Hey Kinoko fans.

Two months ago, we wrote about our plans for the month of December. We started to look back on a successful 2023, whilst also beginning to think ahead to what an even-more-successful 2024 might look like.

We’d planned to wrap up 2023 with one final blog post for the year. There, we’d likely have happily reflected on all our successes and achievements: the development of our game from scrappy proof-of-concept to… well, something not so scrappy; the successful transition from Unity to Godot; the growth of our social media following and Discord community; and also some personal stuff too, like the purchase of our house. My personal new year’s resolution for 2023 had been to work on the project every single day of the year and document it, and – up until nearly the very end – I did just that, whilst Chelsey worked on it every day too.

Indeed, for the most part, 2023 was an excellent year for us.

Unfortunately, as many in our community now know, my brother sadly died on 18th December 2023. This – as you can surely imagine – has been a devastating loss for me, for us, and for our family. It wasn’t just one week before Christmas and two weeks before new year. It was also just 10 days before what should have been his 27th birthday, and so we also had that to contend with. As life goes on, there are some losses you prepare yourself for. The loss of your only sibling, whilst they’re still in their twenties, isn’t one of them, nor do you expect to see your parents suffer the loss of a child. It’s been a deeply traumatic time, and one I don’t expect I’ll ever fully come back from.

As a result of all this, the development of our game has effectively been put on ice since then. I hope you can understand. I’ve worked on the game a small handful of times since Christmas, but mostly I’ve just been trying to take it easy, primarily by watching lots of TV, playing lots of video games, eating lots of food (too much actually), and just generally trying to get out of the house as much as possible. It isn’t quite the roaring start to 2024 I’d been hoping for, but it’s what I need right now for the sake of my mental health.

(I did get a couple of new tattoos in my brother’s honour, which was something positive to focus on. I made a point of not dictating their design, but vaguely describing what I wanted and letting fate – or my brother’s will, if you’re a believer – do its thing. Credit to Vivid Ink here in Birmingham for doing these for me!)

I was quite hesitant to write about any of this, but ultimately it’s what this blog is supposed to be all about. I didn’t only want it to be a blog about our successes, but anything else that throws us a curveball along the way and disrupts our plans too. Losing one’s brother arguably falls on the extreme end of things, but the life of indie game developers is challenging, and unlike in a big game studio there’s almost always no one to pick up the slack when you’re out of action for weeks or months at a time. I’m only human, and I don’t mind saying that losing my brother has well and truly fucked me up.

Now, onto more positive news I think…

Of course, I may personally be down for the count for the foreseeable future, but here at Cult of Galaxy studios we’re fortunate enough to be a team of two, and that means we’ve still got Chelsey! And whilst I’ve been busy bingeing The Big Bang Theory and stuffing my tear-soaked face with junk food, Chelsey’s been busy keeping the wheels turning, mainly by producing new character references, drawing more planets, and finishing off the last of her commissions. You might’ve noticed a couple of those new planets have found their way onto the website already, and we’ll have loads more of those coming over the next few weeks as I slowly get around to writing words for them.

In our last blog post before this one (lucky I posted it on 17th December, or I might’ve been forced to skip a month), we announced the launch of our Cult of Galaxy Shop and holographic stickers. We’ve been very pleased to have sold more than a dozen of these stickers already, which isn’t bad at all for a brand new shop, especially when we haven’t exactly been pushing it due to our present circumstances. If you haven’t bought one yet and you’re interested, we’ve still plenty left, but make sure you get your orders in before it’s too late, because we’re not sure yet if we’ll be stocking more of this particular sticker!

Despite how December ended, I did actually have a super-productive first half to the month, and I did get a lot of the stuff I’d planned to do in December done. I’ll do a proper update on the state of the game soon, but I’m happy to say that I did improve Kinoko’s swimming, and also added some bouncy enemies for him to jump on. I didn’t get around to doing the swinging vines like I wanted to, but they’re hopefully next, once I can motivate myself to do them. I also created a new ‘settings’ menu, enabling me to get the audio toggles off the HUD, so that’s a big improvement too.

Anyway, even if it’s been quite a rocky start to the new year for reasons beyond our control, and even though I’m out of action for the time being whilst I get started with my grief counselling, you can rest assured that Kinoko and the Cult of Galaxy will return, and it will be stronger than ever. I’m more aware than ever now how things don’t always go as planned, and that tomorrow’s never promised – to any of us. Depression’s a bitch to fight, but fight it I shall, because Chelsey’s awesome art deserves an equally awesome game, and that game isn’t going to make itself without me.

✝ I’m sorry for swearing in the blog… but if I’m ever allowed one, it’s now!