The very first Harvest Moon was a seminal moment in gaming history — at least, it was if you like farming games — but series creator Yasuhiro Wada recently spoke at GDC 2012 about how close he came to giving up on the game before release.
Initially the game began as a cow-raising simulator, inspired by the ever-popular Japanese Derby Stallion series, but it was too much work with too little reward. That's when Wada and his team came up with the idea of farming, an element inspired by classic mayoral game Sim City and, less conventionally, The Legend of Zelda. Wada speaks glowingly about the moment he saw the first prototype:
Once you worked on the land, you wanted to go back and see. We saw the first sprout appeared... It may sound simple right now, but I will never forget the moment I saw that on screen. It was pretty amazing, and I knew we could do this. I said to our team, 'Let's continue to make this game.'
From tiny acorns do mighty oak trees grow, but the game hit a wall when the first playable ROM came together: animal management, character interaction and farming didn't combine cohesively, and the frame rate dropped to a crawl. Six months of trial and error followed, after which the unthinkable happened: the developer went under, its president literally going missing and teams disbanding. Wada was ready to throw in the towel, but programmer Tomomi Yamatate and writer Setsuko Miyakoshi convinced him to finish the game.
Newly energised, Wada negotiated an extra six months of development time from the publisher before going to the studio, reclaiming equipment and bedding down in a meeting room, working day and night for six months until the game was finally finished. Wada's recollection is simple:
I never felt happier or more thankful in my life.
Now of course Harvest Moon is a Nintendo staple, but had Wada given up all those years ago we may never have experienced the simple pleasures of harvesting turnips.