Chronos asks:

On a mechanical standpoint, do you think the gameplay would suffer if there were no chance involved with the pokeball successfully catching the pokemon (aka 100% capture rate for all pokeballs)?
Excluding legendaries from the discussion for the moment, the catch rate mechanic seems a unnecessary clunky relic. I liked how they simplified the TM/HM system and move deleter/rememberer in Sw/Sh and made managing teams and trying new combos much easier.
Not to mention from mid game onwards you usually have a surplus of pokeballs anyway, particularly Ultra and Quick balls, that when a capture fails it feels more like a waste of time than anything else.

Hmm.

So… not going to lie, my reaction to this suggestion was more or less:

“What?  No, that’s obviously dumb.

…wait, hang on, is it?”

Because there is definitely a part of me that rebels against the whole idea that you can just… go out and point at wild Pokémon and say “right, you, come on; we’ve got brunch in an hour and I want you dressed.”  Or.  Y’know.  Words to that effect.  But at the same time, the random binary success/failure of Pokéball captures is… not particularly elegant or interesting.  There’s really only one variable that the designers can use to make captures harder or easier – the “catch rate” of a particular species.  And trying to catch a Pokémon (like, say, a legendary Pokémon…) with a very low catch rate, while the random number generator laughs at you and throws day-old noodles in your face, is downright miserable and always has been.  Maybe in the 90s that $#!t counted as an interesting challenge, but frankly gaming has moved on since then.  Unfortunately there isn’t a whole lot else in the core series’ toolkit to make capturing Pokémon difficult; the games sort of recognise now that the painfully low outputs you can potentially get from the catch rate formulas of generations II-IV are just pointlessly brutal, but what else is there?  Nor, for that matter, do players have a lot of options for responding when a Pokémon is difficult to capture.  We have the same status effects we’ve been using since Red and Blue, a selection of specialised Pokéballs, most of them introduced in generations II and III… and that’s about it.

I think this is part of why Dynamax raid battles have been so well-received by most players of Sword and Shield; they present catching a Pokémon as a challenge that isn’t just the same “whittle down their health, apply Sleep Powder and throw Ultra Balls” routine that we’ve been doing for literally 25 years.  And I think that’s a better direction than just making all captures automatic: increase the range of different things that you need to do, or can do, to have captures be successful.

I’ve been playing a Pokémon-esque monster-catching game called Nexomon: Extinction recently and… well, it has a lot of failings, which I might eventually be convinced to expound on at length, and its capture mechanics are still based around binary success or failure with a variable percentage chance, just like Pokémon.  But, one decent thing it does is recognise that captures need to be more interesting; it has a little quick-time minigame that lets you boost your catch rates, as well as a system where you can feed Nexomon to make them more amenable to capture, and each species has different reactions to different foods.  If you just toss around Nexotraps (Nexomon’s reflavoured Pokéballs) willy-nilly, your odds of catching almost anything are very hit-and-miss, but if you stack all the modifiers that are available to you, you can pretty easily get close to 100% for all but the most intransigent legendary creatures.  Nexomon is also a lot more liberal with its Master Ball equivalents, Golden Nexotraps; you can collect a couple dozen over the course of a game, so you have a lot more opportunities to just say “fµ¢£ this $#!t, I want my life back.”  I don’t think Nexomon’s solutions to this problem are particularly close to the best possible version of the mechanic, but I think they’re going in the right direction: a wider range of modifiers that the player can exert control over, plus greater specificity in the particular actions that will work against each kind of creature.

8 thoughts on “Chronos asks:

  1. i think an interesting development of the mechanic would be if each species or certain types of pokemon were especially vunerable to certain types of capture strategy or if stat drops were accounted for, like having high speed pokemon being vunerable to trapping move or paraylsis with the logic that before they were evading your throws but now that they’re trapped/slowed you can actually hit them and their catch rate skyrockets, or inflicting attack drops to counter ‘physically strong’ pokemon that break out using strength.

    Also i think we should have more types of specialised pokeballs, for all situations, so that it’s more a matter of needing/having a single ball of the right *type* instead of spamming dozens of generic poke/great/ultra balls, you catch a flying type in one go with a feather ball and a fire type immediately with a blaze ball but if you don’t have those specific balls then you have to fall back on generic balls which is the current RNG catching method.

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  2. I do like the idea of ditching the RNG but it needs to be replaced with something. Without that, the moment you see a Pokémon you could catch it – you no longer need to weaken the opponent and you removed the only really “challenge” to capturing it. Additionally, you now made repels nearly irrelevant and random battles a non-threat because you could just catch any irritating Pokémon to get them out of the way. Wild encounters suddenly have no real risks, especially with the abundance of money in the games.

    I’m sure there’s a good middle ground, however. The most interesting capture mechanics I’ve seen were actually in World of Final Fantasy, a monster battling game in the Final Fantasy series. Every single monster has a different condition to capture it, which you can see when you “scan” it but you might not even be able to do with your current party. This requires you to, in a sense, prepare yourself when looking for certain monsters. One might need to be poisoned, while another might be need to be HEALED. That game still has some RNG unfortunately (fulfilling the condition makes it capturable but then you have to actually use the capture device, which isn’t consumed unless the capture is successful), but varying the capture method for each Pokémon sounds like a good start – granted, that’s a lot of Pokémon to do that for but I don’t think it’d be that complex, plus we probably aren’t getting the whole dex in one game again anyways.

