On Thursday, Stardew Valley creator Eric Barone dropped a two-minute teaser video for an entirely new game pretty much out of nowhere. The new game, titled Haunted Chocolatier, looks a lot like Stardew Valley, which means it’s a refreshingly lovely homage to all things SNES and Squaresoft.
As Barone’s first new video game since SV‘s 2016 launch, Haunted Chocolatier currently doesn’t have a release date estimate of any kind. Barone admits that its gameplay systems aren’t yet finalized—mostly so that he doesn’t wind up “tied down to any particular concept of what the game is” before its eventual launch. To avoid being “tied down to any particular concept of what the game is” before its eventual launch, Barone has not yet finalized Haunted Chocolatier‘s gameplay systems. HC‘s reveal came alongside a lengthy FAQ, whose site has been pounded by fans’ immediate interest in the new game, and it clarifies that the game revolves around “a chocolatier living in a haunted castle” who must “gather rare ingredients, make delicious chocolates, and sell them in a chocolate shop.”
If that sounds pedestrian to you, you clearly haven’t gotten sucked into the addictive Harvest Moon homage that is Stardew Valley, which has sold millions of copies in its six years on PC and most console families. (There’s also a board game version.) Like that game, Barone suggests that HC will be an entirely self-made project (programming, art, music, and more), with outside help only coming once the game is finalized and needs help with language translations and ports to other platforms. (As of press time, Barone is only committing to a launch on PC, with other platform announcements to come later.)
Today’s announcement clarifies that HC and SV look similar for intentional reasons: they’re similar enough mechanically to fit into Barone’s self-described “town game” genre. But the newer HC will emphasize “action-RPG” systems, and the trailer shows melee and ranged combat in an outside-of-town wilderness that potentially resembles the SNES classic Secret of Mana. The teaser also shows a number of NPC interactions that hint to a bigger objective than merely collecting ingredients and making and selling treats. (Though if that’s really HC this boils down to, we’ll still bite.)
Barone’s rise from game-making obscurity to beloved indie icon is chronicled at length in the 2017 book Blood, Sweat, and Pixels. In the chapter devoted to Barone, reporter Jason Schreier scrutinizes Barone’s stubborn dedication to endlessly refining SV, even well after its retail launch. Today, Barone admits he is still not finished developing SV, in spite of the game never receiving a paid DLC update on any of its existing platforms. Work on HC, he adds, has been ongoing over “nights and weekends” since some time in 2020. Even wackier, he admits it’s not the only game concept he’s been tooling around with in his spare hours, though he estimates that HC is the one he will “finish first.”
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