Red Candle Games has been in the spotlight of late. The tiny Taiwanese studio has unwittingly become the purveyors of critically acclaimed atmospheric horror games that are cripplingly difficult to access. That isn't by choice, of course, but it's a situation the studio is trying to get on top of as it begins to chart its path out of disaster and into the future.
"Looking back on Detention and Devotion, we've noticed that, inevitably, disastrous events tend to recur during Red Candle's game development," a Red Candle spokesperson told me over email. The developer is taking these "disastrous events" in its stride, however, and it now understands that "mistakes and failure are all part of the process." That's an admirably positive outlook on the events that have unfolded for Red Candle Games, especially when you consider all of the strife it has endured since its formation in 2015.
Red Candle Games launched Devotion in February 2019, although few have had the chance to play it. The horror-adventure was delisted from Steam in a matter of days, following the discovery of a hidden reference allegedly mocking the Chinese President Xi Jinping. Facing intense pressure, and the loss of its publishing agreement with Indievent and Winking Entertainment, sales of Devotion were suspended indefinitely and its future left uncertain. In December 2020, it appeared that the studio had found a path forward with GOG, although the publisher quickly backtracked on the announcement just hours after it was made – once again leaving the game hanging in limbo.
What's next for Red Candle Games, then? The studio tells me that it isn't changing its experimental approach to game creation, although it is considering different ways it can get its games into the hands of players. "All of our games are deeply rooted in the Taiwanese/Chinese culture, which in a way made our game look unique and feel different when played," the developer says. "But since not many games before us have the same East Asian elements, often we have to experiment with different ideas before getting satisfying results. And both Detention and Devotion provided us the opportunity to try the things that may help us in the long run."
Of course, what good is there in experimentation if none of us are able to appreciate the end result? Red Candle Games has been given a lot to think about in recent years, and it's beginning to think about changing the ways in which it delivers its games to players. "Devotion for sure gives us some new thoughts on how we view game publishing. From the past years, we've received messages from our community suggesting we bring the game to console platforms," says Red Candle, although it understands that can be easier said than done.
The studio's debut, Detention, launched on PC in 2017 before making its way to PS4, Nintendo Switch, and Android devices steadily over the two years that followed. While Red Candle continues to investigate ways to change up the ways it publishes its games, it is ultimately restrained by the scale of its organization. "If possible, we would love to publish our games to both PC and console platforms simultaneously. But given that we are still a small team with limited resources, we are still building our way to make it happen in small steps, hopefully, we'll be able to self-publish our products on multiple platforms sometimes in the future."
Looking to the future
"After both Detention and Devotion, our team decided to take a break from the horror genre and try something new, so our next project is not a horror title," the studio tells me. "In fact, we made a rather sharp turn and are currently working on a 2D action adventure game." This would be the project that Red Candle teased in December 2020, alongside the launch of Detention's Netflix adaptation.
Regardless, Red Candle's next game will still be inspired by East Asian culture, as Detention and Devotion were before it. "Based on the experience we have with Detention and Devotion, the scope and scale of the new game will be larger than our previous titles," the studio tells me. It'll be "presented in a quite different direction, considering there will be more efforts put into 2D character animations, level design, and the game's fiction setting."
Don't get your hopes up for seeing this new game any time soon, however. Red Candle's next game is "still early in development," according to the studio, so we'll be waiting a fair while for the tiny developer to pull back the curtain on this enigmatic project.
Whatever comes next for Red Candle Games, it'll be well worth the wait. After two of the more celebrated horror games of the past few years, I'm eager to see what the developer can come up with in new, uncharted territory.
The future of Detention might be uncertain, but there are still other scary games you can jump into in 2021. Read our The Medium review, the first horror game of the year.