N asks:

Are bad dads a constant in the Pokémon Universe? Like i can’t remember for the life of me a single good father in the franchise. Hell, the entire plot of the Detective pickachu movie hinges on a son being unable to recognize his own father’s voice.

Well, I can think of… a couple of good dads: Professor Birch, in Ruby and Sapphire, seems to have a very strong relationship with his child, May/Brendan (whichever one isn’t the player character), while Norman, the player character’s father, is away all the time because he works in a different city but seems like a decent enough parent when we actually get to see him.  Bianca’s dad in Black and White… doesn’t really “get it,” but he’s at least trying not to be a $#!tty dad.

There is a standard explanation for this one, and there will always be one person who brings it up, which is: “absent fathers are a theme in Japanese fiction because Japanese fathers work 500 hours a day and are never around.”  That’s… true, and it explains a lot of the $#!ttiness of many Pokémon fathers – like Palmer in Diamond and Pearl being so distant from Barry, or Hau’s unnamed father in Sun and Moon being off in Kanto somewhere doing god knows what.  I think a lot of it really is just Pokémon’s own priorities, though, and a general lack of interest in the families of the player or other major characters (it would be fair to say, I think that the plots of these games are not what you’d call “character-driven”).  Like… fathers who are absent or distant because they work all the time are also a theme of American fiction; American fiction has practically created entire genres out of emotionally stunted men’s obsession with their $#!tty father figures.  But that’s not what the fathers of Pokémon’s main characters are like; they’re just not there, with no explanation and no relevance to anything.  Plenty of other characters have fathers who clearly exist, even if they’re not around very much or aren’t very good parents.  It’s also fairly common for both parents to be equally absent (as in Brock and Misty’s cases; I don’t think we ever meet Hau’s mother either).  I think the presence of the main character’s mother in each game is, in most cases, something of an admission that, at a bare minimum, it would be weird for a child to grow up completely alone.

Patch asks:

With regional variants no longer restricted to gen I Pokémon, it might be a good time to consider which of the Unovan Pokémon you rejected you would like to give a regional vatiant?

Hmmm… tricky…

There’s probably a fair bit you could do by building on the industrial revolution theme that some of the generation VIII material we’ve seen already seems to be going for.  I could see Heatmor getting some kind of region-specific evolution that builds up to a whole steam engine, maybe changing its type to Fire/Water or Fire/Steel (although the implied comparisons to Volcanion or Heatran would not be flattering).  Or even a Galarian form of… [ahem]… grbdr… that’s based on a sack of coal, making it a Fire/Poison-type that also gets Rock attacks.  Then, on another angle, we could have a Steel/Fairy form of Pawniard and Bisharp based on white pieces from the famous Lewis chess set from Mediaeval Scotland, to contrast the original black Unovan ones.  Possibly some sort of “royal” form for Swanna, but I’m not sure where exactly to take that.

Ashe asks:

You mentioned a while back that if you had your way, Pokémon would have less types, and Water would be one of the types on the chopping block. Can you elaborate more about which types you’d cut and why, and what would remain in your ideal type chart?

It goes through… iterations, depending on how much wild abandon I’m feeling from day to day, and what kind of scope I’m imagining for whatever hypothetical redesign of the Pokémon games that would give me this opportunity.  The common thread of my logic is that (contrary, I think, to a lot of fans) I don’t believe more types actually make the game better. Once you have about seven or eight you’ve probably already exhausted 90% of the strategic depth they add to the battle system (compare the TCG, which originally had just seven, although it was more or less forced to expand to eleven by the introduction of new types in generations II and VI, as well as the proliferation of Dragon-types starting in generation III). Having more just makes it harder to memorise all the relationships, and makes the game harder to get into. Like, I get it because I had the bulk of it seared into my impressionable child brain when I was nine, changes in generations II and VI notwithstanding, but if I picked up my first Pokémon game today, in my late 20s, I’m not sure I’d think that was worth my time (though I admit it helps that recent games in the core series display the type effectiveness of your moves against your opponents).  There’s an argument that more types enable a wider range of creature designs, but I think you can actually achieve the same result with fewer types more broadly defined. But let’s actually take a stab at answering this question.

Continue reading “Ashe asks:”

AceTrainerAlvaro asks:

Type (re)Design 1: I doubt the logic of type differences will ever be rigorously explained in-game to satisfy veterans who grew up with the series but I am curious about tinkering with weaknesses/strengths from a design perspective. For instance, I think it’s a design flaw that Rock- and Ground-type – hardy “earthen types” if you will – have so many weaknesses in common because it that discourages these types from appearing together in future designs given how crippling a 4× weakness to both common Water- and Grass-type attacks can be. An early idea I had was to combine these types into a single Earth-type but I realize this is unlikely and would mean cancelling out some of the more interesting resistances/immunities of either Rock- and Ground-types. My other idea would be to remove Ground-type weakness to Water-type attacks (becoming 1× normal damage) and remove Rock-type weakness (also becoming 1× normal damage) to Grass-type attacks. That means the Rhyhorn and Geodude families for instance would only suffer 2× weakness to either Grass- or Water-type attacks.

Thoughts? Or is this plea overly specific?

I have… a bit of a history of badmouthing Ground as a type that doesn’t really have a point, or any thematic unity. You could get rid of it, I think, and we would manage without it. I tend to think that, all else being equal, a smaller and less complicated type chart is actually better, as long as it doesn’t restrict design space.  There is an argument that we need some variable in the game that makes Flying Pokémon immune to Dig, Earthquake and Magnitude, but every other strength and weakness of the Ground type either overlaps with Rock (as you noted – weak to Grass and Water, strong against Fire) or doesn’t actually seem flavour-essential.  Why do Ground attacks need to do extra damage to Poison-types?  Or reduced damage to Bug-types?  There are also plenty of Ground attacks that… don’t seem like Flying-types should automatically dodge them?  Drill Run, Mud Shot, Sand Tomb, Earth Power… Bonemerang, for heaven’s sake.  I think it would actually make more sense to have specific attacks flagged as “this doesn’t work on anything that flies or levitates.”