In 1980, General Computer Corp (GenComp/GCC) was making mod kits for games, including one for Missile Command, and one for Pac-Man. Their Pac-Man add-on was quite innovative. It brought four new mazes to the game, a new lead character with legs and feet, a new intro sequence, and monsters with antennae instead of ghosts. If this sounds somewhat familiar, it should. This mod kit became "Ms. Pac-Man", but before it was Ms, it was "Crazy Otto". It went through a few steps in the progression, all of which I will cover below.
If you want a more comprehensive history of Ms. Pac-Man, you should watch the video of Steve Golson's presentation "From Crazy Otto to Ms. Pac-Man". It covers many of the details that I used to create these. Links to the PAX-2012 and MIT-2014 presentations of this are available at the bottom of this post, and are well worth your time to watch. All of the sets I present here are directly based on sets that he described, demoed, or showed screenshots of, in an attempt to recapture the history of this iconic video game.
The tools I used to create this are:
- ASZ80 - assembler (ASM to IHX)
- genroms - converts IHX to binary rom files, capable of patching over source images
- Turaco - arcade game graphics editor for MS-DOS
- Boxer/Dos Box - MS-DOS emulator so that I could run Turaco on my Mac. ;)
- mspacman.asm - Our well documented Ms Pac disassembly
None of this is to be used or repackaged for profit. This is all for educational and historical reasons. It's okay to drop it into a free-play machine as a museum piece... It is NOT okay to include it with a multigame that you're selling, etc. Don't be a jerk.
Okay... All of that is out of the way. Let's get into the differences between the romsets, and the patches necessary to make them happen. I'm going to use the names I came up with for the sets to differentiate them here. Details of differences and dates were gleaned from Steve Golson's presentations.
Information gleaned from his pre-PAX-2012 talk: (Time magazine photo and rumors)
- Approximate image of Otto, one frame of 16, no animations
- Approximate image of monster sprites, one frame of two
- The fact that this existed at all
- Dates of ROM releases
- Attract sequence differences (Pac-Man, Ms. Pac Marquee, Pac-Woman additional movement)
- Ghost name differences
- Crazy Otto exact graphics romset (shown as two screenshots, recreated using Turaco)
- Monster exact graphics
- Pac-Woman exact character graphics (recreated using Turaco)
- Character coloring (for the "alternate" character in intermissions)
- Intermission structure (short bits of original asm code were displayed, providing a rosetta stone)
- Lack of monster "eyes" after monster death
- Death animations for all
And now I'll list off details about what makes each particular release distinct, as well as some info about recreating it, backwards, from a standard "mspacmab" bootleg ROMset.
OttoP1 - 1981-Oct-12
Character and sprite roms for OttoP1. These are pixel-for-pixel copies of the original.
The character graphics (top) are based on Pac-Man (Notice the score graphics)
- Pixel perfect Crazy Otto graphics rom (characters moved around)
- Pac-Man intro sequence (stationary ghosts) showing their names
- GENCOMP logo, rather than Midway logo/copyright
- Remap movement animation frames (characters, stork, baby, etc)
- Remap of characters and colors for intermissions
This one was one of the more interesting hacks to work on. A lot of what makes this one unique was to be eventually obliterated by Ms Pac patches. At first I tried reversing the one patch in Pac-Man that jumps to Ms Pac romspace, where the new "marquee" intro happens, and just let it fall back on original code. This kind-of worked. The problem is that it used quite a few of the text slots, which were re-used for the new marquee introduction. To fix this, I reverted many of the text strings to their modified Pac-Man versions, eg Mad Dog, Killer, etc instead of Inky, Blinky, etc.
The GENCOMP logo was already in the character set, so i just needed to remove the jump to the Midway logo and copyrights, and replaced one of the copyright strings with the characters necessary to draw out "GENCOMP" ("pqrstuv"). I also used a feature of the text render routine that I'm fairly certain no one else uses anywhere else, and that lets you draw the text out in multiple colors, rather than just one color for the entire text string.
Remapping the movement frames was fairly straightforward once I replaced the original math-based routine with my table-based routine. This is discussed in the section below "Player Sprite Picker".
Remapping the colors, characters, and sprite frames was fairly easy once I was able to use the rosetta from Golson's talk to figure out some of the animation format. Past that, It was a bunch of experimenting to determine what parameters did what (color, speed, location, etc) The 'female' character from the intermissions required more attention, since it now uses a different palette color (red), so all occurrences of the color (12 of them) are replaced from 0x09 (yellow) to 0x01 (red).
