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Pac-Man (パックマン Pakkuman?) is an arcade game developed by Namco and licensed for distribution in the U.S. by Midway, first released in Japan on May 22, 1980. Immensely popular in the United States from its original release to the present day, Pac-Man is universally considered as one of the classics of the medium, virtually synonymous with video games, and an icon of the 1980s popular culture. Upon its release, the game—and, subsequently, its derivatives—became a social phenomenon that sold a bevy of merchandise and also inspired, among other things, an animated television series and a top-ten hit single.
When Pac-Man was released, most arcade video games in North America were primarily space shooters such as Space Invaders, Defender, or Asteroids. The most visible minority were sports games that were mostly derivative of Pong. Pac-Man succeeded by creating a new genre and appealing to both genders. Pac-Man is often credited with being a landmark in video game history, and is among the most famous arcade games of all time. The character also appears in more than 30 officially licensed game spin-offs, as well as in numerous unauthorized clones and bootlegs. According to the Davie-Brown Index, Pac-Man has the highest brand awareness of any video game character among American consumers, recognized by 94 percent of them.
Gameplay[edit | edit source]
The player controls Pac-Man through a maze, eating pac-dots. When all dots are eaten, Pac-Man is taken to the next stage. Four ghosts (Blinky, Pinky, Inky and Clyde) roam the maze, trying to catch Pac-Man. If a ghost touches Pac-Man, a life is lost. When all lives have been lost, the game ends. Pac-Man is awarded a single bonus life at 10,000 points by default—DIP switches inside the machine can change the required points or disable the bonus life altogether.
Near the corners of the maze are four larger, flashing dots known as power pellets that provide Pac-Man with the temporary ability to eat the ghosts. The ghosts turn deep blue, reverse direction, and usually move more slowly when Pac-Man eats a power pellet. When a ghost is eaten, its eyes remain and return to the ghost home where it is regenerated in its normal color. Blue ghosts flash white before they become dangerous again and the amount of time the ghosts remain vulnerable varies from one board to the next, but the time period generally becomes shorter as the game progresses. In later stages, the ghosts do not change colors at all, but still reverse direction when a power pellet is eaten.
In addition to Pac-dots and power pellets, bonus items, usually referred to as fruits (though not all items are fruits) appear near the center of the maze. These items score extra bonus points when eaten. The items change and bonus values increase throughout the game. Also, a series of intermissions play after certain levels toward the beginning of the game, showing a humorous set of interactions (the first being after level 2) between Pac-Man and Blinky (the red ghost).
Ghosts[edit | edit source]
Initially, Pac-Man's enemies were referred to as monsters on the arcade cabinet, but soon became colloquially known as ghosts.
The ghosts are bound by the maze in the same way as Pac-Man, but generally move slightly faster than the player, although they slow down when turning corners and slow down significantly while passing through the tunnels on the sides of the maze (Pac-Man passes through these tunnels unhindered). Pac-Man slows down slightly while eating dots, potentially allowing a chasing ghost to catch him.
Blinky, the red ghost, also speeds up after a certain number of dots are eaten (this number gets lower in higher levels).
- Blinky- the red ghost follows fastest and is the leader of the Ghost Gang.
- Pinky- the female and pink ghost.
- Inky- the blue ghost.
- Clyde- the orange ghost is the easiest to avoid.
Ghost Gang Behavior[edit | edit source]
A ghost always maintains its current direction until it reaches an intersection, at which point it can turn left or right. Periodically, the ghosts will reverse direction and head for the corners of the maze (commonly referred to as "scatter mode"), before reverting to their normal behavior. In an interview, Iwatani stated that he had designed each ghost with its own distinct personality in order to keep the game from becoming impossibly difficult or boring to play. The behaviors of each ghost have been exactly determined by reverse-engineering the game.
