Hacker News new | past | comments | ask | show | jobs | submit login
Masaya Nakamura, Japanese arcade pioneer, has died (bloomberg.com)
372 points by jrwan on Jan 30, 2017 | hide | past | web | favorite | 80 comments

I played it a lot as a kid, and only recently learned how complex the ghost behaviours were (compared to what I beleived about them):


When I read that, I was impressed how simplistic they were.

canonical article: http://www.gamasutra.com/view/feature/3938/the_pacman_dossie...

> compared to what I beleived

I thought they were moving mostly randomly, when I was a kid starting to learn programming.

I remember them moving randomly at first, then when they "caught sight" of you they would start tracking you. Except for the orange one, who would always go the "wrong" direction.

yeah, basically they have two modes. in chase mode they try to chase you in their own algorithms and in scatter mode they go to their own corners.

orange one is special, even in chase mode, it stops chasing you when it is close enough.

I still loved the fact that I was a kid who played in a bowling league and the arcade was always mind blowing. First mind blowing games were Asteroids and Space Invaders for me. Those games were a ton better then the other games. Then Pac Man and Donky Kong took it to a whole new level. It was a magical time and nothing at home could match it. Personally I liked Mrs. Pac-Man more.

The most amazing thing from that time for me was the first time I heard Defender, let alone saw it. The sound of those Williams games is as memorable as the visuals and gameplay.

Agreed. There was definitely a characteristic "Williams sound collection" that was common across many of their video games (Joust, Defender, Robotron 2048, etc.), and pinball machines, too (e.g. Gorgar). You didn't even have to turn around - you knew a Williams game as soon as you heard it. Personal favourite = Joust respawning sound.

Robotron's sound on the actual machine is overwhelming even today. And the amazing color splash between every level is absolutely entrancing/mesmerizing.

Want to know the best part? Nearly all of those signature sounds were generated algorithmically by the processor on the sound board.

The main program would feed some values into a series of feedback loops and shifts to generate the waves before pushing them out the DAC. Game programmers would just play around with various vectors until they found something that sounded interesting.

The whole shebang ran in 2KiB of ROM firmware and 128 bytes of RAM. At 894 kilohertz.

This dude reverse engineered the 6802 code and translated it to C#. Pretty amazing:


Next time on our show we'll talk about the magic of palette cycling. Jarvis still uses this on his games to this very day. Kind of his signature now, right?

Galaga was also a game that turned up the difficulty up to a new level. It was amazing how the older games kept feeling easier and easier to play. I eventually played Defender for over 8 hours on one quarter. I even went home and eat and walked back to the corner store to finish the game. Then I had to spend 30 minutes killing my guys so I could put my name as the high score. The score lasted a whole week :( Then the machine got shipped out the next week.

Sam Dicker was the programmer for the sound on Defender. He went on to work on the sound for the Amiga computer.

My favourite by them was Galaxian. There were a dozen games of that kind, I don't remember the names. But on top of a great gameplay, I would like to remark how good the graphics were. Very low-res by today standards, it's so difficult to express how nice the colours felt at the time.

Toru Iwatani made make pac-man. Masaya Nakamura is the founder of namco. Why am I seeing a blatant wrong headline all over the news?

If they used the correct headline, normal people wouldn't click. Normal people don't know what Namco is.

I don't know exactly who you mean by "normal people", but I can tell you I most definitely don't come here looking for "normal news".

If they do not know what Namco is, I'm not sure they would be interested in him. Now everybody in the comments is talking about PacMan. Namco made/makes a lot of other great games worth talking about.

Absolutely. Particularly the early 80s. Many of those games filled too many childhood hours to count. Ironically, I didn't like Pac Man so much (back then or today), though I recognize it as being a great game and understand why it would appeal to many.

Steve Jobs did not personally design or engineer the iPhone either.

But IIRC, Pac-Man was made basically single-handedly by one person, so calling anyone else the "Father of Pac-man" isn't very accurate. Whereas Jobs was overseeing entire teams.

Because games are more like art than products, so we give credit in a similar fashion to books, movies, tv, etc. The same way we don't say Penguin Books created Moby Dick. Or Valve created Braid.

Even then it would be a poor journalist that wrote "Steve jobs creator of the iPhone." Jobs should be credited as the CEO of Apple. I won't even go into the larger issue of how keeping credit away from engineers was probably part of Job's anti-worker philosophies, some of which were made famous during the release of the "poaching" emails. Jobs probably didn't want to create more celebrity engineers and product managers like Andy Hertzfeld or Steve Wozniak who could challenge him and became thorns in his side.

