Behind the Scenes of CineNerdle: The Cinephile's Go-To Game

Published Dec 26, 2023

Hi! Can you tell us who you are and about your game?

Hello. I’m Nilanth Yogdasan, the creator of CineNerdle and CineNerdle 2—a Wordle-type game that challenges movie buffs and cinema enthusiasts of all ages around the world. I work in Ontario, Canada, and am currently a PhD Candidate at the University of Waterloo. By trade, I am more into the field of Biology and computational sciences, but I dabble in a lot of things, so you could say that I’m a scientist, developer, sports fan and movie buff all rolled into one!

CineNerdle is my first hit game, and it’s very simple—identify the movie hidden behind the tiles by flipping them over. The game ends when you flip all of the tiles and lose, or make the right guess without exhausting all the tiles and win. 

As for CineNerdle 2, there is a lot more going on in there, and that’s how I designed it. I’ll get as to why later, but basically, CineNerdle 2 vastly improves on the first formula and makes you think more while also giving you a fairer chance at succeeding. I highly recommend you try it out if you’re interested in movies!

Why did you create your game?

I wanted to branch out and learn more about development, so I did several projects to see what I could do, and my film-centric game CineNerdle just happened to be a hit with the people and it was during the height of the daily games craze. My love for movies started when I was really young. Growing up, my older sister and her friends would come over and then she’d throw on these horror movies that were way too grotesque and terrifying for the little kid that I was back then. 

But even back then, even if the movies were too much for me, I truly enjoyed the social experience of watching the flicks with my older sister and her friends. In fact, the movies that I can recall from the top of my head that we watched back then were the 1970s version of Carrie, Scream, and later the Final Destination series.

So really, horror movies were the ones I grew up with, and from that, my interest in movies just continued. I would slap on a movie if I was bored, was procrastinating on my studies or research… movies are truly a part of me. Then I got to the point where I was interested in learning development, and I knew that it would be hard to pursue something that you had no passion for. Then and there, it was movies for me.

How did you get people interested in your games?

It’s been a year and a half or so since the first CineNerdle came out, and back then, there was this huge craze of daily games, especially with the Wordles, Hurdles and other Wordle clones. And for me at that time, I wasn’t aiming to create something and put it out there—I simply wanted to see if I was able to create something like that, like Wordle, but with my passion involved in it, which was movies. This resulted in my creation of or CineNerdle 1.

I built it, I had it, and it was working, but it wasn’t very polished. There were still a lot of bugs since it was during my early periods of learning development, but it was available and it did work. So I just decided to publish it and put it out there. Initially, I just posted about my site in some Reddit forums and communities, and I said that there’s this new daily game for movie lovers.

Then eventually I saw two users, three, four, twenty… numbers were starting to show up in my analytics! It then came to a point where people started posting their results and sharing them on Twitter, and while browsing, I found this one user posting how they did in CineNerdle, and it just blew me away. It was then and there that I got drawn into the idea of creating something that the public would enjoy.

How do you create the daily puzzles for your games?

Many people, especially fellow game creators, assume that there’s some sort of automation involved in the creation of the puzzles, since doing one or two manually continuously seems ridiculous. But I do create them each day! Obviously, I can’t produce the same consistent number every single time and every day, so there are backlogs on my side. However, I still work on them each day as much as I can.

But to be honest, it’s tough. Really tough. Especially when I’ve created over 600 of them on my own, and frankly, there are times that I think that I’ve hit the limit of my movie knowledge. Even with those in mind, I’m still able to press on and still try to create unique and interesting puzzles that people wanna play every day.

So yeah, creating the puzzles early on was easy—I had lots of ideas in mind and many movies to get inspiration from. But right now, I have to do a lot more research to come up with puzzles. It’s not necessarily true that I’ve watched all the movies that are in the puzzles, but I still do enjoy creating these puzzles for the games, especially when I make something that the community plays and ends up enjoying.

I’ve also adjusted nowadays, and try to get the help of the users who create higher-rated puzzles on my sites. I message these users and communicate with them for more ideas and inspiration to fuel more puzzle creation.

How far were you in development when you started monetization?

