Thursday, April 21, 2011

The World's Biggest Pac-Man... Was it worth it?

Just wanted to mention I'm not looking to act harsh here. If it looks like I am, I apologize.

Slightly updated...

Pretty much just a week ago, Soap Creative designed with the guidance of Namco Bandai and Microsoft, a new HTML5 game based on everyone's favorite yellow round creature, titled The World's Biggest Pac-Man.

And certainly enough, Biggest is exactly what it is. A whopping 1,5000 mazes to try out, and it can get addictive for a few players, but after you've played it out, you can help expand it, provided you have a Facebook account, by constructing your own mazes that attach onto the already-existing ones. Sounds like a good idea, right?

Well, to be fair, it could be, but with the overabundance of issues I have with this title and it's editors, it doesn't have that much appeal. Now I'm not staging a fight with anyone involved in creating levels with this, I just want to state what I don't like about this idea, and how it can be expanded on to be even more insane and unique.

First off, let me explain the gameplay. It's traditional Pac-Man as you remember it- eat all the dots, avoid Blinky, Pinky, Inky, and Clyde, eat Power Pellets, get revenge on the Ghosts. Once you clear the maze, the ghosts vaporize into the air, and you then have to enter a new maze by simply exiting via the classic warp tunnels. But rather than just warp you to the other side, the warp tunnels will take you to an entirely new maze with a new set of dots to consume and ghosts to avoid. Therefore, you can build up on your score and such. You can also leave the maze you're on early, although if you come back to the maze, the ghosts will remain in the spot they were in, and proceed to pursuit you again If you needed to escape via one of these tunnels because the ghosts were closing in on you, don't re-enter the maze via the same tunnel.

When you die, the ghosts in the current room where your death occurred are re-set, but not in the other rooms that you left un-finished. Each room has a set of four ghosts, and only you are allowed to go to different mazes. If the ghosts were allowed to do the same, then you'd be chased by over a million of those pesky bastards. But even with just the basic four ghosts, things can still be screwed up to the point where a level is almost impossible to clean. Often this is due to the players' bad designing skills or the misuse of how designing levels should be done. Allow me to demonstrate:
What you see above this tad-bit of text is the simple yet evil default maze. Players looking to build levels for the sole purpose of "patching" multiple of the same kid to create a picture (i.e. aligning them to spell out the name of the author) often resort to just loading up the editor, not working on it any bit, then submitting it. If perhaps by default, we could choose to either start editing the level with an entirely blank canvas (and an actual grid to help guide us) or with pellets over-cluttering every corner (like in the NES Ms. Pac-Man editor Blinky), not only the later option. Plus, this default maze (plus many other "open mazes" is s*it because there are little to no ways of hiding from the ghosts. Sure there are four power pellets scattered in the four corners (or more or even less(!) in some cases), but even the duration of them (or even an extra six) aren't enough to finish the level on one life. And without many/any useful walls, the ghosts can quadruple-team you and corner you to the wall with no escape.

Comparing the editor in WBPM to the one featured in the unofficial entry Champ Ms. Pac-Em, the later apparently has more features. But since that one was an editor based on Ms. Pac-Man and not the original, it apparently has many more features at disposal. For one thing, you can turn on a "mirror" option that will make it so whatever you do to one side of the maze- automatically is added/changed on the other. Plus, the pac-dots are not on the board by default, and instead of a basic grid, the spaces are constructed by tiny white dots, showing where a wall/pac-dot/power pill can be placed. The best thing about Champ Ms. Pac-Em? you can change the colors of the dots, maze walls, and maze wall borders. Apparently again, since Ms. Pac-Man had a larger amount of colors for their mazes rather than just sticking to the plain blue in Pac-Man, is why no such feature exists in World's Biggest Pac-Man.

Plus, why is the left side of the mazes one block larger than the right?

Now let me show you another maze with some different, but equally stupid situations.
This apparently is another maze that looks simple, but has some great dis-advantages. First off, the level consists of only four channels of pac-dots, all leading to the four side-exits to other mazes. Unfortunately, the north and south exits are not present because there are no mazes connected other than the ones on the left and right sides, or you didn't spend enough time in the maze you were currently in. So if a ghost were to trap you inside one of these halls, you're screwed, and have no way of escaping, unless there was a warp tunnel that leads you to another maze, but even with that, you'd still want to remain in the same maze until you clear it. Too bad though, that the creator of this pathetic maze was too stupid to move the power pellets out of their starting position, leaving this maze un-passable. Yea, if a regular pac-dot was trapped in such a scenario, the game wouldn't let you even submit it. But with the power pellets, no such thing. Doesn't this guy even know you can delete, add, and move up to 10 of the power pellets?
Here's one of my earlier mazes which is very "open". But unlike the default map, the pac-dots in this stage do not run throughout the entire level. They are only placed on the tiles right next to the walls. Plus, there is a dead end on the bottom left, but note that's it's two blocks in width rather than one, so if you time your moves right with only one ghost on your tail, you can escape unharmed.
Compare it to the sixth "strange" maze from Tengen's Ms. Pac-Man on NES. Let's review- Open stage, pellets mostly placed next to walls, you can figure out the rest.

