[What design and AI lessons can we learn from Namco's seminal Pac-Man? From history through behavior, Gamasutra presents a comprehensive Jamey Pittman-authored guide to the classic game.]
1999, Billy Mitchell of Hollywood, Florida became the first person
to obtain a perfect score of 3,333,360 at Pac-Man, eating
every possible dot, energizer, ghost, and bonus on every level
without losing a single life in the process.
But perhaps what is
most amazing is the fact he can play without using any memorized
routines widely known as "patterns".
relies on his familiarity with how each ghost behaves as it moves
through the maze, using that knowledge to keep Pac-Man one step
ahead of his enemies at all times.
Mitchell, most players are only able to rack up high scores with
the aid of multiple patterns that take advantage of the game's
These patterns require perfect memorization
and recall to be of any real use - a single hesitation or
wrong turn during execution can make the remainder of a pattern
Not surprisingly, an over-reliance on these routines
leaves many a player clueless as to how to effectively avoid the
ghosts and finish off the remaining dots in the higher levels once
a mistake occurs.
Pac-Man strategy guides available on the internets today
are very similar in content to the books that used to be sold back
in the early 80s
A summary of gameplay and scoring is provided
first, followed by a list of patterns to be memorized by the
reader, but very little insight is offered on how the game works
or how the ghosts make decisions.
Therefore, the purpose of this
guide is to give the player and game designers a better design understanding of Pac-Man by taking a closer look at gameplay,
maze logic, ghost personalities, and the mysterious "split
information provided has been extracted from or verified with the
disassembly output from the Midway Pac-Man
arcade ROMs along
with controlled observations of actual gameplay. As such, I have a
high confidence in its accuracy.
That said, if you notice an error
or omission, please contact me so it can be corrected as soon as possible. I hope you find the
information just as interesting and useful as I did for gaining a
better understanding of this classic game.
thanks to Don Hodges (www.donhodges.com)
whose invaluable contributions to this guide can be found in every