On the 14th, we silently celebrated our first year anniversary. We were late doing this, but we had some technical difficulties and the site went through some changes. So, anyway, we decided to do a discussion about the site with all the current team members as a sort of celebration thing, all the while looking to the past and future. So, without further ado, enjoy!
Tell us about yourselves.
Yudhanjaya: I am a Sri Lankan, writer, an avid forumer, dedicated RPG junkie and a journalist. I began coding sometime back when I was 10 (irrelevant, so let’s skip it). I fell in love with indie games after I played a game called Aveyond, by Amaranthia. That, Diver Down and Ahriman’s Prophecy sent me into a 3-year-long dive into the RPG Maker communities, which eventually ended up in me forming a game development team called 4250 (http://4250.me) to create a 2D RPG. Diver Down was my biggest inspiration; not the game itself but the notes the development team left behind describing their unforgettable experience. Man, I wanted that.
Joseph: I am a school kid living in Ipswich, England, which is officially the least interesting place in the world. There are parts of the desert that would be more fun to live in; at least it would rain less. I go by the internet name Lawsome or Lawsome1997, and my nickname within my social group is “Tits” because my friends hate me. I am a nerd.
Nathan: Er… sounds rough, Joseph. But we’re all nerds here (no offence). Hi. I am Nathan. I am a proud, patriotic Canadian. That is all there is to know besides the fact that I think games are awesome, which you probably already know. Redundant. And nope, I am not a secret agent.
Paul: Well, I am the proud father of an incredibly smart and incredibly demanding 2-year old girl. I still have a boring day job but I enjoy gaming and writing about games in any spare time I can squeeze out of the day. I’ve been a gamer since my parents gave me a brand-new Atari 2600 as a present one year (which gives you some idea of my age). Ultimately, I’d like to make games, so I’ve started to toy around with GameMaker and some other tools. Also, I’m really excited about the possibilities of Twine.
Julian: I was born in Luton, England but moved to Rushden after our car was destroyed one too many times by passing delinquents (Luton was voted the UK’s worst place to live in 2004; most of the votes came from the residents). Being the relatively quiet rural town Rushden is, and therefore having nothing to do, nobody goes outside. Thus, I started reading, then writing, then editing. First I was the editor for Indiego, which collapsed when the manager became a dictator and everyone left.
Julian: Then I was the editor for The Independent Gamer, (with whom I actually managed to get an interview with a Transformice dev after encountering them on a Minecraft server) which collapsed when the manager went AWOL. Finally, Joseph directed me here. which certainly seems more organised than the past two. I like playing musical instruments (mainly the guitar), shooting and being cynical, and I dislike most modern shooters (with the exception of Far Cry 3, CS:GO and Arma 2), DayZ and people who are unable to grasp basic grammatical concepts.
How did this all start?
Yudhanjaya: It started around this time last year. I had just completed a very successful game, and was happily spending the aftermath basking in the success and publicity I got (especially the publicity), because I’d had a devil of a time getting the world to pay attention to my game.
Seriously, getting an indie game “out there” is marketing hard work in its own right. It wasn’t long before I realised that my incredibly talented fellow game makers on the YoYoGames forum and site suffered from similar publicity issues. People just didn’t know about the awesome games that were pushed out on a weekly basis, almost all of them freeware. There were a ton of indie sites, and most of them paid attention to really prolific indie developers or commercially successful games. I can’t blame them: there’s too much freeware out there to cover.
Nathan: I remember I was a failed game designer and blogger (so many blogs that lasted like a month, had crap content and got at most 5 hits a day) and I remembered that around that time I had enough free time to surf the YYGF forums. I was happy enough with just that but I wanted something that involved writing and making games. I loved writing about games.
This magazine called “Indiego” had just fallen apart around that time after an explosion of popularity for the first few issues and I wanted in, but I was obviously too late (Trust me, it’s a good thing you didn’t get in; the manager removed articles from people he didn’t like – like me – and left badly-written articles in from his friends. Not to mention kicking people out for giving criticism. That magazine was Soviet Russia. Just look at their ads. -Julian). Then Yudhanjaya said (in the topic!) that he would start an indie blog to help out the small fish. I joined and we boldly discussed our plans in the topic about how we would learn from their mistakes. We made a mistake right there – talking at length about making a competing indie blog right in an indie magazine’s topic. Good thing we never really faced the mods’ wrath.
