The creator of fan-favourite country-life RPG Stardew Valley Eric “ConcernedApe” Barone has opened up to “clarify a couple of things” after Chucklefish was alleged to have exploited “around a dozen” unpaid contributors for its 2016 release, Starbound.
Accusations came to light when writer Damon Reece made a number of allegations on Twitter last month, reporting they had worked “hundreds of hours” without any pay “while the company made unbelievable amounts of money off of [their] labour, and that of around a dozen other unpaid workers”.
“I started out my gamedev career working on Starbound for almost two years. I was sixteen,” said Reece on Twitter at the time. “I worked hundreds of hours and wasn’t paid a single cent for it while the company made unbelievable amounts of money off of my labour, and that of around a dozen other unpaid workers.
“A couple of them ended up working at the company. it doesn’t mean they weren’t exploited too. I spent a long time being very afraid that talking about this would tank my career,” Reece added. “But this is indisputable truth, and I am, for now, in a stable and safe position. so there you go.”
“I am aware of the news and social media reports that Chucklefish allegedly engaged in unfair and potentially abusive labour practices during development of their game, Starbound,” Barone said via a blog post (thanks, GI.biz).”I feel the need to address this situation because the connection between Chucklefish and Stardew Valley, as well as the degree to which Chucklefish was involved in the creation of the game, has been a source of confusion for many people. So I’d like to clarify a couple of things.
“Throughout the 4.5 years of development, I was the only person to work on Stardew Valley. Neither Chucklefish nor any contributors working with Chucklefish were involved in creating the game, in any capacity.”
Barone finished up by stressing Chucklefish served only as a publisher, and they parted ways with the company in December 2018 to self-publish the game. They further added that “both personally and in [their] capacity as the recent founder of a small team”, they believe “in compensating developers for their contributions in working on games”.
“We’re aware and saddened by the current allegations against Chucklefish regarding Starbound’s early development,” the developer said at the time via a statement. “During this time both the core crew and community contributors were collaborating via a chat room and dedicated their time for free. Community contributors were under no obligation to create content, work to deadlines or put in any particular number of hours. Everyone was credited or remunerated as per their agreement.
“It’s been almost a decade since Starbound’s development first began, and from then Chucklefish has grown considerably into an indie studio that has a strong emphasis on good working practices, providing a welcoming environment for all employees and freelancers. Our doors remain open to any related parties who wish to discuss their concerns with us directly.”