Would it be possible for Pokemon to retire the concept of “fainting”? Originally, Game Freak wasn’t even sure what fainting even meant–when you tried to send out a fainted Pokemon it said “there’s no will left to fight,” and in the early anime trainers simply withdrew a Pokemon when it clearly couldn’t fight anymore. So what if “[Pokemon] fainted” could be replaced with “[Pokemon] gave in” or something?
I’m not sure that it matters, particularly? I certainly wouldn’t have a problem with changing it, but “fainted” isn’t a terrible word for what they use it to mean, and the condition itself is simple enough – the Pokémon can’t battle, full stop – that I don’t think it’s all that important to have precise language for describing it. You could do away with the entire concept, and replace it with a range of more specific ways a Pokémon can be debilitated, each caused by particular attack types, requiring specialised forms of care and having different lingering effects after the Pokémon is healed. I think you could build an interesting system out of that, although it wouldn’t be a very good fit with Pokémon’s general direction over the last several generations; it’s more of a “darker and grittier” mechanic. If it’s just changing the name to slightly better reflect what we already imagine is happening, I could happily go either way.
The most important Pokemon move, in terms of its centralizing impact on the competitive metagame (at least in singles), is probably Stealth Rock. Having a Stealth Rock setter on your team is essentially mandatory in serious competitive singles play, and Pokemon like Volcarona and Charizard are singlehandedly dropped several tiers of competitive viability by their 4x weakness to Stealth Rock.
On the one hand, it does seem useful to have some way to check endless switching. But on the other hand, this one single move being Rock type has a really unfortunate impact on the competitive metagame for those of us who favor types that happen to be weak to Rock. The changes to Defog in Gen VI seem to have been intended at least partly as a SR nerf, so Game Freak seems at least somewhat inclined to agree, but several generations later, the impact of Stealth Rock is still enormous.
In your view, is this something that needs fixing? If so, how would you fix it? Remove type advantage/disadvantage from Stealth Rock damage? Add other mutually-exclusive entry hazards of other types (“Stealth Ice???”), forcing teams to decide which they’ll run in a way similar to Terrain? Other ideas?
So, mutually exclusive entry hazards of different types have been my go-to solution for this in the past, but I think there’s several things you could do – some of which Game Freak has done. You mentioned Defog, which I kind of like, since it’s a much more widely available counter to entry hazards, but comes at a cost that Rapid Spin doesn’t have (clearing your own hazards as well), and there’s also the new Heavy-Duty Boots item in Sword and Shield that just makes a Pokémon straight-up immune. Those are both a little blunt for my liking, though; they hit all entry hazards, when we really just want to hit Stealth Rock. I remember Smogon’s very first Create-A-Pokémon, Syclant, was a Bug/Ice-type with an ability that made it immune to Rock-type damage on the turn it switched in, which is an interesting response, but more a cool toy for that Pokémon in particular than a real nerf to Stealth Rock. You could just reduce Stealth Rock’s damage directly, but honestly its neutral damage output is probably fine; you could take away its ability to do more or less damage based on the target’s weakness or resistance to Rock, but that’s the most interesting thing about the move. That’s why I like the idea of having several competing options for that slot, with different type properties; it actually introduces an additional interesting decision (which one is most helpful for your team composition?), while also reducing the victimisation of Pokémon who are weak to Rock attacks in particular. On the other hand, it’s clunky – why are these moves mutually exclusive, when Spikes and Toxic Spikes aren’t? And what’s the best way of communicating that to a new player? My latest idea is to have Stealth Rock actually wear out over time; it can do a total of eight (or twelve, or some other number) “ticks” of damage, each of which is equal to 1/8 of the target’s health (Stealth Rock’s standard neutral damage). Pokémon with a Rock weakness still take a lot more damage, but they also wear the rocks out faster, which turns an unfair-feeling punishment into an additional strategic calculation. It’s another thing players then have to keep track of during battles, but you could probably add a counter or something to the battle UI (which has already been picking up some useful extra functions over the last few generations).
Now that we’ve had the Fairy type for a while, how well do you think they achieved their conceptual goals, which ostensibly were to both nerf Dragon Pokemon and re-assert the offensive relevance of Poison and Steel types?
Pretty well, I guess? A lot of Dragon-types are still really good, but they’re largely carried by their extremely high base stats now; the game is noticeably much less about throwing Draco Meteors and Outrages while blocking with Steel-types than it was in generations IV and V. You can’t really make a competitive team with, like, four or five Pokémon from one of those two types and expect it to work, which… you arguably could, for a while? You still probably wouldn’t stick a Poison attack on a non-Poison Pokémon unless you were really strapped for better options, but I guess I feel less bad about using Poison-types in offensive roles now. Steel as an attack type often still feels redundant with other attacks that a lot of the same Pokémon tend to learn (and when do you need a type advantage against Ice, anyway? They don’t resist anything; just hit ‘em with whatever), but Steel Pokémon are fine, obviously.
Why do you think Rotation Battles sorta just stopped being a thing?
