Ten years. That’s a seriously long time for a blog to exist, even more so when you look back at the humble beginnings of this one, from how infrequently Wraithkal: The Indie Gaming Corner was updated during its early days to, well, there’s no reason to beat around the bush – the fact that it wasn’t originally about indie games at all. That changed soon enough though, and here we are now, exactly ten years later. So, how about a trip down memory lane?
It’s actually kinda funny how looking back like this has made me realize that while the focus of my blog changed… a lot really didn’t. I started out writing about ancient games, kicking things off with a two-part semi-retrospective of The Legend of Zelda (1986, NES) and a review of Bubble Bobble (1987, C64). Why a two-part post? I honestly do not remember. Maybe I had picked up the notion that people would rather read an article series on the same thing than one lengthy wall of text. Yeah. Past me was an odd duck in regards to blogging.
I do still very much enjoy retrogaming in 2021, perhaps even as much as indie games, and my affection for those pixellated classics wasn’t fading or going on vacation back in 2011 either. And yet, some five months after launching the website on a host I do not remember the name of (Blogger, most likely), its contents slowly began revolving around retro-styled indie games instead. While those are all the rage these days, a decade ago, not so much, save for the likes of Terry Cavanagh’s gravity flipping platformer, VVVVVV, and if we go even further back, Daisuke “Pixel” Amaya’s Cave Story from 2004.
For my first indie game review, I decided on the former, and from that point onward, it was all about independently developed titles… with a bit of retro every now and then, until finally, my review of Cadillacs and Dinosaurs marked the end of anything not considered indie games – or related topics, such as game engines and expos. I know a few people were sad to find that my website’s content had changed in such a manner, and they are not the only ones either, as I do get the urge to write about old DOS games from time to time. Alas, dedicating time to writing about both would have been overwhelming, to say the least, so a choice had to be made.
Did I make the right one? Could I just as well have enjoyed a blog featuring a retrogaming/indie mix of sorts? Well, what’s done is done, and I’m not sure a definitive answer to that question is ever going to be found. What I do know, however, is that I am absolutely loving how far my little corner of the internet has come in recent years. But I’m getting ahead of myself. There are many more memories to look back on before we get anywhere near the present. Like how instead of writing proper news pieces I resorted to weekly roundups. Weird times, man.
Like the two-part The Legend of Zelda writeup, this too can be explained by a lack of knowledge and/or wanting to try something different. Likely the former more so than the latter, but hey, at least I know better now, having published almost 1900(!) news pieces (and almost 3000 articles across every category). As anyone capable of basic math will tell ya, yes, that does mean I wasn’t exactly putting out new content every single day – at least in the beginning.
Suffice to say, I was a very different person all those years ago, my priorities were different, and there were many unknowns in my life. All of which resulted in my blogging taking a bit of a backseat to, well, everything else. Traffic levels weren’t exactly super during the early years either, and unsurprisingly, neither were reader interactions. Comments? Reactions on social media? Yeah. Like most new projects, that kind of thing took a while to get going. But slow and steady wins the race, as they say, and while I wasn’t exactly racing, the slow start did not make me lose interest. Not one bit.
In fact, if anything, it made me hungry. I knew indie games were popular, and what little feedback I had gotten early on made me realize that my writings were rather interesting. So in theory, it was just a matter of time, a matter of climbing that mountain, however seemingly insurmountable. Well, it’s been ten years now. I might not have a following in the hundreds of thousands, but at the same time, I have come a long way – much like the website itself, going through more redesigns and relocations than even the most dedicated readers remember – and that’s nothing to sneeze at either.
The slow growth also enabled me, in a way, to familiarize myself with those whose game(s) I would end up writing about. Doesn’t matter if it’s a freeware project pieced together over a weekend by one person or something a large team has worked on for upwards of a full year, either. If a game got coverage on Wraithkal: The Indie Gaming Corner, and its creator has anything resembling a presence on social media, chances are we’ve at least had a brief exchange – which has on multiple occasions lead to making actual friends, believe it or not.
Not that I’m a super extroverted person, whether it be online or in the real world, mind you. But I know just how much it can mean for a content creator to get feedback beyond that initial article (which, in and of itself, can actually carry a surprising amount of weight). We are after all only human, and no matter what level of popularity you have reached as a game developer, as long as you don’t forget where you came from, then you’re alright in my books. This is also a huge part of why I do what I do, as well as the transition from retro to indie (2011-2012).
By which I mean that, unlike big-shot AAA studios, independent developers generally don’t have a massive marketing budget, and even worse off are those who don’t know how to start marketing their game, perhaps even afraid to branch out into the terrifyingly complex world of social media and mailing lists. This is exactly where websites like this one come into play, for while it still doesn’t have absolutely massive reach, I have noticed that its presence is still felt, and more than a few developers over the years have personally thanked me for my continued support. Moments like those… mean a lot to me.
Delving back into the timeline, as it were, do you remember Steam’s Greenlight experiment? I’m hesitant to call it a project, because even at the end of its lifespan, Greenlight (2012-2017) still felt like a work-in-progress – a failed experiment, if I’m being perfectly honest. Sure, it lasted half a decade and I did end up publishing no less than 466 articles related to it, but as anyone who submitted a game in the hopes of having it eventually end up sold on Steam will tell you today – it was a mess on so many levels.