>Toru Iwatani

As a side note, Toru really seemed to relish his new found celebrity in the 80s and seems overall like a fun goofball. If bored, you can do a lot worse than reading stories about him or doing a google image search for all the cheesy promotional photos he took in the 80s.

Interestingly enough, he was looking to create a casual game, especially one aimed at women:

INTERVIEWER: What was the thinking behind the design of Pac Man?

IWATANI: First of all, the kanji word “taberu,” to eat, came to mind. Game design, you see, often begins with words. I started playing with the word, making sketches in my notebook. All the computer games available at the time were of the violent type–war games and space invader types. There were no games that everyone could enjoy, and especially none for women. I wanted to come up with a “comical” game women could enjoy.

The story I like to tell about the origin of Pac Man is that one lunch time I was quite hungry and I ordered a whole pizza. I helped myself to a wedge and what was left was the idea for the Pac Man shape.


Games are pretty frequently attributed to companies, though.

Don't get me wrong, nothing wrong with crediting engineers. But I the "auteur game" thing is still an outlier.

Masaya Nakamura didn't have a reality distortion field.


It's amazing how strong it's still working years after his death.

Can you think of a more accurate headline that's as easy to express? Maybe "Godfather of Pac-Man" ?

Maybe "Founder of Namco, the creators of Pac-Man" ?

fake news epidemic... Nobody cares anymore. Just write shit and hit publish!

Please note that this is not Toru Iwatani, who designed Pac Man.

Is the golden age of arcade gaming over? I can't remember going into an arcade psyched about playing any game. It's all dance pads, racing games and FPS. Frogger, Pac-man, Gauntlet, Tetris, Mortal Kombat, Warlock, those were exciting games. Maybe it's just the gramps in me yelling about the kids on my lawn.

I think the golden age of arcade gaming has been over for quite some time. Consoles and PC gaming have taken the need of the arcade away from a lot of people. Consoles and PCs are now the target for games rather than arcade cabinets.

That said, if you are ever in the Chicago area I suggest you check out Galloping Ghost. It is the largest arcade in the US and they have over 500 arcade games and it is all free play. $15 gets you in the door and then you are free to come and go as you please throughout the day as long as you keep your receipt. My buddy and I would go and play Mortal Kombat II and NFL Blitz for 5 or 6 hours at a time.

They have games you probably never saw in arcades, too, because they didn't see wide distribution. For example, a previous boss of mine used to work for Midway back in the day, and he donated some of the arcade games he worked on to Galloping Ghost. Galloping Ghost helped him restore one of his rarest ones, too, and it's playable there.

More on topic, if you're in the area to check out Galloping Ghost, you can head a little ways Northwest to Schaumburg and go to the 257 restaurant, which is basically a Namco museum and has food, bowling, and a bunch of Namco arcade games and memorabilia.

I would not recommend going to 257 with the intention of having a good time playing arcade games. Their selection is fairly limited. As the name implies, it's good if you just want Pac-Man games, and mediocre for much else.

It's definitely not on the level of Galloping Ghost, for sure. It's more of a place you go to if you want to do a mixture of bowling, food, and (Namco) games.

That's the first time I've heard of such a place, but it sounds wonderful. I imagine you'd need to be pretty handy with your own repairs.

Have they been around for a long time (i.e. are they profitable enough to stay open longterm)?

They are in their 7th year of operation so they aren't going anywhere soon. It is interesting because in the beginning they got all of their cabinets and games from dumps and would fix them up and get them running. They create new cabinets when necessary but as much as possible the things are close to original. They have cabinets for newer games too that are played on a PS3/4 but are abstracted away from the player through the cabinet.

There isn't much of a reason to go to an arcade to play normal games anymore, you can just play those at home. The arcade niche now is games you don't have at home because they use special hardware which is too expensive or unwieldy.

Yes, I think I have become grampa yelling about the kids on my lawn ;)

You will enjoy this game, then:


What was good about the arcades back at that time was the real world social aspect of it, somewhere to hang out that didn't involve substance abuse ; )

Weed isn't a substance??!

> didn't involve substance abuse

Didn't you ever see a cabinet that had a bunch of melted plastic around the controls due to people leaving their cigarettes there?

I feel something similar, where i live most arcades have disappeared, sign of the times. If you feel too nostalgic , take a look at this documentary "History of Arcade Video Games" [1] and visit this fantastic blog [2] (not mine).