Now let's talk about the map itself. As I've stated, it's made of about one and a half thousand levels, with a good number of them being crappy default/unfair mazes attached together to form some kind of picture, or spell out a word in the mazes themselves (often leading to dead-ends). But generally, all of the mazes combined, are as I would describe it, a giant island with a tower leading into outer space, a stairway leading to hell, and various docks and piers. But for the mazes with dicks/naked women/swears and cusses/sex-talk, people report them, and they're removed, leaving behind a blank mass of space, and any entrances to it are sealed off until a new maze is created in the same spot. This creates a lot of "holes" in the island/tower, and totally screws up all opportunities for the player to complete additional stages, and venture from the bottom of the "tower" to the top without re-loading the menu and selecting the next stage up, resetting the player's score. Plus, it can be quite difficult to navigate through the large assortment of mazes since first off, you may not know where the heck you are. Would it kill to have a map system on the right-hand side of the screen which shows the stats for the current maze and the maze's author? Heck, The Legend of Zelda games and even the Japanese-only Eggerland/Adventures of Lolo games had a map system, so why not one for a dungeon explorer like this?

So now that I've discussed the problems with World's Biggest Pac-Man, let me summarize some cool enhancements that this title could undergo.

*Have some local/online multiplayer, both co-op and competitive variations.
Competitive mode allows up to four players to battle it out on a single maze, voted out of a selection of a random five. Competitive mode plays like a scaled-down version of Pac Man Battle Royale, where the players try to consume as many pac-dots as they can, and if they obtain a power pellet, they can chomp on the other players, which turn blue with an outline of their main color.

*Fix the editor, add "erase all (no pac-dots)," "mirror," and "change color," options to the editor, extend editor time by thirty minutes, add additional column on right side.
Per above.

*Allow us to modify and/or erase our own mazes.
If we are the author of a particular maze, we should be able to make whatever change we want to it. As long as that spot still contains the user's maze reserved to it, they should be able to fiddle around with it unless it were removed for obvious purposes.

*Allow us to add walls attached to the Ghost Pen. (optional)
Currently, the editor does not allow us to place anything next to the Ghost Pen. But if we could construct walls that are attached to the west/east/south parts of the pen, then it would be quite a cool addition. But we are still forbidden from placing anything on where the bonus fruit and Pac-Man spawn (the later which can be moved horizontally, granted it's still underneath the Ghost Pen.

UPDATE: Speaking of the pens, players should be unable to trap the ghosts by building walls isolating the Ghost Pen. Note that by doing that process means players can't obtain the bonus fruit/item that appears once a specific number of pac-dots are eaten.

*Pac-Man and the Ghosts start facing left, not right.
Play any major Pac-Man title.

*Incorporate a ratings system and a policy to remove low-rated mazes.
Per someone who had previously commented on a blogpost Soap Creative made not too long ago, I think it would be fit to (besides increasing the moderation power of the moderators) give each maze it's own ratings system where one can rate a maze on a scale of 0 out of 5, for both Difficulty and Enjoyment. If the maze remains a low score after a good number of ratings (something that should happen to those shiddy default mazes), it is automatically removed from the public listings, and from there can only be played by the one who designed the maze via a separate area not connected to the main game. Speaking of...

*Give us an option to mark mazes created by the currently logged-in user with a different color, and an area containing all maps of one user.
Trust me, My mazes are BURIED in the clusterf^#k of mazes. When you create a maze, there's no way to from the "navigation" window, distinguish it from all the others from other users. When I'm logged in, mazes I design should have a lighter shade of blue on the map screen than the others I didn't design. If they can mark "reserved" parts an bright orange color, why not mazes I created?

Also, I think there should be a way to quickly search for and play a maze from one specific user. That's why I'm suggesting that after we design a maze, it is added to a separate "island" that only the creator can access, and contains all his/her user-created mazes. They can be re-arranged in any fashion and played to their heart's desire, but detaching the mazes to make some un-reachable is not possible.

Increase the resolution of the sprites.
Pac-Man and the ghosts all look like crud- their sprites are very scrambled. Why can't it just be the basic Pac-Man sprites enlarged by 2x?