Despite the seemingly random nature of some of the ghosts, their movements are strictly deterministic, enabling experienced players to devise precise sequences of movements for each level (termed "patterns") that allow them to complete the levels without ever being caught. A later revision of the game code altered the ghosts' behavior, but new patterns were soon developed for that behavior as well. Players have also learned how to exploit other flaws in the ghosts' behavior, including finding places where they can hide indefinitely without moving, and a code bug occasionally allows Pac-Man to pass through a non-blue ghost unharmed. Several patterns have been developed to exploit this bug. The bug arises from the fact that the game logic performs collision detection based on ghost / Pac-Man occupancy of grid squares, where the grid squares are large relative to the size of the characters. A character occupies (for collision detection purposes) only one grid square ("tile") at at time, despite its graphic depiction overflowing to another tile. If a ghost and Pac-Man switch tiles with each other simultaneously (which is not a rare phenomenon, because the tiles granularity is large), a collision isn't detected.
Split Screen level[edit | edit source]
Pac-Man technically has no ending—as long as the player keeps at least one life, he or she should be able to continue playing indefinitely. However, because of a bug in the routine that draws the fruit, the right side of the 256th level becomes a garbled mess of text and symbols, rendering the level impossible to pass by legitimate means. Normally, no more than seven fruits are displayed at any one time, but when the internal level counter (stored in a single byte) reaches 255, the subroutine erroneously causes this value to "roll over" to zero before drawing the fruit. This causes the routine to attempt to draw 256 fruits, which corrupts the bottom of the screen and the whole right half of the maze with seemingly random symbols.
Pac-Man and the ghosts can move freely throughout the right half of the screen, barring some fractured pieces of the maze. Despite claims that someone with enough knowledge of the maze pattern could play through the level, it is technically impossible to complete since the graphical corruption eliminates most of the dots on the right half of the maze. A few edible dots are scattered in the corrupted area, and these dots reset when the player loses a life (unlike in the uncorrupted areas), but these are insufficient to complete the level. As a result, the level has been given a number of names, including "the Final Level", "the Blind-Side", and the ending. It is known more generally as a kill screen.
World Championship[edit | edit source]
On June 5, 2007, the first Pac-Man World Championship was held in New York City, which brought together ten competitors from eight countries to play the new Pac-Man Championship Edition just prior to its release on Xbox Live Arcade. The top two scorers, Robert Glashuettner of Austria and Carlos Daniel Borrego of Mexico, competed for the championship in a single five-minute round. Borrego was named Pac-Man World Champion and won an Xbox 360 console, specially decorated with Pac-Man artwork and signed by Tōru Iwatani
Ports[edit | edit source]
Pac-Man is one of the few games to have been consistently published for over two decades. In the 1980s, it was released for the Apple II series, Atari 2600, Atari 5200, the Atari 8-bit computers, IBM Personal Computer, Intellivision, Commodore VIC-20, Commodore 64, Nintendo Entertainment System (1987 and 1990 by Tengen, and 1993 by Namco) and TI 99/4a. For handheld game consoles systems, it was released on the Game Boy (1991), Sega Game Gear (1991), and the Neo Geo Pocket Color (1999). Special editions and compilations include Pac-Man: Special Color Edition for the Game Boy Color (1999), and Pac-Man Collection for the Game Boy Advance (2001). Pac-Man was also included as an unlockable game in Pac 'n Roll for the Nintendo DS.
Pac-Man has been most widely distributed in Namco's long-running Namco Museum series, first released for the PlayStation in 1996. Namco Museum is also available for the Game Boy Advance, PSP, and Nintendo DS. An Xbox 360 port of Pac-man was released via Xbox Live Arcade on August 9, 2006. Pac-Man is also available in its original form as part of the GameTap service.
On September 12, 2006, a port was released for play on the iPod music player. A version for the iPhone and iPod touch was released on July 9, 2008.
There have been efforts to hack the preexisting Ms. Pac-Man cartridge (as well as other variants in the Pac-Man series) to create the original Pac-Man for the Atari 7800.
Namco has repeatedly rereleased this game to arcades. In 2001, Namco released a 20-Year Reunion cabinet featuring Ms. Pac-Man and Galaga that permits the unlocking of Pac-Man for play. In 2005, Namco released a board openly featuring all three of the games on the 20-Year Reunion board in honor of Pac-Man's 25th Anniversary. The NES version later became a Classic NES Series title for the Game Boy Advance, and was also released for download via the Wii's Virtual Console service in May 2007.
