The interview is almost over. Their talk has been becoming more exciting with the very interesting topics; "What kind of character is PAC-MAN?" and "What the game development field is like." Don’t miss the last part of the interview that Iwatani-san mentions the visions of future PAC-MAN.
PAC-MANIA • Coffee break • PAC-MAN’s character
Iwatani: Well, I would like you to play this next.
(Iwatani-san picked up PAC-MANIA, released in 1987, and the interviewer begins to play).
Interviewer: It’s 3D! It is difficult.
Iwatani: I tend to forget that PAC-MAN can jump.
Interviewer: Yes, that’s true as I don’t think that PAC-MAN can fly. Also, PAC-MAN doesn’t talk. Doesn’t he say "I can’t eat that much cookies anymore!"
Iwatani: PAC-MAN talks in the cartoons.
(The interviewer cleared the stage and now the screen shows coffee break.)
Iwatani: The original PAC-MAN also has this type of mini movie, but the programmers were against it because they did not want to include anything that was not related to the game. I was asked what makes the game better by doing so. I said that there will be users who feel like playing more to see the next coffee break, and it will help raise the sales. Also, it can be a little break as well. It let the players rest rather than proceeding to the next stage.
Interviewer: Basically, PAC-MAN will keep his shape?
Iwatani: Yes. I would like to keep the dot-art like ambience. Of course, if the current hardware functions are fully utilized, it’s possible to make him clearly round and create realistic wrinkles. However, it wouldn't be PAC-MAN if he has facial expressions.
Interviewer: You prefer simple, with no expressions or emotions?
Iwatani: I would like to say that he is simple in design, rather than saying simple and no expressions. PAC-MAN could be a relatively nice character, but I think it’s the unknown personality that amuses and attracts people.
Interviewer: Depending on the point of view, he looks like a bad character.
Iwatani: PAC-MAN is not a bad character.
Interviewer: PAC-MAN is basically eating the dropped cookies.
Iwatani: That’s right. He eats the things on the ground.
Interviewer: Do the Ghosts place the cookies?
Iwatani: Yes, the Ghosts enjoy placing the cookies neatly in their area.
Interviewer: So, PAC-MAN eats the cookies without asking? He is a bad character.
Iwatani: PAC-MAN does not consider what is right or wrong. He’s only eating. His character can be described as: Let’s say if a policeman was holding a gun, PAC-MAN eats the gun because guns are bad. PAC-MAN doesn’t use common sense, and he eats all bad things, such as guns or nuclear missiles. However, it doesn’t mean that PAC-MAN has his own thoughts unlike movie heroes. I would like to create various stories based on the idea that PAC-MAN eats up the bad things in the world.
Actual game development workplace
Interviewer: How many people were involved in the development of the original PAC-MAN?
Iwatani: The planning and designs were by me, and one person for programming and music. That’s all.
Interviewer: Three people?
Iwatani: Yes. With this small team, we could share the concept with no problems. To be more precise, the project members roles were; one person for computer board design, 1 to 2 people for electromechanical related, such as for electric circuit for cabinets or machines with levers, and an illustrator for pictures on the sides of the arcade cabinets. Estimated number of people was about 10 at the most.
Interviewer: I see, so the main core consisted of 3 people. How long did it take to complete the game with those 3 people?
Iwatani: It took about one-and-a-half years after we started. It needed to be completed within that length of time as it would be difficult to keep motivated if it took longer than that. During the last part of the development, I worked on PAC-MAN but at the same time, because I already had an image of completion of the finished product, I had ideas of the next games and took notes so that I wouldn’t forget.
Interviewer: I see. You didn’t want to give up along the way?
Iwatani: No, I didn’t. People can talk of their struggles in creating products, know the excitement of creation. Therefore they would like to create more. Those people who get over the difficulties and complete the projects are pleased and more active. People with certain challenges, such as being unable to keep deadlines or some problems come up and are told that it wouldn’t be able to continue considering the time frame, are elated after going through the difficulties of creation.
Interviewer: There are deadlines for game development. When are the deadlines determined?
Iwatani: When the project starts, deadlines are set. For example, we set a date in order to make it by the Christmas gift season or by the Tokyo Game show. However, around the time that PAC-MAN and Galaga were developed, there was no deadline. It was totally up to the developers. Sales people or management people are not that familiar with the game development process; they depend on the young developers. Without there being a deadline for PAC-MAN and Galaga we were pleased to continue the development without this pressure. Nowadays, in order to run business, the deadlines have to be kept, so we see some games released that seem that they could have been worked on more. It was supposed to be developed further, but was released in order to make the deadline...
Interviewer: When do you realize that you can’t make the deadline? When I work on my articles, I would estimate that it could be done by the morning or so. However, as more than one person is involved in the game development, you have to adjust for all team members’ status.
Iwatani: That’s true. Therefore, it is defiantly important to have someone manage the process, such as the process control for development. Producers also find out that there are people who hide the fact that they are behind the schedule. When producers found out that the project won’t make it within 6 months from the deadline, they would try various approaches, such as compressing the specifications in order to keep the deadline, or increase the workforce, or beg for postponing the deadline so that they can make better products. There are various ways depending on the producer. However, nowadays, the deadline is the most important.
Closing message for 30th Anniversary
Interviewer: PAC-MAN has stayed the same for 30 years. You mentioned a little while ago that it’s possible to add wrinkles or whiskers, but do you have any plan to do so? Let’s say if you do and looked closely, would you find gray hair etc...
Iwatani: Let’s say the long time loved anime characters; the main characters maintain their freshness while they keep their attractiveness even after decades. I would like make PAC-MAN be like them, and I think he has succeeded to some extent. When thinking of these reasons, I find there are various elements, such as cute friendly character or the game’s simplicity that makes everyone feel they can play it. The biggest element is that "user friendly" game element. The things that are not obvious keep their popularity, for example, when PAC-MAN was about to be caught, the Ghost suddenly went away, or Ghosts get easier to attack once it dies and recovers again. We implemented thoughtful things everywhere. It looks simple, but there were many ingenuities and user friendly experiences built into the game. That’s why PAC-MAN lasted for 30 years. Now, after PAC-MAN turning 30, I would like to keep planning how PAC-MAN will evolve and what he will be like when he reaches his 50th Anniversary. Since there were various games released in past 30 years and for PAC-MAN to still be so popular, there may be a demand for PAC-MAN well into his 50th. That is something the young generation will have to work on.
Interviewer: So after 50 years or 100 years, PAC-MAN's yellow color stays the same.
Iwatani and Interviewer Thank you.