PAC-MAN


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Pac-Man is an arcade game developed by Namco and licensed for distribution in the United States by Midway, first released in Japan on May 22, 1980. Immensely popular from its original release to the present day, Pac-Man is universally considered as one of the classics of the medium, virtually synonymous with video games, and an icon of the 1980s popular culture. Upon its release, the game—and, subsequently, Pac-Man derivatives—became a social phenomenon[6] that sold a bevy of merchandise and also inspired, among other things, an animated television series and a top-ten hit single.

When Pac-Man was released, the most popular arcade video games were space shooters, in particular Space Invaders and Asteroids. The most visible minority were sports games that were mostly derivative of Pong. Pac-Man succeeded by creating a new genre and appealing to both genders. Pac-Man is often credited with being a landmark in video game history, and is among the most famous arcade games of all time. The character also appears in more than 30 officially licensed game spin-offs, as well as in numerous unauthorized clones and bootlegs. According to the Davie-Brown Index, Pac-Man has the highest brand awareness of any video game character among American consumers, recognized by 94 percent of them Pac-Man is one of the longest running video game franchises from the golden age of video arcade games, and one of only three video games that are on display at the Smithsonian in Washington D.C., (along with Pong and Dragon's Lair).

Gameplay

The player controls Pac-Man through a maze, eating pac-dots. When all dots are eaten, Pac-Man is taken to the next stage. Four monsters (Blinky, Pinky, Inky and Clyde) roam the maze, trying to catch Pac-Man. If a monster touches Pac-Man, a life is lost. When all lives have been lost, the game ends. Pac-Man is awarded a single bonus life at 10,000 points by default—DIP switches inside the machine can change the required points or disable the bonus life altogether.

Near the corners of the maze are four larger, flashing dots known as power pellets that provide Pac-Man with the temporary ability to eat the monsters. The monsters turn deep blue, reverse direction, and usually move more slowly. When a monster is eaten, its eyes remain and return to the monster box where it is regenerated in its normal color. Blue monsters flash white before they become dangerous again and the amount of time the monsters remain vulnerable varies from one board to the next, but the time period generally becomes shorter as the game progresses. In later stages, the monsters do not change colors at all, but still reverse direction when a power pellet is eaten.

In addition to Pac-dots and power pellets, bonus items, usually referred to as fruits (though not all items are fruit) appear near the center of the maze. These items score extra bonus points when eaten. The items change and bonus values increase throughout the game. Also, a series of intermissions play after certain levels toward the beginning of the game, showing a humorous set of interactions (the first being after level 2) between Pac-Man and Blinky (the red monster).

Monsters
Pac-Man's arcade cabinet refers to the enemies as "monsters". When the Atari 2600 home version of the game was released with pale, flickering enemies, the manual dubbed them "ghosts". The TV series refers to them as "ghost monsters".

The monsters are bound by the maze in the same way as Pac-Man, but generally move slightly faster than the player, although they slow down when turning corners and slow down significantly while passing through the wraparound tunnels on the sides of the maze (Pac-Man passes through these tunnels unhindered). Pac-Man slows down slightly while eating dots, potentially allowing a chasing monster to catch him.

Blinky, the red monster, also speeds up after a certain number of dots are eaten (this number gets lower in higher levels).

Split-screen

Behavior
A monster always maintains its current direction until it reaches an intersection, at which point it can turn left or right. Periodically, the monsters will reverse direction and head for the corners of the maze (commonly referred to as "scatter mode"), before reverting to their normal behavior. In an interview, Iwatani stated that he had designed each monster with its own distinct personality in order to keep the game from becoming impossibly difficult or boring to play. The behaviors of each monster have been exactly determined by reverse-engineering the game.

Despite the seemingly random nature of some of the monsters, their movements are strictly deterministic, enabling experienced players to devise precise sequences of movements for each level (termed "patterns") that allow them to complete the levels without ever being caught. A later revision of the game code altered the monsters' behavior, but new patterns were soon developed for that behavior as well. Players have also learned how to exploit other flaws in the monsters' behavior, including finding places where they can hide indefinitely without moving, and a code bug occasionally allows Pac-Man to pass through a non-blue monster unharmed. Several patterns have been developed to exploit this bug. The bug arises from the fact that the game logic performs collision detection based on monster / Pac-Man occupancy of grid squares, where the grid squares are large relative to the size of the characters. A character occupies (for collision detection purposes) only one grid square ("tile") at a time, despite its graphic depiction overflowing to another tile. If a monster and Pac-Man switch tiles with each other simultaneously (which is not a rare phenomenon, because the tiles granularity is large), a collision isn't detected.

