Pac-Man still hungry at 35

Back in the days of arcade games, one definitely remembers sitting in front of the coin machines waiting hours in line for one’s turn to play, or in front of one’s television set or personal computers, playing the yellow chomping hockey puck look-alike ‘Pac-Man’. Toru Iwatani, an employee in Namco, while working there came up with an idea to develop something different from what the popular game genres in rage at that time, such as space shooters: Space Invaders and Asteroids. The colourful cartoonish characters of Pac-Man were the first of its kind to be developed with other games being mono or bi-coloured. 22 May 1980, was the date when the world first witnessed this pellet eating, constantly running, cute little character – Pac-Man. Pac-Man or as it was originally called in Japan – ‘Pakkuman’ or ‘Puck-Man’ created a new genre for video game fans and also appealed to a large section of the fairer sex as well, thus opening  the doors for the females to the world of video games. This was also the first game that offered artificial intelligence, which hunted the players down, offering gameplay experience like never before. The arcade version of the game sold more than 400,000 machines within two years and many more versions of it releasing on various home consoles still keeping the legend alive. Designed to look like a pizza missing a slice, Pac-Man, had a better half in Ms. Pac-Man. Midway, the US distributor of the game made Ms. Pac-Man without inviting Namco to the party and went on with a game developed by General Computer Corporation (GCC) which was sold in America. This too became an instant hit among the arcaders with more than 100,000 arcade cabinets being sold and Namco ending its long standing partnership with Midway. Being one of the games to be credited with the honour of being the highest grosser of all times, Pac-Man did more than $2.5 billion in each quarter by 1990s. The game not only become a pop culture icon among the video game community but also won the accolade of being one of the most recognisable names. The brand associated with almost every consumer goods sold in the market such as: cereals, bubble gums, not to leave behind television and radio spots as well. Google too loves Pac-Man. The game was featured on its doodle on the occasion of Pac-Man’s 30th anniversary and had a functioning Pac-Man game resembling the original. Also, recently the internet giant made its mapping application Google Maps, a Pac-Man playground as the game could be played on the maps with the yellow chub running in your neighborhood streets chomping pellets with monsters running behind him. Original creators Bandai Namco recently tied up with ‘Crossy Road’ developer Hipster Whale to make a new Pac-Man game – Pac-Man 256 based on the infamous glitch from the original. The glitch occurred when the player who used to play for countless hours to get to that level (256) only to witness half of the screen on the arcade machine turn into a mess of jumbled up random characters not allowing the player to move further in the game. Not only is there a new game being developed, the Pac-Man character will also be seen moving swiftly through the streets of New York in the upcoming Sony Pictures movie Pixels, where the character plays an-anti hero, sent by aliens to destroy human race. Creator Iwatani (played by Denis Akiyama) is called in to stop the menace but is instead bit by its creation. The game is still widely recollected and played, also giving room to various spin-offs and updates; apart from allowing ardent fans to play it at various arcade museums across the world. The new generation will never know what it is to wait hours at the arcade stations or on personal computers for their turn but will still know the game thanks to Namco’s constant rehashing on various platforms on which games can be played. Thus, remembering the fond memories and what Pac-Man meant to them, reached out to a number of industry professionals and this is what they had to say… Excerpts:  Aditya Kulkarni from Loon Games, “I used to play Pac-Man on DOS and a Celeron which was 20 years back, maybe more. Pac-Man still has one of the best core mechanics till date. Did you know that every ghost in Pac-Man had their own specific behaviour? But they still worked together to gobble you down. The design was pretty well balanced. The art style had a lot to do with hardware constraints back then. These days we have powerful processors capable of rendering the art on screen without crashing on you. For our own projects, the art style differs with each game and it totally depends on our art guys. But you still have to consider nostalgia to evoke emotions, which is very powerful. Electronica as a music genre typically works well for casual games even now because of the sense of urgency that it helps create. We have multi-layered music and sound pieced together to give the players the context required at a particular point in the game. If I was making Pac-Man today, I would incorporate the ability to become invisible for 5 seconds; the ability to touch a ghost and switch places with it for 5 seconds; introduce teleportation from one end to the other and develop a ghost which does not harm Pac-Man but leaves acidic goo everywhere it walks, melting the pellets it walks over on.”   Abhinav Chokhavatia from Zatun, “Pac-Man was one of the first games I played and it still rings a bell in my mind when I think about it.  One of the first things that comes to mind is the maze and the yellow pixilated Pac-Man and the ghosts. Pac-man was so simple to play but it had amazing gameplay, characters and music. We try to make sure that we too design games that are fun to play with really good music, characters and gameplay. I like the game the way it is and nothing needs to be added to the original. Why add to perfection!”   Krish Das from Toonheart Studios,” I was introduced to the game around 1997 inside the school computer lab, someone pulled out a dusty floppy disk. I remember being really bad at this game, that is at escaping mazes, especially on those old clicky keyboards where keys would sometimes not respond unless you slam them. Basic sounds were nice, but the continuous eating of Pac-dots (pellets) was quite an irritating sound. One thing I would like to add to the game would be the 3D maze with isometric top view and a way to turn the maze and turn direction of enemies with power-ups and maybe a bomb through the maze to restructure the maze would be awesome addition.   Anand Jha from Nilee Games, “I remember the first time I played Pac-Man was on DOS system long back in 1997, it was fun playing and addictive, I used to play for hours back in my school days, I love playing 8 bit games on consoles and DOS as we kept competition among friends. Pac-Man’s original music was awesome.   Kelvin Ali from Northern World Entertainment Software, “I found Pac-Man in the coin arcade when I was a child and the first memories I have of the game are the music & the fruit rewards! I also remember when Pac-Man took off they made a ‘watch’ toy which I received as a child with the game in a black and grey monotone style on one of my birthdays and I was a very popular kid at school during lunch and recess! The art was simple and the music was catchy and brings a smile to my face. The pixelation of the art assets reminds me of how far we have evolved with technology in just a few decades! I wouldn’t really change anything, a classic is a classic and changing Pac-Man would not give it the same feel with added mechanics. Future focus, I would maybe mess around with the control mechanics so that one could enhance the experience using a PS4 type controller or add user eye tracking to smoke through levels!”