Today we talk with Mike Murray of Upside Down Bird Studio. Here I asked him about his team and the road they traveled as ECGC conference winners. Super Gravity Ball was chosen as the winner at Casual Connect in London. Their showcase was impressive bringing home the win to North Carolina. Living in North Carolina myself, it is a great honor to interview an up and coming studio. So, lets get into the reason we are all here today shall we?

I would like to know what inspired you guys to make the games you make.

We played a lot of video games as kids. In college, we were inspired by the games we played such as Braid, The Binding of Isaac, and Super Meat Boy. These games came out while we were in college and got us excited about making games. Watching documentaries about other companies making their own Indie Games, such as Double Fine Adventures and Indy Game the Movie inspired us to create our own team and made us feel it was possible to make games on our own.

The beginning of our team started five years ago, Ben and David met at UNC Charlotte in the Computer Science program. Ben and David have always wanted to make video games and the best way to learn is by doing. Ben and David found a great artist, Louis, who helped them develop a single touch mobile Game called Galactic Junk. After that they started to attend the UNC Charlotte Global Game Jams. Where a lot of great prototypes such as FourWave Wars, and Dot-O-Dot were created. We then turned Dot-O-Dot into Gravity Ball, later becoming Super Gravity Ball. During this process Mike joined the team creating the levels for both Gravity Ball and Super Gravity Ball.

How has your team as a whole kept each other going and supported one another?

Every Monday night, after work, we get on Google Hangouts to discuss what progress we made and what we want to accomplish for the week. Since we live in different areas, it's also nice to catch up as friends and just have fun. We also have a slack channel that we are constantly talking on and pitching different ideas for future games and current games. We think constant communication is important to keep us going since we all have full-time jobs. We love to do the Global Game Jam together. We even fly in our artist and our level designer to all come together in Charlotte.

What does it take to be a successful indie game studio?  

Now we don't know what it means to be "successful".  We are definitely very happy and excited, but we would like to be a fully funded studio and work full time on games. We have a lot of great ideas, but unfortunately with only a staff of four, we would like to release games quicker then we currently can.  

It was great to meet a lot of other indie developers and hear their stories and see their passion for their games as well. Since this was only our second conference, we still feel like there is a lot to learn and experience in the indie game community.

Would you guys have done anything different if you had the chance?

It's hard to say what we would have done differently, because since we work in our spare time, life takes its twists and turns. We would prefer to release games quicker, so we can work on our other fun titles. Although since we did take our time making sure Super Gravity Ball was finished before we released, it worked in our favor in the end. We would probably have started our slack channel and our Monday meetings much earlier than 2 years ago.

When you got nominated, did you guys feel fulfilled and was it enough?

We had a blast at ECGC in Durham, NC. It was our first conference and we didn't really know what we were doing. We set up our area and started showing off Super Gravity Ball and another prototype called Mariachi Undead. We started Mariachi Undead two months prior to the conference and worked every night till the night before the conference to get it to a working prototype. Mariachi Undead is a mixture of a platform shooter and uses a rhythm guitar ("Guitar Hero") to AOE and heal by completing a rift. At the end, we had our musician make a 3-minute song with a real 100-year-old mariachi guitar where you played a full song on the guitar. It was definitely a fun crowd-pleasing game and brought a lot of people to our booth. When Super Gravity Ball won instead, it was very surprising with a burst of adrenaline and a great feeling.

When we got to London, we were in awe at all the other indie devs there. It was amazing talking and playing all the other games and seeing how passionate they are at making their games also. London was definitely a huge leap for us as a company. As we were also accompanied by our spouses, who worked at the conference, so they could join us and get a free ticket, we had a great team who support us fully. We think that having our wives and girlfriends there made it that much sweeter and all the late hours we worked paid off.   

What were the feelings you all felt at the show? 

This time at Casual Connect we saw all the other games and were like wow!  Ninety plus other indie devs, all inspired with a dream of their own. It was awesome, we felt even more inspired to make more games. We loved playing all the other games and made a few friends along the way. Once again, we were humble and just glad to be there.  So, after the 8 main awards, the last one was then announced, and once again we hear "Super . . ." and we looked at each other ". . . Gravity Ball" It was a happy moment and after it was just another "wow" moment.    

Any hints or tips about the next game your working on, and how does having won an award make this game that you're currently working on different, or do you still have the same vibe as before in your studio?

We are looking into porting Super Gravity Ball to Mobile and would like to put it on the Switch. Currently two of our games Galactic Junk and Gravity Ball can be played on Mobile and Super Gravity Ball is on steam.

We are currently looking at ways to fund our studio, so we can work full time on games.  

However, we would like to go back and work on "Four", a four-player couch co-op game. We want to always keep pushing ourselves and will continue to love what we do, making games.

We will be at ECGC next year and hope to show off "Four" and throw in some other fun games.  

Next year we are hoping that more indie companies will be inspired to go and have a larger presence.  We love the Indie Scene and the inspiration, ideas, and unique creativity that they bring to the gaming community.