I tried my best to help alleviate this somewhat with a weekly article series called The Greenlight Groove (2013-2017), showcasing personal favorites among the far-too-many-to-check additions. Unfortunately, I do not have the statistics from that far back still, so whether it made a difference is hard to say. I’d like to think it did though. Were I to go back and check every last game featured in the 190 articles, I’m sure a lot can be found on Steam today. That doesn’t mean I had anything to do with it, of course, but… you know, positive thinking.
Another similar thing started that same year: Stuck In Greenlight Limbo (2013-2016). Featuring a select few picks every week amongst the many additions was one thing, but what about x weeks/months down the line, when a game still hadn’t made it through the system, stuck in Greenlight limbo, as it were? In case you haven’t figured that part out yet, well, that’s why this particular series came to be. To highlight Greenlight submissions with potential that, for one reason or another, hadn’t amassed enough votes after a certain period. As with The Greenlight Groove, I like to think that Stuck In Greenlight Limbo… made a difference.
On a related note, going back through the archives to jog my memory (as I am not getting any younger) made me realize that a lot of games I covered way back when are, simply put, nowhere to be found in 2021. Self-hosted freeware titles are one thing, but popular indie storefronts like Desura are also a thing of the past, and far from every developer ended up relocating their game(s), now entirely unavailable as a result. This wasn’t exclusive to PC either, as Xbox Live Indie Games – a popular Xbox 360 exclusive storefront for indie games – ceased to exist in 2017, leaving tens of thousands of games in absolute limbo.
Unless of course, its creator had the resources and willingness to port their creation to a different platform, but even then, there was no guarantee of people even hearing about the migration, much less caring, at that point. Four years ago, indie games were all over the place, after all, and the competition was fierce. Truly fierce. Years prior I had finally picked up the pace, focusing more than ever on keeping the content flowing on Wraithkal: The Indie Gaming Corner, but even I could not keep up with every single release.
Now, that might sound like a complaint, that I felt too many indie games were being released midway through the 2010s. Nothing could be further from the truth. This was obviously helped by rapid improvements to powerful/popular game engines like Unity, GameMaker (now GameMaker Studio 2), RPG Maker‘s many variants, and of course, personal favorites like Adventure Game Studio. Not everyone has the mindfulness, patience, or even time to code everything from scratch, after all, which is where a game engine truly gets to shine. Provided you’re willing to learn how to use it.
I’ve tried to cover big game engine updates in the past, although as some of you may recall, I often ended up cutting the news piece short with a note on how most of it was like a foreign language to me. I wonder if that’s just me, as so many people have absolutely fallen in love with at least one of those I just mentioned, and I can certainly see why – even if I don’t get how any of it works. In the right hands, a game engine can likely save upwards of 50% of the work, depending on the content and/or scale of the project. That’s a lot. Like, a huge amount.
But enough of that. Let’s go back to 2014 for a moment, to another abandoned article series – one I consider bringing back, every so often: Speculating Screenshots (2014-2017). This was where I’d scroll through numerous #ScreenshotSaturday tweets in search of ones worth commenting on, more often than not in a slightly humorous manner (apologies to any I might have offended with these). Seeing how I do not recall why I scrapped that one, who knows, maybe someday I’ll bring it back. #ScreenshotSaturday is still a thing, so why not?
Another of those, and one far more likely to be brought back, is The Indie Post (2013-2014), which was essentially a way for me to wrap my brain around semi-frequent editorial writings – not all of which with any relation to indie games either, as I recall. Sticking to one topic/theme/etc. is, in theory, more likely to attract a following than, oh I don’t know, jumping from one thing to another on a weekly basis. And yet I felt the urge to, every so often, bring up topics that might be… well, off-topic, for a blog about indie games. I do miss those. They were fun and a useful… outlet? Yeah. Outlet.
That could also be said about this entire website though as it has been quite the creative outlet for me over the years, and that’s not about to change anytime soon (if ever). Every ‘thank you’ from a developer pleased to see their game featured on Wraithkal: The Indie Gaming Corner brings a smile to my face, knowing not everyone chooses to focus exclusively on websites with a gargantuan reader base. Something I can certainly appreciate, much like every single email and tweet I get with requests for coverage of a newly released or upcoming game, a brand new trailer, or perhaps even something not strictly related to a single game at all.
All the game jams I’ve covered over the years, all the expos, bundles, and oh so many awesome digital events (like, say, MidBoss’ upcoming Season of Pride) are of equally great importance too. The name of my website may have ‘indie gaming’ in it, but that does not mean coverage is only about the games themself; as noted earlier regarding various game engines. In fact, sometimes it’s also about the developers themselves or, you know, the storefronts. Between Steam, GOG.com, itch.io, and Epic Game Store, to name but a few, there’s plenty going on there, at least.
A quick glance at the word count for this anniversary celebration tells me it’s time to wrap things up for now, even though there’s plenty going on in my brain too, plenty I could spend hours writing about. But what say we save that for another time, however, and – since I can’t think of a better way to conclude this wall of text – I’ll leave you with this: thank you very much for reading my ramblings. Whether this is the first article of mine you’ve come across or you’re a regular reader here – doesn’t matter. What matters is that you’re here, and hopefully this trip down memory lane has made you curious as to just what might be coming next. In which case, if you’ll allow me a moment of boldness, I’d recommend following me on Twitter, Facebook, or Tumblr, so as to avoid missing an update.