I am glad to see that new team members are coming on board. That sounds like a great idea. The Valheim team has always been small for the goals they set.
Having managed game dev for years, including early access, multiplayer co-op, indies and for major publishers, I can tell you have arrived at that second part. The part where, you understand how the pipeline works that makes your content, but there is a lot of it to be done (thus a new animator).
Also, this is the point where there are some pretty serious technical issues that have been set aside, but are gradually getting bigger as you build on top of that technical debt (new programmer and QA manager). I am very glad you see the value of solid QA, it is an excellent investment.
I know it is not up to me, but if it was, I would task you with these things that are often important for this phase in development:
- Kill a few of your "babies" ; that is, a few of your beloved ideas that are clever but reduce the clarity of the game's main themes, with some unessential fuzziness at the edges. Everyone always hates it, but we all need two passes of baby killing to keep the design crisp.
- Makes some tough graphics calls. You have gone beyond what performs well in the development environment as it exists, even with low poly count models and low res textures. The draws are slow, the LoD's are slow, the landscape polys, structures and world saves are all painful, even on a decent machine (Ryzen 3600 3.6Ghz, 16 GB DDR/Radeon XT 5700 8GB/ PCI SSD @ 1440, only 38FPS) – yes I know it hasn't been fully optimized yet, but you can't really get there from here. This game is coming out great and has a big future if you treat it like it has a big future and get those graphics subsystems strong, fast and bulletproof. There is risk in this change, I don't believe it can wait.
- The cheats are really a whole game mode, like Minecraft's creative mode. You might as well admit it and go with it as another official way to play the game. It is fun, technically clean, presentable pretty much as it is. A bit of UI is the only thing between it today and commercial quality. (I already have about 300 hours in just building)
- Your new QA manager may have ideas about some automated testing, per build, to know what changes hurt performance. Also, more formal test cases, maybe a team of distributed volunteer testers on all kinds of hardware and firming up the minimum and recommended specs. These kinds of systems will pay big dividends as you move toward release candidates.
- With a little early access money, you can add some people, as we see in the latest update and also think about Unity's big feature of cross compiling to other platforms. Going from PC to a console or two, even using contractors, are whole new lines of revenue, but console consumers are very sensitive to unfinished work, so polish up that PC version before you take the leap, but start to lay the groundwork.