In Golson's talk, as you can see in the above image, he had a couple of pages of code snippets. The one above is showing the animation format. Thanks to him publishing his presentation materials, we can see that up close:
With a little bit of sleuthing, I was able to use this as a kind of rosetta stone, to figure out the animation format. These animation scripts are used for the intermissions, as well as the introduction attract "marquee" screen. This becomes more important with the P5 (Pac-Woman) hack below.
For the record, here's the above code chunk, but in the mspac.asm disassembly project, showing that we have a better grasp on how these scripts work.
OttoP2 - 1981-Oct-20
The graphics roms for P2 are similar to P1. The sprite rom (second) is identical. The character rom (first) is upgraded to the MsPac version. Notice the marquee graphic instead of the scores in the character rom.
- Everything from P1 except for:
- Marquee intro sequence, with "Bonnie" instead of "Sue"
- "MIDWAY MFG. CO" with Midway Logo
OttoP3 - 1981-Oct-29
- Everything from P2 exept for:
- "(c) MIDWAY MFG CO"
SuperP4M, SuperP4G - 1981-Oct-29
This one signifies two different graphics rom sets with the same code underneath it. "P4M" specifies the version with Crazy Otto Monsters, while "P4G" specifies the standard ghosts.
For this version, the character ROM is basically the same as P2 above.
I switched the layout for Super Pac0Man to be closer to the Pac-Man layout.
- Graphics Rom is closer to Pac-Man than Ms. Pac, to retain the Pac-Man death animation
- Many similarities with P1-P3
- Copyright string from P3
- Game and character names on marquee introduction changed to "Super Pac-Man"
- Character sprite table for movement and animations changed to Pac-Man
- Stork and baby sprites in the table were also remapped
WomanP5 - 1981-Nov-12
The Pac-Woman set is based on Ms. Pac-Man. The orientations for the death animation are the same as in the final MsPac. I've included this in yellow so you can see the woman graphics appropriately. The red/blue/white version is included for comparison with the above examples.
- Ms Pac graphics rom with "woman" in place of Ms. pac
- other character in animations was Pac-Man, like in the final version
- Animation frame indexing changed from Ms. Pac to use the tables, as explained above
- Additional animation added to the intro sequence
He stated that this version was abandoned due to the fact that when she's moving away from you, it's easy to confuse her with the red ghost. And he's absolutely right.
From this stage, they generated a slightly different character, again with a bow on her, and she became the Ms. Pac-Man that we all know and love.
The PZ variant brought forward a bunch of problems. The main screen needed to have the monster graphics, as well as both logos and the marquee for the Pac-Man and Ms. Pac-Man introduction screen. The sprite rom is basically the same as the above P2 version
While it's running, holding P1 and P2 start and pressing the joystick up "drops a quarter". Holding those and pressing the joystick down resets the machine, so you can pick a different variant.
This one is perfect for your home arcade, MAME machine or other emulator.
- Switchable Pac-Man intro and Ms Pac-Man marquee intro
- General playability of P1-P3 above
- Fast mode selectable at bootup time too
- PZ mode also selectable - Ms Pac marquee intro, with GENCOMP logo.
This one got a little complicated. In P1 above, I was able to just swap out the Ms Pac text table and restore the Pac-Man one. I didn't have that luxury this time, since we needed the Ms Pac text table to be intact for the P2, P3 and PZ versions of the game. I implemented this by hooking in to the actual text rendering routine. It skips out and goes to my own routine which checks to see if the current game is P1. If it is, it uses a reproduction of the Pac-Man table, but out in my memory space, and with a few strings restored to the OttoP1 versions. This one has the original P1 strings, rather than the re-used/remapped strings that are used for the Marquee introduction.
One other modification done in this patch is the check for if the game is trying to render string 0x13 (copyright) or 0x35 (copyright year). Since each variant has different versions of these, the routine uses the variant number as an index into its own string table, and draws the appropriate-looking text to the screen.
This does get into something though. How do we know which game and variant we're playing. We need to store it in RAM somewhere nonvolatile. We can pick someplace unused, but it might get used and we haven't figured out the documentation yet. Or we can use a trick that I figured out while working on a multigame Ms. Pac a few years ago. The stack pointer always starts at 0x4fc0, and works down from there. Nothing ever goes above it other than sprite registers. So, if we just patch the game code to start the stack pointer down a little bit, we have a few bytes that we can use for our own storage.