Namco's wireless division, Namco Networks America Inc., released a line of Pac-Man games for cell phones in 2002, starting with the original arcade version and following up with Pac-Man game extensions like Pac-Man Bowling and Pac-Man Pinball. This division also launched a networked game, Ms. Pac-Man For Prizes, in 2004. Pac-Man mobile games are available on both BREW and Java platforms across major cellular carriers, as well as on Palm PDAs and Windows Mobile-based cell phones and PDAs. There is a port of Pac-Man for Android which can be controlled not only through an Android phone's trackball but through touch gestures or its on-board accelerometer.
Sequels[edit | edit source]
Pac-Man spawned numerous sequels, the most significant of which is Ms. Pac-Man. Originally called Crazy Otto, this unauthorized hack of Pac-Man was created by General Computer Corporation and sold to Midway without Namco's permission. The game features several improvements to and changes from the original Pac-Man, including faster gameplay, more mazes, new intermissions, and moving bonus items. Some consider Ms. Pac-Man to be superior to the original, and even the best in the entire series. Namco sued Midway for exceeding their license. Eventually, Bally Midway struck a deal with Namco to officially license Ms. Pac-Man as a sequel.
Bally Midway spin-offs[edit | edit source]
Following Ms. Pac-Man, Bally Midway released several unauthorized spin-offs, such as Pac-Man Plus, Jr. Pac-Man, Baby Pac-Man and Professor Pac-Man, resulting in Namco severing business relations with Midway. Some of these other titles were generally considered inferior and unimportant, serving to oversaturate the market with Pac-Man games.
Pac-Man Vs.[edit | edit source]
Pac-Man Vs. is a version of the game which allows competitive play amongst multiple participants, and it cannot be played single-player. One player takes the role of Pac-Man and is pursued by the other players' ghosts. When one of the ghosts catches Pac-Man, the level starts anew and the two players exchange roles - the player who was playing Pac-Man becomes a ghost and the player who caught him now becomes Pac-Man. In order to make the game fair, the players acting as ghosts are presented with only a limited view of the maze (rendered in a 3D view, quite unlike the original) and the Pac-Man's player sees the full classical top-down view. The game continues with players swapping roles until one of them wins the match by reaching a predetermined number of points. The basic gameplay is basically similar to the original - the ghosts can't eat the dots and the tables are turned on them when Pac-Man eats a power-pill. Pac-Man Vs. has been released for the Nintendo GameCube (this required a Game Boy Advance and special cable), Nintendo DS (wirelessly between 2 - 4 DS consoles) and has seen Japanese release on mobile phones (using bluetooth connectivity).
Pac-Man Championship Edition[edit | edit source]
Twenty-six years after the original Pac-Man, Microsoft worked with Tōru Iwatani and Namco Bandai to produce a remake of the game, Pac-Man Championship Edition. It was released for the Xbox Live Arcade on June 6, 2007.
Non video game[edit | edit source]
In 1982, Milton Bradley released a board game based on Pac-Man and another based on Ms. Pac-Man. Several other pocket games and a card game were also produced.
A group of students from the computer science department of Simon Fraser University had developed a "life-sized" Pac-Man system, using laptops and mobile phone tracking to track the location of the dots, ghost and Pac-Man. It has become a regular activity of Computer Science Frosh Week, and is usually played in Downtown Vancouver.
A real-life version of Pac-Man has also been played around the Washington square park area of New York, in a game-christened PacManhattan.
Film[edit | edit source]
In 2004, Crystal Sky Pictures announced they were producing a theatrical film adaption titled Pac-Man: The Movie. It will combine live-action and special effects. The film was included in a $200 million deal with Grosvenor Park
Awards[edit | edit source]
Guinness World Records has awarded the Pac-Man series eight records in Guinness World Records: Gamer's Edition 2008, including "First Perfect Pac-Man Game" for Billy Mitchell's July 3, 1999 score; "Most Successful Coin-Operated Game"; and "Largest Pac-Man Game", when, in 2004, students from New York University created Pac-Manhattan, a real life reenactment of the game, in which people dressed as Pac-Man and the four ghosts chased each other around Manhattan city blocks. Each player was teamed with a controller who communicated the player's positions using cellular phones.
References[edit | edit source]
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