RandomAccess asks:

I recently found out that in Sword and Shield, they retconned some evolution methods, specifically the ones that require being in a certain area then leveling them up. They had Pokemon that evolve in a special magnetic field (like Charjabug to Vikavolt) evolve using a thunder stone instead, the one who evolves around a moss rock(Eevee to Leafeon) use a leaf stone instead, and the one who evolves around an ice rock(Eevee to Glaceon) use an ice stone instead. To my knowledge, this is the first time they retconned an evolution method to one that has already been used before (unlike the case of introducing a new method, like the prism scale item for Feebas to make up for not having the contest-dependent beauty stat in generation 5). I honestly think this is a good move, and really opens up the door to either making things easier for people who don’t like currently cumbersome evolution methods, or changing them in the future to make them reflect the lore better (hoping using a shelder to evolve a slowpoke can become a reality in the future) but what do you think about them suddenly becoming more open to changing long-standing mechanics that they’ve been careful not to contradict before?

It just seems like fairly straightforwardly a good thing, to me.  I mean, those weird location-based evolutions mostly exist, I think, to satisfy the rule that an old Pokémon getting a new evolution has to use a method that wasn’t previously available, to keep the games consistent.  That is a dumb rule in the first place.  Not only is it a dumb rule, though, it saddles us with a requirement that any game with Magneton in it must have an area with a weird magnetic field, and any game with Eevee in it must have a Mossy Rock and an Icy Rock, and so on.  Day/night mechanics are just standard now, but that was actually a problem in generation III because Fire Red and Leaf Green have no clock and it was impossible to evolve Eevee into Espeon or Umbreon in those games.  Even Pokémon that had unusual evolution methods when they were first introduced are kind of a drag… I mean, Inkay, for heaven’s sake; you can’t evolve Inkay if you’re playing on a big screen because there’s no way to turn it upside down.  Meltan’s evolution is tied to a completely different game that Game Freak doesn’t have direct control over.  Like… at some point, common sense has to kick in, just to keep us all from going mad… right?

Larry asks:

Hey, are you worried about regional variants making the OG mons get sidelined? Because while I love the new versions, both from a bio nerd standpoint and a creature design standpoint, I look at variants getting evolutions, OGs getting nothing, and get… concerned

What if the answer to “how to deal with pokémon who need buffs” simply becomes “replace them with clones?”

If I’ve merely missed Hoennian Obstagoon from avoiding SwSh spoilers, I’m sorry to bother, but I’m kinda scared. Thoughts?

So… I think there may actually be a reason for this, and it’s a dumb reason.  Game Freak think they’re not allowed to give new evolutions to old Pokémon unless it’s through regional variation, because it would create an inconsistency in how the Eviolite works.  If Hoennese Linoone could evolve, then it would be able to use an Eviolite, which it can’t in generation VII.  Therefore, we can never let it evolve.  Now, personally I think that whether or not to give new evolutions to old Pokémon is a top-level design choice with no inherently right or wrong answer, and I would actually be fine with never seeing it again (incremental moveset/ability buffs or even flat base stat buffs to older Pokémon are another matter, and I think we have every reason to imagine that those will continue; Jim the Editor would like to recommend a YouTube series on the subject that you can find here).  However, “we accidentally painted ourselves into a corner by introducing a weird item during a generation that consciously downplayed older Pokémon” is the dumbest possible reason I can imagine for making that choice.  I hope that’s not actually something that Game Freak’s designers have in mind – or, if it is, that they get over it – but it is kind of consistent with their actions.  New evolutions stop in generations V-VII, with the sole exception of Sylveon (who is allowed, because Eevee can already use an Eviolite), and reappear in VIII, but restricted to Pokémon that got Galarian variations, who can therefore be treated as a blank slate. Mega Evolution and Gigantamaxing, although they have other functions, can also be seen as a replacement of sorts for new evolutions (with the added bonus that you can give them to Pokémon who’ve already evolved twice, such as the obvious best Pokémon that is everyone’s favourite and may not be questioned, Charizard).  It also feels like the same kind of logic that dictates that old Pokémon who get new evolutions must always evolve in new, increasingly obscure ways that weren’t available in previous generations (can’t evolve Seadra in Red and Blue because Pokémon couldn’t hold items until generation II; can’t evolve Piloswine in Gold and Silver because it couldn’t learn Ancient Power until generation IV). On the other hand, they have also now stopped holding to some of those, because it’s just a huge pain when you can’t have Leafeon in the game unless you build an area with a Mossy Rock, and if some godawful pedant wants to ask “so why can’t I use a Leaf Stone on Eevee in Red and Blue?”… well, honestly, fµ¢£ ’em.

So I guess I would say yeah, be scared because the thing you’re describing is definitely happening and can only be stopped by Game Freak choosing to abandon an arbitrary nonsense rule that they’ve held for three generations now.  However, also don’t be scared because Pokémon don’t need to keep getting new evolutions to be valid, there are other ways of buffing them that the developers definitely know about and use, and anyway they’ll probably see the light eventually.