And by far, probably my most anticipated addon:

Increase the variety of ghosts and bonus fruit, and add more maze features.
Really? Only 8 types of "fruit"? Only four ghosts? This game was made 30 years after the first appearance of Pac-Man himself, and they couldn't get creative with the ghosts and fruit types and such?

Over the years, there have been nine major ghosts that I remember. Blinky, Pinky, Inky, Clyde, Sue, Funky, Kinky, Spunky, and Tim. And the counterpart to Champ Ms. Pac-Em, called just Champ Pac-Em could have as many as six; the initial four, a violet one that was very slow and had completely random movement (with dazed eyes), and a green one that apparently was a tad bit smarter than Blinky. Then there was Pac-Mania, which depending also, depending on which level the player is on, Sue, two Funkys, and a single Spunky. The original (late 1990's) Pac-Man Arrangement contained Kinky, a yellow ghost wearing glasses that merge with other ghosts to give them special abilities, which meant more points for Pac-Man if they were eaten. Tim isn't really an official Pac-Man ghost, but he appeared in Jr. Pac-Man as Clyde's replacement, much like what Sue originally was in Ms. Pac-Man.

Basically for World's Biggest Pac-Man, players should be able to choose from four to six ghosts to appear in a maze at one time. Blinky must always be present in the maze, starting above the ghost pen, three start inside the ghost pen, the fifth ghost (if present) enters through the warp tunnel opposite of Pac-Man's current location in the maze after 1/2 of the pellets have been consumed, with a warning sign accompanying such action, and then after 3/4 of the pellets are gone, the sixth ghost (again if present) enters in the same fashion.

The ghosts I would like to appear, and their suited personalities:
Blinky - Chases Pac-Man, speed increases if player takes too much time to finish the level.
Pinky - tries to head to Pac-Man's next destination, and also tries to run directly into Pac-Man.
Inky - Similar to Pinky, but only tries to go directly into Pac-Man's front.
Clyde - Sometimes random, but still chases Pac-Man.
Sue - Similar to Blinky, but instead increases intelligence as time goes by
Funky - Basic ghost, no speciality. Tries to chase Pac-Man directly, but is somewhat slow.
Kinky - Tries to be next to other ghosts.
Spunky - Similar to Funky, but is a little faster.
Tim - Very fast, entirely ramdom movement.

Ghosts are valued at 200, 400, 800, 1,600, 3,200, and 7,650.

As for the "fruits", I think they should be the basic Pac-Man fruits, plus many others from various other Pac-Man styled games, both official and unofficial, starting at 100 with the Cherry, Strawberry for 200, Mango for 500, Apple for 1,000, and them each fruit accelerating by an additional 200 points (like a Melon for 1,200, Banana for 1,400, Peach for 1,600, etc.) up until the crown, which is worth 7,650 points (Namco's special number) instead of 7,600.

Additional features should include several different-colored teleports (up to four sets per level) that when used, must recharge for a few seconds (only Pac-Man can use it), manholes that also warp Pac-Man but do not require a recharge, and only two can be placed in one stage (ala Puckman Pokimon, an unlicensed arcade game), dash panels that make Pac-Man move faster if he is traveling in the same direction that the arrows are, and swap directions every few seconds, and special power-ups that double the value of ghosts until Pac-Man dies, freeze the ghosts in place (which they can be eaten while in this state), a item that causes a mirror image of Pac-Man to appear on the opposite side of the maze (like in the original Pac-Man Arrangement), or power-downs like a gumball machine that enters via an exit tunnel and moves around, re-adding pac-dots (but not power pellets) Pac-Man already consumed, and a Ying-Yang symbol that wonders the maze, restoring all pellets already eaten. (but does not appear if less than one or more than three quarters of the maze's pac-dots

So that's it. I can think of more, but I've written far enough. Soap Creative, if you read this, please take these ideas into consideration. Sorry if this sounds a little too demanding, but I really like this idea and wish I could have a little more excitement with it.


Whata said...

Hello again Justin, I'm back to tell you about a smb hack site I found, here it is . All of the hacks change the music (and only the music). One hack on the page was a hack that changed the music to that of the nes game "Spelunker", another hack changed the music to a tune from Super Mario 64. If you play these hacks, you will become the 2nd person in the western world to play them (the 1st was me).
From Whata.
P.S. That "World's Biggest Pac-Man" thing was too hard.
P.S.S. For the love of God plese rip the hack that has the music from Super Mario 64, it's epic.
P.S.S.S. Plese reply here only.

Justin De Lucia said...


Honestly I don't have much desire to do to rip anymore and contribute to the series. There are a few BGM's I'd like to add from several of the hacks I've already done, plus Shaman (Wizard) Mario. I may consider doing these when I'm not busy with work and other stuff like that, but now it's just too hectic for me to do any more for now.