Leo M.R. asks:

I think the execution of Solar Power is bizarre. It’s understandably given to various Pokémon who are supposed to draw power from the sun (e.g. Sunflora or Heliolisk) but the HP loss means that these Pokémon would actually be *harmed* from being in intense sunlight. Sure, they get that Sp. Atk boost but is it worth the drawback? The current mechanics of Solar Power would actually incentivize them to not be in the sun, unless they’re feeling particularly suicidal and want to go out in a solar blaze of glory. I wonder two things:

1) Must there even *be* a drawback to Solar Power? Other weather-dependent Abilities don’t have drawbacks (compare Chlorophyll, which just freely doubles your Speed); I feel like Solar Power giving Pokémon a free Sp. Atk boost wouldn’t break the game; 2) If there *must* be a drawback, why not have it so that it increases your Sp. Atk in sunlight but decreases it in rain/any other weather condition? Making a Solar Power Pokémon wholly dependent on the weather – their own preferred weather – makes more sense to me than the current ‘they lose an eighth of their health every turn even though it’s their preferred weather’ thing.

I dunno if I’m with you on this.  There’s not no precedent to the way Solar Power works – it’s unlike the other weather abilities, sure, but its drawback is pretty similar to the way a Life Orb functions.  You get more power, you lose health every turn.  Solar Power seems worse: it takes more of your HP (1/8 per turn rather than 1/10), only benefits special attacks and doesn’t work without the weather support, but its bonus is larger (50% rather than 30%).  I think the trade-off is more interesting than a pure buff, although there’s certainly an argument that Solar Power isn’t strong enough to make up for the damage it does to you.  I would also suggest that thematically it makes sense for the Pokémon that get it; Charizard is all about burning up in a blaze of glory and Mega Houndoom has a certain self-destructive cast to it, while for Grass Pokémon like Sunflora and Tropius, their weakness to Fire attacks has always made fighting under the sun a bit of a double-edged sword.  Actually, it really reminds me of the energy-burning effects that Charizard and other Fire Pokémon tend to have in the TCG, where you have ridiculous power on tap, but you have to win quickly and efficiently because you’re destroying so much of your own resources. It’s like the sheer CELESTIAL POWER of the BLAZING SUN is too great for your mortal body to contain and it will BURN YOU FROM THE INSIDE if you try to channel it for too long.

Chlorophyll and Solar Power aren’t really comparable, in my opinion, because speed works differently to all the other stats; once you’re 1 point faster than the competition, you already have everything you’re going to get out of extra speed.  Extra special attack only stops being useful when you’re already powerful enough to one-shot everything that matters, which is a much higher threshold.  The other consideration is that most Pokémon with Chlorophyll are pretty slow to begin with (the major exceptions being Jumpluff, who can’t actually do anything, and Whimsicott, who gets more out of Prankster anyway); the ability bumps them up to merely “acceptable.”  Apart from Tropius, all the Pokémon that get Solar Power have quite high special attack stats already.  They still aren’t very good, but it’s not specifically a lack of power that lets them down, so I’m not convinced that buffs to Solar Power would change their fortunes.  Sunflora and Tropius are bad because they’re slow and have garbage movepools; Heliolisk’s problems are that it’s ludicrously fragile and it can’t figure out which weather condition it wants to synergise with; Charizard historically has mostly been fµ¢£ed over by its double weakness to Stealth Rock, but hey, at least we have Heavy Duty Boots now.  Dynamax that $#!t, you can really easily set up your own weather support with Max Flare and go to town.

I’m also… honestly not even sure Solar Power is a bad ability? Like, a 50% buff to special attack, on top of any bonuses your moves already get from bright sunlight, really is quite a lot! It’s a bigger bonus than Sand Force, which is the only other ability that gives you extra damage from weather. I think the only reason we don’t see more of it is because most of the Pokémon that get it are so terrible. I mean… Sunflora? I’m not even sure Wonder Guard would make Sunflora good. Tropius is less awful but still pretty ineffectual; Heliolisk has pretty nice stats for a weather-based sweeper but also has basically no Fire attacks and is better under rain with Dry Skin (despite being a Pokémon with a solar energy theme and the Greek word for “sun” in its name). The only Pokémon you’d ever really expect to see succeeding with Solar Power is Charizard, and that genuinely kinda works, even with Charizard’s iffy special movepool and the Stealth Rock weakness that makes it nearly impossible to take a Life Orb (or really any item other than Heavy Duty Boots).

what was the question?

yeah, no, I think Solar Power is actually fine

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?”

