Eric Barone’s Stardew Valley is one of those rare things in gaming: A commercial hit that actually qualifies as an auteur production. Although he eventually brought in an outside developer to help deal with technical issues, Barone coded and created the vast majority of the rural best-seller himself, creating a loving homage to the Harvest Valley series of console farming simulators that often bested the originals in charm and mechanical wit.
Now Barone has announced his next game, and it’s somewhat seasonally themed. Per our colleagues at Kotaku, Barone is set to embark on Haunted Chocolatier, a game about…well, being a chocolate maker who lives in a haunted castle, presumably feeding sweet treats to ghouls.
Writing in a blog post, Barone (who goes online by the handle ConcernedApe, because video games) noted that he was interested in creating something more fantastical than the fairly straightforward Stardew. “With Stardew Valley,” he writes, “I felt somewhat constrained, because I was working within an established tradition. I don’t regret that at all, but there’s always been a part of me that wanted to go ‘unleashed’.” Barone also notes that the game will involve familiar mechanics: Collecting ingredients, combining them into delicious chocolates, and then selling them. (Like with farm simulators, there’s a whole sub-genre of games about operating shops; 2010's Recettear and the recent Potion Craft both leap immediatley to mind.)
And while we like spooky chocolate as much as the next folks, interest in Haunted Chocolatier is definitely being driven by Barone himself. Stardew Valley was a massive hit, selling millions of copies by giving people exactly what they wanted: A quiet, safe little world where they could farm, plan, date, etc. Its success speaks to Barone’s dedication to the project—he worked on it for years before finally releasing it to rave success—as well as his instincts for what makes for a good time for players. If he think spectral truffles are the next big thing, who are we to argue?