There are very few out there that probably know of Astral Entertainment. Maybe a couple more than nil remember “Pac-Guy” or the failed rebirth as “Pea-Guy”. What virtually no one knows is that Monkey with a Mustache Entertainment is in fact the same company with the exception that the name was legally changed. I’ve decided to try and tell a little bit of Astral Entertainment’s story and provide as much of our game library as I can for free. Below is a link to the page with the free games (no reselling!) followed by whatever history of Astral Entertainment I’m able to remember.
Two friends of mine during high school, Brian and Garth, made the original Pac-Guy games. There are a few details about the first game being made that I am choosing to withhold, as it’s not my place to speak of for the sake of privacy. Anyway, the original game was installed on all the computers at school for general fun and entertainment. It was a simple parody of Pac-Man and whatever they liked at the time, which if I remember correctly was mostly Star Wars. Somehow Garth came upon the publisher ValueSoft, which packaged together the existing library of games into the Pac Pack (such as Pac-Guy Christmas, Atomic Edition, etc) giving them a single CD-ROM to sell on those turn styles in Walmart, Best Buy, Target, and many other stores. Evidently videos of some of the games are even alive on YouTube!
In any case, the Pac Pack was published with six games and sent out into the world! Holy crap, you can still buy it on Amazon.com! Of course, of the $10.00 sale price I think Astral Entertainment got $0.50 per sale, which ended up making our publisher ValuSoft ($2.50 per sale) and GT Interactive ($7.00 per sale) a mint (read: millions) and Astral Entertainment a meager but nice sum for a couple of high schoolers. This didn’t stop ValueSoft from trying to rip them off however, because they are greedy and of course able to take advantage of indie developers with no danger of recourse. A few more games were made, and a new version of the Pac Pack was released with ten games reflecting the new simple Pac-Guy games made since the original. This isn’t about that though. I was interested in games and quite good with computers so decided to get involved. Of course the possibility of actually having games published was particularly appealing at the time as well. Shortly after I entered the picture our relationship with ValuSoft seemed to crumble away, along with the possibilities of publishing anything through them in the future. I think we thought that the sheer number of sales of the original Pac Pack combined with the big ideas we were working on would open up new doors. The Pac Pack was released at the same time as Microsoft’s “Return of the Arcade” which had the original Pac-Man on it, and we outsold it. As I said, GT Interactive especially, did very well.
I ended up being the lead developer and designer of “Pacula’s Curse”, featuring Vampacmires and all sorts of other bizarre creatures. It was an absolute blast to make, and I was largely unable to keep myself from introducing some new game mechanic every level or so. I even tried to dabble in adding a bit of horror to the game which, although wasn’t very scary, I think added a nice atmosphere to the mix! I worked on the other major Pac-Guy releases to varying degrees. Brian stayed only partially involved in trying to keep Astral Entertainment alive; occasionally working on a game idea but leaving Garth and I to be idealistic. He had also been doing a lot of 3D modeling work and dabbled with the idea of creating a show or movie about the characters. Garth and I tried for some time to find a new publisher to release Pacula’s Curse and future games under. A few years into college I managed to get the ball rolling with Xing Interactive, a company in the Netherlands.
I worked out a deal with them to publish Pacula’s Curse (this is now a few years into college, some time since I’d done any game work) and was quite excited as it would mean motivation to make games again! We signed contracts with Xing as our new publisher excited about the promise of getting back in stores like Best Buy here in America, but nothing every came of it. It was pretty obvious they were ripping us off, but impossible to tell exactly how or do anything about it. When we fought them to get sales records or any other kind of information we were put off, and eventually just handed a check for $600.00 (likely to just shut us up). I’m quite sure they sold it and made some money off it, but there was nothing to be done about it, and no way to prove any wrong doing.
Somehow, a community of Pac-Guy lovers had survived and kept up with the very little going on with us. A contest was put on to compile together fan made games. I was personally very uninterested in this concept as the quality would be spotty at best, and of course the additional work of splitting up royalties (not that I was worried there would be any). Someone even made a radio show using the Pac-Guy characters and sent us a few copies. I’ll get that uploaded and linked for the pleasure of whoever happens upon this! Evidently someone was making a fan game as recently as 2010!
A few years after college, probably 2005 or 2006, Garth was sick of running the virtually non-existent company. He did have the foresight years prior to incorporate to protect us in case of any silly lawsuits or other issues that come up when you work with parody and satire, and running a business even if it does almost nothing still takes time. He offered to sell it to me at a very reasonable price, including all the rights and assets which I decided to accept. I was getting into other types of freelance, especially videography with Brian as we shared that interest as well.
I continued selling the games, burning them as they were ordered for a few years which covered the costs of running the skeleton company until I finally got too sick of it and stopped taking orders in 2008. Brian and I had also had the name of the company legally changed in 2006 so we could start using it for our other works, which is when “Monkey with a Mustache Entertainment, Inc.” was born. The purpose of the company wasn’t entirely clear, other than just having an entity to do any of our creative works through.
We have continued doing small jobs on the side as a hobby, and over the last year have been slowly inching back towards creating new digital entertainment for mobile devices like phones and tablets. It’s been amazing to see how iOS and Android especially have reopened the door for successful indie development. These aren’t the only outlets of course (xbox Live arcade, simple online distribution, and even the new Mac App Store to name a few others), but they were the main inspirations for getting back into the game. Will there ever be a new Pac-Guy game for something like the iPad? Very doubtful. I’d personally rather the character stayed in his grave this time (See Pac-Guy: Resurrection). There would have to be some very supportive people banging down our doors to make anything new in that series. So never say never.
I even got emails as recently as last year asking about Pac-Guy for iOS which to me is just astounding. At some point I lost my heart to respond to the remaining fans and really just wanted it all to be forgotten. I don’t feel so bad about it all now, which is one reason I want the games to be free. Maybe they don’t have any life left in them, but what the hell.
I’ve been doing professional development for numerous different platforms for about eight years now, including many apps for iOS in the last few. It’s been great getting to the point in my career where I feel like I have the freedom and ability to create the things I can imagine. It’s always a struggle of course, as I am no artist and without collaboration quickly lose interest. Luckily I’m not alone and am looking forward to what the next few years will bring for both myself, and those that I have the pleasure of working with on projects for work, and fun projects on the side. I’m a firm believer in having passion projects as I think that’s where I end up learning a large percentage of the cool things I now know how to do. I absolutely adore my day job and think my hobbies only make me better at it.
To the fans…
I apologize for how bad I was at responding to so many of you over the years. There were hard times and we were all moving on with our lives, trying to find better work that didn’t feel so much like a failure. We are here though! I’ve been making a concerted effort to start being a more public developer, and hopefully you will all find this and possibly enjoy the games once again. More importantly, I hope you will all return to support us with our new projects and games we are working on, and plan on working on.
Former VP of Astral Entertainment