Yudhanjaya: After some fooling around, I got started with a WordPress blog hooked up to a Webstarts page and started hammering away. That was the spark, and from there we grew.
How were things from there?
Yudhanjaya: The first two months were like running a marathon. Every day I would log on, count the site visits, upload something new and watch the views trickle in – ones and twos and threes. Ten hits a day was the first major victory
Nathan: YEAH! I just wrote around this time, pumping out articles while working on my webcomic, which gained a very loyal following which was shortly ended when I took over. Too busy to handle so much!
Yudhanjaya: When people started joining, it felt like I was leading a train: we rolled onwards out of sheer momentum. The YoyoGames forum community really pitched in. At this point Nathan and Chris Newton (who goes by the name of Bunnypopop) were the core team. As the months went by, the page views and popularity climbed and eventually we settled down to Nathan and I. Sometime around the 6-month phase I left IndieGraph in the capable hands of Nathan and disappeared from the online space for a while.
Nathan: Chris was put in charge when I refused due to being “too busy” which I learned to juggle. He wasn’t particularly consistent on his posting and the blog was pretty dry at this period but he deserves credit – it ain’t an easy job. Then I took charge and decided we had to grow. I hired staff and lost them like it was going out of style. I got us feeds on Gamejolt, got people to link swap, anything and everything to grow, all while being extremely strict on a post every 3 days. It was a tough regime. This was when I hired Joseph, one of my most reliable team members. Oh, and he is quite intelligent and a great writer too.
Nathan: I hope I didn’t alienate you guys with my strictness and pushy-ness. Although trying to be humble, we really grew in success in this period, even though I accepted way too many review requests (I couldn’t resist acting on every one, which ended up bloating the site).
Yudhanjaya: Then I returned after exams and we changed the name and progressed into our current form.
Nathan: I love running the Twitter feed, which I started actively doing around that era. I love retweeting people and begging for more followers which somehow works. Try it!
Why the name change?
Yudhanjaya: Because we felt the name “Indie” was in front of too many high-profile projects and that made us look like a shallow competitor. IndieCity, IndieGoGo, IndieGame, Indie… Everything. So I changed the name and the site design, bought a domain, and the rest is history.
Nathan: People still call us Indiegraph though, and the fact that our WordPress address is still indiegraph.wordpress.com probably doesn’t help.
We seemed to lose a lot of writers and editors and have been through ups and downs. Anything you have to say to all that?
Yudhanjaya: Hmm. It’s not a paying gig, so people contribute in their free time. Writing takes up a lot of time and effort, and when you’re not getting paid for what you do, there’s little incentive to keep someone here – so I don’t fault anyone for leaving, but I’d rather like to thank everyone who’s pitched in. Mind you, we’ve had plenty of ups and down – it was a real experience, I must say, and I’m not sure how to describe it. I just have to say I thank Nathan for the incredible amount of work he’s put into this.
Nathan: Thanks. Yeah, ups and downs are expected. Not much else to say on the matter but that reminds me of RawrDev, who did our logos (or at least the original ones!). Just a shoutout to him for the great work.
Paul: I’d say that those are normal growing pains. Now the site has its strongest lineup of writers yet. We are all really passionate about indie games, and that love shines through in our writing.
Joseph: I don’t think it’s that special; lots of blogs like this have a constantly changing set of writers.
What has your experience been like at the site?
Yudhanjaya: Sometimes frustrating (like those first few months). Often amazing and rewarding in itself. Overall? Unforgettable.
Nathan: Oh, dear… WordPress certainly kicked my ass a few times and trolled me as well, but I enjoyed it most of the time, when I wasn’t having technical difficulties. It has really filled me with pride and I actually feel like a somebody here on the Internet. Not that that’s saying much.
Joseph: This is the most fun I’ve ever had. I love it here. One article a week is not incredible though, it’s just as much as I can fit between schoolwork and procrastinating: something I am very talented at.
Nathan: So am I.
