Pac-Man World Championship: the quotes

There were a ton of people to talk to at the event, all with something to say. I managed to get a little bit of talking time with most of the people there, but not enough for full-length interviews, I’d say. The only thing that could have been a full length interview would have been me talking with Iwatani-san, but even Major Nelson couldn’t get an interview with him.

So, let’s continue onwards. One of my favorite quotes was from the MC, a Microsoft employee (I don’t think he ever introduced himself). In regards to fact that he couldn’t get Carlos Romero’s name right (he actually has five names), he said: “Well, he’s the only Mexican here, so…we’ve got your back.”

During the awards ceremony, Iwatani-san was very forlorn and depressing in his speech, but he had some very nice words before he moved on into a new phase of his life:

As my final gift to the world, I give a new Pac-Man for the new generation.

After this, Iwatani-san is going to be teaching game design at Tokyo Polytechnic University using the XNA development kit. He was very humble about his success with Pac-Man, even though, as we were told, there have been over 10 billion games of Pac-Man played (on record).

We also got to sit down with Carlos Romero, the Pac-Man Champion. This 27-year-old gamer hails from Mexico, and is currently working on Biops 2, a FPS that he’s developing with four friends. I asked him a bit about the game, and why we should play it instead of, say, Bioshock or Halo 3:

The game all takes place in Mexico. In fact, the first stage is set in Mexico City. Its meant to show the culture of Mexico, and to be really authentic, showing off famous monuments — the physics, the gameplay, it’s all meant to be real.

So far, the game has been in development for about a year and a half. He’s been able to work on it because he won a nation-wide competition held by the IDGA Mexico chapter, showing off his idea for Biops and what his plans were.

Also, I got to talk with Jeff Bell about the whole lead-up to the event, and what went on. Was this event successful?

Most of these events are dictated by the interest from the press, and I think we were very pleased with the turnout…The second criteria besides the press is the participants. I think they seemed really really thankful for the chance to come into New York City…I think they enjoyed the quality of the competition. They certainly enjoyed this new game. It was easy to play for them, but you could see there was a difference in skill level among all the different finalists. The third criteria is to see how the game did in sales tomorrow.

Judging by some of your reactions to the game that I’ve noticed in the comments, I’d say this was worth it. Now, what about the hype buildup? Was it justified, or did the hype machine get out of control?

I certainly don’t [think it went overboard]. If you think about it, number one, we needed to launch an all-new version of Pac-Man. That in and of itself is big news — the first time in 26 years. Second, we wanted to give appropriate recognition to one of the great icons of the development of video games, Iwatani-san. He was announcing his retirement and his move into teaching…Finally, we had the capability, with over 6 million members on XBL, to really do a global tournament. We’ve done tournaments before, but we’ve never been able to say that we’ve been able to adequately represent all the different regions of the world.

Sure, we didn’t get our hands on a Bioshock demo or see Petal Near Squalid Door on the 360, but it was a big announcement, when you think about it. So, how did this all end up happening?

We’ve been working working with Namco-Bandai for some time now, and when they told us they wanted to launch a new game, and we started doing the brainstorming. We went through a bunch of different ideas, but this one seemed the most robust — it was also the most complex to pull off, but I think it ended up really well…For well over a year we’ve been in negotiations.

Not only that, but Iwatani-san has been working on the new maps for several years now. I’m sure there’s a lot of complexity trying to get a proper balance to gameplay.

I’d like to take a moment to thank all of those who I talked to: Jeff Bell, Larry Hryb, Carlos Romero, and various members of the press. Also, a very special thanks to .tiff and Michael Yi, who were at the event with me, helping to get a bunch of video and photos taken.