Intricacies of Pac-Man

Why don’t people circejerk over pac-man as much as tetris? pac-man seems more interesting to me, although not as fun to watch at a high level

Because Pac-man is about a character and Tetris is about shapes. Tetris is about something supposedly universal. Also because Tetris is the best selling game ever, and Pac-man is not.

I think Tetris has more depth overall personally, but explaining how is complicated. Like, there’s a lot of ways to handle individual situations, a lot of philosophies for how to build overall, and what to do if you’re in trouble. Then there’s playing for score instead of just pure survival, which TGM generally requires.

I think that pac-man is kind of faulty in that the ghost chasing rules aren’t totally clear, but people were able to get high scores back in the day, so maybe it’s not that big a deal? Pac-man was never one of my favorite games, I don’t really like it that much. I think the appeal comes from the conflicting desire of trying to collect every pellet on the screen, meaning essentially you gotta step in every part of the screen once, and avoid the 4 ghosts who will chase you in varying ways for 20 seconds and retreat to their corner for 5-7 seconds.

I think that Pac-man is interesting from the perspective of figuring out how to create patterns of obstacles for the player that can be deterministic, but shuffle themselves really effectively. Each of the ghosts has a behavioral pattern that in some way is based on the player’s position, and they go away from the player to 4 different points after 20 seconds of engaging in their primary behavior, which changes their starting positions for when they go back to chasing the player, which makes the way their algorithms play out work differently.

This is an interesting layered asynchronous simultaneous challenge for the player, they need to watch the positions of all the ghosts and know their general behavioral patterns, as well as where they’ll go when they scatter.

There’s a few more details covered in the pac-man dossier that are kind of interesting too, like the zones where ghosts are forbidden from turning up, and how pacman is faster on turns than ghosts are. Maybe there’s a bit more to the game than I imagined.


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