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The Joystiq Indie Pitch: iBailout

Justin McElroy

Being a giant, beloved video game site has its downsides. For example, we sometimes neglect to give independent developers our coverage love (or loverage, if you will) as we get caught up in AAA, AAAA or the rare quintuple-A titles. To remedy that, we're giving indies the chance to create their own loverage and sell you, the fans, on their studios and products. This week we talk with Nick Marroni, who, after deciding he'd had enough inferior games that combined Ms. Pac-Man and the Federal Reserve, set his mind on making his own. And stay tuned for your chance to win a free copy!

How did your company get started?

Well, I had been endeavoring mightily to get a job in the industry for most of '08, always with the idea of eventually starting my own studio, but only after gaining years of experience working for someone else. After the App Store went live on the iPhone, though, I was starting to experience intense jealousy of (and burning desire to join) the numerous indie outfits bum rushing the App Store.

In early '09, I managed to talk my way into a work-for-hire contract for an iPhone entertainment app with one of the big boys on the App Store, formed my company Marroni Electronic Entertainment (M.E.E.) and teamed up with an acquaintance I met online, Ivan Galic of his NightIrion. After that, I managed to do some more talking into of things and convinced Hands-On Mobile to give me a little indie budget for iBailout!! (think of an indie budget as like a bag of pork rinds: Technically, it's sustenance, but it sure isn't something you can afford to make a habit of).

It's been daiquiris and danishes ever since (if daiquiris and/or danishes don't conjure up images of wealth and luxury for you, then think of something else on your own; I've got work to do). Or perhaps we've made approximately nothing so far, everyone, but me is contract (indie contract), I'm broke and e-mailing Steve every week (, advising on the wisdom of featuring us on the App Store--fear not, though; we're firm believers of the power of the dedicated indie(vidual) to effect great and positive change and, most definitely, make great games that people really want to play.

Why be independent rather than try to work for someone else?

You mean aside from the fact that I'm able to write this while shirtless and enjoying the cool Michigan summer breeze blow ever so gently through my luxuriant back and shoulder hair?

I kid, but seriously, there are a lot of developers and creators I respect and whose work I enjoy and appreciate (Sid Meier, David Cage, the BioWare and Remedy gangs and many an indie--I even dig on some JRPGs too), but there's simply no one else doing what I want to do and if I could work for any company in the world, it'd be M.E.E. - which works out well for me, huh?

What's your game called, and what's it about?

iBailout!! is the world's single greatest game about the Federal Reserve, which also happens to be a most loving and innovative Ms. Pac-Man homage. I know, you guys have all long past gotten tired of all those damn Federal Reserve/Ms. Pac-Man homage games, especially with Activision's own yearly Federal Reserve/Ms. Pac-Man homage franchise exploitations flooding the genre, but I still think you'll agree that iBailout!! really is something special.

You see, playing as the Fed come to anthropomorphized life, à la Monster House, you'll experience the joys of gobbling up all the bailout money you can eat, while angry mobs of torch and pitchfork-bearing American citizens chase you to-and-fro, straight outta Frankenstein -- just grab one of those gleaming black assault rifles to get a power-up and declare martial law to put the American people in their place.

The twist, though, is that unlike Ms. Pac-Man, the enemy mobs chasing you in iBailout!! work like snakes, so that if you cut them in half, they'll form an entirely new mob and, depending how you play, you could end up with a lot of little enemies coming after you or just a few really big ones. This seemingly little gameplay innovation provides for a much more strategic and tactical arcade experience and makes iBailout!! very much its own game-its own, awesome game.

How long did it take you to create?

"It's been daiquiris and danishes ever since."

Well, after we finished level three and tightened up the graphics a little bit, it only took about four months+ of having three members of a team of four (design & production, programming, art, sound & music) working on it full-time and only after 75 different builds and meticulous iterations did we get everything just right and exactly how we wanted it-and that's not counting any of the various other tasks (pre-production, marketing, App Store approval, boring-ass administrative stuff, etc., etc.) that started well before actual development and are still ongoing.

What are you proudest of about your game?

Gameplay wise, I really like that we've successfully delivered what we like to consider a new-school arcade experience. By new-school, we mean that we've crafted a game that offers all the fun, excitement and instant gratification of the arcade classics of yore, but one that is overhauled and tuned for a longer and more in-depth play experience and doesn't rely on the threat of losing your quarter to keep things exciting. Our bailout bonus round ('cause you're too awesome to fail) really is the best example of this, as it makes iBailout!! more accessible to less-experienced players, without removing any of the challenge for those with the skills to pay the bills.

Even more than the gameplay, though, if I may humbly say, iBailout!! really is a rare instance of intelligent and meaningful play and, I like to think, its ruthless and vicious satire of the Fed represents a genuine and successful attempt to move games into a truly mature direction.

What's next?

The M.E.E. cooks are currently hard at work in the kitchen on our next and most exciting project which we'll be announcing very soon (Hint: It doesn't have an 'i' in front of the name).

Your ideas are intriguing to us and we wish to subscribe to your newsletter. Are there an official M.E.E. Facebook page and Twitter account, from which all of our most private personal info can be harvested and used towards various and nefarious marketing ends?

Are there? Why, I thought you'd never ask. The first 5 Joystiqers that like our Facebook page and leave a (polite) comment on our latest status, will earn themselves a brand spankin' new iBailout!! promo code (good in the U.S. App Store only; take that one up with Apple, if it's an issue) and ditto for the first 5 to follow us on Twitter and shoot us a nice tweet.

If you miss out on the promo codes, you can buy iBailout!! for $2 right here. If you'd like to have your own shot at converting our readers into fans, email justin aat joystiq dawt com, subject line "The Joystiq Indie Pitch." Still haven't had enough? Check out the Pitch archives.

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