Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
For other uses of the term see Pacman_(disambiguation).
|Game designer:||Iwatani Toru|
|Game modes:||Up to 2 players, alternating turns|
|Cabinet:||Standard and cocktail|
|Developed during the Golden Age of Arcade Games. Ranked the #1 most popular arcade game of all time by the Killer List of Videogames web site.|
Pac-Man was first introduced in Japan in the autumn of 1980 where it went by the name Puck Man. It was an instant hit. It was soon picked up for manufacture in the U.S. by Bally division Midway Manufacturing, and became a worldwide phenomenon within the video game industry, as it shattered the popular conventions set in the field by Space Invaders. It abandoned the 'shoot-em-up action' in favor of a unique, humorous, largely non-violent format that appealed to girls as well as boys.
The name change from Puck-man (derived from the Japanese phrase pakupaku, meaning to flap one's mouth open and close) to Pac-Man was said to be partially motivated out of a desire to avoid the obvious vandalism that Americans could inflict upon game cabinets by scratching out part of the first letter to change it to an "F".
Pac-Man is a maze game. The player maneuvers Pac-Man, a yellow circle with a mouth, to navigate a maze while eating dots and prizes. A level, or board, is finished when all dots are eaten. Four ghost-like monsters also wander the maze in an attempt to eat Pac-Man. Each level begins with three monsters in their "holding pen" and one monster above it, and Pac-Man near the bottom of the maze. The monsters are released from the pen periodically as Pac-Man eats dots.
Four special dots, called "Power Pellets" , near the corners of the maze provide Pac-Man with the temporary ability to eat the monsters. The monsters turn a deep blue and reverse direction immediately when Pac-Man eats an energizer, and they move more slowly while they are vulnerable. The monsters are worth 200, 400, 800, and 1600 points, in sequence (the values starting over again at 200 each time another Power Pellet is eaten), so it is advantageous to the player to try to eat all four monsters each time. If a monster is eaten, its eyes return to the monster pen where it will be restored to normal. The monsters flash white shortly before they revert to being dangerous. The amount of time the monsters remain vulnerable after a Power Pellet is eaten varies from one board to the next, but the time period generally trends shorter as the game progresses, and after many boards have been completed the monsters will actually not turn blue at all when the energizers are eaten, but will still reverse direction.
Dots are worth ten points each (there are 240 of them on each board), and Power Pellets are worth fifty points each. Additionally, points can be earned by having Pac-Man eat a symbol (generically referred to as a "fruit", even though a few are not actually fruit) that appears twice during each board just below the monster pen. The symbols change with each successive one or two boards, and their point value steadily increases:
- Cherries, 100 points
- Strawberry, 300 points
- Peach, 500 points
- Apple, 700 points
- Grapes, 1000 points
- Yellow enemy from Galaxian, 2000 points
- Bell, 3000 points
- Key, 5000 points
A bonus Pac-Man is awarded at 10,000 points (the default setting; DIP switches inside the machine can change the required points to 15,000 or 20,000 or disable the bonus Pac-Man altogether).
- Shadow ("Blinky") is the red monster. He tends to pursue Pac-Man closely. When a certain number of dots are eaten on the board (depending on the level), Blinky will receive a considerable boost in speed. Pac-Man fans refer to this change as "Cruise Elroy," though the origin of this term is unknown.
- Speedy ("Pinky") is the pink monster. Pinky usually joins Blinky in close pursuit of Pac-Man, but sometimes lags behind. While Blinky usually turns clockwise around corners, Pinky usually turns counterclockwise, effectively trapping the player on two sides. Despite his name, Pinky is meant to be a male character.
- Bashful ("Inky") is the light blue monster. His behavior is erratic; sometimes he actively chases Pac-Man, while other times he will go out of his way to avoid a confrontation, or will even turn and run from Pac-Man.
- Pokey ("Clyde"), the orange monster, does not actively chase after Pac-Man, preferring to wander on his own path. However, this makes him more difficult for a player to track, putting the player in danger of accidentally running into him. Furthermore, when Pac-Man eats a power pellet and tries to eat all four monsters for maximum points, Clyde is sometimes hard to reach before the time runs out. Clyde was replaced by Sue in Ms. Pac Man, and Tim in Jr. Pac Man, though Sue and Tim look identical to him.