    That being said, obviously they won’t redo capture mechanics that much and probably always will keep th RNG.

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  3. There’s another Pokemon inspired monster taming series I’ve been following called Kindred Fates, which sort of has a catching system that’s a blend of the max raid battles and Nexomon’s quick time mechanics. In that, you can fight and defeat wild Kinfolk, and then they disappear leaving a little soul flame in its place. You can then walk up to their soul, do a quick time minigame that has you press directional buttons in time, and if you do it you collect their soul which you can then revive at a shrine, after which they become a faithful companion.(the lore is that there’s some sort of mysterious “fog” that has caused them to go insane in the wild, and they’re grateful that you’ve freed them from it, the canonical more traditional method of obtaining Kinfolk is them joining you of their own accord, since they’re fully sapient and can talk in this series) And, yeah, not sure if this could apply to Pokemon since it’s very different in terms of its “catching” lore, but it’s it is much more satisfying if you caught something thanks to your own effort rather than a random number generator. Hmmm… MAYBE it could work like this: If you whittle down a Pokemon’s health to the red without defeating it, you can try to catch it the traditional random chance way, BUT if you defeat them instead you have the option of doing a quick time event minigame (in lore maybe this represents your Pokeball throwing technique) that’s pass or fail, and is easier or harder depending on what type of Pokeball you’re using. If you fail the minigame, the Pokemon simply breaks out then runs away, or maybe the Pokeball misses. Might be a neat addition to the series. I will say though, I still do kind of still like the old random chance method, made for some really tense moments in my childhood, though even then I think I prefer this way more.

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  4. I think a very good capture mechanic is Digimon’s, the cyber sleuth games let you scan the monsters and reload the full scan back into the world, you can either train a baby over the course of the game to get the legendary God killer, or you try to encounter the god killer enough times to gain it, it’s really interesting and still gives you the reverence of legendaries and the difficulty obtaining them, although I am not sure how it could work in pokemon, maybe a synthetic egg incubator that allows you to make more of the egg the more data you have on it? At least for legendaries and such, but still, just an idea.

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    1. Wait, we have a Pokémaniac Chris and now a Digidestined Chris too? It’s the two halves of my childhood combined! …well, with a couple of Chrises added.

      Anyway, I think you’re onto something here! The obvious answer I think is the Pokédex. I’m currently envisioning a combination of Digimon Story’s (the mechanic you described is part of the overall Story series) scanning mechanic with Monster Hunter World’s Scoutfly mechanic. In the latter game, creatures called Scoutflies follow you around and ‘senses’ the monster(s) you’re currently hunting; the more of that species of monster – or its marks like footprints, shed fur, blasted-out scales, etc. – you encounter in the wild, the better the Scoutflies get in locating that species on future hunts. In addition, according to the game if you capture monsters alive as opposed to slaying them, the Scoutflies are better-trained to track down monsters because they’re given time to sense the whole living monster for a time.

      So, in Pokémon I think it could work something like this: First, you encounter a Pokémon and scan it with your Pokédex. The Pokédex needs to have a functionality added where it tallies up how many times you’ve seen a certain Pokémon before. This is Digimon’s scanning mechanic. This functionality could be written in the lore as connecting with your Poké Balls, in that the more your Dex gets to scan a Pokémon through encountering it, the better your Poké Balls will be at catching it (perhaps by attuning its insides to that particular species’s needs?), with a 100% catch rate becoming possible after you’ve hit a certain milestone. This is the Scoutfly mechanic. For common Pokémon like Rattata, Pidgey, or Caterpie, you only need to see them twice or thrice to get to that 100% rate (the logic being they’re so common that Poké Balls come with built-in data on those Pokémon), and the rarer the Pokémon, the more times you need to encounter it – in the wild OR Trainer battles – to increase its catchability. You still can catch the first, I dunno, wild Dodrio you encounter if you want to try, but it’ll be down to RNG with the odds stacked against you. But if you fail, you still get something out of it as you’ll have an increased catch rate for Dodrio from the previous time you tried to catch one. The more failures you build up, the more likely you’ll succeed the next time around, which I think is a nice positive message to tie it all around, don’t you think?

      Btw, this hypothetical scanning/catch rate mechanic could absolutely be combined with the existing weaken-and-put-status-conditions-on-it-then-chuck-Balls approach Pokémon’s got going on, I think.

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  5. Honestly, I think the simplest solution to this would be the best; let the player catch a pokemon once it’s health has reached 0, with 100% success rate. You still have to interact and engage with it, there’s no RNG, and it’s not a convoluted mess of intersecting mechanics. The only “Downside” I could think of would be that it’d be easier to catch weaker Pokemon with stronger ones, but if it’s weaker then your current Pokemon anyway it’s not destroy the game balance that much I think.

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