[1]https://youtu.be/NO0yJ54f-RU [2]https://arcadeblogger.com/

Also worth a look is this book by Martin Amis (Yes that guy) - I still own the copy I bought as a kid - http://www.themillions.com/2012/02/the-arcades-project-marti...

It's been over for a very long time. You can still find the 'classics' but you really have to hunt for them. To find them all in one place is truly unusual these days, as they are referred to as 'retro arcades' and most cities don't even have one. My son thinks of them as old-fashioned.

Hard to wrap my head around that sometimes, but it is what it is.

If you're in NY region/Philly look for Barcarde - its a chain - they have all the classics. eg http://barcadebrooklyn.com/games/

We have one in Reykjavík. https://www.facebook.com/freddireykjavik/

It's a small collection but some golden oldies.

1up bar in Denver has a decent rotation last time I was out there.

The golden age was dead about the time of Super Street Fighter 2 turbo. Arcades declined mostly because home consoles could offer longer, more persistent experiences, and started delivering arcade quality ports as early as the SNES.

> It's all dance pads, racing games and FPS.

Except those music dancing games are really, really good now. Jubeat, Sound Voltex, Pop'n Music, Taiko no Tatsujin, DDR.

> Mortal Kombat

There's a ton of good arcade fighters. Injustice and Mortal Kombat X if you like that style.

But I personally have a preference for Guilty Gear, Blazblue, Marvel vs Capcom, Killer Instinct. Other players prefer Tekken, Street Fighter 5, etc. etc.

All those games, and better alternatives, can be played in PC/consoles for far cheaper. Arcade died with the popularization of PCs.

The only things you can't play at home without spending a lot of money are the games that require dance pads, racing wheels, or light guns. That's why those fill modern arcades. Anyone can get a fight stick and MAME if they're interested in arcade games, but building a force feedback racing rig costs hundreds.

Apparently there is now an arcade cabinet version of FlappyBird! I spotted this at the Santa Cruz Boardwalk this weekend:


If you liked Mortal Kombat why wouldn't you like Guilty Gear Xrd or Street Fighter V or Tekken 7?

too complex, and social play is too dominated by "the fighting game community." Mortal Kombat in the old days is really incredibly simple, and the fun of fighting games then was playing against people in a local community.

SFV is a conscious effort to welcome newcomers and it's very simple. In some ways it's less complex than SFII was (certainly at high-level play I think that's a reasonable thing to say). Finding matches locally is, I concede, more of a challenge, but that's not really the fault of the game developers.

Also, maybe MKI could be described as really simple, but I think by the time MKII and III came out that wasn't really true of those anymore.

It's been over since home consoles became more popular

I remember the local Team Electronics used the Pac-Man on the Atari 8-bit computers (400/800) to show how much better it was than the Atari 2600.

I will remember Pac-Man as a game I put way too much time into. I will remember it fondly along side Wizard of Wor, Time Pilot, Mr. Do, and Sinistar.

Amazing really that the 2600 port was a total mess while the 400/800 port was widely regarded as one of the best arcade conversions of the day. It always surprises me that the 2600 is remembered so fondly in popular culture while the fantastic Atari 8-bit home computers have faded into obscurity vs. contemporaries like the C64, Apple II, Spectrum et al.

True. The commercially available Atari 2600 Pac-Man was not a visual treat. And that is an understatement. The lead developer for Pac-Man at Atari considered it a rushed effort.


Since then, however, some hobby developers have taken another swing at Pac-Man on the 2600. The 400/800 port still holds the crown but the following is an impressive difference in my opinion:


Wow, that is an incredible effort at reproducing Pac Man on the 2600. Kudos to the person who did it, DINTAR816, I wish they were around back in the 80's.


The 2600 was vaguely affordable for a middle-class family and very popular at 30m units sold and had no real competitors during its run. Even later competitors that had superior hardware and graphics had a hard time fighting the 2600. The Colecovision[1] far surpassed what the 2600 could do and provided near arcade quality, but was fighting a losing war against the 2600, which was still on a 1977 design on store shelves in 1982, even as it had to compete with the less popular and more expensive Atari 5200 and tough competitor Intellivision, all at the same time. Of course people will talk about something more popular, especially if they owned one. 30 million people owned the 2600. That's a lot of mindshare.