In the original Puck-Man, these monsters were named Akabei (red-guy), Pinky, Aosuke (blue-guy), and Guzuta (slow-guy). Puck-Man also had a DIP switch for alternate monster names: Urchin (Macky), Romp (Micky), Stylist (Mucky), and Crybaby (Mocky). The monsters are introduced by name during the game's attract mode. Some fans of the game claim that the monsters have distinct personalities: Shadow follows Pac-Man closely and is hard to shake off his trail; Speedy is slightly faster than the other monsters; Bashful will turn around and run from a direct confrontation; and Pokey gets lost in the maze and sometimes wanders into Pac-Man's path when the player least expects it.
The movements of the monsters are strictly deterministic—there is no random or even pseudo-randomness in the algorithms choosing their paths. Therefore, the game can be played indefinitely by learning and repeating a specific sequence of movements for each level (termed "patterns"). A later revision of the programming altered the behavior, but it still wasn't random, and thus new patterns were devised for it.
Pac-Man is slowed down when he is eating dots. If a player is being closely pursued, he should usually run in corridors which he has already cleared.
Pac-Man can turn corners slightly more quickly than the monsters can. Taking many turns will increase a player's chances of evading pursuit.
Intermissions between some boards show humorous animated scenes featuring Pac-Man and the monsters. There are three different intermissions:
- Blinky chases Pac-Man off the screen. Blinky reappears as a vulnerable blue monster coming the opposite direction, being chased by a giant Pac-Man. This intermission plays after board 2.
- Blinky chases Pac-Man across the screen, but his pelt gets caught on a tack in the floor, and part of it is ripped off revealing his bare leg. This intermission plays after board 5.
- Blinky, with the corner of his pelt sewn back on, chases Pac-Man across the screen. Blinky reappears coming back the opposite direction, naked, dragging his pelt behind him. This intermission plays after boards 9, 13, 17, and every fourth board thereafter.
The game technically has no end; the player will be given new boards to clear as long as he does not run out of lives. But due to a glitch in the game, the right side of the 256th board is a garbled mess of text, rendering the level virtually unplayable. Pac-Man enthusiasts refer to this as the "Final Level," the "Split-Screen Level," or simply as the ending of Pac-Man. Although there are claims that someone with enough knowledge of the maze pattern can play through it, it is generally considered unbeatable (see "Historical events" below).
There is an "escape tube" which connects the sides of the maze; any character can use it to leave one side of the maze and reappear on the other side. Monsters are slowed down when they use this tube (unless they are vulnerable, in which case they proceed at their usual slower pace).
Monsters (unless they are vulnerable) will not go up into either of the two paths immediately above the monster pen. If Pac-Man is being chased by monsters and goes up either of those paths, the monsters will not follow.
If Pac-Man stops in the corner immediately above and to the right of his starting place, at any time while there are no monsters nearby to "see" him go into there, the monsters will never be able to find him. They will wander aimlessly in circles, never coming into the corridor where Pac-Man is "hiding." Marathon players use this trick to "park" Pac-Man for a while so they can use a bathroom.
The game used a Z80 microprocessor and a Namco 3-channel PSG for sounds. Standard upright, mini-upright, and cocktail versions existed. A plugin kit called Super ABC became available in the 1990s which added several new games to the Pac-Man system, including different versions of the original Pac-Man.
A disastrous port
The first attempt to adapt Pac-Man to the home video game market was a disastrous failure. Atari Inc. bought the home video rights to the game, and it promoted the release of the Atari 2600 version of the game with an enormous marketing campaign. In the eyes of the public, the combination of the world's most popular home video game console with the world's most popular arcade game seemed like a "can't miss" blockbuster. However, the actual Atari 2600 adaptation of the game ended up being panned by critics as stiff and lifeless- somehow managing to remove the colorful, "fun" aspect of Pac-Man from the game. It was one of two major home video game releases (along with the Atari 2600 version of E.T.) that may have triggered the video game crash of 1983.
Reports have it that the miserable port of the game to the 2600 was largely due to an overzealous Atari marketing department. As Atari planned for the development of Pac-Man for the 2600, some marketing executives approached one of their principal game programmers, Tod Frye , about doing a version of the game. He said he already had a prototype developed and showed it to them. It lacked polish, but the executives were so eager to start selling the game that they overlooked its flaws and ordered production of the game based on the unfinished prototype. Atari allegedly paid Frye $1 million for his work.
Unfortunately, the public did not overlook the game's blemishes, and many consumers instead purchased similar offerings from competing video game publishers. The sales figures would normally have been respectable (70% of Atari's 10 million-strong user base bought the game), except that Atari produced 12 million cartridges, which led to a large loss for the company.
