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.

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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.”

N asks:

Never have i seen a community turn around as fast as the pokémon community when they heard about gen 7. Things like having 2 games with slighlty different pokémon are now being touted as exploitative towards the consumer, critiques against the animations are aplenty. Your thoughts? Do you think the criticism is warranted or is the Internet being a bunch of crybabies again?

I don’t know if something specific prompted this question – “again” makes me think there’s been another change in the wind since I posted this, but I’m not aware of anything in particular?

The thing is… there are loads of legitimate criticisms of Pokémon, and I am totally here for criticising Pokémon; it’s what I do.  The whole “paired game” thing has always been weird and is frankly kind of obsolete, and the practise of releasing what amounts to an expansion as a full new game in (almost) every generation honestly is pretty consumer-unfriendly.  No one owes Nintendo and Game Freak their money or time, and we should all be prepared to criticise the media we consume.  The trouble is that the internet is a toxic cesspit that unfailingly reduces all human communication to corrosive bile sooner or later, which is why Jim the Editor should let me delete my Twitter account.  Even perfectly legitimate points just get subsumed into this appalling tidal wave of angry unreflective hot takes and reactions, because the internet is deathly allergic to nuance.  That’s not even the fault of any individual person involved in the discussion; it’s just the inevitable result of a structure that favours clickbait over substance and encourages us to outsource all our opinions to figureheads or group identities.  I’d like to decide what I think of this game after I’ve actually played it.  Not everyone can do that, because games are expensive and we don’t have infinite money, but you can pick a sensible reviewer, whose opinions on a range of other games are similar to your own, and wait for them to play it and decide what they think.  It’s okay if launch day arrives and you still don’t know whether you want to buy the game or not; I’ve never preordered a Pokémon game or started playing on day 1.  There’ll be plenty of time to make up our minds about what criticism is or is not deserved after that.

hugh_donnetono asks:

Hi! This https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tGhpDOx0CMk ! Thoughts?

This is certainly a thing

The details of it are mostly ideas I agree would be good.  Probably the only thing I really dislike is separating the starter Pokémon over three different games, because I think being locked into one starter hurts replayability and doesn’t have much upside (other than we’re now explicitly encouraging people to buy three games instead of one, which… ehhhhhhh, I can see how Nintendo marketing would love it but it leaves a sour taste in my mouth).  I’d rather have the different themed starting locations being options within one game.  A lot of it has similarities to some things I’ve suggested myself in the past, some of it in my old “If I Were In Charge” series, some of it in miscellaneous question-and-answer posts – see especially here on mechanics that emphasise treating our Pokémon well, here and here on thematic gyms, here on paired games and the idea of separate ‘upgradeable’ hometowns for each game, and here on the role of legendary Pokémon.  I have some differences with the broad scope and aims of the project; given the choice, I would prioritise a complex story over an open structure and non-linear progression, and I think there’s a middle ground to be had between the massive-scope bad guys of generations III through VI and the “we’re just mobsters” bad guys of generations I and II.  That’s top-level design choices though; there’s not really wrong decisions there, just preferences, and subsequent decisions can serve those top-level choices well or badly.  I don’t think a Pokémon game can be everything that everyone in the fan community wants Pokémon to be, and do it well – design is about trade-offs, and mostly I can respect the ones made here.

Herald of Opera asks:

So, apparently the National Dex is going away. For all the Internet riots that have been going on about this, wasn’t it pretty much inevitable that the series would eventually create more Pokémon than it could fit in one game? And I’m saying all this despite knowing my personal favorite is almost certainly getting the axe (sorry Piplup, but you’re a non-Kanto starter, your animal basis doesn’t live in the same hemisphere as Britain, and your anime appearance was an obnoxious spotlight stealer)

Okay, I’m gonna hijack this question to get out everything I think about this and be the one and hopefully only time I talk about it, so here goes nothing:

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Bradley_P15 [Patreon cultist] asks:

Read a thing on twitter recently that hypothesises that Gen V were the last mainline games that felt quote “Comfortable in their own skin”, since VI, VII and VIII all have big showy gimmicks whilst feeling the need to keep oldschool fans happy. What’re your thoughts on this as one of the internet’s prime Pokemon overthinkers?

Hmm.  It doesn’t especially square with my intuitions or experiences about those games – I didn’t enjoy V as much as VI or VII, in spite of it having what I still feel is the best story of the Pokémon games so far. I think I just disagree outright with the characterisation of Mega Evolution and Z-moves (I mean, I assume that’s what this is referring to; I don’t know what else it could mean) as showy gimmicks.  They never felt intrusive to me, and I always got the impression that most Pokémon players really liked Mega Evolution?  Certainly a lot of people are upset that it’s apparently not coming back.  They’re also fairly major additions to the battle system that come with a fair degree of strategic depth, and they’re part of the culture of each region in which they appear.  I don’t know whether all that’s going to be true of Dynamaxing, and frankly neither does anyone else, despite all the people lining up to declare otherwise. 

I think there is… let’s say a certain amount right now of people trying to fit their anger over the recent National Pokédex (ahem) “issue” into an overarching narrative of why Pokémon has been in decline ever since… since whichever generation they thought was best.  That’s not necessarily a wrong thing to try to do, but it rarely comes with arguments that I find convincing on the basis of my own experience of the games, and at the moment it seems like it’s tied to a desire to pre-judge Sword and Shield, which I just think is silly.  I mean, for heaven’s sake, even after a Pokémon game comes out, it takes me months to decide whether I liked it (and only some of that is because I don’t usually pick up the game on launch day).

Ash’s abandoned Pidgeot asks:

I was reading old reviews and chuckled at your disgust for Ash and Pikachu’s magical friendship bull$h!t but it made me curious as to your feelings on Let’s Go incorporating aspects of it into gameplay (Pokemon curing themselves if status conditions, enduring one shots, i.e.)

I haven’t played Let’s Go (maybe it does something new I’m not aware of), but those things have been in the games since X and Y, haven’t they?  Pokémon with high affection stats from Pokémon Amie (in generation VI) or Pokémon Refresh (in generation VII) can cure themselves during battle, endure attacks, dodge attacks, score extra critical hits, maybe a couple of other things I’m forgetting.  I actually kind of like it, since it gives us a reason to care about our relationships with our Pokémon – something that, up until generation VI, didn’t really have much gameplay effect outside of some fairly niche things like Return/Frustration and a handful of evolutions (of course now we have to figure out what the hell the difference between “friendship” and “affection” is supposed to be, since they sound like pretty much the same thing and are broadly characterised the same way, but are apparently totally independent).  I think one of the big challenges for Pokémon’s game design is the disconnect between the fantasy of partnership, spiritual bonding and, frankly, magical friendship bull$#!t that’s always been core to the series’ ethos, and the… well… somewhat interchangeable, even disposable nature of individual Pokémon as gameplay elements (how many baby Pokémon have you hatched and then immediately released into the wild while IV-breeding?  I have no idea – which in a way is kinda the point – but I’m pretty sure I’m in quadruple-digit territory).  I’m glad that the last few sets of games have seen efforts to try and resolve that tension.