Owning an Atari computer was much more rare. The Atari computer line-up had real competitors and did not have monopoly status. They had to contend against popular products like the Commodore 64, Apple //, etc. By a lot of metrics, especially game quality and selection, the Atari computer was the poorer choice and the market simply chose against them. It didn't help that the Atari 800 was nearly twice the price of the C64. The C64 had a poorer color palette but could instead do more sprites and had more colors per sprite, which is something that favored gaming and pushed it more towards being a favorite with those who wanted a computer, but also something that could play games well.

[1] This was a Z-80A based console. The Z-80A is actually what the arcade PacMan ran on, so it was like an arcade machine that could take carts, in your home! Its an underappreciated gem that more or less got caught up in the great video game crash of 1983-1985 and hamstrung by various issues Coleco had including its long delayed computer based on this system called ADAM. By the time ADAM launched it couldn't compete and the Colecovision was more or less dead. Wonderfully enough there was a version ADAM that was just a cart you plug into your Colecovsion, but I think it also suffered from "too little, too late" as by then C64, PC, and Apple ruled the home market without much room for new players. Video below showing how some games were almost identical to their arcade equivalents:


One important key to success of the 2600 was that Sears sold their own version and it was always featured prominently in the the Sears Christmas Catalog. The selling power of that one catalog was huge.

As to the technicality, the C64 (August 1982) was later than the 400/800 (November 1979). By the time of the C64, Atari was building getting ready with the next XL line and the 800 was selling for a lot less than its 1979 price. Atari did not keep up with Commodore on price. The C64 was inferior because it didn't have the Jay Miner lead chipset. The fortunes of both companies changed as Commodore got the Amiga and Atari got the 520ST.

I should point out that Atari and Commodore outsold Apple. The Pet and VIC 20 were a sales monster and the C64 took over from their. When people say the PC took Apple's market share they are ignoring the fact it really took Commodore's and Atari & Commodore had already took Apple's. The Apple II being very profitable offset this.

For home play K.C. Munchkin actually turned out to be the better game.

There is definitely something to be said for the time when video games were created by small teams of people instead of being huge blockbuster efforts.

Just like indie games today. The barrier to entry is lower than ever, with lots of high-quality engines available for free (or free to try), and big asset marketplaces.

>The barrier to entry is lower than ever, with lots of high-quality engines available for free (or free to try), and big asset marketplaces.

I wish I had that 20(mumble) years ago when I was doodling Mario levels on my high school book jacket...

Seeking recommendations!

Though still in early access, I kind of adore Catacomb Kids, and I'm even more of a fan after I looked up one of the GDC talks [1] of the creator he mentioned in his blog [2].

[1] http://www.gdcvault.com/play/1021877/Constructing-the-Cataco...

[2] http://catakids.tumblr.com/

I'm not affiliated, and I'm not saying there aren't others that may be worth your money more, but I am absolutely convinced that he has the heart and mind in the right place when doing this, and it really shows. I'm hopeful to see where it will go and what he'll come up with after it's finished.

As a person who isn't into the indie hype at all, I found Hotline Miami 1+2 and Super Meat Boy to be amazing. Soundtracks also got me into some quality music I wouldn't have heard about otherwise

He can finally realize his dream of being a ghost chasing Pac-Man.

I understand the Inuit have many words that translate into English as 'snow', same for Aramaic languages and 'sand'. So it stands to some reason that those cultures have a deeper understanding of those things even if they just simply assigned shorter symbols to things that can be described in any other language "soft snow", "sand that drifts and collects behind bigger stones", and so on. But because these symbols exist they can be natively manipulated and reasoned about.

Hayao Miyazaki's work could not be replicated by an American and the same for Masaya Nakamura. Maybe another from the same culture that comes with it's unique cognitive patterns and world views. We should value our differences, it benefits us all in curious and unexpected ways.

I remember getting a little handbook that had all the "patterns" you could learn to evade the ghosts. One of the top days of my youth was when I "turned over" Pac-Man by topping 1,000,000 points, I think I was on the seventh key (the little symbols that you could eat would progress through a series, ending with the key symbol which would then repeat ad infinitum).

People would gather around the game console if you were really on a roll, craning their necks to get a look...good times, good times.

Would you provide a description along with the link?

Description: :(

Please don't be snarky about it. Leaving lone URLs as comments is not helpful to other members.

Game over <wa-wa-wa-wa-waaaaaa>

lol, "You're submitting too fast. Please slow down. Thanks." is new for me...


Registration is open for Startup School 2019. Classes start July 22nd.

Guidelines | FAQ | Support | API | Security | Lists | Bookmarklet | Legal | Apply to YC | Contact