General Computer Corporation (also known as GenComp or GCC) was a small arcade corporation formed by MIT students in the late 1970s. GCC specialized in building 'enhancement kits' for existing arcade hardware, in the form of a ROM replacement or extension circuit board. These enhancement kits override or replace arcade game programming to augment the game with new behavior and features. Machines with enhancement kits drew new attention to older games and maximized profit for the owner.
Pac-Man, a major game in the arcade scene, was a practical project for GCC to take on in 1981. The result was Crazy Otto. Crazy Otto broke the repetition of Pac-Man by introducing new mazes, new characters, new monster AI and various other mechanics. Three Crazy Otto circuit boards were produced for development and demonstration, though a complete cabinet was not made.
GCC intended to release Crazy Otto independently as an enhancement kit to augment existing Pac-Man games, though a previous lawsuit with Atari inspired them to seek approval from the US distributor of Pac-Man, Bally Midway, before distributing the kits.
History took a turn a turn as Bally Midway instead purchased the the Crazy Otto program for its own official release, rather than simply allowing GCC to release an enhancement kit. Midway commissioned GCC to make character and programming changes to Crazy Otto to transform it into an official Pac-Man series game.
The cutscenes of Crazy Otto depict Otto and his female counterpart, Anna. With this idea, Otto was transformed into a female Pac character with red hair and a yellow bow: “Miss Pac-Man.” Miss Pac-Man was further developed for arcade release, with cabinet artwork and circuitry.
Weeks before release, it was noted that the Miss Pac-Man character delivers a baby in the third cutscene out of wedlock. The game was re-titled to “Pac-Woman”, then finally to “Ms. Pac-Man” as the game was released in January 1982.
A small number of Miss Pac-Man development sketches have been discovered.
Where I come in
I have built a cabinet based on the earliest development sketches. It is essentially a 'what if' Ms. Pac-Man had been produced using the early development artwork.
I had only a photo of the original sketch to reference for my build, which was not high enough resolution for me to vectorize. To compensate, I flattened the photograph digitally, printed it out, and traced the characters with tracing paper and artist's marker. This allowed me to fill in and clarify the artwork using my familiarity with the style. I then scanned my marker tracing and vectorized it in Adobe Illustrator.
The concept sketch didn't depict a bezel or CPO, so I took creative liberty and designed one. I designed the bezel and CPO in about an hour on an airplane to get everything done in time for California Extreme 2017!
At the last minute I opted to use the release name Ms. Pac-Man in the artwork.
Cabinet & Internals
The wood cabinet itself was built new from black melamine and purchased from Scott Evans. The cabinet runs original Pac-Man circuitry, with a rebuilt power supply and rebuilt Wells 4600 monitor.
The cabinet was finished in 2017, built from empty to complete cabinet in the four days before California Extreme 2017.
The cabinet has been present at California Extreme Arcade & Pinball Expo 2017 and 2018.