CineNerdle has been out there for more than a year and a half, and it reached a peak during the summer of 2022. But even back then, I was just creating more puzzles for the love of it. At this point in time, the hosting costs were getting a bit too much for me, but I was really against potentially ruining the experience of playing with ads. 

This was also around the time I was developing CineNerdle 2, and as the player base grew, so did the donations through Ko-Fi. There weren’t many ads on my sites, and everything else was being operated out of my own pocket, so having those Ko-Fi donations really helped keep the sites up and running.

Around February of this year, a couple of ad agencies reached out to me and told me that there was an opportunity for me based on the number of my daily user count. They gave me an offer, and I accepted, and I now run ads for the sites through these network agencies.

Interestingly, I’ve also received feedback from the community regarding the ads, and some were willing to pay to continuously play without the ads. So I put in a premium subscription of sorts that allows these players to remove ads entirely. Although I implemented it not with profit in mind; it was more of an experiment to see the player base’s reception as well as to satisfy the needs of the small group of players who want the ads gone.

Could you share your take on the costs needed to run game sites like yours?

Well, first off, you need to buy your domains, which isn’t that expensive. Then comes the costs involved in site hosting and the back end. After that, depending on how many daily users you get and how much traffic you get in general, the range of costs can go well beyond CA$100 a month. 

In my case, I had to store user data, upload many puzzles and have many users using the sites at the same time, so my expenses ranged between CA$150-CA$200 because I had to take the premium packages. And the bigger you get, the higher the costs you have to manage.

Another thing to consider is hiring help to improve the games. There are some things regarding visual design and other aspects that can affect the appeal and experience of the games, so you’ll also need to consider the costs involved in commissions, contracts and even hirees. With CineNerdle and CineNerdle 2, I’ve definitely had help with expanding and improving the sites.

Can you tell us more about the journey that led to your games?

Well, I wasn’t really a developer at first. In fact, I created something back when I was learning to be a developer, it was called Movie4Me—it’s basically a movie suggestion web app that I made to test out my skills. Even now, I really don’t promote that site since it was really more of hands-on practice for my development skills, but the site is still up if you want to visit!

Aside from my personal experiences, another reason as to why I ended up publishing CineNerdle is because I saw Framed. Framed was huge—and it got huge fast. When I saw the game, I thought to myself: “Did I miss out putting something out there that the cinephile community would enjoy?” So after I saw Framed, I launched CineNerdle shortly afterwards. You can also check out the dates of publishing for both games, and of course, Framed came first but CineNerdle was also very close to it.

As for the name CineNerdle itself, I just wanted to make the most of the daily games fad that Wordle brought during its release and peak period. I wanted to be related to that trend but still retain the individuality and uniqueness of what I have to offer, but nowadays, people just call the games that spawned after Wordle “the -dles”.

What made you create CineNerdle 2?

I definitely had a feeling that something was lacking in CineNerdle. After all, I made it just to test my skills and see if I could truly build something that I was passionate about—which is movies. After I created, I realized that I loved doing it. I enjoyed the puzzle-building aspect and adding my passion to projects like this. So this time, I wanted to create something that was more… strategic in nature, since those were the types of puzzles I tended to enjoy!

When I gave it more thought, the problem with CineNerdle and other daily movie games was that all they required was whether or not the player knew the movie—which felt binary to me. “Oh, I don’t know this movie? Oh well, tough luck, try again tomorrow!” I wanted to improve upon that. So when I created CineNerdle 2, I made it in a way that you don’t have to know all the five movies in the puzzle you’re playing, and you could slowly uncover the right solution by piecing together what you know and move on from there. This way, you had to think more and solve, it also gave you a better chance of winning unlike the first one where everything pivoted on your movie knowledge alone.

So yeah, right now, I spend a lot more time with CineNerdle 2, since I want it to be the more in-depth and polished version of what I started. Of course, I still look over the first one, but right now the second one commands more of my attention and care.

Do you have any concrete plans on the business side of your projects?

To be honest, I think of it. Almost every day. Right now, the “company” is really just me, but in truth, I’ve been contracting members of the community and some freelancers for other parts of the game. It’s been a blast to work with all kinds of people, and I want to make more of it. Really, I just stumbled upon the development industry, but I really love it and want to improve upon what I have.

