Pac Man: Too Hard, Too Easy, Or Just Right?

Growing up, I played Pac Man on an arcade console. It would be a fairly mindless exercise and even when I played it again for the first time in a while this weekend, I just relied on instincts to avoid the ghosts. Needless to say, I have never been very good. Then I began looking into ways to actually get good at the game and found out that each of the ghosts is assigned a separate algorithm to determine their decisions when they are in Chase, Scatter, or Frightened mode. As the game continues, the ghosts’ AI becomes more challenging for the player to evade along with a decrease in speed for the player’s own character. After understanding why each of the ghosts made the decisions they made, it became easier for me to predict their actions, even before they could. I would love to hear people’s thoughts on whether you think Pac Man would be more or less fun if the AI of Pac Man were more sophisticated and could adjust the movements of the ghosts based off of the player’s movements in the previous rounds vs just changing the ghosts to a set algorithm. We are at a disadvantage because their are four ghosts vs one of us but we can figure out and predict their movements given enough time. Would it be too hard if the ghosts could do the same? Would Pac Man be more fun if the ghosts’ AI were able to adjust according to the player but there were only two ghosts instead of four?

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2 thoughts on “Pac Man: Too Hard, Too Easy, Or Just Right?

  1. Though I never played Pac-Man on an arcade console, I used to play Pac-Man and Ms. Pac-Man all the time in middle school on a PlayStation 2. There was an ongoing competition in my family to see who could achieve the highest scores on our personal score board. After playing for awhile, I realized that sometimes the ghosts would wander around aimlessly, and other times they would purposefully chase after me. After figuring that out I would go to one quadrant eat all pellets besides the power-up one, and then wait for the ghosts to come close so that I could eat them all, then repeat the same for the other three quadrants. Personally, I think a more sophisticated AI would make the game less fun, because for me one of the greatest thrills was recognizing certain patterns in each round the more I played. On the other hand, I also think two ghosts who could figure out my movements would force me to become more strategic.

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  2. I played Pac-man a lot when I was younger, and never realized these things. I do think that the game could be more fun if the movements of the ghosts were more sophisticated. It would definitely become a lot more challenging to the player. Some people will really enjoy that challenge while other people will strongly dislike it. I think that it depends on what the player thinks as fun. There are people who play games just because they know that they can win and do not like games where they know they will always lose. There are people opposite of this, who only think games are fun if they are very challenging. People who can understand the algorithm of the ghosts can figure out strategies to win and might think the game is easy, and that is why they like it. However, I think the algorithm of the ghosts is one of the special things about Pac-man and an important characteristic of the game.

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