Hello friends, and welcome to the annual retrospective summary of progress for Moonshell Island in 2021! In last year’s retrospect, I had a lot of exciting development progress and tons of screenshots to share, but this year was quite different. For that reason this summary won’t be as limited to Moonshell Island content as previous years, but will cover how important progress has still been made on the game despite the lack of consistent public updates.

Cheekynauts Entertainment

Since Cheekynauts was incorporated in September last year, much of 2021 was me still learning how to run a business with no background in such things and a lot of difficulty getting answers. It was beyond frustrating to be ghosted by my first lawyer for months at time and to receive brief responses to my detailed accounting questions that required much expensive back-and-forth (ultimately eating all the year’s Patreon profits). Thankfully, my friend Kai Hutchence (CEO at Massive Corporation Game Studios) was an extremely helpful resource when all else failed. If not for his help, this first corporate year would likely have been a complete disaster. Despite all the trouble, overcoming this phase was an empowering experience that I have grown and learned a lot from. Unfortunately, it did take me away from Moonshell Island for a significant amount of time, but I still managed to reach a few cool milestones this year, so let’s move on!

Sam trying her best

In a Nutshell

Early this year we started a newsletter called In a Nutshell with Cheekynauts, summarizing what we get up to each month! Though some months are less eventful than others, having a newsletter is great because it’s motivating and makes writing these annual summaries a whole lot easier. If you’d like to keep up with our projects on a more regular basis than once a year and receive an exclusive squirrel anecdote each month, you should totally subscribe to our newsletter! If you’ve been doing so since February, this summary is about to get very familiar.

Newsletter logo for In a Nutshell with Cheekynauts

A Very Cheekynauts Valentine

Being the ambitious lunatic that I am, I went a little overboard with my Valentine’s Day gift to Schotti this year and made a small point-and-click game featuring the Cheekynauts mascots. Since this is the first game project I’ve actually finished, I had to share it with everyone. Thanks to the music and sound effects by Megahammer Studios, the game came together pretty nicely despite being built in 4 days using… substandard methods. If you have a few minutes, I recommend clicking everything you can in A Very Cheekynauts Valentine!

Gameplay footage from A Very Cheekynauts Valentine

Patreon Highlights & Challenges

This year I finished the small reward project I had started in 2020, a series of 4 season-themed postcards featuring the Cheekynauts mascots. It was so fun to do, I could see myself making a whole calendar of these someday… but there I go being too ambitious for my own good again.

Cheekynauts of the Season postcards

Actually, as much as I love doing these postcards, I’ll be doing less of them from now on. Because this year was so hard on both the corporate bank account and Moonshell Island’s progress, I’ll be cutting the frequency of our Patreon reward deliveries by half this year to see if that’s enough to keep us afloat. It’s always a hard decision to take something away from our loyal supporters, so we decided to add a new bonus Stellar Friend Award pin we paid for out-of-pocket to thank all patrons who have pledged for at least 1 year at the $5 level or higher.

Stellar Friend Award Loyalty Pin

With more time and funds allocated to Moonshell Island’s development, I am hoping to have a lot more behind-the-scenes content to share with our patrons in 2022. That said, we are in a tight spot financially, so if you haven’t already and would like to receive cool rewards like those above and be the first to know on all things Moonshell Island, it would mean the world if you’d consider pledging to our Patreon if you can afford to. This kind of support helps me keep this thing going despite the odds, and its so fun to chat with everyone in our patron-only Discord server!

But that’s quite enough about that. And while I recover from my shameful self promotion, here’s something I did this year that promoted something way less embarrassing…

Aseprite v1.3 (beta1) Release

I don’t take commissions anymore, but I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to get involved in a new version trailer for my favourite sprite editor and pixel art tool, Aseprite! I had a blast creating this animated side-scroller mockup used to showcase the highly anticipated tilemap editor featured at the end of the v1.3 beta trailer.

Mockup for Aseprite Trailer
Game mockup featured in Aseprite v1.3 (beta1) trailer to showcase tilemap editor

It seems I can’t help but put a little Cheekynauts into everything I do.

Planting Trees

A big part of the Cheekynauts mission is taking care of our favourite planet so games can be enjoyed far into the future. Since Earth Week 2021, one thing I’m proud of is joining forces with Ecologi.com to plant trees and reduce carbon in the atmosphere.

Cheekynauts goes climate positive on Ecologi.com

Together with our friends and fellow squirrel enthusiasts, we have planted over 1,800 trees and offset over 38 tonnes of CO2! Visit our forest or sign up yourself if you’d like to join in on the fun!