So yes, I do plan on expanding more on my game portfolio and this industry, because really, I don’t see myself doing anything else right now and I’m just having such a good time working on my projects. 

And to answer your question, I don’t have any concrete plans as of now since I’m still working on adding more game modes to CineNerdle 2. But yes, I intend to continue and expand, and I will make the decisions when the time comes that I go beyond just maintaining my site and all.

What is your favorite game to play?

Oh, that’s tough! The game I truly enjoyed playing while growing up was the Smash Brothers series. I grew up with the Gamecube and the N64, though I actually skipped Smash 4 and went straight into Smash Ultimate and I have been playing that for a long time. Sure, it’s not like the puzzle games that I’m into and am making, but yeah, it’s always been Super Smash Brothers.

Do you play your own games for leisure?

Well, since I’m the one creating the vast majority of the daily puzzles, it’s hard for me to play my own games. But there are a lot of user-submitted puzzles, like thousands of them… I think we’re nearing over 6,000, and I make time to play those! I especially want to play the higher-rated ones and continue to enjoy playing the games overall.

What kind of advice would you give to aspiring game developers?

I’ve learned a lot in my time studying, practicing and creating my sites, so here’s what I can say:

1. Have a simple feedback form on your site or game

This may not sound much, but it’s a very important thing to add to your creation. I made the error of just playing it by ear on Twitter or waiting for users to reach out to me if they had something they wanted to say. The feedback form is your guide to creating a more satisfying and enjoyable experience for your users. It could be about UI/UX improvements or something about the puzzles themselves, but to me, these feedback forms that I receive almost every day are key to continued growth and improvement.

2. Think carefully about your branding

I learned this the hard way, as you already know. Branding is very important, business-wise and game-wise. Even now, people are still confused: is it CineNerdle 2 or Cine2Nerdle? Is CineNerdle 2 just a copy of CineNerdle 1? See? It can get very confusing. So think about your image and branding carefully and learn from my troubles.

3. Don’t ignore the business aspect of your project

If you’re like me and have no business acumen, then it’s important to learn as much as you can as you go. I didn’t take any business-related courses or anything like that, and the more I progressed into this industry, the more prominent the business parts of the trade became. Right now I’m learning even more, but if you want to start out with fewer headaches in the long run, you’ll have to seriously consider the business and income aspects of your site and game.

What’s your plan for the future?

I’m planning to actually merge the two games into one and address all issues in one go, like the naming crisis, getting things mixed up and all that. And on checking my analytics, everyone that plays CineNerdle 1 plays CineNerdle 2, so I think combining them is definitely the right idea moving forward.

And to be honest, back when I created CineNerdle 2, I wasn’t thinking about branding and all that, I now realize I messed up a bit and it’s now causing concerns, mainly the naming crisis. And I know people are getting confused as we all call it CineNerdle 2, but on the site itself and within it, it’s designed as “Cine2Nerdle”. 

So I’m planning to address that. It’s really CineNerdle 2, I just had it designed as Cine2Nerdle on the site because it’s a play on the ridiculous title conventions of sequel movies, like 2 Fast 2 Furious and that kind of stuff. I’m more aware of branding now and realize it was not a good choice at the time, but I’ll get to it. Definitely. The end goal for it is to really consolidate everything under “CineNerdle”.

I also plan to implement an upcoming game mode to liven things up, a PvP or player versus player mode where everyone can challenge one another in friendly competition and show how skilled they are in their movie knowledge! I am hoping this also pumps more prospective players into joining our community as… well… everyone likes to compete at some point.

As for my PhD in the sciences, that’s actually taken a back seat for now and managing my sites has become a full-time endeavor. I’m not abandoning my scientific career, of course, but when I think about proceeding with my PhD, I think about all the players that would be left wanting and really, I don’t want to lose the community that I may never get back if I drop my games.

Where can we learn more about you and your game?

If you’re looking to test your movie buff knowledge and just have a fun time playing a film-centric puzzle, you’re all very welcome to visit CineNerdle and CineNerdle 2! And if you have any questions, feedback, suggestions or any kind of communication you want with me, you can always reach out to or through our social media profiles with @CineNerdle. But I’m mostly active on Twitter, or should I say X now? And yes, it’s also @CineNerdle!

Have a game to sell?

Let’s find out if we play well together.