Mega Bidoof asks:

Do you think Game Freak will continue to add new evolutions to existing Pokemon now that mega evolutions exist?

I think the two are largely unconnected.  Think about it: generation V had no new evolutions of existing Pokémon, before Mega Evolution was introduced, and generation VII featured neither.  In fact, the only new evolution of the past three generations – Sylveon – actually coincided with the introduction of Mega Evolution.  It’s true that both serve a similar thematic purpose; they both give a new generation of games a more concrete link to Pokémon’s past.  I agree that new evolutions seem to be on the way out, but I think the “replacement” concept to fill that role, if any, is much more likely to be the continuation of regional variant Pokémon.  Mega Evolution is generation VI’s mechanic and tied to the history of Kalos and Hoenn, just as Z-moves are generation VII’s mechanic and tied to the history of Alola, just as the Dream World was generation V’s and has not returned (though the hidden abilities it unlocked remain).  The concept of regional variation, by contrast, doesn’t carry mechanical or worldbuilding baggage, and innately lends itself to being reused again and again through new forms that express the personality of each new region.  Even that, though, is not certain; the designers may have liked regional variation as a feature of Alola specifically, expressing the unusual paths that evolution can take on archipelagos in the real world.  To me it’s most plausible that generation VIII will feature no new evolutions of existing Pokémon, no new Mega Evolutions, and no new species-specific Z-moves (I’m 50/50 on new regional variations), instead spotlighting some other entirely new mechanic that will be tied to the history of the new region and the plot of the new games.

All of this is, of course, as likely as not to be proven completely wrong within the next couple of weeks (heck, maybe even days).  I don’t do predictions; it makes me ill-tempered.

Tony the Tiger asks:

You like old stuff, right? What are your thoughts on fossil pokemon?

In general archaeologists take pains to point out that we do not study fossils (it’s a surprisingly common mistake).  Not all “old stuff” is similarly old (unless you listen to certain ill-advised religious sects); I deal in the hundreds/thousands of years range, not millions/tens of millions.  Fossils are about as much my professional area of expertise as the moons of Jupiter are an airline pilot’s.

…as it happens, though, I am independently a layman dinosaur nerd with a basic knowledge of evolutionary biology, and I was a sufficiently weird kid that, when I started school, I wanted to be not a fireman or an astronaut but a palaeontologist.  So LET’S TALK FOSSILS.

Continue reading “Tony the Tiger asks:”

Ty asks:

I’m familiar with your thoughts on how the games try and paint Mew as the ancestor of Pokemon and how backwards their logic is claiming it’s due to Mew having the DNA of all Pokemon. That, as you’ve pointed out multiple times, is not how ancestry works.

I wanted to share with you an idea I’ve had about how I’d handle the Mew situation and what your thoughts about it are. For me, since Mew is the only Pokemon barring Ditto that can learn transform, I really like the idea that Mew could be the ancestor of all Pokemon, or at least the Mew species. In how I’d handle it, Mew would be #1 in the Pokedex and would be the original Pokemon that could change shape at will. As the curious creatures as they are, mews explored endlessly, tackling any environmental challenges by changing shape into the various Pokemon species we’re familiar with to suit that environment. Over time, those mew who grew older and decide to settle in their areas in whatever shape they were in, over thousands of years, lost the ability to transform and remained in that shape as whatever new species they were. Because so few environments are comfortable for Mew’s natural form, and/or so few mew continued to travel endlessly, modern day mews are fairly rare, hence their legendary status. This would really help explain a lot of artificial Pokemon since the mew that originally became that species took on an artificial form for one reason or another somewhere down the line, rather than Pokemon like Klinklang, Electrode, and Klefki existing and being able to breed in some degree for no particular reason.

Continue reading “Ty asks:”

Anonymous asks:

Thoughts on the Pokemon Tree of Life? (Search on Reddit.) I just spent a good half hour marveling at how much work must have gone into it!

I’ve seen an earlier version, I think in generation V or VI. And, well, I can certainly appreciate the effort, and it is a beautiful thing in its own way. Sort of artistic, really. The trouble I have is that it almost certainly doesn’t work like that. Two kinds of animal that can breed to produce viable offspring (e.g. horse and donkey) almost have to be more closely related to one another than two that can’t (e.g. horse and goat). But here we get Pokémon that can breed with each other despite being from distant parts of the tree, like Tangrowth and Venusaur, and Pokémon that can’t breed with each other despite being adjacent on the tree, like Gardevoir and Medicham. Pokémon clearly don’t follow the real world’s rules of genetics, heredity and speciation; they can breed across species lines and they can inherit at least some acquired characteristics (Lamarckian evolutionists represent!). What that means is that, if it’s even possible to come up with a schema that represents the evolutionary relationships of all Pokémon in a consistent and meaningful way, it probably looks nothing like a real-world “tree of life” or cladogram. It’s… probably more of a Venn diagram situation. Or, like, a spirograph or something.

