Pac-Man World 20th Anniversary
PAC-MAN IS BACK!
It’s PAC-MAN’s 20th anniversary, but not everyone is celebrating. The Villainous Toc-Man has imprisoned Pac-Man’s family and friends on Ghost Island! Grab a power pellet and start chomping! It’s up to video game history’s favorite hero to save the day! All new abilities! Pac-Man still eats dots and chomps ghosts, but now he also jumps, bounces, revs and swims.
Experience the challenge of the original Pac-Man in over thirty all-new 3-D pac-mazes!
Feeling nostalgic? Chomp ghosts the old-fashioned way! The original arcade version of Pac-Man game is included!
A brand new world! Over twenty levels of all-new 3-D platform style gameplay!
Interview with Jesse Taylor, Director Namco R&D:
Would you consider Pac-Man World the PS1 game that you are most proud of developing?
I’ve developed lots of games over the years, and each is special to me. Pac-Man World was the most fun and challenging PS1 project I had.
What was most challenging about developing Pac-Man World?
I would say it was modernizing Pac-Man into the world of 3D platform action 3D without abandoning the core concepts of the original game. We wanted the game to be playable by the core gamer audience at that time, but we also wanted the game to be familiar and accessible to an older generation of casual game players who remember Pac-Man from their childhood. So the challenge was to keep the game simple and accessible to a more casual audience while introducing some new mechanics that would appeal to the audience at that time.
Did Namco Japan HQ give the US team freedom to develop Pac-Man World or did they make suggestions on what they wanted to see?
Yes, actually the Japanese parent company was very easy to work with. I think that was due in part to the way the parent company viewed Pac-Man at that time and the development strategy of the US subsidiary. At that time Namco Ltd. developed games for the Japanese market and sold the ones that appealed to Americans in the US. At that particular time Namco viewed Pac-Man as a mostly dormant franchise in Japan. They didn’t think there would be a large market for a new Pac-Man game in Japan. To them Pac-Man was the company mascot and a cultural icon similar to Mickey Mouse, but not an active game franchise. So when we proposed making a Pac-Man game for the US, they thought it was a good idea because we were developing a product for a different territory with different tastes. They wanted the US development team to focus on making games targeted at the tastes of the US market. A game staring Pac-Man seemed like a good use of an existing company IP that would never have been made in Japan because the market wasn’t there for it.
The only input we received was related to the look of the characters. The founder of Namco Mr. Nakamura personally had input regarding the look of Pac-Man and the ghosts. Pac-Man was almost like a family member to Nakamura-san, and he wanted to make sure he looked his best at all times.
THE SECRET ORIGIN OF PAC-MAN WORLD:
Written by Scott Rogers, designer
“After most of team had been fired from Pac-Man Ghost Zone, we started staffing the studio back up to create Pac-Man World. Our new Studio director wanted the game to be set in the world of Pac-Man, much like the arcade game Pac-Land. At that point, the Ghost Lord was about the only thing we retained from the original idea, so we came up with the story that he was sending his ghosts out to capture pac-dots ala Mezmeron in the cartoon. All of the game levels answered the question “where do pac-dots come from?” The player started in the pac-dot forest, travelled down a river to a pac-dot mill, rode a train loaded with pac-dots to town where they would be processed in a factory (some of them were irradiated into power-pellets) and then a showdown at the Ghost Lord’s haunted headquarters. However, our studio director said “I have never seen trees look good in a game. Get rid of the forest.” So, we threw out the whole pac-dot story idea and started over. The poor Ghost Lord didn’t survive this transition and was replaced by his arch-enemy Toc-Man (which is Namcot – the original name of Namco – spelled backwards)
Toc-man had a very bizarre but funny origin. In reality, he was a little ghost named Orson who was a childhood friend of Pac-Man. Orson always failed where Pac-Man succeeded. The failure drove Orson insane and he decided that if everyone loved Pac-Man he would become Pac-Man and take his place. He wore a mechanical Pac-Man suit and had an inflatable Ms. Pac-Man for a wife (I’m not surprised that she never ended up in the game). Orson then kidnapped all of Pac-Man’s friends to be present at a 20th anniversary party in his (Toc-Man’s) honor. Did I mention that Pac-Man’s friends were all characters from Namco’s history? Mappy, Valkyrie, Dig Dug and others were supposed to be in the game, but they were dropped at the last minute in favor of Pac-man’s family instead. It’s why Pooka is still in the game – Pac-Man didn’t have a big enough family for all of the levels!
Speaking of the levels, we took inspiration from games like Crash Bandicoot and places like Disneyland. Pirates of the Caribbean, Haunted Mansion, Tomorrowland. There’s homages to them all over that game. At this point we were more focused on making exciting themed levels – it didn’t matter if they made much sense in context of the storyline. But there was one thing I never liked in the game – the shooting. It just didn’t feel right for Pac-Man to shoot a projectile. We argued that Pac-Man was never aggressive – he would only fight back after he had eaten a power-pellet. We had many heated discussions but in the end, the management wanted it in, so in it stayed. Overall, I’m proud of my involvement in Pac-Man World, that the team was able to re-energize such an iconic character and help continue his gaming legacy.”
