The Dag asks:

Why do you think Poison-type Pokemon were so commonplace and widespread in Gen I and since then have been relatively scarce since?

Honestly, maybe the fact that it’s true is the reason for the thing itself?  Like, if balance of the number of Pokémon in each type is something that Game Freak cares about at all, then you could fairly look at the 33 first-generation Poison-types and say “okay, we have more than enough of these.”  Per Bulbapedia, Poison is still the 8th most common type out of 18, despite gaining only three new members in generation II, four in III and just two (Skrelp and Dragalge) in VI.

I think Poison is just… a weird thing to even be a type, frankly.  It’s like Flying, in that it’s more something a Pokémon does than something a Pokémon is (except arguably in the case of industrial waste Pokémon like Muk and Weezing), and it’s not hard to imagine its abilities being given fairly freely to Pokémon who aren’t actually members of the type.  And… well, think of other JRPGs.  Poison is always a status effect; off the top of my head I can’t think of any games that have a concept of status effects where poison isn’t one of them.  However, I think I’m justified in saying that it’s very rarely, if ever, a trait of monsters that affects their general strengths and weaknesses.  Having Poison as a type at all is a very weird decision, both conceptually and in terms of mechanical game design, and generation I also slaps it on several Pokémon for whom poison is… arguably not a very strong part of their identity – Bulbasaur, Golbat, Nidoran?  I’m really going out on a limb here, but it’s sort of plausible to me that Game Freak’s designers genuinely didn’t know what to do with the Poison type for quite a while after the first games.

Perry asks:

How much do you think GameFreak is willing to change (HMs, Megas, Dexit/whatever you like to call it) and how much will they expand to other types of games and medias ( Pokemon Unite… ugh)? How much do you think should happen to continue their success, financially and from a fan’s perspective?

…look, I don’t want to be mean about this but… this question basically amounts to “solve game design” and I’m not going to do that; I don’t know how to do that; I’m simply not that knowledgeable about design or business.  Here are some thoughts that I have, which may or may not be of use to anyone:

I should point out, first of all, that Pokémon Unite actually isn’t Game Freak at all.  Game Freak isn’t directly responsible for… I think any of the Pokémon spinoff games, and I suspect that will probably continue.  Pokémon games outside the core series are all developed under the umbrella of the Pokémon Company, and most of them in association with Nintendo, but by many different studios.  I know that sounds nit-picky on my part, but it does matter when we’re talking about big long-term future-of-Pokémon questions, particularly if we care at all about the business side.  A lot of it is… not entirely in Game Freak’s hands, and I suspect there is a pretty strong impulse from up above towards being quite conservative with the design of the core games.

Continue reading “Perry asks:”

Leo M.R. asks:

I watched a Pokémon video on YouTube where the guy pointed out that, for all the hype Mega Evolutions got prior to the release of XY, you actually only ever fight three Mega Evolutions throughout the course of the main story: Korrina’s Mega Lucario, Lysandre’s Mega Gyarados, and Diantha’s Mega Gardevoir. He argued that 1) the first one doesn’t even count because it was just a Mega Lucario battle, and 2) this is a big reason why XY felt too easy, especially since you can Mega Evolve after the third Gym. He suggested that, since you fight Lysandre before the final Gym, Wulfric and the Elite Four should all have been given Mega Evolutions, something the anime actually does (sans Drasna). It’s an excellent point and I… don’t know why Game Freak didn’t do this in the first place, now that I think about it. The final rival battle at Victory Road should probably also have given them their eventual Mega Absol, if Wulfric should have a Mega. What do you think?

…huh

Y’know, I never really thought about that – when I played X for the first time, I never used Mega Evolution unless my opponent did as well, because it seemed “unfair,” so I guess I just wasn’t thinking about it very hard.  But yeah, considering that Mega Evolution is generation VI’s flagship mechanic, it’s… not actually in there very much.  Alpha Sapphire and Omega Ruby are kinda light on it as well, at least in the main story; there’s… what, Archie/Maxie, Wally and Steven?  But then there are a lot more in the postgame: May/Brendan, Matt/Courtney, Zinnia and all of the Hoenn Elite Four.  X and Y don’t really have that.  This seems doubly weird considering how much work must have gone into designing the Mega Evolutions.  Wouldn’t you want to show them off?  I can see a perspective where finding all the Mega Evolutions is mainly meant as an end-game side-quest for the player, a little challenge for the 100%-completionists, but a) the Pokédex already provides plenty of that, and b) it would make a lot more sense if Pokémon had, like, Final Fantasy-style “bonus bosses” where you really needed the right Mega Evolution to win.

Continue reading “Leo M.R. asks:”

jeffthelinguist asks:

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.

The original dragon from Unova asls:

I know remakes are going to be a thing forever, but what are your thoughts on games using the same region, but with an entirely different plot, and entirely new Pokemon. For example, before Let’s Go P/E was revealed, there were all these wild rumors about a Kanto Region in the future with all new Pokemon, Gorochu, submerged Pallet Town, a snake legendary, etc.

I dunno that I have “thoughts” on it, exactly.  It’s a thing you could do.  I mean, it’s a thing Black and White 2 did, and those games are pretty well regarded in the fan community, from what I’ve seen (there probably isn’t much merit in using an existing region and deliberately keeping no connections at all to the previous plot – if you’re not using the background, then the freedom of a new setting is probably more valuable).  I don’t think it’s necessarily better or worse than setting a game in a completely new region; the latter gives you a blank slate for developing new ideas and themes, and the former emphasises continuity.  I honestly do think there is a lot to be said for the blank slate, but sometimes having a pre-existing developed setting with dense lore and history can also be useful for storytelling – that’s why fan fiction is a thing.  I probably wouldn’t do a whole new generation’s worth of Pokémon designs for a new game set in an existing region, though.

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?