eventually find someone. Harvest Island is purely a story driven game with farming mechanics to support the plot.
Stardew valley is more about dating and growing your farm. You have marriage candidates and they can live with you. Stardew valley is really about growing your farm and living that 2nd life. The main character doesn’t talk and it’s designed that way because you are playing that empty of a shell character and giving that character life to that fantasy world. Which is pretty much you expressing who you are.
Harvest Island substitutes dating for a complete story. Since there are only 3 characters on the island, Will, Samantha, and the father, Greyson, it’s impossible to have any dating at all!
In a game design perspective, Harvest Island and Stardew Valley are very different. One has dating and the other doesn’t. There are other differences that distinguishes my game from stardew valley and it’s in the mechanics as well, such as fishing, how your stamina is used, and the ability to keep on playing after midnight and all the way until the next day. Pretty much forever. You can read that blog here.
Lets transition to Dinkum which just released into early access and a lot of people liked it. Dinkum is a pretty good game in which I played it to learn from the developer and see how Harvest Island can be different from it. I didn’t have to play long to immediately understand that dinkum and Harvest Island is very different. In fact, dinkum is very similar to Stardew Valley and it takes that genre one step further. In Dinkum, you are growing your town and convincing your new residents to stay. There are lots of things to build and more so compared to stardew valley. Instead of raising a family, you are building a town like minecraft which you can also farm, and showing your town to your friends like animal crossing. The amount of crafting and little details is insane and it’s the baby of animal crossing and stardew valley. Here’s where Harvest Island differs.
The genre of farming simulators goes like this. You are brought to a land and you farm that land to grow your town or raise a family. To make that farming simulator fun, game developers add a theme to that. In the case of Dinkum, Australia’s outback. Another example would be Rune Factory 5, a fantasy monster taming theme. The idea is the most important in the farming genre. Harvest Island’s theme is fantasy. This is where my game branches out. Dinkum and Stardew valley along with Rune factory follows one road and that’s farm life. The emphasis on raising a family or building something bigger than themselves. Harvest Island branches towards storytelling in which the game tells you a story about the characters and their lives as you farm. It’s not about building something bigger than themselves or trying to grow up and raise a family, it’s about their adventures on that island. There’s one game that takes this idea and has done it very successfully. It’s called SpiritFarer.
SpiritFarer is a cozy management game. It’s not an entire farming simulator but you can still farm. Just not as big as Dinkum and Stardew Valley, but Harvest Island does share similarities to SpiritFarer. In SpiritFarer, there is a story, beginning to end and the same goes for Harvest Island. Here’s where the concept shares. SpiritFarer uses it’s cozy mechanics to help support the story just like how Harvest Island is doing. Both are in the farming genre, but they emphasize in storytelling and character development, not the farming aspects of the game. SpiritFarer theme is about the deceased and it’s emotional character building. The same applies for Harvest Island, but it’s about the children’s adventure on that island. Both tells a distinctive clear story that you don’t need to do side quest to piece together a working theory of a story or a small little drama. This branching type of a farming simulator doesn’t have a specific sub genre so we can just call it a story driven farming simulator. It’s still a farming genre but not as apparent compared to the traditional build your farm theme. There aren’t too many of these story driven farming simulators out there, but SpiritFarer is a good example of what Harvest Island is doing with more of a farming theme in mind.
There are a lot of farming games I’ve seen so far and haven’t been released. Coral Island, Sunnyside, Everdream valley, Ikonei Island, Stardew Valley. The list goes on. But there’s one thing that they all have in common is that they all share the common traditional farming mechanics. Build your farm from scratch, raise animals, and befriend the people in that town or area. How unique and how thematic is what makes these farming genre successful in selling and keeping gamers interested in that theme. I would say Harvest Island has a very unique theme and it will go against all other farming genre. It has no dating. It has no relationship building of friends. It’s not a build your farm and share it to your friends type game. And it’s not about that life sim of raising a family. Harvest Island is about a story of two kids and their father living on a remote island. They farm and give their harvest offering to the gods. It’s full of mystery and the only way to discover that mystery is to explore the island.
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