Larry asks:

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.

AceTrainerAlvaro asks:

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).

Thoughts?

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.

The Dag asks:

What are your opinions on Pokemon Reborn, and whether fanmade games could possibly find elements of themselves incorporated into future canon games?

I don’t think I have an opinion on Pokémon Reborn; I don’t know anything about it.  The second part of this question… I think might have some legal or at least moral hazard to it?  Like, if someone creating a Pokémon fan game creates a cool new mechanic, and that mechanic is later incorporated into a commercial game and the original designer is not compensated in any way… well, I don’t think that would be illegal because (as I understand it) you can’t copyright a game mechanic and it would be extremely difficult to prove that Game Freak didn’t come up with the same idea independently (unless they straight up jacked the fan game’s code, which… well, why?), but it certainly seems sleazy to me?  And, indeed, arguably more so than doing the same with a mechanic from a game that had its own profitable release and was designed by a paid developer.  I don’t know; if I worked for Game Freak I think I might avoid even looking at fan games just so I didn’t need to have that debate with myself.

The Unholy Offspring of Gigantamax Garbodor, Alolan Muk and Galarian Weezing asks:

What’s something you hope to never see in the franchise? Aside from me of course?

I dunno if there is anything… like, my first thought is “microtransactions in a core Pokémon game” but even then, well, I don’t think I’d mind that for cosmetics like trainer clothing or fancy hairstyles, which make a lot of economic sense for the developers and don’t actually hurt the experience of players who don’t buy them.

I think it’s genuinely difficult to come up with a really unsalvageable idea that is bad in all circumstances without regard to specifics.  Generally when someone suggests a hypothetical feature for a future Pokémon game to me (which is sort of a genre of question that I get here quite often), it’s possible to imagine good and bad ways it might be executed.  Maybe I don’t think it works for what I currently understand as the direction of Pokémon’s worldbuilding and ethos, but it could be great as part of a totally new creative direction.

You could imagine something really specific, like… well, some kind of fusion of Gigantamax Garbodor, Alolan Muk and Galarian Weezing… but that also seems so specific and unlikely that “hope to never see it” is… not really the right phrase? 

Mr. Rected asks:

So now that we have Mega Evolution, Z Moves, and Dyna/Gigantamaxing, if you were in charge, for Gen 9, what would be their totally unprecedented, initially controversial, yet eventually beloved battling Schtick,? Also what type of cake do you think would taste best half burned?

Well, the answer to the cake question, I know from experience, is chocolate; like, ideally you don’t ever want your cake half-burned, but I would say that, of the half-burned cakes, chocolate is the one that suffers the least.

As for the other thing… sooooooooo, I don’t just have a developed idea for one of these lying around, and I’m not sure if there is a “best” answer unless we develop the setting and story in concert (which… no; go away and leave me alone), but here’s three spitball ideas.

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Ms. Guided asks:

What do you think of the original game concept of having to eventually battle the opposing Pokemon yourself should all of yours be defeated?

I think it might be…

mis-guided?

…okay, you have to let me have that one; you were asking for it.

So, I don’t think we actually know for sure that trainers were going to take part in combat.  That’s one interpretation of some of the old concept art for Red and Green and all the trainers from Generation I who use whips, but as far as I know no-one from Game Freak or Nintendo has told us “yeah, we were thinking of letting you fight them yourself.”  Regardless… I think if you include that, Pokémon has to be a fairly different game and world from what it ended up being.  Mechanically, the trainer is going to end up acting like a seventh Pokémon, but it’s one that you can’t change or do anything interesting with, which is weird and jarring in a game that’s otherwise about building a team from hundreds of choices.  So, in order for it to not be a drag, you have to build a whole bunch of new systems and options for trainer combat, or maybe systems where you can optimise your trainer for either direct combat or other things.  That sounds interesting, don’t get me wrong, and I’ve even had a bunch of ideas for different abilities that trainers might have (haven’t we all?), but it sounds like it would be a nightmare to balance, especially if you want trainer combat to be a last resort, and you probably need to devise a whole separate experience system.  And do you use any of this in battles against other trainers?   If not, then it’s going to be a minor enough part of the game that you might as well not bother (because how often do you expect players to lose their entire teams to wild Pokémon?), but if you do, then what on earth does that do to the concept of what a Pokémon battle is?  If you beat your opponent’s Pokémon after yours have already lost, do you fight your opponent hand-to-hand?  Even if you aren’t fighting other trainers one-on-one, the world clearly feels  a lot more dangerous this way; like, in the games we have, your Pokémon are knocked out and you run back to a Pokémon Centre with them, and wild Pokémon don’t pursue you at that point.  If you’re fighting a vastly more powerful opponent by yourself as a last-ditch effort, what does that imply about the stakes?  Like, I don’t know if the Pokédex quest was a thing at this point in development, but is Professor Oak sending you out into the wild to catch Pokémon, knowing full well that they will try to kill you?  Clearly this isn’t something you can just plug into Pokémon as it exists; you have to start from the beginning and I think there’s potential for the end result to turn out either better or worse.

Leo M. R. [Patreon cultist] asks:

Imagine Game Freak gave us a new set of starters in a future generation, but instead of the traditional Grass-Fire-Water scheme, it’s a trio of types that have zero interaction with one another; say, Dark, Poison, and Flying. I can only imagine how the fanbase would react upon the initial announcement…

…BUT, upon reaching their fully-evolved forms, they adopt secondary types that are – you guessed it – Grass, Fire, and Water to become Dark/Grass, Poison/Fire, and Flying/Water, thereby simultaneously doing something new with the starters while still adhering to the tried-and-tested formula (and yes, I did choose those three types specifically so that each starter would have a double weakness, and not to each other). Obviously Game Freak shouldn’t announce the final forms prior to the games’ release to maximize that surprise factor. What do you think? Sound like a fun idea?

Honestly I think the initial fanbase reaction would be positive, because “a new starter type trio, even if it makes no sense” tends to get brought up a lot as a fun way to shake up the formula (if anything I suspect some people would be disappointed by the eventual return to Grass/Fire/Water, but whatever; you can’t please everyone).  I’m… sceptical; like, of all the things you could do to change Pokémon’s formula, “change the types of the starters” seems like maybe the tamest.

Continue reading “Leo M. R. [Patreon cultist] asks:”