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Re-creating Pac-Man as a two-player board game.

 
 

 
 

Context

This project explores re-creating a digital video game into an analog experience. By analyzing an existing game, developing low-fidelity prototypes and conducting play tests resulting in a number of iterations, I re-created Pac-Man into a two-player board game with a complete high-fidelity game kit.

 

Brief

To create an analog board game from an existing digital game.


Roles

Game Design, User Experience, Prototyping


Duration

4 Weeks, Fall 2017

 
 

 
 

Game Anaylsis

Pac-Man is a single-player video game, Where you navigate a maze to collect as many coins as you can and avoiding ghosts along the way.

  • Simple game with clear goals and game rules.

  • Dynamic challenge and difficulty as the game progresses.

  • Strategy and tension makes it engaging to play.

Image Sourced From  Indie Retro News

Image Sourced From Indie Retro News

Why Pac-Man?

I was interested in implementing strategy with chance in game play, which is why I chose Pac-Man. I also wanted to challenge myself to retain the unpredictability and the tension that the game manifests, which makes it fun to play.

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Developing The Board Game

I wanted to implement strategy with chance while retaining the unpredictability, intensity, and fun that the game manifests.

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Play Testing

For every round of play test 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. 

 
The rules of the game were still unclear. It was difficult to set up because it was paper.

The rules of the game were still unclear. It was difficult to set up because it was paper.

The players weren’t as challenged with the game given that they can easily avoid the ghost because it was fixed on the maze instead of moving around like in the video game.

The players weren’t as challenged with the game given that they can easily avoid the ghost because it was fixed on the maze instead of moving around like in the video game.

The players felt that the game was held at a good pace — not too fast and not too slow.

The players felt that the game was held at a good pace — not too fast and not too slow.

Players found satisfaction when collecting and stealing coins from the opponent, frustration while they expressed frustration when losing a life and getting Ghost Cards.

Players found satisfaction when collecting and stealing coins from the opponent, frustration while they expressed frustration when losing a life and getting Ghost Cards.

 

Iterations

For every play test, I made iterations to advance the game’s fidelity and playability. Below, I also created a summary of changes that I made with each phase of the game board iteration. 

 
What I Needed To Improve On:   A balanced grid system on the board game.  Placement indications of ghosts and gold coins on the board game.

What I Needed To Improve On:

A balanced grid system on the board game.

Placement indications of ghosts and gold coins on the board game.

What I Needed To Improve On:   Alignment of coins and number of coins to be placed on the board game.  Action Cards to create more dynamic in the game.

What I Needed To Improve On:

Alignment of coins and number of coins to be placed on the board game.

Action Cards to create more dynamic in the game.

What I Needed To Improve On:   A clearer grid system and border on the board game.  Having a “Home” for players to place Collected Coins and Life Tokens.  A base to place Cherry Coins, Ghost Coins and Game Cards on center of the board.

What I Needed To Improve On:

A clearer grid system and border on the board game.

Having a “Home” for players to place Collected Coins and Life Tokens.

A base to place Cherry Coins, Ghost Coins and Game Cards on center of the board.

What I Needed To Improve On:   Have the Cherry Coins more random on the board for every game.  Possibly add more Cherry Coins.

What I Needed To Improve On:

Have the Cherry Coins more random on the board for every game.

Possibly add more Cherry Coins.

 

 
 

Problem, Solution & Outcome

Problem

Some of the problems that the players encountered with the game were:

  • It was too static. Everything was too fixed. The players weren’t as challenged with the game given that they can easily avoid the ghost because it was fixed on the maze instead of moving around like in the video game.

  • It was an easy end-game. Players died way too fast because they can be easily eaten by the ghosts.

  • It was confusing. Some of the rules weren’t clearly defined and players had a hard time understanding them.


Solution

To answer the problems that the players encountered, I created a deck of action cards and a game book to make the game dynamic and clear.


Outcome

The game became more surprising, intense and fun to play.

"I like how the element of strategy comes into play when I try to figure out how to get around the ghosts and decide whether or not it’s worth losing a life and restarting from the beginning of the board game just to get to a coin. Overall, I enjoyed playing the game and racing to collect the coins." — Elijah


“I questioned the comeback of the game, and felt as if one can predict who will win at the beginning of the game. But as it progressed and we played, I was surprised and did not expect that a player on the losing end can actually win which is exactly what happened when I played against Grace. It became more intense to play towards the end of the game where we raced for The Last Coin.”Aaron


“I think that the mechanics of the game is clever. Every piece and action card has value and makes it fun and at the same time intense to play.” — Jay

 
 

 
 

Board Game Kit

Concept Sketches

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. 

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Laser Cutting The Game Pieces

I created my high fidelity prototype using lasercut to create the wooden coins and the game board pieces.


Designing The Action Cards

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. 


Board Game Layout

I designed the board game 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 board game 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. 

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On the board game, 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 board game, 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.


Final Board Game Kit

The complete kit includes the rules, the board game, the action cards, the ghost, gold and cherry coins, and the Pac-Man player pieces.

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Game Rules

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.  

 
 

 
 

Insights

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 Pac-Man.   

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.