What’s more fun than planting trees? Well, nothing! But Moonshell Island milestones come pretty close, so let’s get to the good stuff!

Wishlist Moonshell Island on Steam

One of the main reasons for incorporating Cheekynauts was so I could finally put Moonshell Island on Steam, and with over 16,000 wishlists to date, I was quickly able to re-use this old meme, and maybe that alone makes it all worthwhile…

It's over 9000!
It’s over nine thousand wishlists on Steam!

Best of all, I was able to get the Steam page up just in time for something even more exciting!

Moonshell Island and Wholesome Direct

Moonshell Island was one of 70+ indie games showcased at this year’s Wholesome Direct, an hour-long event taking place during the week of E3 that many would agree gave games like ours the chance to steal the show and prove that indie games are here to save the day.

In addition to Wholesome Direct showcasing Moonshell Island’s mini-trailer (featuring a new track by Anna E.), our protagonists Sam and Crabby were included with characters from 19 other showcased games on the limited-edition T-shirt!

Wholesome Direct 2021 T-Shirt Design
Wholesome Direct 2021 T-shirt design by Mikoto Tsuki

I also made this concept art of Sam and Crabby as a reference for the above design!

Sam and Crabby Concept Art
Sam and Crabby concept art (Mar 2021)

Spruicing up the Lampwood Forest

When I first designed the Lampwood Forest area of Moonshell Island, it was still using the original tileset and palette from the earliest mockups. This year I redesigned the Lampwood Forest to match the current style, and it’s now roughly implemented in-game (not featured in the demo).

Lampwood Forest visual upgrade and in-game implementation

Moonshell Island Working Palette

Last year, I wound up having to break the limits of my SPF-80 palette when implementing a big visual upgrade to Moonshell Island, adding colours which gave it a more dreamy aesthetic. Since I find myself needing to make adjustments to this palette, I made this Moonshell Island Working Palette available for free on Patreon and plan to update the files to reflect any major changes as I go. Sometimes you gotta break even your own rules to make something the best it can be.

Moonshell Island Working Palette available for free on Patreon

Moonshell Island Planning Stage

After the Patreon demo release last year, I was initially planning on polishing that into a public demo as my next objective, but my priorities changed a lot with my circumstances in life and business. I decided to focus on building a solid Game Design Document and high-level plan for Moonshell Island to give myself more direction and prepare for potential funding and collaboration opportunities for the project. I tried a lot of different methods for organizing this plan, and within each is a whole different alternative universe of ideas I wound up cutting.

Character concept for Lulu
Character concept art of Lulu (Oct 2021)

The main story changed a lot throughout this process, and I often had to start from square one. Sometimes the inspiration just wasn’t there. After a much-needed summer hiatus, Schotti and I finally had a great brainstorm session and figured out a main plot that felt right. From there things started to flow much better and I was able to put together an organized plan and finish the GDD first draft!

Meme commemorating end of Moonshell Island’s first major planning stage (Dec 2021)

Of course, these are living documents and there is plenty left to figure out still. But I have much more clarity to move Moonshell Island forward with. My hope is that this time away from production will really pay off in 2022!

Wait. Is that new content??

That’s right! Now that I’m done with the planning stage (for the moment) I’m easing myself back into production mode and finally have a mockup to share. This one has been a long time coming, but I hope it was worth the wait!

Mockup of Crabby’s clubhouse ground floor interior (Dec 2021)

Welcome to Crabby’s clubhouse! The loft is still a work in progress, so look forward to that in the new year!

What’s Next?

There’s a lot that happened this year that I didn’t cover in this summary, and there are some things ahead in my personal life that could either get in the way of the Moonshell Island project or catapult it forward. I wish I could say with certainty what that’s going to look like, but what I can say for sure is that I’m more prepared than ever to see this through and face the challenges ahead. I am optimistic that 2022 will be an exciting year to say the least.

Twitter Growth Chart

In keeping with tradition, here is the chart tracking how my reach has grown on my Twitter account since I started posting about Moonshell Island. Considering how little new content I tweeted in 2021, the overall growth in followers is surprisingly good, though the obvious plateau for the majority of the year makes a lot of sense.

Twitter following for goawayimcrabby from 2019 through 2021


And with that, we have reached the end of this year’s Moonshell Island Retrospect! It was a difficult year, but not without its redeeming moments. I’m proud of what I achieved, inspired by what my friends and peers achieved, and looking forward to seeing what we all will get up to in 2022!

Thank you for spending this year with me. It’s not the easiest road to be on, but I’m glad we can have such a grand adventure together.

Your friend,


Previous: Moonshell Island Retrospect 2020