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A Truly 3-D Pac-Man

May 1, 2012

This is an idea for a truly 3 D Pac Man game I came up with. I had followed all of the Pacman series games from the beginning, including dozens of bootleg “hack” games which altered the mazes. I was particularly impressed by PacMania, a game that added a third dimension by taking 2D mazes and adding vertical relief to them. (though it was incredibly hard: the arcade machines used a stiff Atari joystick —the old distributor Midway with the easier joysticks was dropped because of its unauthorized clones Ms. Pacman, Pacman Plus and Jr. Pacman; so the game wasn’t as popular as the others). This limited new dimension was used for jumping capability. You could now jump over the monsters. But you have to watch the spacing of them, and they usually bunch up in a way where it is hard to jump through them. Also, in later boards, two new monsters: Funky (green) and Spunky (steel blue gray) can also jump! Funky you can only jump over if you time it right, but Spunky jumps so high you can never get over him. Anyway, after this, there was the Namco Museum “PacMan Arrangement”, which also added vertical relief (but without the jumping, unless you get a special “rabbit” pill that allows you to jump to a spot else where on the board. Pinky can gain this power as well). Finally, “PacMan VR” which my wife and I played in a fancy Times Square arcade once, where you put on virtual reality goggles and actually walk through the maze! So all of this got me interested in the idea of a TRUE 3D maze, where you move freely in all three dimensions. I had to come up with a system to control it, and then I drew this crude model the best I could.

I believe that games have become advanced enough to have a truly 3D maze, where the maze passages run not only left-right, up and down, but also back and forth; like taking the Pacmania or Pacman Arrangement mazes, and adding vertical passages and a whole new dimension of maze above them.

Just as the original game had four monsters that begin by patroling each of the four corners of the square maze before they come after you; this one would have a total of eight, for each of the corners of the cube. In addition to the original Blinky, Pinky, Inky and Clyde; I would add Sue (purple) Tim (gold) Funky (green) and Spunky (gray). They would face the actual direction they are moving, like in Pacmania. They would start from a cubic pen in the middle. Scores would be 200, 400, 800, 1600, 3200, 6400, and I guess the remaining two could be 7650 (from Pacmania, except that that game for some reason skipped 6400). 7650 is basically a numerical representation of the name “Namco”. You can see this on the Wikipedia article on Namco. The last one would be 9180 (7650 + 1530 which is 7650÷5).

One main issue is how to show a 3D maze looking through the cube, with walls and stuff in the front blocking those in the rear. I was planning to make an MSPaint model of it to send to Namco, but it would be hard to draw. For one thing, it would return to the hollow, unfilled blue outline of the original game. It would have to be arranged in a way that you could see between the passages in front, to see the back clearly. I was also thinking of maybe a pipe maze, similar to the ones in World 7 of Super Mario Bros 3, or the ones that used to be in kiddie indoor playgrounds; only they would be transparent, of course, since the dots, and in fact all of the gameplay would be within them. So for now; I just show the dots, to give an idea of the basic concept.

The final issue would be the controls. Where the 2D games only needed a standard joystick for right/left and one perpendicular dimension (whether it was up/down, or back/forth, depending on how the maze or screen was aligned). With this, you would have both of those dimensions plus one more, perpendicular to both. Once again, it is not like what we usually think of a 3D game, where you are basically walking on the ground in a 2D motion, but have limited motion in the 3rd, such as climbing or jumping. This would be a floating open air world where you would have full use of all three dimensions.
I originally conceived of this as an arcade game, but still had to think of how it would be adapted to home consoles. You would need a joystick that could represent the additional new directions in addition to left right, to and fro. If you could have a joystick where you could pull up and down on it, perhaps. But that would be hard when moving in the other directions at the same time. So it may end up being a combination of joystick or pad and buttons. Or perhaps one of those trigger joysticks, with two trigger buttons, representing up and down. Maybe one you can twist, with clockwise/counterclockwise somehow representing the new dimension. That would basically be working somewhat like an airplane controller.
For now, the one I’m going with the most, is a vertical “trigger” that slides up and down the shaft of the joystick, as shown in the image. That would seem to be the easiest to manufacture, and control.

I e-mailed the suggestion to NamcoBandaigames, and didn’t get an answer. When I figured I better send a hard copy via snail mail just in case, it was returned, saying they don’t accept game ideas. I also wanted to run it and a bunch of ideas (Mario) to Nintendo, and their website says right off the bat that they don’t accept ideas. They encouraged you to join their forums instead, which I did, and ran the idea across there, even entered it into a game idea contest they had.
So now; I have to figure out how to get this idea to Namco. I guess they only want agents from professional game developers? I know they can’t handle the volume of suggestions gamers would send in, but sometimes, it sounds like it has become some sort of class separation or something! “We don’t deal with ‘the little people’!”

While we’re adding dimensions, why stop there? How about a 4D game? “How?” you may think. To get a workable simulation of 4D in a game, you could start with something simple, like a platformer such as Mario, or perhaps something with limited space like a fighting game. It would be 3D, but you could use size to represent the fourth dimension. You would start with a base scale size representing location in the 3D hyperplane. As soon as you move out ot 3D, the figure would become transparent or abstract. Moving one direction in 4D, it would become smaller. Moving the other direction, it would become larger. You could also use color tinting. In 3D, it would be normal colors. One direction, it would become bluer, and the other direction it would become redder.
So in either case, like if you were attacking another character, if you are the same size or color, even if both are not in the 3D space, you know you would be able to make the attack, or be attacked. If not the same size or color, you would “miss” and pass right through each other. We would also find a way to represent “turning” to face along the 4D axis, so if you were standing in what looks like the same spot as the opponent, you could make your attack in the direction of 4D.

So you would have a set of four playable coordinates. A pair of joysticks could represent two dimensions each. (I’m thinking of arcade games, for home platfrms, the controls would have to be worked out). Wonder why none of the game manufacturers have thought of this yet.
Use both the size and color, you could even have 5D! Perhaps jaded fighting game masters would find all new challenges in stuff like these. To most others, it would probably be way too complicated.

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