2015 – A Year In Review

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First off, if you are taking the time to read this then thank you so much. As you may already know, it’s at this time of the month when we usually do a summary of last month’s work but being as it’s the new year I figured we should jump on the band wagon and do a somewhat ‘year in review’ style post. This is especially relevant as it is approaching Monocools first unofficial birthday! So this month we are going to skip or at least delay the usual developer update and I am going to give my thoughts on the entire year, highlight some of the better points and give a little talk about my hopes and plans for 2016.


 

Going Live

It was in January 2015 when I realized that Monocool Interactive and Castaways was what I wanted to do with my career. I was in a really good position career wise but my heart wasn’t in it and I couldn’t go an hour without thinking about going full time game dev. Obviously there aren’t any guarantees when you’re starting out so it was a pretty big and risky decision, but I had already been working on Castaways for over 2 years and now it was just a matter of taking it to the next level. This was a huge turning point for me, Castaways and Monocool. It was at this point I began taking steps to getting to where we are now and this is also when the Monocool Facebook page and the Monocool website went live for the first time.


 

Becoming A Full Time Game Developer

Although I began taking steps to going full time, it wasn’t until the May when I was in a position to leave my job and make Monocool not only my full time job, but my life. In hindsight, I could’ve done it sooner or later, each with their benefits but what’s done is done and this was the best thing I could have ever done.

It isn’t just the developing of the game that is time consuming. There is so much more to it, writing blogs, contacting people, managing social media, managing those who may be working with you, chasing up funding and jumping through the seemly unlimited number of hurdles they throw your way. A lot of people don’t understand this and I’ve had more eyes rolled at me than I can count when I tell people I quit my job to make games for a living. A lot of people really don’t understand that I didn’t quit my job to take on a more glamorous one with a better pay. I worker harder than I ever have, longer hours and for less than half minimum wage.

Negatives aside, this was a huge turning point for everything I wanted to do. I became so much happier and the progress on Castaways increased tenfold. I was able to start doing simple things that I couldn’t do while under full time employment such as attend business gateway meetings.


 

Steam Concepts

In July we finally got around to putting Castaways on the Steam Concepts section of steam. It is still live and you can see it here. This was great as we could finally start seeing what people thought about our ideas regardless of how developed they were. We received great feedback back from this. The numbers speak for themselves with 96% of the people who saw the page voted that they would play Castaways when completed.


 

Monocool Interactive Limited

As of October 2015 Monocool Interactive is a fully registered limited company. It’s not exactly the most extravagant thing in the world but it was a nice upgrade going from ‘this is my company’ to ‘this is my 100% legal and registered company’. Again, its not the most amazing or difficult thing to achieve, but its a nice feeling when you are in a position to be taken seriously.


 

Funding From The Princes’ Trust

In October I also went in front of a panel to pitch Monocool Interactive as a startup company with the hope of receiving funding. This was a pretty long process and an extremely steep learning curve but it all paid off and in November we were awarded with a nice sum of money to keep us going.
It was nice to finally be considered as a real company as opposed to just someone with an idea or hobby, especially with it including games. Not that we needed it, but it was also a real nice confidence boost!


 

Castaways

Words will never explain how far Castaways has come in a year. I told Alex way back at the start of the year that I think we could get Castaways finished in a year. Safe to say I was wrong, but I wasn’t that far off.

Throughout the year Castaways has changed dramatically in two ways. Firstly, the ideas that I started the year with have evolved, improved and in every aspect became so much better. As more people have gotten involved, the game has taken a life of its own. As time has gone on and we have read or watched different things, we’ve adjusted our idea of wha Castaways is and honestly I cannot wait to get a finished product out for people to play.

Secondly and more obviously, the game has come such a long way. In January we didn’t really have much to be honest but now it’s blossoming and changing monthly. We have single player, multiplayer, Ai, an almost perfect building system, really cool personal and team inventories and the list goes on. And on top of that we still have a gigantic list of things that we want to add that is going to make things even better. This is all just a matter of time, but fortunately this is something we have plenty of.


 

The Monocool Team

I can confidently say without these people I wouldn’t be writing this post. They have been unbelievably hard working, patient, reliable, supportive – just amazing. Like most startups there is very little in it for them in the short term, potentially long term too. They are well aware of it but they still put in an extra shift on top of their normal jobs to keep things going and picking up the pieces where I need them to. So if you guys happen to read this, thank you again for all your hard work.

On a less soppy note, it’s also been great to see these guys from my role as manager too. I have no reservations about any of their abilities. They are all great at what they do and they are all hard working, but being fully honest, over the year every single one of them has surprised me in more than one way. Each has impressed me with their skills and abilities where I had no clue that they were as good as they were. Everyone, including myself, has learned a lot over the year and we should all be proud of how far we’ve come. We are all better for what we have done over the past year.
2015 has flown by. I think 2016 is going to go by even faster and more frantic and I really can’t wait. We have a trailer coming, starting our Steam Greenlight campaign, launching a new website, additional contract work and as mentioned a ton of things we want to do for Castaways and Monocool Interactive.

If you have made it this far, thank you again for reading this and being a part of it. I and everyone from Monocool appreciate your support. I honestly believe that 2016 is going to be a big year for us and I hope that you’ll be there every step of the way and to see and celebrate any success that we may have.

– Rhys Willis, an extremely happy self employed game developer.