PACMAN Board GAME
Redesigning a classical digital game into an analog board game.
About The Project
Pacman is a classic digital game that I redesigned and turned it into an analog board game for two players.
The project focused on understanding the game mechanics, going through the process of iteration and play testing, assessing the formal game elements and creating a high fidelity prototype of the game board using Illustrator and Sketch.
DATE Fall 2017, 4 Weeks
TOOLS Sketch, Rapid Prototyping
FIELD Game Design, Prototype
PacMan is a single-player digital game that has the simple goal of collecting coins around the maze while avoiding the ghosts. Despite its simplicity, the game has a dynamic challenge that progresses as the player continues to work towards the goal. It is a zero-sum game that records high scores and gives the player three chances or lives to finish the game.
The interest of recreating this classic game lay on the idea of implementing strategy with chance while retaining the unpredictability, the fun and the tension that the game manifests.
Simple game with clear goals and game rules.
Dynamic challenge and difficulty as the game progresses.
Strategy and tension makes it engaging to play.
For every round of playtesting session, I took notes of the feedback I was given and closely observed my players strategy and reaction to the game. This was important since it's where I made changes on the mechanics of the game.
Game Board Iteration
The game and its rules were recreated based on the original game and its components. From the play testing, I was able to gather insights from observation and peer feedback. This allowed me to work on various iterations throughout the process to advance the fidelity and playability of the game. I created a summary of changes that I made with each phase of the game board iteration.
Once I had a solid research and concept of the game I was redesigning, I proceeded to work on my final concept for the game kit. I sketched the dimensions and the layout that I wanted my board game to be. I also took note of the other pieces I needed to create for my kit and these included the cards, the coins and the manual.
Here is a layout of my game kit, which I prototyped with a lasercut to achieve the fine cuts. I spray painted the coins (gold) and the cherries (red) to give it a distinguishing mark. I also designed the visuals of my game cards, which I adapted from the original PacMan to give it a more convincing and realistic branding as if you are playing the digital game itself.
I designed the game board to be three-fold, where the two semi-circles can be folded outwards to maximize the space and size. I did this purely out of convenience, thinking that if the game board was to be transported or carried around it shouldn't be too big or bulky. Fully opened, it expands 20" from end to end. In terms of the maze, I designed it to be equivalent in terms of the borders and amount of coins and cherries placed all throughout the board. I felt this was an important factor as it levels the playability and fairness of the game.
On the game board, I created a home base for the two players where they can place their collected coins and cherries, as well as track their life marks which are the three wooden coins on the half-circle. On the center of the game board, I also created a base where the cards and the ghosts will be placed. I consider this center as the Ghost's Lair because it is where players can take a ghost and "release" it on the board if they chose a card indicating that action.
I created action cards with the purpose of moving the game forward. I originally didn't plan of having these, but upon iteration I decided to add them and they became valuable in making the game more engaging. I have two main categories: the ghost cards and the gold coin cards. The mechanics is pretty straightforward: gold coin cards are the winning cards while the ghost cards are the losing cards. For every drawn card, a player may either win or lose something. The most damaging card that I created is the Clyde, where the player can potentially lose a life when it is drawn.
The last leg of the project is creating the rules and designing the physical manual for the game. I would say that creating the rules is probably the most difficult aspect of this project. Being descriptive and detailed is key to avoid confusion and I learned that it's also important to get feedback if the rules made sense. I made a lot of changes to my rules and it mostly consisted of the wordings and being more thorough in my explanations.
OBSERVATION 1 of the 5 players questioned the placement of ghosts and gold coins on the game board.
INTERPRETATION I believe the player questioned the placement because they are static and they do not dynamically change on the board game whereas in the digital, the ghosts move which makes it more challenging and interesting.
CONSEQUENCE This causes the player to easily avoid the ghosts and easily get the gold coins.
ACTION I iterated the game and implemented the ghosts and coins as action cards instead of being physically on the board game.
RESULT This made the game more dynamic, fun and added more element of chance.
OBSERVATION 4 of the 5 players reacted with positive feedback as the game progressed.
INTERPRETATION I believe that they found the game interesting as it progressed because it became more challenging and intense for the players to get to the last few coins as the board game got cleared out.
CONSEQUENCE This ca‹used the players to show reactions like frustration and joy.
ACTION No action was done because the key finding was a positive feedback.
OBSERVATION 2 of the 5 players got confused about the points of the coins (gold and red) and felt like tallying coins was laborious.
INTERPRETATION I believe that the players got confused about the point system because it was not explicitly laid out in the game rule.
CONSEQUENCE This may cause the players to be frustrated with having to deal with counting the coins and may abandon that part of the game play and not give importance to the number of points but rather focus more on the amount of coins they have.
RECOMMENDATION I recommend implying a simpler or faster way of tallying the coins rather than counting one by one or change the mechanics in a way that the player who gets the last coin wins rather than focusing on counting points.
OBSERVATION At the beginning stages of the game, 1 out of 5 players felt as if the consequence of landing on a ghost is an easy end-game where the player will simply die.
INTERPRETATION I believe that the player felt that way because there’s no other components added to the game and the translation from digital to analog was too direct.
CONSEQUENCE The players may feel too frustrated not to want to play the game.
ACTION Change the mechanics of the game and made other action cards available to create more dynamic in the game play.
RESULT The game became more dynamic and more fun to play because there were different factors that added to the challenge and progress of the game.
OBSERVATION 3 out of 5 players were confused with the drawing of the card, especially in turns. They tend to forget to draw cards.
INTERPRETATION I believe they were confused because it was not stated in the rule book when to draw a card (before or after rolling the dice?) and they forget to draw cards because it is not common to draw cards after every other turn, it is usually at each turn of the player.
CONSEQUENCE Players may neglect drawing cards or may simply forget all together which can change the dynamics of the game play.
ACTION Clearly state in the rule book when to draw cards.
RESULT Players still forget at times, but having it laid out in the rule book makes it clear and it lessened the confusion and turnover of forgetting to draw cards.
This project taught me the value of iteration and being open to feedback. Sometimes it is difficult to hear that what I created doesn't make any sense or doesn't work, but I learned to take things into perspective and used it to move my work forward.
One of the biggest challenges I faced for this project is creating the rules, as I previously mentioned how difficult it was. I would say that I made the mistake of overlooking it as a simple task when it proved otherwise, and undervalued its importance. I learned that the rules is as important as the game itself because if the mechanics of playing it can't be properly explained, then users will not be enticed to play it at all. They oftentimes become confused and it brings down the playability of the game. The game can't explain itself and without a proper guide it's purpose would be loss. A game is not without the rules, and that was one of the valuable lessons I learned in redesigning Pacman.
If I had more time, I would make more iterations on the mechanics of my game and the rules. This is the first project I encountered where I learned that design is a continued iteration of one's work.