Paul: I’m the newest team member here, so there was a brief period of adjustment before I settled in, but I think I’ve gotten my footing now. So far it’s been a great ride, and I’m happy it’s really just starting! I get the chance to be part of a team of cool people and I get to contribute to the growth of an up-and-coming website. And I got the chance to play Super Hexagon before it was released!
Julian: It’s going very well. I find working with articles as they appear a lot easier than trying to compile everything for a monthly magazine. There isn’t the pressure of time or limiting content to keep it an acceptable size and there is a comfortable number of team members.
Nathan: Good to hear!
Have you learned any lessons or made any mistakes working here this year (that you wish to mention here)?
Paul: So far, two lessons learned. One is that no matter how many great ideas you have in your head, no matter how well they are mapped out up there, it takes time to write them down. Probably more time than you gave yourself. Which is a lesson I seemingly have to relearn every few years. But hopefully I can increase my output over the coming year. And I also learned that it can take some guts to email or tweet a developer out of the blue and ask them questions. It’s especially nerve-wracking if you really admire the developer.
Nathan: I hope Yudhanjaya says to check his emails. He needs to check them more! *laughs* Oh, I have learned from so many of my mistakes here. Like, don’t accept every review request we get, and, don’t focus on how popular we are. Oh, and to treat your fellow team members well so they don’t walk out on you. I am both a control freak and expect too much of other people as well as myself – my two deadly weaknesses.
Julian: Well, I now know the basics of WordPress – something which appears difficult but is actually ridiculously simple, resulting in me giving myself a kick in the teeth when I realised how easily everything could be done after navigating through hundreds of menus to create a post.
Nathan: WordPress can have that effect on you. *sigh*
Where do you see the site going from here?
Yudhanjaya: I suppose I can get away with “the only way is up” Today, we average over 300 hits a day. Realistically, we could have died out (like a few others that started around the same time), but we didn’t. I’m happy with how far we’ve gotten. Ad astra per aspera.
Nathan: Er… what? I don’t speak Latin. Anyway. (“To the stars through hardships.” It’s not far off the RAF motto. -Julian)
Yeah… besides the change in editor and poster, I see a good number of changes in the new year. We will try to give out some giveaways or perhaps have a contest or something (no promises!) The future looks bright with Nocturne from the GMC joining the team, which I am pretty excited about. I would like to see a female writer join us though. We already have a diverse group of people from all over the world but it could be even more interesting!
Paul: We are only growing. In all areas: staff, readership, reputation, ability. The site is just going to get more and more awesome from here on out.
Joseph: I do not know. I can’t see any other direction apart from up, the best blogs out there are usually the ones that have been going for longest, as long as we avoid some catastrophe I can’t see how anything bad could occur.
Fav indie game?
Paul: I would have to say it’s a toss-up between Seiklus and Don’t Look Back. Seiklus was the first indie game I played and it changed my world. I had always been a gamer, but Seiklus made me realise that games by small developers could be amazing. Then Terry Cavanagh’s work, and Don’t Look Back in particular, really showed me the potential depth and variety of what is possible in indie games. The kind of things an indie game can do that a AAA game can’t. The places they take you, the things they can make you feel.
Yudhanjaya: Ahriman’s Prophecy. I lost myself in that world and would do so, happily, a dozen times over.
Nathan: Yeah, that was a pretty damn good RPG, even if the combat was button-mashy. Saying Minecraft is a bit of a cop-out, so I am going to go with Fragile Hearts. (http://indiegraph.wordpress.com/2012/02/03/fragile-hearts-review/) It is the boldest and funniest RPG I have ever played.
Joseph: So many to choose! I would say Loved, but I am also a fan of Bastion and Minecraft.
Julian: It’s a tie between Rigs of Rods and Overgrowth. Despite still being in alpha stages, both games are shaping up very well, with Overgrowth already being a brilliant ninja rabbit combat simulator and RoR being an excellent – and very moddable – driving (or rather crashing) simulator.
There you have it folks. I hope you found it an interesting talk. Celebrate with us! And on behalf of all the writers here, past, present and future, thanks for being so loyal to our site. Thanks. Here’s to an even better year two!