Intermissions

There are three intermissions—animations that play between boards. The first plays after the second board; the second plays after the fifth board; and the third plays after boards 9, 13, and 17, and repeats for later boards.

In the first intermission, the red monster chases Pac-Man off the screen, then reappears as a blue monster being chased the other direction by a giant Pac-Man.

In the second intermission, the red monster chases Pac-Man across the screen until his pelt snags on a tack and rips, exposing his foot.
In the third intermission, the red monster chases Pac-Man across the screen, then crosses the screen in the opposite direction, naked and pink, dragging his pelt behind him.

Pac-Man technically has no ending—as long as the player keeps at least one life, he or she should be able to continue playing indefinitely. However, because of a bug in the routine that draws the fruit, the right side of the 256th level becomes a scrambled mixture of text and symbols, rendering the level impossible to pass by legitimate means. Normally, no more than seven fruits are displayed at any one time, but when the internal level counter (stored in a single byte) reaches 255, the subroutine erroneously causes this value to "roll over" to zero before drawing the fruit. This causes the routine to attempt to draw 256 fruits, which corrupts the bottom of the screen and the whole right half of the maze with seemingly random symbols.

Through tinkering, the details of the corruption can be revealed. Some ROMs of the game are equipped with a "rack test" feature that can be accessed through the game's DIP switches. This feature automatically clears a level of all dots as soon as it begins, making it easier to reach the 256th level very quickly, as well as allowing players to see what would happen if the 256th level is cleared (the game loops back to the first level, causing fruits and intermissions to display as before, but with the monsters retaining their higher speed and invulnerability to power pellets from the later stages). When the rack test is performed in an emulator, a person can more easily analyze the corruption in this level.

Pac-Man and the monsters can move freely throughout the right half of the screen, barring some fractured pieces of the maze. Despite claims that someone with enough knowledge of the maze pattern could play through the level, it is technically impossible to complete since the graphical corruption eliminates most of the dots on the right half of the maze. The memory that holds the image holds the dots, essentially. They are counted as they are eaten, and the resetting of them could get the count high enough to finish the level. A few edible dots are scattered in the corrupted area, and these dots reset when the player loses a life (unlike in the uncorrupted areas), but these are insufficient to complete the level. As a result, the level has been given a number of names, including "the Final Level", "the Blind-Side", and the ending. It is known more generally as a kill screen.

Perfect play

A perfect Pac-Man game occurs when the player achieves the maximum possible score on the first 255 levels (by eating every possible dot, energizer, fruit, and monster) without losing a single life then scoring as many points as possible in the last level. As verified by the Twin Galaxies International Scoreboard on July 3, 1999, the first person to achieve the maximum possible score (3,333,360 points) was Billy Mitchell of Hollywood, Florida, who performed the feat in about six hours.

In September 2009, David Race of Beavercreek, Ohio, became the sixth person to achieve a perfect score. His time of 3 hours, 41 minutes, and 22 seconds set a new record for the fastest time that a perfect score had been reached.

In December 1982, an 8-year-old boy, Jeffrey R. Yee, supposedly received a letter from U.S. President Ronald Reagan congratulating him on a worldwide record of 6,131,940 points, a score only possible if the player has passed the Split-Screen Level. Whether or not this event happened as described has remained in heated debate among video-game circles since its supposed occurrence. In September 1983, Walter Day, chief scorekeeper at Twin Galaxies, took the US National Video Game Team on a tour of the East Coast to visit video game players who claimed they could get through the Split-Screen. No video game player could demonstrate this ability. In 1999, Billy Mitchell offered $100,000 to anyone who could provably pass through the Split-Screen Level before January 1, 2000; the prize went unclaimed

Development

The game was developed primarily by a young Namco employee named Toru Iwatani over the course of a year, beginning in April 1979, employing a nine-man team. It was based on the concept of eating, and the original Japanese title was Pakkuman, inspired by the Japanese onomatopoeic slang phrase paku-paku taberu, where paku-paku describes (the sound of) the mouth movement when widely opened and then closed in succession Although Iwatani has repeatedly stated that the character's shape was inspired by a pizza missing a slice, he admitted in a 1986 interview that this was a half-truth and the character design also came from simplifying and rounding out the Japanese character for mouth, kuchi. Iwatani's efforts to appeal to a wider audience—beyond the typical demographics of young boys and teenagers—eventually led him to add elements of a maze. The result was a game he named Puck Man.