Continue reading “Chronos asks:”

particle asks:

What would you think about scalar-typing? To keep it simpler you could have half, normal, and double value typings. STAB, weaknesses and resistances just get multiplied by .5 or 2. Girafarig could be normal & half-psychic, golem could be double-rock, maybe something like bibarel could be strictly half-water.

My worry is that it sort of… makes the game more complicated without adding any actual strategic depth.  You’re still multiplying together a bunch of factors to figure out whether you can KO a given Pokémon with a given attack in one shot, or two, or three; there are still going to be some Pokémon that survive particular super-effective attacks and others that don’t.  The decision-making processes, both in team building and during battles, are going to be the same; there’s just more variables to keep track of.  I’m not sure there’s any compelling reason for it either; I don’t think there are any Pokémon that really need half- or double-strength types to properly express their identity.  Also, double STAB would be crazy powerful and the idea makes me nervous.  Pokémon already has some pretty big damage multipliers and I don’t think we need bigger ones.

P.S. Merry Christmas to readers who celebrate it, and happy solstice to those who don’t.  I’m just sitting here in my made-up paradise country enjoying the summer sun and the freedom to gather in groups with people outside my household, so… uh… don’t worry about me, and stay safe, everyone – especially those in the US and UK.

creamCloud asks:

Something that i’ve noticed recently is that despite pikachu being technically weaker than all the other pika-clones in later generations [BST 320 as opposed to the others floating somewhere around 400-430, raichu 485 for reference] functionally it’s better due to having more toys to play with: a larger base movepool and various event moves, light orb and other unique items, eviolite, ect… and while some do have their own unique traits still get overshadowed by the original, So my question is this: what would you give the other pika-clones that would allow each to stand out in it’s own way? such as an evolution, signature move or item, higher stats, new ability?

Well… I’m not gonna design evolutions for half a dozen Pokémon right here, but maybe there are some things we can sketch out here.

I actually did put together rough ideas for evolutions for Plusle, Minun and Pachirisu as part of the “top 10 worst Pokémon ever” series I did way back in 2012; you can find that here: https://pokemaniacal.com/2012/02/06/the-top-ten-worst-pokemon-ever-6-plusle-minun/.  I’m pretty lukewarm on the actual details of these now, but I think the basic ideas (other than just “evolve them to justify much higher stats”) were sound: buff the Plus and Minus abilities to emphasise Plusle and Minun’s teamwork ideal, and give Pachirisu a lot more trickery- and theft-themed moves to go with its cleverness and collection themes.  I was also grudgingly convinced to do the same thing for Dedenne when I reviewed the Kalos generation: https://pokemaniacal.com/2014/07/28/dedenne-2/.  Here, the main thing I wanted was for Dedenne to have a powerful signature move to make up for its lack of any decent Fairy attacks (this obviated to some extent in Sword and Shield with the addition of Dazzling Gleam to its movepool, but… well, Dedenne could still use a bit more oomph).  I think the important thing is to emphasise what makes each Pokémon interesting (to the extent that there, uh… is anything interesting about them).

Continue reading “creamCloud asks:”

Tapu Wooloo asks:

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.

Osprey asks:

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).

Ty asks:

So there’s a Pokemon fan game that I’ve been enjoying for quite a while now called Pokemon Rejuvenation, and while they stay pretty true to the original Pokemon games, they also have added new things on top of the old system like more complex field effects, Gym Leaders with exclusive, signature moves, and a hard level cap where your Pokemon stop getting EXP at a certain point until you get your next badge.

One of these things I’d love to hear your opinion on, which is Pokemon Crests. Crests are inspired by items like Marowak’s Thick Club and Farfetch’d’s Stick. Pokemon Crests can be held by specific Pokemon to give them advantages to help make weaker Pokemon stronger. Here are some examples that were added: [cutting this for space and moving it to the end]

There are several more Crests, but you get the picture. What are your thoughts on this concept, how you like it in comparison to other ways of strengthening weaker Pokemon that we’ve seen, and how reasonable do you think this solution is?

Continue reading “Ty asks:”

House Hightower of the Hightower asks:

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.

A Bucket of Water asks:

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.

Camarasaurus asks:

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.