Well… well, I want to just answer “because they were kinda dumb and gimmicky and probably not worth the effort,” but upon sober reflection that might be slightly unfair. I don’t think alternate battle formats with different fundamental rules are in principle a bad idea; they mix up what can be a somewhat repetitive core gameplay experience, and depending on exactly what rules you change, they can be ways for otherwise useless Pokémon to get some time in the spotlight (there are quite a few that have never been good in singles, but shine in doubles because of their support skills). I don’t know much about how rotation battles tend to play, though, because… well, because hardly anyone ever played them. Even in generation V I don’t think there were ever many big tournaments that used rotation battles as the format, or a large competitive community. And… well… even the games themselves sort of treat them as a gimmick. There are so few rotation battles in the single player story that you never really get a feel for how they’re different from single or double battles, so it doesn’t feel important to learn how they work and there isn’t any case made for why anyone would want to play them. They’re just… kind of superfluous, and to make them not superfluous they needed to have more support from the very beginning, not just be kept around for the sake of completeness.
I have also seen a suggestion that axing triple and rotation battles for Sun and Moon might have something to do with the graphical capabilities of the 3DS. Triples and rotations in X and Y are… well, they have performance issues, put it that way, and Sun and Moon noticeably struggle to run at normal speed even with four Pokémon on screen in a double battle. I don’t know that this was a factor in discontinuing them, but it kinda makes sense to me? The Switch is more powerful and Sword and Shield don’t seem to have these problems, so mayyyyyyybe there’s an argument there for the return of triples and rotations in a future game? Not sure.
How would you change/better balance Ice type Pokemon, aside from making them resistant to water-type attacks?
Well… I think Ice should be bad defensively; I think that works as a type identity thing. It doesn’t need to be as bad as it is, though. Resistance to just one other common, strong attack type probably makes it about as good defensively as Psychic, which is a poor defensive type but not actually comical, and supports a decent variety of tank and support Pokémon. Water… well, Water does seem like the most logical choice there; it’s not perfect, because one thing that Ice-type tanks need is a point of distinction from Water-type tanks (who both resist Ice attacks and can normally learn them). Maybe there’s an argument there for resistance to Dragon (although at that point you probably need to give Dragon a buff somewhere else) or Ground, instead of Water. I know you said aside from that, but I really don’t know that there needs to be much more, at least not in terms of adjustments to the type chart itself; Ice is also really strong offensively and I don’t want to risk overtuning it. I like the more indirect buffs like the addition of new Hail synergies – Aurora Veil, Slush Rush, Ice Face – and I like the suggestion in the comments of this post that Ice-types should get a physical defence buff during hail, to parallel the special defence buff that Rock-types get during sandstorms.
A while back, you cautiously played with the idea of replacing the physical/special split with a spectrum, where Flare Blitz would be 80% physical and 20% special for instance. You said this would probably be too radical. But what if there were just a “mixed” category of moves (50% physical and 50% special)? You could change some moves to mixed (like Rock Throw, Razor Leaf, Earthquake etc) and in exchange buff their power a bit.
On second thought, “mixed” attacks wouldn’t need a power buff, since they’d be as hard to defend against as to attack with. But my question remains the same otherwise.
what… exactly did I say…?
Oh, here it is.
So… it’s been a while and I can’t testify with 100% certainty to my state of mind when I wrote that, but I think when I said “such a radical change I’m not even sure I’d want to do it,” I didn’t mean “this is too much of a departure and the fan base would never buy it,” so much as “I am worried this might break some important aspects of the game’s strategy in a way that isn’t immediately obvious to me and can’t be balanced out in a straightforward way.” If you have this category of mixed moves, then the whole concept of “wall” Pokémon changes quite significantly, because it’s much less viable to focus on just one type of defence, which in turn shifts the balance of the game significantly towards offence. That may be totally fine, but I don’t know, and I don’t really have the capacity to find out. It’s a sufficiently foundational change to the battle system that I’m nervous about unreservedly declaring that it’s a good idea, and I’m not sure that it’s possible to work that out theoretically. On the other hand, we do have Psyshock, a special attack that does physical damage, which hasn’t broken anything, and “mixed” attacks would be more demanding of attackers as well, who’d need to invest in both attack stats. So maybe it’s completely fine? I don’t know. That’s all that means; I still don’t know.
I was wondering what your thoughts are on how Pokemon Masters handles typings. Now, I know the game is a shameless gacha cash grab so in the likely chance you haven’t touched it (and for good reason): Pokemon don’t have a type, exactly. Pokémon moves all have a type and Pokemon themselves each have one individual weakness. So while Blastoise is weak to electric, Feraligatr is weak to grass. Most Pokemon only have moves of one type which is probably the most relevant factor, though some have two move types (like Ho-Oh having fire, Overheat, and grass, Solar Beam). Now maybe having one weakness is oversimplifying, but having weaknesses depending on an individual basis and reserving typings for moves does have its own implications. Thoughts?
