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Pac-Man Ghost Zone

Pac-Man Ghost Zone thrusts our pudgy pal into 14 wacky worlds, each loaded with 3D poly-gonzo thrills. Pac-Man doesn’t just eat – he jumps, flies, swims, slides, and rolls in an effort to battle an all-new cast of bad guys and ghosts. Long live the king of game-dom, Pac-Man!

Enter Pac-Man’s all new 3D world. Explore 14 weird and wacky worlds, from Pac’s house, to frozen waterfalls and a spooky haunted mansion.  Experience the first true 3D water effects.  Heard of the dog paddle? Do the Pac-paddle as our hero shows off his 3D swimming technique.  Delight in devilish diversions. Tons of tricks, traps, puzzles and mazes makes this Pac-adventure the most challenging ever.  Power pellets pack more punch. No longer just a dietary supplement, Pac blasts his adversaries with powerful projectiles.  Even the ghosts are scared. 20 fearsome frighteners have joined forces with the most feared boss in Pac-history: the Ghost Lord!  Pac-Man busts new moves. Sure, he still runs and eats – but now he also swims, flies through the air and rockets down roller coasters.  Look Ma! No rails! Unlike some other game mascots, Pac-Man is free to move in any direction in his full 3D world.

Developer Insight:
“Pac-Man Ghost Zone was actually a lot of shots in the dark. What was fun about the game we riffed on to make Pac-Man World. Many ideas were unsuccessful, the ones that proved fun were surprising to the development team. Many of the original team were not comfortable with 3D games, and could not adjust to the paradigm shift. Halfway through the development, we got a new manager..” who made some sweeping changes. -Gil Colgate, Programmer

“The biggest initial challenge in Pac-Man Ghost Zone was the Pac-Man model. We started out trying to do him with polygons. It took way too many to make a ball look round. One day Gil Golgate came up with the idea to just use a round texture and make sure that it always faces the screen. Then just move the eyes and mouth around like they are resting on a 3D ball. It was a great idea and solved the problem.” -John Hamilton, Programmer

“The game also didn’t have its own identity. It wasn’t Pac-Man – it was a yellow guy inside of a mechanical world that didn’t make sense.” -Brian Schorr, Producer

“Ghost Zone was designed as a 3D platform action game along the same lines as Mario 64. It didn’t have a lot of the maze gameplay of the original Pac-Man. In the original design the player is transformed into Pac-Man and is sucked into an arcade machine by an evil being inside the machine. The idea was inspired by the movie Tron. The game took place in a fantasy world inside an arcade machine. Ghost Zone was a neat idea, but we wanted to take a new Pac-Man game in a different direction. We changed the design to focus on the World of Pac-Man. We thought that a new Pac-Man game should take place in a world of Pac-Man where Pac-People and Pac-Animals live.” -Jesse Taylor, Director Namco R&D

History of Pac-Man Ghost Zone:
“When I joined Namco Hometek in 1996, the artists and programming team were finishing up another game, so the design team was tasked to develop a new title. We came up with 8 games – 4 original and 4 based on Namco properties. We met with the head of the studio, a Japanese gentleman, for a pitch session. After we were done, we asked him “Which idea do you like best?” He thought for a moment and said “Which one do YOU like?” We pointed to one of the original ideas. He shook his head and said: “No. Develop one of the Namco ones further.” So we went back and polished up the four designs. I remember one was based on the Namco theme park Namja Town, another was an RPG that featured all of Namco’s lead characters, the third was Splatterhouse and the last one was Pac-man Ghost Zone. We had another meeting and at the end, we asked him: “Which one do you like?” (You’d think we would have learned by now.) He replied “Which one do YOU like?” We said we really liked the Namco RPG. He said: “No. Do Pac-Man.” And that’s how Pac-Man Ghost Zone was started.

