An incalculable pleasure
February 12, 2017 9:16 AM   Subscribe

Calc-Man is a MSDOS-era Pac-Man clone that looks like a spreadsheet, written by Dan Tobias. You can play the DOS version here, or if that's too fancy for you, the older Apple II release.
posted by cortex (12 comments total) 14 users marked this as a favorite
A game that is its own boss key, albeit not a very convincing one.

Seems like one could implement a roguelike in Excel that looked semi-convincingly like a generic business spreadsheet.
posted by jedicus at 9:39 AM on February 12 [3 favorites]

A Pacman clone that looks like a spreadsheet. Why?

Seems obvious. To hide your debilitating Pac-Man fever from your coworkers in what looks like productivity unless you squint. Later, the same thing could be achieved with novelty screensavers, so long as you remembered which hotkey was the fake Excel sheet and which one was the pigs on toilets flying through space.
posted by byanyothername at 9:55 AM on February 12 [2 favorites]

If anybody was wondering what a video game in the vaporwave aesthetic would look like, that's one possible answer.
posted by acb at 10:21 AM on February 12 [3 favorites]

This game is way easier than Pac-Man. It doesn't have the move-until-stopped mechanic of Pac-Man and you can move much faster than the ghosts. My wrist is sore.
posted by jeffamaphone at 10:26 AM on February 12 [3 favorites]

I bet it doesn't even have intermissions
posted by aubilenon at 10:45 AM on February 12

iirc there was an Easter egg Arkanoid game in Excel 97
posted by thelonius at 10:53 AM on February 12

iirc there was an Easter egg Arkanoid game in Excel 97

That was a flight simulator. Word contained a pinball game, and Access contained a magic 8 ball.
posted by jedicus at 11:12 AM on February 12 [3 favorites]

It's the AI that makes Pac-Man interesting, and this doesn't have that. The "ghosts" just meander around without concern for your position. Their movements may actually be random.

But it's interesting as an example of a way to get around text mode limitations, which may explain the spreadsheet framing, a way to make (a particularly tart) lemonade from lemons.
posted by JHarris at 12:27 PM on February 12

Nowhere near as cool as Excel Visual Basic Pac-Man.
posted by farlukar at 12:38 PM on February 12

It's the AI that makes Pac-Man interesting

For a very generous definition of “AI”.
posted by acb at 2:12 AM on February 13

The TI-99/4A had a great Pac-Man ripoff called Munch Man that had you pooping out chain links instead of eating dots, being pursued by what look like sentient shuriken instead of ghosts, and the power pellets were little Texas Instrument logos. Playing this game with my dad and brother is probably one of my ten most vivid memories of the early 1980s.
posted by middleclasstool at 5:07 AM on February 13 [2 favorites]

For a very generous definition of “AI”.

It's good AI! It serves its purpose well. If it was better the game would be unplayable, if it was worse it'd be a cakewalk. It's exactly as good as it should be, and it accomplishes it on 16K of ROM and 2K of RAM.

Red ghost is predictable but tenacious. Pink is tricky but paradoxically easily tricked. Blue isn't super effective but mysterious, and treacherous. Orange is a non-entity mostly, but adds just a hair more difficulty.

Get this. Some of you may know that I've written my own Pac-Man clone, Octropolis, now completely free on (Goodbye, intent for profit!) Well one of the things Octropolis does is count the number of times each shark catches the player, and exposes that information in attract mode. And its Red, Pink, Blue and Orange sharks are like 90% accurate to arcade Pac-Man's ghost AI. (The differences? Distance ties may be resolved differently, and the game doesn't simulate Pac-Man's AI bugs for Pink or Blue when Pac-Man faces upwards. Otherwise it's pretty close!)

In my personal testing install of the game, the shark success rates, which could be taken as a measure of the relative danger offered by their AIs, are:
Red: 54, Pink: 63, Blue: 49 and Orange: 22. (For completeness, the other sharks are Green: 28, Yellow: 9, Gray: 7 and White: 27.)
posted by JHarris at 7:34 PM on February 13

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