Well, I wanted to give Masters a try when it first came out, but the fact is, my phone is just too $#!tty to run it with anything resembling acceptable performance, and I’m not about to change my lifelong policy of carrying only the $#!ttiest phone on the market just for this game. So I don’t really know how this works out in practice. In general I’m in favour of simplifying Pokémon’s type system and I have in the past suggested… well, basically the elements of this system that you’re highlighting, but I think with only one weakness and two moves (potentially two moves of the same type) per Pokémon, this might be too simple to transfer well to the core games. Masters has triple battles as its default format and focuses much more heavily on trainers’ ability to support their Pokémon, so it simply doesn’t need to place the same weight on the Pokémon themselves; it has other avenues for creating complexity.
Hey, so I know you’re an utter madman and would like to eliminate types from the chart. That sounds really unnecessary but. If you got to rebalance the type chart a bit, change some of the dynamics, what would you do? How will you help the poor ice types? Will you finally stop the steel types?
I think you’ve maybe misunderstood me, because to me these are two unrelated issues. I don’t think the 18-type chart is, in principle, impossible to balance (I do think that 900 Pokémon are, in principle, impossible to balance, but that’s another whole thing). I don’t want to cut down the number of types because I think it would make the game more balanced (I mean, it might, but I don’t think it’s the only or best way to do that, and it wouldn’t be enough on its own). I want to cut it down… as weird as this will sound, basically for aesthetic reasons – to whit, I think it’s an ugly, overcomplicated mess that doesn’t actually need to exist. Beautiful or elegant game mechanics, to me, are ones where complex gameplay and strategy arise from the interactions of simple rules and principles. The type chart means that Pokémon does this in reverse: the fundamental rules are complicated and counterintuitive, but the resulting gameplay is not particularly any more interesting than it would be using a greatly reduced system.
I will admit, having said all this, that (like many things) I say this stuff partly just to be contrary. I’m not even all that committed to it; I just want to force everyone to think about it. I mean, people talk all the time about what new types they’d want to add, from time to time people ask me to talk about types I’d like to add; so clearly no one thinks the type chart is sacred and can’t be changed. Why is it so much more uncomfortable to talk about getting rid of some of it; why is anyone bothered when I say that I think that might be a good idea? It’s an uncontroversial axiom of good design that you should leave out or trim down elements that are unnecessary or bloated, but after last year’s… invigorating discussions… about Sword and Shield, I get the impression that a good chunk of the Pokémon fan community is pretty strongly opposed to what I think is a fairly obvious principle. I’d like people to consider, when they talk about game design in Pokémon and all the cool ideas they want to add, whether there are also things they’d like to remove – because that can also improve a game.
Anyway, to the question you actually asked… whatever, Steel should have a lot of resistances but maybe it could do with one more weakness (Water?), Grass and Bug are comically shafted and shouldn’t be resisted by so many things (maybe lose Flying for Grass and Ghost for Bug), thematically I just think it would be really neat for Normal to be strong against Fairy (it should really be strong against something)… and at that point I guess you should probably stop and playtest for a bit before tinkering any further. Something like that.
IV-training and competitive battling aside, sometimes I feel training your Pokémon in battle is too straight-forward and controlled. I’d like to see a mechanic where even a wild-caught Pokémon occasionally disobeys its trainer’s command (maybe it “slacks off” or uses a different move altogether) or feels overwhelmed / flinches and returns to its Pokéball for an ally to replace it. And this becomes less likely the more trust (higher friendship value) a given Pokémon has towards its trainer until it fades away once High Friendship (value 200) is achieved. Keep in mind each Pokémon species is assigned a base friendship level when caught so disobedience could be more pronounced for certain species (which naturally feature a lower baseline friendship value when caught) than others. I’d especially like to see this play out in pseudo-legendary lines, legendary/mythical Pokémon, and maybe special versions of certain species – regardless of how many badges you have (obedience according to your number of collected badges could remain a separate mechanic specific to traded Pokémon).
So, I think this changes the “vibe,” if you will, considerably. I suspect if you just implement mechanics like this in the core Pokémon games as they currently exist, and don’t also add some kind of additional systems for developing your relationship with your Pokémon that come with associated benefits, players would unreservedly hate it. It’s a whole extra mechanic standing between us and what we already understand to be “normal” battling, which makes the game much harder – but in a random and frustrating way, not in a way you can be strategic about. I appreciate the goal here, making your friendships with your Pokémon something you really have to work at, but there’s got to be more to it, carrots and not just sticks, and ways of working around the disadvantages.
Having said all that, if you wanted to rebuild Pokémon to be a much more punishing and painful game all around – something in the spirit of the Nuzlocke challenge, for instance – this mechanic might be an interesting addition as it stands; something that will, from time to time, just randomly cause you to lose a Pokémon and force you to adapt to that loss. Throw in Nuzlocke staples like permanent death and limited, randomised Pokémon choice; reduce access to Pokémon Centres and sharply limit healing items (maybe lock high-quality healing behind some kind of crafting system); add some permanent debilitating conditions (so, like, less experienced Pokémon might disobey you, but more experienced Pokémon might also have picked up scars or developed phobias that give them specific weak points); remove some of the quality-of-life stuff from the last few generations like easy EV training methods… maybe then we’ve got a game on our hands. Either way, it’s got to be part of a package of mechanics with a definite theme and feel, is the point.