The game suffers from poor design choices as well as limitations of the 2600. It technically only draws one enemy on the screen at a time, so that each of the game's four enemies only appears in one of every four frames; due to persistence of vision this presents the illusion of having four enemies on the screen at once, but they flicker badly. For this reason, the game's instruction manual calls the enemies "ghosts" instead of "monsters". The ghosts are very subtly tinted different colors, but this can be very hard to see on most television sets, and otherwise there are no differences between the ghosts.
Unlike the arcade game in which the monsters' eyes indicate their direction of movement, the eyes of this version's ghosts spin constantly. The ghosts move according to much simpler patterns which do not appear to depend on the location of Pac-Man. Pac-Man himself looks more like a wrench with an eye, his mouth continues to open and close even when he is not moving, and he moves up and down corridors sideways. The dots are actually dashes, and the sound of eating them is a harsh tone. The maze is nothing like that of the arcade game, and this version has orange walls and a blue background. The escape tunnels are located at the top and bottom of the screen. The "fruit" has become a two-color rectangle which does not change from board to board.
Marketers from the video game manufacturers were taken completely by surprise by the phenomenal success of Pac-Man in 1980. Interviews with programmers who worked in the industry during the initial golden age of video games revealed that marketing executives completely overlooked the game (and likewise dismissed the classic Defender as "too complex"), while they looked to a racing car game called Rally-X as the game to beat that year. But the appeal of Pac-Man caught on immediately with the gaming public, and the game's popularity outpaced anything seen in the industry before; it even surpassed Space Invaders as the most popular and most influential game of the 1980s.
The unique and original game design inspired game manufacturers to look into game designs that differed from endless "alien invader battle" games. Pac-Man introduced an element of humor into video games that designers sought to imitate, as it appealed to a wider demographic than the teenage boys who flocked to the action-oriented games. Many popular video games of the 1980s, including Q*Bert, Donkey Kong, and Frogger owe their existence to the success of Pac-Man.
Pac-Man spawned numerous spin-off and imitative games. Its 'official' arcade lineage includes Ms. Pac Man, Pac-Man Plus, Super Pac-Man, Jr. Pac Man, Pac-Land, Pac-Mania, the Baby Pac-Man video/pinball game, and the Professor Pac-Man quiz game. Pac-Man 2: The New Adventures was later released for the Super Nintendo Entertainment System (SNES) and Sega Genesis in 1994. Unauthorized "pirate" versions of the game were also created, most notably Hangly-Man , one variant of which replaced the Pac-Man character with the head of Popeye. In addition, soon after the release of the original Pac-Man, many other maze-themed video games entered the arcade market (Make Trax and Thief being the most prominent) and one such game, K.C. Munchkin, was actually withdrawn after Namco threatened to sue its creator, since its imitation of the Pac-Man characters was so blatant and undisguised.
A great deal of Pac-Man merchandise was marketed in the 1980s, from t-shirts to toys to hand-held video game imitations. A Saturday morning TV cartoon based on the game was produced by Hanna-Barbera that lasted two years from 1982 to 1984 and there was also a Pac-Man Christmas special called Christmas Comes to Pac-Land; the bad guys were Ghost-Monsters named Blinky, Pinky, Inky, Clyde, and Sue (from the Ms. Pac-Man game), and were led by the evil Mezmaron. Marty Ingels played the voice of Pac-Man. The game also inspired a 1982 hit single, "Pac-Man Fever," performed by Buckner & Garcia.
The KLOV lists Pac-Man as the #1 video game of all time on its "The Top 100 Videogames" list.
In 2003, a new version called Pac-Man Vs. for the Nintendo GameCube allowed four players to play simultaneously. One player used the Game Boy Advance to view the entire Pac-Man maze and control Pac-Man, while three other players used the TV screen and traditional GameCube controllers to control one ghost each. The players that controlled the ghosts were only allowed to see the small part of the maze that was around them, limiting the view of the ghost players. This showcased Nintendo's connectivity feature between the GameCube and the Game Boy Advance, and was given away free with the Player's Choice rereleased version of Pac-Man World 2 as well as Namco's I-Ninja and R: Racing Revolution games for GameCube.