When first launched in Japan by Namco in 1980, the game received a lukewarm response, as Space Invaders and other similar games were more popular at the time.

Later that year, the game was picked up for manufacture in the United States by Bally division Midway, under the altered title Pac-Man (see Localization, below). American audiences welcomed a breakaway from conventions set by Space Invaders, which resulted in unprecedented popularity and revenue that rivaled its successful predecessor, as even Iwatani was impressed with U.S. sales. The game soon became a worldwide phenomenon within the video game industry, resulting in numerous sequels and merchandising tie-ins. Pac-Man's success bred imitation, and an entire genre of maze-chase video games soon emerged.

The unique game design inspired game publishers to be innovative rather than conservative, and encouraged them to speculate on game designs that broke from existing genres. Pac-Man introduced an element of humor into video games that designers sought to imitate, and appealed to a wider demographic than the teenage boys who flocked to the action-oriented games.

Pac-Man's success in North America took competitors and distributors completely by surprise in 1980. Marketing executives who saw Pac-Man at a trade show prior to release completely overlooked the game (along with the now classic Defender), while they looked to a racing car game called Rally-X as the game to outdo that year. The appeal of Pac-Man was such that the game caught on immediately with the public; it quickly became far more popular than anything seen in the game industry up to that point. Pac-Man outstripped Asteroids as the best-selling arcade game of the time, and would go on to sell over 350,000 units.

Pac-Man went on to become an icon of video game culture during the 1980s, and a wide variety of Pac-Man merchandise was marketed with the character's image, from t-shirts and toys to hand-held video game imitations and even specially shaped pasta. The Killer List of Videogames lists Pac-Man as the #1 video game on its "Top 10 Most Popular Video games" list. Pac-Man, and other video games of the same general type, are often cited as an identifying cultural experience of Generation X, particularly its older members, sometimes called Baby Busters.

(Credit: Wikipedia)

 

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Atari

Atari is a corporate and brand name owned by several entities since its inception in 1972. It is currently owned by Atari Interactive, a wholly owned subsidiary of the French publisher Infogrames Entertainment SA (IESA).Atari Interactive has in turn licensed the brand name and assets to Atari, Inc. (NASDAQ: ATAR), a 51% majority owned subsidiary of Infogrames Entertainment SA (IESA), encompassing its North American operations.

The original Atari Inc. was founded in 1972 by Nolan Bushnell and Ted Dabney. It was a pioneer in arcade games, home video game consoles, and home computers. The company's products, such as Pong and the Atari 2600, helped define the computer entertainment industry from the 1970s to the mid 1980s.

In 1984, the original Atari Inc. was split, and the arcade division was turned into Atari Games Inc..Atari Games received the rights to use the logo and brand name with appended text "Games" on arcade games, as well as rights to the original 1972 - 1984 arcade hardware properties. The Atari Consumer Electronics Division properties were in turn sold to Jack Tramiel's Tramel Technology Ltd., which then renamed itself to Atari Corporation. In 1996, Atari Corporation reverse merged with disk drive manufacturer JT Storage (JTS), becoming a division within the company.

Atari Interactive started as a subsidiary of Hasbro Interactive, after Hasbro Interactive acquired all Atari Corporation related properties from JTS in 1998.IESA in turn acquired Hasbro Interactive in 2001, and proceeded to rename it to Infogrames Interactive. In 2003, IESA then changed the company name entirely to Atari Interactive.

The company that currently bears the name Atari Inc. was founded in 1993 under the name GT Interactive. IESA acquired a 62% controlling interest in GT Interactive in 1999, and proceeded to rename it Infogrames, Inc. After IESA's acquirement of Hasbro Interactive and its related Atari properties in 2001, Infogrames, Inc. intermittently published Atari branded titles for Infogrames Interactive. In 2003, Infogrames Inc. licensed the Atari name and logo from Atari Interactive and changed its name to Atari Inc.Currently, Atari Inc. develops, publishes and distributes games for all major video game consoles, as well as for the personal computer, and is currently one of the largest third-party publishers of video games in the United States. (Credit: Wikipedia).

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