The Japanese home office was nervous about us making a Pac-Man game, so they told us that we couldn’t use the real Pac-Man. Design Director Bill Anderson came up with a solution: A kid gets sucked into an old arcade machine and turns into Pac-Man. That way we could tell Japan “You are not really playing Pac-Man.” But that solution never sat well with the team – we wanted to play the real Pac-Man! Along with the ghosts, the game’s enemies took inspiration from the story where you fought things like angry capacitors and flying RAM chips. All very tech-y (what can I say, we were in Silicon Valley in the late 90’s!) When it came to the boss, we wanted to make one worthy of Pac-Man. So, we took inspiration from the 80’s TV show and created a Mezmeron-analogy – the Ghost Lord whose real body was a tiny globe with eyes set into a large robotic suit. He was very Darth Vader-looking (at least he looked better than Mezmeron) and we even considered hiring James Earl Jones to do his voice – until we found out how much he charged!

We built a playable demo and even though there was some fun gameplay, the game just never felt right. The environments all felt too much the same and it was lacking a sense of grandeur found in other games like the recently released Mario 64. Japan must of felt the same way too – when we flew to Japan and presented it to Namco president Nakamura-San, he was very displeased. As a result, almost the entire team – save 1 designer (myself), 1 programmer (Gil Colgate) and 1 artist (Neil Strudwick) – were fired and we had to start again on what eventually became Pac-Man World.”

WRITTEN BY:  SCOTT ROGERS. After deciding that game designers have more fun, Scott Rogers embarked on a 16 year career creating exciting game designs for a number of titles including Sony’s GOD OF WAR, Capcom’s MAXIMO: GHOSTS TO GLORY and its sequel MAXIMO VS. ARMY OF ZIN and Namco’s PAC-MAN WORLD. He is currently a Creative Manager at THQ on many titles including DRAWN TO LIFE and DARKSIDERS.

Post Mortem:
There were a number of difficulties we found in designing Pac-Man Ghost Zone, such as, Namco had just got done globalizing the copyrighted images of Pac-Man worldwide, without thinking what would happen if Pac Man went 3D. So we had to work with Namco’s legal group to open that back up again. Something they were not too keen on, seeing it took over 2 years the first time around. But in the end they know that Pac-Man’s future was going to be in 3D so better do this now than later. This was important for us, not to be bound to the 2D license before we could even plan out the game play design.

After that we had to move on to staffing up and setting plans for the game engine. This was a first for Namco US because this would be the first PlayStation game to be developed at this location.
Next I had to delegate the environment game play design work out across two other studio designers, because with me taking on the roll of studio producer along with being the lead designer, there was just no time for me to do all the designs myself. This worked out well, for we had some really talented and imaginative people there at the time. If there was one snag, it was just making sure everyone one kept in mind the full vision of the game concept, throughout the production.

With some games there are often some team members who would like to go a different direction with a game project, but with PMGZ we really never had those types of issues. It was a cool concept that everyone there seemed very excited about developing.

It was also a simple and cute story, easy to follow and easy to dream up all types of game play for. Unfortunately PMGZ’s production fell victim to Namco going through an upper management change, which was totally out of the control of anyone in development at the time.

Who knows, maybe someday Namco will come back around to doing Pac-Man Ghost Zone again.

WRITTEN BY:  WILLIAM ANDERSON is currently the Owner and President of Awaken Games and has been a Lead Designer, Developer and Production Manager for well over two decades now, having worked in-house for many of the top developers and publishers in the world. He’s is not only credited with designing many mega hit titles over the years, such as Maximo Ghosts to Glory, Abe’s Oddysee, Cool Spot (Sega Genesis) and Aladdin (Sega Genesis), just to name a few. But has also had a hand in personally training many game designers who have moved on to creating such titles as Command and Conquer, God of War and many more historic game properties over the years. He is also an international business consultant and teacher, working to elevate the quality of game play design and product development all over the world, while still being actively involved in current game design projects for nearly all next-gen platforms.

Pac-Man Ghost Zone, 3.4 out of 5 based on 5 ratings

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