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Author name #1
Member since Oct 2007 · 310 posts
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Subject: Talking about PacMan
[NFG Note: This topic was split from the PacMan CE DX guide thread as it is now a discussion of PacMan as a whole, rather than DX specifically.]

I'm going to feel like a pedantic jerk here, but even the wandering ghosts in the original Pac Man could be predicted to a degree. Blinky would look ahead to see where you might be going, and then try to cut you off by turn a corner to take a shorter route. This was especially true when you got slowed down by eating dots, or if you were going after the fruit. Pinky, by contrast, simply followed you move for move, taking the same straight paths and making exactly the same turns. What ghosts in the original Pac Man never did was double back on their own paths, except in response to the power up.

There's also the matter of the angry and alerted modes (as you've described them) also being present but not visually indicated in the original game. It was possible for ghosts to lose track of you, especially if you went through one of the one-way paths. And they had to remember to kill you, since it wasn't a matter of unconditional sprite collision. In particular, Inky would spend a lot of time chasing you down and then simply forget to issue the kill command, allowing you to sail right through him in uncommon circumstances.

To your original point, I would say 'wandering' is a perfectly acceptable correction. :)
This post was edited 2 times, last on 2010-11-28, 07:03 by Unknown user.
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@Kendrick: You've got your names mixed up a bit; Blinky targets Pac-Man's tile directly, while Pinky targets three tiles ahead. Also, ghosts in the original Pac-Man do 180 when the timer toggles them between normal and scatter states.

As far as "remembering to kill you" goes, that's actually a collision detection bug. Pac-Man is killed when he occupies the same 8x8 tile as another ghost, so it is entirely possible to swap tile positions with the ghost from one frame to the next without every occupying the same tile on the grid.
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I'll concede the point on the ghost names and the timing, but I don't think the collision issue is a bug. Pac Man doesn't always have to die when a ghost completely overlaps him, and it differs among the different ghosts. It's possible for a ghost to just tap him or otherwise be on top of him partially when he dies.

I should probably mention, by way of disclaimer, that Pac Man was the first and only game I could ever be described as being skilled at playing. A lot of the knowledge in my head about that game has hardened over the years, so I understand that just because it helps me be successful in the game doesn't mean it's also wholly, factually accurate. I am continuously surprised that people still don't know about the one-way passages in the maze though.
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Member since May 2011 · 2462 posts · Location: Brisbane
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@Kendrick:  Have a read and see what Kitaru means.  There's a four-pixel hit box for pacman and the ghosts.  Under just the right conditions pacman and a ghost can swap positions of their relative hitboxes, resulting in passthrough.

All of my pacman experience is from the Atari 800 version of the game.  I was very good at it, but I don't think it had the same rules as the arcade versions, so a lot of what you guys know - like ghost behaviour patterns and one-way corridors - is totally unknown to me.
BLEARGH
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It might be time for a separate topic. :) Directly above the ghost chamber and the point where Pac Man starts each level are passages that are simply invisible to the ghosts when moving upwards. They can move down through them, but they don't see them as valid paths to go up. Watch the ghosts carefully when they deploy at the start of a level, and you'll never see them go up through those two winding tunnels. In a high tension chase, these passages can be bacon-saving, in that you can move up through them and be guaranteed that a ghost will not follow you. In fact, in the lower position it's possible to go up and simply stop moving in that corner, and the ghosts will wander around for about 45 seconds not able to find you. It's how the competitive players arrange for toilet breaks.

The Championship Edition(s) of Pac Man do not have this feature in any of their mazes. All paths are open up, down, left, and right to Pac Man and all ghosts equally. It's one of the things that bothers me about the new game, because it makes chases purely about speed and not about tactics anymore.
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Member since Mar 2010 · 52 posts
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Perhaps that's why I like DX so much: I've always played PacMan for the speed.  The Atari 800 version I first played wasn't any fun at all until it got faster after the first five levels or so.  My MsPacMan PCB has the speedup hack, making it lightning quick to play but probably a lot less challenging as the ghosts didn't get as much of a boost.  Super PacMan was annoying rubbish until you got the Super pill, at which point it became a huge challenge just to navigate the maze with the speed button held down.

It's always been about maze navigation and control for me, strategy and tactics never entered into it.

EDIT:

Dadhacker has an interesting post about converting the Atari 800 (5200) version of Super PacMan, and he talks about the difficulty of converting an arcade game for which you have no official documentation or code:

I didn’t know how the ghosts “found” the Pac-Man, so there’s an N-ply recursive search algorithm in there and the ghosts search deeper in the maze as the game gets harder. I tried to duplicate some of the ghost movement patterns, but probably didn’t succeed.
Just like NFG, but x 9!
This post was edited on 2010-11-28, 07:28 by Unknown user.
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I've never owned a sped-up Ms. Pac Man arcade unit, although I've certainly played them enough in the arcades. Does yours exhibit the bug where the second instance of fruit disappears for no reason because the loop runs out of clock cycles? That became sort of a meta-game, where you knew you had only four or five seconds to grab that second fruit before it went away.
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Member since May 2011 · 2462 posts · Location: Brisbane
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I've never noticed it doing that, no.  I think I might drag it out and check, now that you bring it up.  It just so happens I was experimenting with an 8-way stick setup the other night...  =D
BLEARGH
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This is timely. Slashdot just linked to a blog post about the AI behind the original Pac Man ghosts.

http://gameinternals.com/post/2072558330/understanding-pac…
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