Jeffthelinguist asks:

So (almost) all Pokémon evolved from Mew. What about the rest of life, did Arceus created humans and/or other animals separately? If humans came from Mew as well (I mean humans supposedly married Pokémon and I think there were other hints that early humans didn’t see themselves as that different from Pokémon), then what type are humans? If they have their own type… what would their weaknesses and resistances be?

This is an area where I have a few old sticking points that make me possibly the wrong person to ask. I’m on the record as not believing the standard line about Mew being the ancestor of all Pokémon and thinking that the Pokémon world’s scientists must simply be wrong about that. They believe it because Mew’s DNA has been shown to contain the genetic code of all known Pokémon – which is not something that any real-world geneticist or evolutionary biologist would expect a common ancestor to have. In fact it strikes me as basically impossible for a common ancestor to contain the genetic code of all its descendants, barring some kind of bizarre time loop in which Mew is somehow also descended from every known Pokémon. On the other hand, it’s entirely possible that genetics and evolution don’t work the same way in the Pokémon world, and that the idea of Mew being the original ancestor must be correct given the unknown biological laws of that world. Or it’s literally magic, in which case, who knows? Continue reading “Jeffthelinguist asks:”

Anonymous asks:

Is it just me, or do Pokemon Black and White seem like they were intended to be a lot longer? Many Pokemon in the game reach their final stages well after they’d be useful (like Bisharp, Braviary, Hydreigon etc) and the ending sequence feels so rushed, with N’s castle popping up out of nowhere, and you catching your dragon in the very last scene. I know it’s a weird time to be talking about Black and White, but it’s always felt so odd…

Well, that is the only generation so far that included a direct sequel to its main title.  Purely as a practical reality of development cycles, Game Freak must have decided that they were going to do Black and White 2 as sequels long before Black and White were actually released, but I wouldn’t be totally shocked if they had originally planned a more typical “Grey version” – Black and White with some extra bells and whistles – and changed course only when they realised there was too much material that wouldn’t fit in the initial release.  So it’s plausible that there was something unusual about the writing process in Generation V that could be responsible for that truncated feeling you’re sensing. Continue reading “Anonymous asks:”

Anonymous asks:

They’ll have to make obtaining Alolan forms outside of Alola possible. Although here’s a question I have for you, do you think it’s possible that the Pikachu line is native to Alola? And that Raichu is meant to be a psychic type when it evolves, but without it’s Alolan Diet, ends up being a pure electric type instead?

I’m sure they’ll be obtainable in some way, yeah, same as the regular “Kantonian” morphs are obtainable in Sun and Moon.  But that’s not at all the same thing as finding them in the wild with no explanation for how they got there when they’ve previously been specifically described as unique to Alola.

Anyway.  Pikachu and Raichu.  Unclear.  The Pokédex tells us that diet triggers the manifestation of Raichu’s psychic abilities, but doesn’t really give us anything either way on which evolutionary path is the “original” one.  Thinking in terms of Alola being an analogue to Hawai’i I’m inclined to see rodent-like Pokémon like Pikachu as introduced by humans, but potentially quite a long time ago – long enough to have adapted in surprising ways to their new environment.  On the other hand, we know from direct empirical evidence that all Pikachu, regardless of their origin – Kantonian, Kalosian, everything in between – become psychic Raichu if they evolve in Alola (the only other Alolan form that works this way is Marowak, and that might literally be magic [EDIT: Also Exeggutor]).  If we assume something resembling a real-world understanding of genetics and evolution, then that suggests that the psychic abilities are a dormant ancestral trait, present in all Pikachu but requiring some environmental stimulus to activate.  Buuut it could also be that components of Pikachu’s Alolan diet – or even something else about Alola – are somehow mutagenic (or some mystical equivalent), and alter their genetics and powers in predictable ways.  Or it could be that, as I’m inclined to think for Marowak, there’s no genetic component at all and instead there are Alolan traditions that allow them, basically, to learn magic (because, like Marowak, the Alolan Raichu form is associated closely with a particular cultural practice – namely, surfing).  I actually had a massive argument with Jim the Editor over this one.  He thinks that the Pokédex must be wrong about diet being a factor, since Pikachu can evolve into Alolan Raichu after spending literally minutes in Alola and without eating anything; I think that this is an edge case that doesn’t reflect the designers’ intent, and is a result of Pokémon’s mechanics for time and eating being extremely unrealistic.  Also his interpretation doesn’t really suggest any other answer for why it happens other than Alola being surrounded by a magic field that gives Pikachu psychic powers for some reason.  Basically he thinks that if the designers had meant for Pikachu’s diet to be a factor, they should have represented that with a change in the evolution method (he suggests an item called a Thunderstone Cake, or something similar).

So I’m a solid “maybe” on this one.

Random Access asks:

I once heard an interesting theory that all Pokémon may descend from ultrabeasts. Do you think it may have merit?

Well, I’d sort of need more than that.  Why might we think that all Pokémon are descended from Ultra Beasts?  I mean, it’s not impossible, but given that we have no idea what the Ultra Beasts’ relationship to modern Pokémon (if any) even is, that seems like the last place to start looking for the origin of all Pokémon.  What’s the reasoning?