Pokémon Video Game Evolution

Hey all, Marcus here with a new article – this time on the Pokémon video games, how they have evolved mechanically, and how this has changed the game. With X and Y around the corner, we’re all wondering what’s going to change or what’s going to be new. Just over a month out of the new games, I at least wanted to give everyone my dissertation of the Pokémon games, and theorise what we might be able to look forward to.

Click the links bellow to quickly navigate to that topic:

trading_link_cableTrading

The main goal of any Pokémon game is to become the champion of your region, and complete your Pokédex. The only way to fully complete the Pokédex is to trade with trainers who use the sister version of the game you are playing. This has been an emphasis on the games since Red and Blue/Green versions – the first Pokémon we meet in the wild who are version unique are normally Sandshrew and Ekans, which meant you had to miss out on Sandslash or Arbok early game if you didn’t have a friend to trade with.

And that’s the point right there – if you didn’t have a friend or someone you knew that you could trade with (or did not own both versions with two game systems – and a link cable for older generations) you were unable to obtain the other version specific Pokémon. To combat this, Pokémon eventually implemented online trading – allowing trainers to trade with people all over the Internet gave access to all the missing Pokémon very quickly.

This, however, I feel has had an adverse effect. While it was a limitation being able to only trade in person with someone you knew or met, I felt this was a huge factor in community building – meeting up with friends and trading isn’t as convenient as just jumping on the GTS. It’s taken away what was one of the most fundamental core values of Pokémon.

My hope for X and Y is that online trading is limited in some aspect, so it gets trainers into the real world to interact with each other more often, and bring back a core aspect of Pokémon that has, for a large part, been absent since 4th generation was introduced.

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Quality of Life Changes

BW_TMsWhen I talk about quality of life, I talk about in-game mechanics being more visible and some functions being more convenient. One such example is when a Pokémon’s attack is lowered through Growl or Intimidate, for as long as that Pokémon is affected by the STAT change, I’d like an indicator to remind me of this. Simple quality of life things that would just add real value to the gameplay. Many of these elements can be seen on the Pokémon Showdown battle simulator – such as once a Pokémon’s ability has been identified, you can always see it for the remainder of battle. Another big thing, which I’ll touch on later, is IVs and EVs.

These changes aren’t just limited to battles – one of the biggest changes they ever made (the look on my face when I discovered this for myself) was to make Technical Machines non-consumable. This was one of the biggest highlights of quality of life changes for me personally. Others include being prompted to re-use repel were also fantastic.

The changes so far since first generation – from overhauling the Pokémon Storage System, to the TM change, have all been quite healthy for the game. I realise this partially contradicts my spiel on trading above, but trading has it’s own separate core value and shouldn’t really fall under quality of life changes.

If the battle system is improved like I touched on before, it gives greater insight into the competitive aspect if game mechanics were made more visible, making for healthier competition. In X and Y I’d love to see more quality of life features become a reality.

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EVs and IVs

The messy topic. For those of you who don’t know, IVs are Individual Values – every Pokémon you encounter is given a random value from 0 to 31 for each STAT, which determines how high the STAT can reach. Effort Values are how you reach the cap of a given STAT, where knocking out certain Pokémon yields a tiny STAT bonus which stacks up. For more information, watch the following video (understanding these is important to be able to comprehend this section of the article):

IVs and EVs have largely remained the same across the years. I was introduced to these mechanics during the generation 3 period, and not much has changed since then. Some minor quality of life changes, but that’s about it – the core system has been exactly the same save for more methods to obtain Pokémon with desired IVs. I’m certainly not saying the system hasn’t improved, but it could be infinitely better!

My main issue with the IVs and EVs is that there is very limited Pokémon customisation – and the customisation it offers takes so much time and effort to come into effect it can be daunting – especially for competitive players, or folks looking to get into competitive play. I will elaborate…

The Effort Value system I feel is very good – it essentially adds a grinding aspect to the game which I feel every RPG should have. There should be time spent in perfecting your Pokémon, and this is where it should take place. To cap out a Pokémon’s EVs, it can take at least an hour per Pokémon. That’s a lot of game play if you want to make a variation of competitive Pokémon. This time sink is worth the reward however, so I feel this is largely balanced.

The Individual Values, I detest however. IVs are completely random at first. There are methods of manipulating game’s random number generator (called RNGing) in order to achieve your desired STATs, however it takes a lot of time to learn and for the younger kids, this can be downright impossible. The method itself is also rather volatile – it involves using the DS system to change the date on your game card and so forth, which I don’t think was intended by the designers at all. So why is this an issue if you can still obtain the desired IVs for your Pokémon?

The first one is time. It can take a VERY long period of time to RNG, especially if you are new. You need to RNG to stay competitive most of the time. Add in the EV training I mentioned before and it becomes borderline disgusting just to train up one Pokémon. And you need at least 6!

The second is that IVs are all but required to be competitive and the sheer random nature of them is just bad game design. To rely on at least 6 random values all being perfect (more when you consider you need to get the correct nature and sometimes ability as well), is absurd. If it were just nature and ability I’d understand, as there needs to be variance in the nature so you can have different builds of the same Pokémon.

The third reason I will give in this article, is that the IVs aren’t transparent – there’s not really a way to track them in-game. There’s a person in-game who tells you IV ranges or if the IV for a STAT is perfect, however it’s very vague. There needs to be a more definitive way to track these in game, without having to resort to guides and calculators.

IV_Calc

I am not here to whine and moan (much!) without offering a solution or two at least. The first solution (and the one I am inclined to think will be used in X and Y) is to make IVs more visible and modifiable through in-game mechanics – like feeding the Pokémon a Poffin or a berry for all I care – as long a trainer doesn’t have to manipulate the random number generator (which makes no sense from a lore perspective), and can still obtain their desired Pokémon, that’s fine.

The second solution (and I can dream) is to abolish IVs completely. That’s right – remove the entire STAT, and have a Pokémon’s STAT scale off EVs and their Base STAT.

“But Marcus, that makes all Pokémon generic whaaahh!!!”

I know, and I haven’t finished yet! If you have played League of Legends, you’d be familiar with the Mastery Tree (which is pretty much one of these systems – view it here). Basically, give each Pokémon ‘talent’ trees – they can be generic to all Pokémon, or even egg groups to add variety (Lets say, 3 trees – Offence, Defence, Utility – and give each egg group two – ideally there’d be 4 trees and each egg group has 3, but I’m not that creative). In essence, this means that each trainer can customise their EVs and talent trees in order to make their Pokémon unique – talents would not be STAT gains, but rather things like, a 3 point talent which gives 1% crit per point spent for example.

My point being, in X and Y, I simply hope they improve on the current stat system – making it more accessible and easier to understand would mean a much more competitive playing field, allowing room for a lot more originality and awe inspring plays. Who knows how much talent we haven’t seen on stage because someone struggles to learn the entry mechanics which just should not exist for Pokémon’s demographic?

In conclusion, these are aspects of the Pokémon game, which in my opinion, could do with some changing. Will we see improvments in X and Y? I imagine yes. Will they be my solutions? Probably not! With just over a month to go until the release of X and Y, what are you hoping to see? Head over to our Facebook group and reply to the link to this article!

Thanks for reading!

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