The Big Indie interviews: Smash Head Studio talk standing out in the world of 2D roguelite action games

Akhil Nivarthi discusses coming 3rd at our Big Indie Pitch (Mobile) at Pocket Gamer Connects Digital #3 2020

The Big Indie interviews: Smash Head Studio talk standing out in the world of 2D roguelite action games

The Big Indie Pitch is a regular event run by the makers of It sees indie developers engage in a speed-dating-style pitching competition for fame and those sweet, sweet promotional packages.

The event gives indies four minutes to pitch their games to a panel of press, publishers, and industry pundits. The judges then pick three winners and everybody gets valuable feedback.

The indie view

The Big Indie Pitch is getting bigger and bigger as we bring it to events all across the world. To give you an idea of what the event is like, who attends the events and the games on show, we've sat down with a number of past BIP contestants to offer their views.

The Big Indie Pitch goes digital

Today, we're speaking to Akhil Nivarthi from Smash Head Studio, who pitched Gravity Shooter at The Big Indie Pitch (Mobile) at Pocket Gamer Connects Digital #3 2020 in September and walked away with the prize for third place. Tell us a little about yourself and your indie studio - who is on the team, and what are their inspirations?

Akhil Nivarthi: Hi, my name is Akhil Nivarthi and I am the lead game designer at Smash Head Studio. We are a team of 10, and our collective aim is to make high-quality engaging games for the global market.

Tell us about Gravity Shooter that you pitched at the competition.

Gravity Shooter is a free-to-play roguelite action shooter game for iOS and Android, where a mutant destroys a range of secrets before going rogue with his only powerful gun helping him. In the game, you make your way through the different worlds, stack up a combination of skills and fight for your life.

What do you think are the most unique and interesting aspects of Gravity Shooter that gamers may never have seen before?

Gamers have always been playing games where the player has to aim and shoot with one analogue stick and move with another. However, a unique and interesting thing about Gravity Shooter is that it's a single stick shooter, so you move and shoot with just one hand. With the addition of roguelite systems, the player experiences a new combination of skills and abilities. Imagine it as Jetpack Joyrider meets Downwell.

2D roguelite action games are quite common in the market now, and as such, this is a competitive field. What made you choose this genre, and what do you think you bring to it that may not have been seen before?

The density of 2D roguelite action games in the market has its advantages, one of which is that it gives us an edge on the audience who are easily attracted toward such games. The biggest difference with our game is in its unique one-hand control system, which makes the gameplay experience highly challenging whilst also being varied a different compared to most similar games on the market.

How did you come to choose the platforms that you would develop Gravity Shooter for?

Games like Downwell and Nuclear Throne have been an inspiration for us in targeting the mobile market, and through this we experimented with premium and freemium markets, level-based gameplay to procedurally generate content, and with a few other monetization models. All of which brought us to Gravity Shooter as you see it now.

Looking at the studio a little more now. How hard is it to survive as an Indie developer?

India is a growing market for the Game Industry, some days are hard and others harder. But we understand that these early years are the difference makers for the future in India. Also, we have a great community of game developers, who help us to test out each other's games and get feedback.

Are there any tips and advice you would give to an independent developer out there who are just starting out?

As someone who has been in this industry for quite a while now. There are 3 things:

1) Fail Faster - Prototype quickly and test with the audience, this will give you a great understanding of how the game actually feels, compared to how it feels in your head.

2) Start Small - You don't want to go into your first game thinking it is going to be PUBG or Clash of Clans. Keep it small, keep it interesting, try to focus on things that you like in games when playing them. Going for something big may take time so make sure that if that really is what you want to make, that you have the finances to support it.

3) If possible, find yourself a mentor. It's the key to longevity.

How did you find your experience pitching as a part of the Big Indie Pitch?

It was a wonderful opportunity to present our game and receive such valuable feedback. We were worried about how the experience would be considering it an online event, but it turned out great. A big thanks to Sophia Aubrey Drake for making the process run as easily as possible.

What do you feel you have gained from the experience, and what do you still hope to gain?

We had a great experience pitching our game to industry veterans across the world and having them share their valuable insights on our game. This has been really important for us. We are looking forward to working on the feedback. We do still hope to pitch our games on-site in the future though.

What are your hopes for this game in the future, and do you have any plans for any future projects?

As of now, our initial goal is to soft launch the game in a few countries before launching it globally. With the global launch, we expect to introduce new tournaments, events and content updates. We are working on a few prototypes which are currently in initial stages.

Want to show off your exciting new game? We host Big Indie Pitch events throughout the year, so be sure to keep an eye on our events page for an event near you.

Upcoming Big Indie Pitch Event Pages & Registration

November 10 - The Big Indie Pitch (PC+Console Edition) at Pocket Gamer Connects Digital #4
November 11 - The Big Indie Pitch (Mobile Edition) at Pocket Gamer Connects Digital #4

More coming soon so make sure to regularly check our upcoming events page here and over on

Developer Evangelist & Big Indie Pitch Manager / Special Features Writer

Queen of all things Indie. Sophia is Steel Media’s Big Indie Pitch Manager and Developer Evangelist. She’s also a global speaker and lifelong gamer with a fanatical love of all things Nintendo and Japan. So much so that she’s written a thesis on one and lived in the other.