It's difficult, I think, for developers these days to make simple games. They have a lot of external pressure; for example, for marketing purposes it's better for a shooter to have 25 guns instead of two. How do you retain that simple core? Is it because you are making a new version of a classic that you had that freedom, or were you able to communicate your vision strongly enough to be allowed to execute on it purely?
Tadashi Iguchi: Why we were able to make it a simple game... it does stem from it being based on something that has already succeeded. Part of what we were able to do is sit down with Iwatani-san. He was making an analogy of a house. If you had a house, the house is already built -- you can go around and rearrange the furniture and the change the wallpaper in the house, but you're not really going to change the fundamentals of the game.
But when we were trying to rebuild a different house based on the same fundamentals, we got to sit down with Iwatani-san and really think about the structure of the house, as opposed to the insides of it. We got to sit down and say, "We need to recreate this entire core system, because it's not what it should be." We started at the real, base core fundamentals and built up from there.
I play the original Pac-Man still, and I really like it and enjoy it and appreciate it as a game. I think one of the major reasons why Pac-Man is still a very good game and a very compelling experience is the whole "tag" aspect, between Pac-Man and the ghosts.
Running away, but then also chasing them, and the whole give-and-take of the experience, and the interaction between Pac-Man and the ghosts... I thought that for Pac-Man Championship Edition, what I really needed to focus on was that experience between Pac-Man and the ghosts, and trying to bring that same fun experience to Pac-Man Championship Edition.
Some of the sequels and remakes of the past were focused more on gimmicks and features that they could add to the basic layout of Pac-Man. What we wanted to focus on was the core fundamentals of why Pac-Man is fun, and once that was created, start building up from there.
Can you talk a little bit about the process you followed? First of all, you had to decide that you were going to make a new Pac-Man game -- did that come from simply having an inspiration for a new idea for Pac-Man, or did you start from the desire to build a good remake for XBLA and then begin to work out how to achieve it?
NN: It was kind of like a perfect storm environment. I was talking with Iwatani-san about making an HD, next-gen Pac-Man game, and at the same time, Microsoft came up to us and said, "We want to do a worldwide Pac-Man event."
These two forces happened to come together and form this, "all right, let's do it," kind of situation. We wanted to have players playing together, because it was a worldwide event, and we wanted to have the game be short and full of action and excitement.
The whole concept of the game became, "We're going to make HD Pac-Man, but it also has to be in this really short, compressed, fun experience, so when we do a worldwide event, people are going to be up on stage for a while, but still have a really great time in just a short amount of time."
That was laying the groundwork down. I was talking to Iwatani-san about what kind of Pac-Man game we should make, and got a bunch of ideas going. We wanted Iwatani-san to approve what was going to be made.
Namco Bandai's Pac-Man Championship Edition
TI: It was a very interesting, trying time. We had about 20 ideas for games, and out of those 20 ideas, one was approved by Iwatani-san.
So one of the things that Iwatani-san wanted to do was focus on the core fundamentals of the gameplay, and what makes Pac-Man successful and a fun experience. When you put that filter on all of the ideas and brainstorming we did, only one of the ideas really fit that bill.
What we wanted to do was to make an HD game based on the core fundamentals of what Pac-Man is and why it succeeds. After looking at that, we realized that really, the only things we should be changing are the game tempo and the map design. We needed to really brainstorm on making fresh new ways of polishing those two aspects of the game, in order to fit all of the requirements of the core Pac-Man experience.
We did have a small team, and we wanted to make it a simple game using a small team to get the core fundamentals down. We just did a trial-and-error kind of thing every day. We could change all of the parameters, and what we would do is we would sit down every day for a month, play the game, put all the tweaks on the parameters, and then test it out to see, "Is this fun? Is this not fun? If it's not fun, reset everything back to zero and start over again." That was every day for a month, and we finally started getting things where we wanted to.
NN: Small teams, even within our company -- and I'm sure probably at other publishers and developers -- having small teams creating games doesn't happen very often. The scope of the game that everyone seems to be wanting to create gets bigger and bigger, and the next thing you know, you have these huge teams.
It's very rare that I was able to get a small team of good guys just working on the core aspects of the game. Because I had a small team, I was able to go through this trial and error, tweak the core aspects of the game, and not have to worry about all the other things going on within game development.
We could really focus on the core fun and polish that as much as we could. Because we had such a small, tight team, we were able to do that. It's kind of sad that it doesn't really happen in many other projects, even internally here. Teams are just too large, and you can't go through trial and error. It's just too costly.