Stardew Valley is an absolutely wonderful take on the Harvest Moon formula. In fact, it wouldn’t be a stretch to say it did everything its inspiration did far better. That’s all the more impressive because it was developed by a single person, from the design to the programming to the art and music. Now that Stardew has been ported to numerous platforms, localized into many languages, and built into a worldwide success, there’s one very obvious question for Eric “ConcernedApe” Barone. What’s next?
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Naturally, when Barone hosted an AMA at the r/Nintendo subreddit following the release of Stardew’s Switch port, he was asked exactly that. “My next game will take place on the same planet as Stardew Valley,” he says, “although it's not a sequel or expansion in any way.”
“I don't want to reveal too much at this point, but I am thinking of approaching my next game with a similar mindset to Stardew Valley -- take a style of game that was never fully realized (or that changed trajectories, leaving unexplored possibilities), and carry on the tradition in my own weird way.”
The “style of game” in the case of Stardew Valley was, of course, Harvest Moon, a series which had doubled down on its niche and faded to even greater obscurity since its best entries. There are about a bajillion different series that fit that bill of course, so you’re not getting too much detail just yet. (Though Monster Rancher was a particularly interesting idea floated by some commenters.)
Stardew Valley does imply a larger story beyond the bounds of its titular idyllic locale, with rumors of a far-off war, the encroaching evil of a nefarious mega-corporation, and loads of magic and monsters peeking in around the sides. That makes plenty of room for just about any genre to serve as the follow-up. And the developer says this follow-up will once again be a solo project.
Chucklefish, Stardew Valley’s publishers, are taking their own inspiration from Barone’s game for Spellbound, which will blend life sim with a little bit of that Harry Potter magic.
Things have changed for Barone since Stardew’s success, though. “My motivation has shifted toward bringing more magic into the world,” he says, “and creating a lifetime of games that I can look back on with pride and satisfaction. My early experiences with games were very special and meaningful for me, and I want to pass that feeling on to as many people as I can.” I can’t imagine a much more noble development goal.