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Fan Q&A with Mr. Iwantani – Your Top 10 Questions Answered!

Q.1

What was it that made you first think about creating PAC Man? Did you just randomly think about it and boom you created him or was it a work in progress and if so what steps did you have to go through in order to create him? (via Sophie Louise Cadman)

Mr. Iwatani: Back then, the popular games in the Japanese arcade game centers were mainly alien shooting games. The arcades were filled with male players. I wanted to brighten up the atmosphere by drawing in women and couples. For that to happen, there needed to be a game for that audience. When it came to women’s interests, I thought of concepts based on fashion and love stories but ultimately ended up with the idea of “eating”. While brainstorming on the idea of “eating”, I picked up a slice of pizza and saw the shape of what was to become PAC-MAN. The idea flourished into the chomping motion, enemy ghosts, and into a maze game.

Q.2

Did you have any early concepts designs of Pac-Man and the ghosts? Were there any previous games that you created before creating Pac-Man? (via Mush Hog)

Mr. Iwatani: The concept of PAC-MAN with a wide-open mouth came from a pizza as explained but the reason why I left out the eyes and mouth was to keep the design very simple. In addition he is a shy character that doesn’t like scary things. I was evem thinking of a concept where he will eat the items that he is afraid of such as guns. But keeping the female audience in mind I decided to come up with the cute ghosts in four difference colors. The eyes were purposely made big on the ghosts to give them a ‘cute’ look. The relationship between PAC-MAN and the ghost is similar to Tom & Jerry. Prior to PAC-MAN I worked on titles such as Gee Bee by Namco. After PAC-MAN I worked on Libble Rabble.

Q.3

When you made Pac-Man did you think it’d be such a hit/popular game and it would have such a large impact on so many people?What were you thinking to yourself when you finished Pac-Man? (via Gary Starnes)

Mr. Iwatani: I did not expect the game to be so popular outside of Japan. I predicted that it would pick up some traction in the cities of Japan. In Japan, the game became popular among women and couples as predicted. I gained confidence when I began to see older people and kids having fun with the game. I didn’t think it would be a hit abroad because the popular games at the time were similar to Atari’s ‘Thrilling’. I didn’t think this type of game would be favorable in other countries. However, the game’s simple design and one stick maneuver won the hearts of the world.’

Q.4

Are they ghosts or jellyfish or a cross breed extra dimensional jellyfish ghost O.o Spooky! (via Kieffer Carr)

Mr. Iwatani: I’m surprised that you made the reference to a jellyfish. The assumption must be from the transparency in their design and also their characteristics. They are not meant to be spooky at all.

Q.5

Why is it called PAC-MAN? (via Balungile Bash Mangcu)

Mr. Iwatani: In Japan, the sound effect for eating is “Pac Pac”. I literally translated it into English and the name stuck.

Q.6

Why color him yellow? (via Xavier Fitzgerald)

Mr. Iwatani: Out of many choices, I picked the neutral color yellow. The ghosts were colored red, blue, orange, and pick to maintain a good balance. It also goes along with the them “Eating”.

Q.7

How would you explain the success of Pac-Man?
(via Louis J. Eugenio Jr.)

Mr. Iwatani: There are a lot of calculations that went in to make this a fun game. For example, if you mess up and have to restart, you will replay from an easier level. Typically the ghosts chase PAC-MAN by surrounding him but at times they rebel and disburse to the four corners. That timing was intentionally programmed to relieve some tension during gameplay. Another perk of continuing the game is to watch PAC-MAN perform when the players clears a stage. Overall, it is a user-friendly game to a wide audience, which made this game such a success.

Q.8

How do you see the future of the games industry and pacman itself? (via Horacio Angello Ortega Gamboa)

Mr. Iwatani: Games have moved not only to console but to smartphones and tablets. Even cars and rehabilitation devices have become “Game-ified” these days. Games are incorporated into daily tasks. For this reason, you may see PAC-MAN in a lot of different places, PAC-MAN can now be played on Facebook「PAC-MAN” http://apps.facebook.com/pacmansocial/”」 and 「PAC-MAN http://apps.facebook.com/pacmans/. We have also developed a new twist to the original PAC-MAN in “PAC-MAN Championship Edition DX”.

Q.9

Since there are “patterns” that can predict ghost movements, their movements are truly “random” – where they programmed with a random algorithm, but with always the same seed value, or exactly how did they get their predictive movement? Also, related: do the different ghosts have different “personalities” as they seem to have? (via John Oehler)

Mr. Iwatani: All four ghosts were programmed with different algorithms. The game was not configured for all four ghosts to chase PAC-MAN at the same exact time. If they chased him at the same time, they would all be following him from behind and make it a boring game. The red ghost is programmed to chase PAC-MAN from the front. The Pink ghost is set to move 32 dots in front of PAC-MAN. The Blue ghost moves towards PAC-MAN as the center point. Finally the Orange ghost moves randomly. These characteristics gives this game a thrilling experience.

Q.10

Before the release of the original Pac-Man, did you have any ideas for its gameplay apart from the 2D action/maze genre we’re all aware of now? Did you experiment with other genres such as platformers or RPGs? (via Jordan Dean Ezekude)

Mr. Iwatani: During the development of PAC-MAN, 3D games were a thing of the far future. I did think of an idea that did not involve the four-corner maze but rather PAC-MAN and the ghosts running freely. However that would have made the game geared towards an advanced audience, which was not my goal. Since then I have been involved in planning arcade games that have online capabilities and games to play at major theme parks.

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Interesting Facts

Did you know?
The original name of PAC-MAN on release was PUCK-MAN. It was later changed for U.S. translation.