Written by Jason Weesner, designer
Blinky, Pinky, Inky, Clyde, and Weezie. Wait a second, who the heck is Weezie? I’m Weezie, Jason Weesner, the fifth ghost in Pac-Man World 20th Anniversary who doesn’t appear in the credits, but who’s work still remains in the first two worlds (the Pirate and Ruins levels) and a lot of the game mechanics (the Namco character cameos, slot machine, and the King Galaxian to name a few). When I started at Namco on what was originally known as Pac-Man Ghost Zone, I was excited not only to work for one of my favorite Japanese publishers, but also to work on bringing a classic arcade superstar to the home consoles in a character-based game.
Great videogame characters strike a careful balance between playability (controls, responsiveness, player mechanics, etc.) and presentation (appearance, back story, emotions, etc.). It’s far too easy for a rift to occur between the two aspects which can create an unplayable and / or unlikable character. Coming onto the Pac-Man Ghost Zone team, I knew a few things about Pac-Man that I found endearing and compelling: Pac-Man likes to eat, he’s mostly afraid of ghosts, he’s got a hot wife, and he lives in a maze. Additionally, he’s as well-known as Mickey Mouse or Mario! Even to this day, I’d never started a project with such a strong foundation to build great gameplay and expectations on top of! These were the qualities I established as my pillars for designing the game.
Even though the original Pac-Man is an elegantly simple game, just about everybody at Namco Hometek had a different idea of what Pac-Man would be like as a platformer character. There were a few good decisions made towards the start of the project to help solve this. New abilities that complimented both his appearance and basic gameplay mechanics were added. These additions felt natural to the character and worked especially well in concert with some of the level layouts and other mechanics:
• The Dot Suck: Scott Rogers was one of the other designers on the project who survived from the original Ghost Zone team. He listened to his music too loud, had an obsessive love of Disneyland, and came up with some of our best game mechanics. One of these was the Dot Suck which enabled Pac-Man to greedily eat chains of pellets and pull off cool acrobatics in the process.
• The Rev-Roll: one of the cool things about a 3D Pac-Man was the presentation of the character as an actual sphere (ironically, on the tech end, the character was a flat sprite with polygonal arms and legs). The Rev-Roll allowed Pac-Man to charge up and become a fast-moving ball similar to Metroid’s Morph Ball. Our creative director designed a clever Rev-Roll pad mechanic which Pac-Man could use as either a self-powered elevator or a timed lock mechanic to open doors.
• The Butt-Bounce: the Butt-Bounce is an age-old game mechanic that’s been used to death in just about every platformer ever made. The Pac-Man version was nice because, again, it emphasized the spherical appearance of the character and made the move more bouncy like a basketball.
There were also some really bad decisions made:
• Addition of non-ghost enemies: a phenomenal amount of time was wasted on the design and implementation of generic enemies that did not fit with the standard Pac-Man enemy paradigm (eating power pellets to turn the tables). This broke one of the original design pillars and added nothing to the game.
• The Pac-Dot attack: this mechanic came about as the result of a fair, but unnecessary question, “what does Pac-Man do with all those pellets he eats?” In the case of Pac-Man Ghost Zone, the original game, pellets act as a key mechanism that allows the player to unlock the next level. Since Ghost Zone didn’t take place in a fixed-screen maze, this wasn’t as feasible, so the Pac-Dot attack was added despite the loud protests of the design department. Pac-Man uses power pellets to kill enemies, not a pellet gun!! A better solution would have been to offer the player a self-activated power pellet for every 25 pellets eaten. This would’ve fit better with the character.
• Generally hasty decisions about Pac-Man’s abilities hampered the ability to create more compelling level designs based on his game mechanics. A flavor-of-the-month mentality in relation to other successful games (like Crash Bandicoot and Mario 64) brought incongruent elements into the design mix. On many occasions, poor communication led to decisions that broke months of work. In one case, our manager arbitrarily changed the jump distance and broke all the planned jumps for the entire game!
I still have good relationships with a lot of the people I worked with, but there will always be that nagging question in the back of my mind, “should I have stayed to finish the project?” In the case of Pac-Man World, I resigned because I felt that the project’s direction was compromising an iconic character that I held near and dear to my heart. It was a very difficult decision for me to leave the project, but I came to the realization that I loved the character more than I loved the project or the company. The day after I gave my two-week notice, on a gloomy Wintery Wednesday, my belongings were boxed up when I got back from lunch and a security guard waited to escort me outside.
When the PlayStation Museum asked me to write a post mortem, I knew I had a few things I had to get off my chest and I guess they’re out now. I’d also like to take the opportunity to remember some of the other hard working folk who weren’t credited: Heather Capelli (art direction, management, and scheduling), Nicole Allen (animation), Myra (level artist), Dimitri (animation), Olga (prop artist), Jill (our wonderful receptionist), and everybody on the original Ghost Zone team. I’m sorry I don’t remember everybody’s full names!Pac-Man World 20th Anniversary,