Illustration of Haunted Chocolatier.
The highly-anticipated Haunted Chocolatier is expected to offer a refreshingly spooky twist on the wholesome gameplay of ConcernedApe's first release. (Illustration by Aiyana Kline, Minneapolis College of Art and Design)

Haunted Chocolatier: ConcernedApe’s Exciting New Video Game Announcement

The well-known RPG developer recently introduced his latest project, which is highly reminiscent of its beyond-charming predecessor, Stardew Valley.

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Illustration of Haunted Chocolatier.

The well-known RPG developer recently introduced his latest project, which is highly reminiscent of its beyond-charming predecessor, Stardew Valley.

Rumors have circulated the internet for some time now about a new game from ConcernedApe, and on Oct. 18, a trailer confirming these rumors was released on YouTube. The concept of the new game, called Haunted Chocolatier, closely resembles Stardew Valley, the creator’s other game.

ConcernedApe, also known as Eric Barone, is a video game developer and designer. His first mainstream game, the aforementioned Stardew Valley, was released in 2016. The simulation role-playing game was first released on PC and was later added to other consoles and even mobile devices. Stardew Valley has been on the Nintendo Switch’s best sellers list since the console’s release in 2017 and the game has undergone many updates since then, including its newest one from this past May.

In 2020 Barone announced he was working on several other games, some of which would be set in the Stardew Valley universe. However, due to recent Stardew Valley updates along with a Stardew Valley board game, doubt began to creep into players’ minds, snubbing out hopes of a new game dropping anytime soon. Therefore, the release of the trailer for Haunted Chocolatier prompted players everywhere to express their excitement.

Haunted Chocolatier, although not confirmed to be set in the Stardew Valley universe, does resemble its predecessor, especially in its artwork and music style. Barone announced in September that Stardew Valley players should not expect any more updates on the game for some time, as he has shifted his focus to his new project. With that in mind, while the trailer for Haunted Chocolatier was released, the game needs a lot of development before it’s dropped.

Haunted Chocolatier focuses its storyline around a haunted castle in a small town. The player will make their way through the game, fighting the creatures around them and making chocolate. On the Haunted Chocolatier website, Barone identified the path he would be taking with the game. He explained, “However, don’t think for a moment that, because this game features ghosts in a haunted castle, it is an evil or negative game. On the contrary, I intend for this game to be positive, uplifting and life-affirming.”

Barone also wrote on the Haunted Chocolatier website that it will take a completely different route than Stardew Valley in many ways. The game focuses a lot more on combat than its predecessor and in a video, Barone delves into some details on the differences between the two. Barone wrote, “You can rest assured that I’m not ‘copying and pasting’ Stardew’s combat. On the contrary, almost everything in Haunted Chocolatier, including the combat, is completely coded (and drawn) from scratch.”

Although Barone mentioned that he does not want Haunted Chocolatier to resemble Stardew Valley, players hope to have the same connection to the game that they had with its predecessor. Stardew Valley begins with loss and job burnout, and when the player arrives at their grandfather’s farm, they then try to relieve the stress of the big city. Along the way, the player creates real connections with the other NPCs, replete with possible “heart events” that depict real-life problems. Barone included these features in his game because he wanted the characters and the storyline to be more relatable. With Haunted Chocolatier intentionally setting itself apart from Stardew Valley, one can only hope to see the same real connections and relatability ConcernedApe’s last game provided.

Barone does mention similarities between the two games, like moving to a new town and having a fresh start. The game will first release on PC with other platforms to follow not long after. And although not yet confirmed, Barone vaguely stated that he was not ready to reveal whether Haunted Chocolatier was part of the Stardew Valley universe.

Growing up, Barone loved video games; Harvest Moon in particular especially resonated with him, which is clear in the familiar yet entirely unique style that his own video games have. Still, he hadn’t planned to become a video game developer due to the research he had done on the video game industry. Instead, Barone attended the University of Washington Tacoma and majored in computer science.

Now equipped with his technical knowledge, Barone said that all the code and drawings are made from scratch, along with all other aspects of his game, including the music, writing, animation and design. The inspiration for his first game was derived from his dissatisfaction with the newest Harvest Moon and he decided to make it into what he had hoped it would be — thus, Stardew Valley was born. However, Barone did everything on his own, which took a sum of four years. Barone will now do so again with Haunted Chocolatier, mentioning that he has no plans to bring anyone on the project as of now.

While Barone mentioned that he felt “constrained” while working on Stardew Valley, his possibilities have expanded as he continues working on Haunted Chocolatier. There is still so much to find out about the game, but Barone has decided to leave out any details that may tie him down so he can still figure out which route he wants to take. Haunted Chocolatier may have been announced as Barone’s newest, confirmed project and will be released before any others, but the game still has a lot of development to undergo before fans can hope to see anything close to a finished product.

In his most recent post on the Haunted Chocolatier website, dated Oct. 30, Barone wrote:

“The bottom line, is that I won’t rest, or release this game, until I am personally satisfied that it’s very fun and compelling, in every aspect. If it never gets there, I’ll just never release it. But don’t worry, I have 100% faith that I’ll get it there. Everything is on the right track so far, I have the complete vision for the game in my head, and it’s just a matter of ‘grinding it out,’ which is what I’m doing every day! Thanks for reading all this.

alright, I’m going back to work

-Ape”

So at the end of the day, the game is still — at least at this point — up in the air, but this hasn’t stopped fans from giving Barone their full support. @theMAC, a dedicated fan, tweeted, “This looks outstanding. I love the idea of running a storefront too. You have my money whenever it comes. Take your time and stay healthy. Looking forward to it.”

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Illusion Ventura

Whittier College
English and Psychology

I am an adventurous person trying to find my way in the world. I love reading and writing and try to do as much as I can in my free time.

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