Pac-Man – Life begins at 40

Everybody is jumping out to celebrate the big day

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Let’s put this out there right at the start. I love Pac-Man. Love it. I have an original Pac-Man cabinet in my office which I lovingly restored from scratch and still regularly play it to this day. My kids also love it. Its innate simplicity yet frustration-inducing gameplay means it can be picked up by the youngest of gamers right up to haggard old stalwarts (yes, like me).

Every time Pac-Man gets caught, you know it’s your fault and that just one more go and you would surely do better. It has the mojo that modern developers seek – how do we get the gamer to immediately play again when they die?

An original Midway Pacman PCB from 1980

Ever since Puck-Man appeared in Japan in 1980 he has captured our gaming hearts –  by the way, if you don’t know the story of how the original Puck-Man came to renamed Pac-Man for Western audiences, it’s because companies in the USA feared that the P of Puck would end up being defaced and turned into an F by naughty anarchic teenagers.

Believe it or not, we are in the middle of celebrating Pacman’s 40th anniversary which is a true marker of how time flies. Rightly, game and technology developers have been joining in the fun and releasing all manner of Pac related content over the past few days.

We covered Pac-Man Live Studio the other day but since then the goodies keep on dropping ranging from the amazing to this little bit creepy offering from Nvidia.

Nvidia recently has been non-stop promoting its AI tech and, while ultimately it will take over the world and destroy all humans (probably). At the moment it has been busy analyzing 50,000 games of Pac-Man and then recreating its own playable version based on watching it rather than using a game engine with built-in rules as we would normally expect.

The GameGAN AI tool even impressed the top guys at Bandai Namco:

“We were blown away when we saw the results, in disbelief that AI could recreate the iconic PAC-MAN experience without a game engine,” said Koichiro Tsutsumi from BANDAI NAMCO Research Inc.

“This research presents exciting possibilities to help game developers accelerate the creative process of developing new level layouts, characters, and even games.”

You can see GameGAN in action below. Just remember this unstoppable march of AI tech will eventually wipe out the planet (probably).

Meanwhile, in the week Minecraft Dungeons will arrive sparking further interest in one of the world’s most-loved gaming franchises, Bandai Namco has released some Pac-Man DLC for the base Minecraft game featuring 10 maze maps to charge around and play, yes Pac-Man…in Minecraft. As a huge fan of both I can’t believe I am sitting here writing this instead of playing it as we speak.

It’s available now from the Minecraft Marketplace in the Bedrock edition (Windows 10 version) so go and celebrate the little yellow-guys 40th with graphics even more blocky than the original.

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Been around consoles and computers since his parents bought him a Mattel Intellivision. Spent over a decade as editor of popular print-based video games and computer magazines, including a market-leading PlayStation title. Has written tech content for GamePro, Official Australian Playstation Magazine, PlayStation Pro, Amiga Action, Mega Action, ST Action, GQ, Loaded, and the Daily Mirror. Twitter: @iampaulmcnally

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