In 2004, New York University's Interactive Telecommunications graduate program created a "real world" version of the game called "Pac-Manhattan" where one player runs around the streets of New York City dressed as Pac-Man and collects "virtual dots" (there are no physical representations of the dots in the streets, but a map on a central computer knows where Pac-Man has been and, therefore, which streets have been "cleared"). Four other players play the part of the monsters. Pac-Man (or the monsters when Pac-Man has eaten a power pill by touching a streetsign at certain intersections) are killed by tagging (touching with the hands). Each player has a controller counterpart in constant cell phone contact and are monitored from a centralized location using Wi-Fi internet connections, and custom software designed by the Pac-Manhattan team.
A "perfect Pac-Man game," in which the player must complete all of the 255 levels with a maximum point score without ever being eaten, was first played in 1999 by Billy Mitchell. The maximum score is 3,333,360 points.
However, in December 1982, an eight-year-old boy named Jeffrey R. Yee received a letter from U.S. President Ronald Reagan, congratulating him on a worldwide record of 6,131,940 points, a score only possible if the player passed through the Split-Screen Level. Whether or not this event happened as described has remained in heated debate amongst video game circles since its occurrence. Billy Mitchell offered $100,000 to anyone who could provably pass through the Split-Screen Level before January 1, 2000; no one could.
- In Brazil, the game was unofficially named by the children as Come-Come (lit. he eats-he eats, in Portuguese). Also an onomatopoeic, from the sound the character does when walking/eating. In Italy, the same sound is referred as a meaningless Gabo Gabo.
- Pac-Man, and other video games of the same general type, are often cited as an identifying cultural experience of Generation X, particularly its older members, sometimes called Baby Busters.
- The secret level of the third episode of Wolfenstein 3D is fashioned after one of the original Pac-Man levels.
- It was rumored that Toru Iwatani had quit Namco because he only received a small amount of money after creating the game. In reality, he was promoted and as of 2004 is still a Namco employee.
- The Ms. Pac-Man cartridge for the Atari 2600 was vastly superior to the original Pac-Man. Over the years, Atari hobbyists have reverse-engineered the Ms. Pac-Man cartridge's graphics and colors to make the game resemble the original Pac-Man more closely. While this is technically a copyright violation (see MAME), the altered ROM has been a popular item among collectors of original 2600 games.
- In the popular video game oriented web cartoon Penny Arcade, Gabe is almost always seen wearing a yellow shirt with a black outline of Pac-Man. Other strips reveal that his room is decorated with Pac-Man sheets and matching curtains. Mike Krahulik, the Penny Arcade artist who uses Gabe as an alter-ego actually has a tattoo of Pac-Man eating pellets around his arm.
- A Pac-Man or Ms. Pac-Man can still be found in many arcades as of 2004, especially Namco owned arcades.
- When asked about wearing a Pac-Man T-shirt throughout a Slayer-tour, bassist/singer Tom Araya was quoted saying that he wore the shirt because he considers Pac-Man the most violent game ever, since there's no other game where you have to eat your enemies.
- For many years, Pac-Man has served as the video game mascot for Namco.
Because of its success, Pac-Man has been ported to most video game consoles of its time. Just like the Atari 2600 port, they were done by Atari. Here are screenshots of some of these ports:
|Atari 2600 (1981)||Atari 5200 (1982)||Commodore 64 (1983)||Intellivision (1983)|
- List of arcade games
- Polyplay, Arcade machine from the Former Eastern Bloc, incorporating their answer to Pac-Man.
- Pacman frog
- Pac Man entry on the Killer List of Videogames
- Interview with Pac-man designer, Toru Iwatani, from Retrogamer
- Pac Man World Record article from TwinGalaxies.com
- Pac-Manhattan website, a real-world enactment of a Pac-Man game
- The meaning of Pacman, an original and unabridged postmodern and ironic essay by Thomas Eugene Taylor-Bradford
- The Virtual Pac-Man Museum
- Pac-Man Fever, the story and lyrics
- World's only dedicated Puckman site, the original Japanese title which is still in use
- Pac-Man Info, contains an enormous amount of technical data on the Pac-Man systems.
- Computer Statistics site with details on the origin of the Pac-Man name and concept
- Category at ODP
- Namco's official website
Online playable games
- Directory of Free Online Pac Man games, Contains screenshots, tech. details, and descriptions of Pac Man games available online.
- Pac-man Java game from Benny Chow, similar to the arcade version (with aspects of Ms. Pac Man)
- Atari 2600 like version with online highscores (requires Macromedia Shockwave)
- Collection of more than 100 Pacman-games in the world wide web, with screenshots and descriptions (in German).
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