The test for the coin drop and reset hack was hooked in to the routine that checks the coin slot switches. This gets called often while the game is running, so it seemed like the most comprehensive place to insert our routine. Before it checks the coin slot switch, it will check to see if P1 and P2 are being pressed. If the joystick is also being pressed up also, we "drop a coin", and if it's pressed down, we reset the machine, so that the player can pick a different variant to play.
This set also drops the "jumble of characters" standard MsPac startup tests.
This set also drops the "jumble of characters" standard MsPac startup tests.
All of the patched romsets mentioned in this post are available through links at the bottom of this post.
Common patches appliedThere are a few patches that got applied to just about all of the sets in one way or another. I didn't want to change any of the gameplay behaviors, so I didn't fix the killscreen at level 240ish. I also didn't apply the "Fast" hack to any of these sets, since I wanted to reproduce the original gameplay, not a "comfortable playable set". If you want that, use the "OttoPZ" multigame, which is tweaked for general "daily" use.
Memory Mirror FixFirst of all, due to nothing being mapped in memory space above 0xAFFF, writes to those locations map down to lower memory. That is to say that writes to 0xB000 will acutally occur at 0x4000. The emulators do something weird with this, and the writes disappear into unreferenced 'ram' space. This is a problem because the text rendering routine (at 0x2c5e) does something weird with it. You call this routine with a number, an index into a list of pointers to text structures. The first item in the text structure is the offset into video memory that the text should start. The upper two and lower two lines use a different arrangement of bytes, so they need to behave differently. This behavior is signified by setting the high bit (0x8000) on the offset. Well, if we now have text that was supposed to be at offset 0x00FF, but it is in that region so the high bit is set (0x80ff). This offset added to memory space at 0x4000 produces 0xC0FF as the starting location. In real hardware, this is fine, since the high bit is not connected, so the write actually happens to (0x4000 + 0x00ff), but in emulators, it actually happens at 0xC0FF. There's a patch that fixes this -- it masks off that high bit when adding in the offset to the video base pointer.
Player Sprite PickerAnother patch standard on all of these is replacing the original function that determines what sprite to display for Pac/Ms.Pac/Otto. The original did some sort of weird math to determine the sprite number. I replaced all of that with four hooks into my code that loads the appropriate four-entry table (four hooks; one for North, South, East, and West.) This code actually fits over the original code, without needing any extra space... in fact, it's smaller and more efficient than the original at 58 bytes instead of 81 bytes... plus, and more importantly, it's MUCH easier to hack in different sprite characters for different graphics sets, which I needed to do. I'm actually kinda surprised that Otto/Msp didn't use a table for this.
Splash Intro PageOne obvious modification is that all romsets have a splash screen on startup. I didn't want my reproduction sets to be mistaken for the real thing, should it ever be released. At the end of the startup tests, just after the test grid is drawn, it is cleared, and then my own routine occurs. This one has its own text string table for the standard text routine at 0x2c5e, so as to not need entries in the standard string table. It will draw out info about the romset, my email address, and after a moment, it prompts the user to press a button (or move the joystick.) (The "clear screen" routine was also re-added as a patch, since the original wasn't easily callable.
- Download links for all pre-patched "MSPACMAB" (bootleg) sets
- bleu-romtools (asz80, genroms, Turaco)
- mspacman.asm documented disassembly
- Steve Golson - From Crazy Otto to Ms. Pac-Man (PAX 2012) (part 1)
- Steve Golson - From Crazy Otto to Ms. Pac-Man (PAX 2012) (part 2)
- Steve Golson - From Crazy Otto to Ms. Pac-Man (MIT 2014)
NOTE: I pursued this project on my own, using only publicly available information. No direct contact was made during development by anyone involved with GENCOMP nor Midway nor Namco. This is meant to be a historical/educational project, not for profit. The use of copyrighted materials is covered by fair use, as this is for educational use. It is fine to use this for museum-type displays, but not included in a multigame that you're selling. Don't be a jerk.
NONE OF THESE WORKS ARE TO EVER BE DISTRIBUTED FOR PROFIT, EITHER ALONE, OR REPACKAGED.