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.

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.

Anonymous asks:

So here’s a thought that occured to me; for a series titled Pokémon, many of its plots aren’t really ABOUT the Pokémon themselves, are they? At most, they’re just plot devices while the human characters get all the focus, characterization, and development. You could replace Groudon with a weather dominator Team Magma created, and nothing about Ruby’s story would really change. Even Necrozma, the most proactive Legendary I can think of, is held back until the eleventh hour, and has everything about its character told to us by other characters (who seemingly exist ONLY to provide said exposition) instead of something the player finds out for themselves. What do you think would be the best way to rectify this recurring problem, if you even think it is one?

Continue reading “Anonymous asks:”

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.

Continue reading “Ashe asks:”

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.

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.

Dosidicus Giygas asks:

There’s an interesting parallel in Gen I between Eevee’s three original evolutions and the three Legendary Birds in terms of typing. Fire, ice, and lightning are common elemental distinctions in RPGs with magic/energy/psionics/whathaveyou, so it makes sense that Pokemon would draw from this tradition for inspiration, though it’s a little odd that there is a discrepancy between Vaporeon (Water Type) and Articuno (Ice Type). Any thoughts on why that is? Furthermore, why didn’t Game Freak apply this logic to the starters, who are halfway there anyway? For something more varied/interesting? For a better justification of type balance?

Type balance isn’t exactly right, because I don’t think it’s about fairness, or at least not entirely, but it’s something like that.  Grass/Fire/Water has this nice rock/paper/scissors relationship that serves as an easy and intuitive introduction to one of Pokémon’s core mechanics, which is a pretty valuable thing for new players.  It doesn’t really work if you try to shoehorn Electric in there, because thematically there just isn’t an obvious relationship between Electric and Fire.  Other games that use Fire/Ice/Lightning don’t usually have “type advantages” in the same way as Pokémon does; several iterations of Final Fantasy, for example, have Fire and Ice being strong against each other, with Lightning doing its own thing (often being strong against mechanical enemies); Final Fantasy X adds Water as a fourth element to form another opposed pair with Lightning.  Pokémon just has different needs to those games.

Continue reading “Dosidicus Giygas asks:”

[A Foursome with Chris Pratt, Grant Gustin and That Garbodor Evolution] asks:

I know this is pretty broad and vague, so no pressure to answer it super deeply and completely, but I’ve found it to be a pretty fun thing to think about and I’m curious to know what you would say to it.
Which specific set of Pokémon games do you think had the most missed opportunities, or could be some of the best games in the series but fell short? (That can be in terms of the story, the gameplay or anything else you think you’d want to be changed about them.)
And if you were put in charge, not of making a NEW set of games or changing the series as a whole but just of fixing up that one set of games, what would you want to do to it to take advantage of that potential?
(By “set,” I just mean a pair like Black 2/White 2 or a single game like Platinum, not a whole Generation or every game taking place in one region, haha.)

That is one confusingly recursive name you’ve given yourself there.

So… I feel like in almost all of them there’s something I would change.  Heck, in almost all of them there’s probably something the designers would change if they could; no one ever gets to put everything they want into their game because time and budget constraints exist, even for a franchise as successful as Pokémon.  And I have a really peculiar love/hate relationship with Black and White specifically, because those are the games that started me writing this blog, and I think they are in some ways the best games in the series but in other ways deeply “meh.”  I guess a lot of my old “If I Were In Charge” article series is kiiiiiind of a response to this question with reference to Black and White, but also not at all.  Assorted thoughts on why Black and White are interesting here, here, here, here, here and here, and although I don’t 100% stand by a lot of it anymore you can also pick up something of what annoyed me about Black and White from my assorted reviews of 5th generation Pokémon from 2011.

All that being the case, let’s talk a bit about a completely different set of games instead. Continue reading “[A Foursome with Chris Pratt, Grant Gustin and That Garbodor Evolution] asks:”

Anonymous asks:

Here’s quite a question, how do you think gamefreak decides to place pokemon where they are in the game. For example, some things make sense like placing a claydol in ancient ruins and such, but then somethings don’t make sense, such as placing smeargle among the ancient ruins of alph? Or

I think some more counterintuitive examples must have been cut off the end there.  This is a shame, because I actually do think that Smeargle living in the Ruins of Alph makes a kind of sense – Smeargle is (one of?) the only Pokémon who can do something like writing, which is what the whole area is themed around.  But in terms of the general process… Continue reading “Anonymous asks:”

Cheshs asks:

You have no idea how excited I am for your opinions on S/M. The story was phenomenal, I loved the characters, all the new Pokemon, plot twists I didn’t expect … I genuinely and eagerly await your thoughts when you get the game! I just beat the main story with 58 hours clocked in.

An anonymous user also says, on a similar note:
“i’m genuinely excited for you to start gen VII because the new features remind me a ton of your “if I were in charge” series”

Well, colour me intrigued!  I thought generation VI was very well-done all around, and I approved heartily of a number of its new features, which addressed a number of the same things that “If I Were In Charge” was supposed to; I’m excited to see how VII might build on that design philosophy.  I’m scheduled to crawl out from under my spoiler-proof rock and begin my journey in Alola this Sunday (the 11th), so you can expect my initial ramblings either that day or the next.