House Hightower of the Hightower asks:

Now that we’ve had the Fairy type for a while, how well do you think they achieved their conceptual goals, which ostensibly were to both nerf Dragon Pokemon and re-assert the offensive relevance of Poison and Steel types?

Pretty well, I guess?  A lot of Dragon-types are still really good, but they’re largely carried by their extremely high base stats now; the game is noticeably much less about throwing Draco Meteors and Outrages while blocking with Steel-types than it was in generations IV and V.  You can’t really make a competitive team with, like, four or five Pokémon from one of those two types and expect it to work, which… you arguably could, for a while?  You still probably wouldn’t stick a Poison attack on a non-Poison Pokémon unless you were really strapped for better options, but I guess I feel less bad about using Poison-types in offensive roles now.  Steel as an attack type often still feels redundant with other attacks that a lot of the same Pokémon tend to learn (and when do you need a type advantage against Ice, anyway?  They don’t resist anything; just hit ‘em with whatever), but Steel Pokémon are fine, obviously.

Camarasaurus asks:

How would you change/better balance Ice type Pokemon, aside from making them resistant to water-type attacks?

Well… I think Ice should be bad defensively; I think that works as a type identity thing.  It doesn’t need to be as bad as it is, though.  Resistance to just one other common, strong attack type probably makes it about as good defensively as Psychic, which is a poor defensive type but not actually comical, and supports a decent variety of tank and support Pokémon.  Water… well, Water does seem like the most logical choice there; it’s not perfect, because one thing that Ice-type tanks need is a point of distinction from Water-type tanks (who both resist Ice attacks and can normally learn them).  Maybe there’s an argument there for resistance to Dragon (although at that point you probably need to give Dragon a buff somewhere else) or Ground, instead of Water.  I know you said aside from that, but I really don’t know that there needs to be much more, at least not in terms of adjustments to the type chart itself; Ice is also really strong offensively and I don’t want to risk overtuning it.  I like the more indirect buffs like the addition of new Hail synergies – Aurora Veil, Slush Rush, Ice Face – and I like the suggestion in the comments of this post that Ice-types should get a physical defence buff during hail, to parallel the special defence buff that Rock-types get during sandstorms.

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.

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.

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:”

Anonymous asks:

Do you think fairies do a good job at balancing dragons? And in a semi related question, do you think fairies are overpowered?

Gnyyyerrgh.  If anything I think they’re a bit much; Dragon is actually kind of a bad type now, just in and of itself, since its main advantage was always that it was so difficult to block.  Particular Dragon-types are still really, really good, obviously, but mainly ones like Garchomp and Dragonite who are really, really good pretty much regardless of what you do to the type.  On the other hand, most Dragon-types are quite powerful on their own merits.  The weakest ones were Druddigon and Altaria, and Altaria now has a kick-ass Mega form, and Druddigon… well, Druddigon sucks, but there’s sort of not much you can do about that anyway.  So basically it just winds up making life seem very unfair for Flygon, Tyrantrum and Noivern.  It could be worse.

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Anonymous asks:

Wow, really loving all your articles and posts! That’s awesome that you like the Grass type; they don’t get enough love. But I gotta know: what’s your opinion on the Ground type in general? For the longest time it’s been my favorite (but that might be nostalgia talking since I used to love Sandshrew when I was 8). Now that I’ve looked over some of your posts about Pokemon designs….I do notice Ground has a lot of rather generic looking desert animals with no particular extraordinary powers, lol

Ground… Ground is sort of odd because, aside from Normal, it’s the element with the fewest proper defining characteristics.  Many of them are either subterranean or desert creatures – and let us note that these are two extremely different things, and that there is really no reason to clump them together while separating Rock.  This seems to be the deal for most Ground-type attacks, but not all Ground Pokémon are anything like this.  What, for instance, makes Marowak a Ground-type?  What makes Garchomp a Ground-type, other than having the Sand Veil ability (which is shared by Cacturne)?  What makes Nidoking and Nidoqueen Ground-types?  You mention Sandshrew, and I think perhaps it is worth noting that, as of his introduction in Red and Blue, Sandshrew never actually learned any Ground attacks on his own – Sand Attack being considered a Normal-type attack at the time, which really makes you wonder why they labelled Sandshrew a Ground-type in the first place.  In Gold and Silver, of course, Sand Attack became Ground-type, but the newly introduced Sandstorm was a Rock-type attack, and has been ever since.  The first Sand Stream Pokémon, Tyranitar, was a Rock-type also.  Sort of makes you wonder why other sand Pokémon, and the sand-based attacks introduced in Ruby and Sapphire, didn’t follow suit.  The only thing I can think of that they all have in common is that they live on the ground, and even that goes out the window when you encounter bloody Gligar and his nonsensical Ground/Flying type.  It might be instructive, furthermore, to question why Kangaskhan, Dunsparce and Stoutland, to name a few, are not Ground-types.

I’m honestly not sure Ground really needs to be a type at all.  It has very little in the way of thematic unity or purpose, and if I had been doing this ten years ago I might have suggested eliminating it entirely and splitting all of its belongings between Rock and Normal (although this would happen at the price of making Normal even larger and more nebulous than it is already).  You asked for my opinion on the Ground type, and I suppose I’ve given it… I don’t really ‘get’ it.  This is not to say that individual Ground-type Pokémon are poorly designed; some of them are, of course, but others are amazing.  It’s just that the type as a whole is such a vague and, frankly, poorly thought-out idea that they don’t really have anything in common as a group.  Is it really necessary to have two ‘miscellaneous’ types?