Thursday, August 5, 2010

The Pokémon Ego Agenda: The Response

I thought I'd go ahead and post the response to my previous post here (I submitted it through reddit). Since the other guy(s) stopped responding, I'm gonna assume there's no more to be said there. I did siphon some good points from it, and will probably augment the stance by the time I'm able to see how Black and White has been developed.

I don't get the point of this article at all. EV/IV training is completely optional and barely hinted at in the game. The vast majority of people who play these games at all just want to beat the Elite 4, catch them all, and battle or trade with their friends. EV/IV training and breeding and the like are pretty much exclusively in the game for the sake of the 10% of the audience who plays competitively, and they can be safely ignored by the other 90. This article positively reeks of "you're not playing the game the way I do, so you are wrong".

Heh, if I wanted to just say that, I would have.
It's NOT optional nor is it what I'm even talking about (at least not so narrow-mindedly). They affect your play whether you're paying attention to them or not.
What does 'safely ignored' even mean? And if you're going to use numbers, please offer me some sources.

Your comment just reeks of "I'm too complacent to even care, thus I don't know why I don't get the point of this post".

You're right in that it has an effect on your play no matter what. But EV/IV training is optional. You do not have to fight 30 Geodudes, then 5 Rhydons, then 18 Beedrills. You can just play the game. EV/IV training is optional because it is not necessary at all in the core of the game (battling in-game trainers, collecting gym badges, and collecting pokemon), nor is it necessary to enjoy the game with your friends (battling/trading). It only comes into play when you're playing the game competitively, period. Other than that, you can completely (i.e. safely) ignore it.

As far as the numbers go, I was speaking in general terms. The competitive crowd in Pokemon is a mere fraction of the numbers of people playing the game normally. You can just look at the numbers the tournaments draw versus how many copies these games sell.

And you still haven't explained why any of this needs changing. Because it still has a completely ignorable affect on your game? Why would they need to change it if most people don't even know its there?

Are you stating that it doesn't need to be changed simply because most people don't pay attention to it? I didn't say that the competitive crowd was substantial either (though I now suspect it's larger than you're giving it credit for, as the game's entire premise is hinged on the concept). Juxtaposing the sales of sold games against tournament crowds is but a fraction of your fraction. The training aspect was an resulting example I gave, not even remotely the crux of the post, which I assume is why you're focusing on it.

Also, while the training itself is not mandatory, you seem to keep passing by the fact that it still affects play no matter what (your opening sentence negates the rest of your comment), period. And yes, you CAN completely ignore it (I won't even argue that most do), but is that your end point? Ignorance? I still don't buy 'safely' either, because as you yourself said, it has an effect no matter what. It doesn't just only come into play when play when battling competitively. It governs every aspect of the player's team, whether they're paying attention to it or not.

And rather ironically, you accuse me of telling other people how to play, then reply with a rather generalized judgement of what is not necessary for their enjoyment. As far as change goes, can you offer me a reason for why the series should stay as is? As the post states, 'if it ain't broke, don't fix it' is a thought-terminating cliché. If nothing else, Pokemon as a series needs to change because its audience won't. If the audience won't, the developers will embrace the stagnation that some are becoming more attuned to detecting now.

Are stating that it doesn't need to be changed simply because most people don't pay attention to it?

I'm stating that it doesn't need to be changed because its not affecting how people play the game. Yes, we both agree that its affecting the game. But is it affecting their game in any way that they are noticing? Nope.

You say that that opening statment negates the rest, but it does not. EVs/IVs are going to be affected no matter what, you're right. But the reason I say they do not matter unless you're playing competivetly is because they don't. You do not need to have a perfectly EV/IV trained team (or a team with egg moves, perfect natures, etc.) in order to do anything in that game. The only reason to pay attention to them is if you want to. Little Johnny can throw his team of favorite pokemon, train them against nothing but Rattatas, and STILL have no problem beating the Elite 4 or catching as many Pokemon as he wants. Those types of things are there if you want them but if you don't, then they aren't going to change how you're going to play the game. Its not "ignorance", its just not the change the way the [likely] majority of Pokemon players play the game, even if its affecting them.

In fact, it even affecting them is debatable. Because while theres no doubt that these things are happening in the game...if Little Johnny wants to use nothing but his starter Pokemon until he beats the game, EVs/IVs aren't going to do much to stop him.

Again, why does it not 'affecting their game in any way that they're noticing' matter? And how does that opening statement NOT negate the rest? You fail to explain this, apart from operating on assumptions I didn't even imply in the subject-post. You're forcing a disagreement with me by missing the entire point.

Next, you consider the game as if I'm railing against it for being broken, which I'm not (i.e. not needing such training to complete the main quest and peripheries). I'm not stating they should be cancelled or taken away out of some flawed indignation (I never even said they were 'wrong' per se). I'm stating that their insularity should be considered now more than ever. So, once again, how can you judge the methods by which one plays the game? And yes, it is ignorance if for no other reason than the majority of players being clueless towards it.
If nothing else, the only thing I've been able to get from you is that this entire 'core game' should be redesigned now.

How could the player be blinded any more from IVs or EVs? By removing the few things in the game that actually make somewhat direct references (like the lady who gives out scarves and such)? What would that really solve? There's plenty of mechanics that are actually random in the game, for it to "appear" random to some players while being a useful tool for others is perfectly fine. Do you want to remove the things that manipulate them, like chain breeding or the way EVs are gained? What would that achieve, aside from turning the live game's competitive scene into a total crapshoot? You're right in that the mechanics are totally obscured to most players. These are also the players who have the attitude of playing with their own personal Pokemon over the best possible one, so they already don't have any problems.

I think the opposite needs to happen. EVs and IVs need to be completely checkable without having to run calculations or anything. Heck, even have it as some unlockable menu after you beat the Elite Four so as not to intimidate new players.

I'm not suggesting castrating the competitiveness, simply downplaying its significance. It turns some players off (or at the very least me). What it would achieve is an expansion in the game's appeal overall (even if it's nothing else than bolstering the existing fanbase). What you and Yen suggested is definitely an option as well though. Making the entire system known could work just as well here. I personally don't think it would fly that far considering Pokemon's success is somewhat hinged on its simplicity (and I don't think introducing a menu will intimidate players any less).

When I say 'blind', I don't means simply obscuring the existing system, I'm suggesting a complete distancing of its function in the context of the game (as well as a complete overhaul). Certainly people will get their hands on it anyway and manipulate it as they see fit, but it's rather easy to get sucked into doing now. I want to see it tempered more.
Also, what makes you say some 'personal Pokemon' trainers don't have any problems? It seems a bit too general to me.

You say Pokemon's success is to to it's simplicity, but is it really that simple at any level? There's 153 possible type configurations of Pokemon, each with their own set of weaknesses and resistances. There's the physical and special split. There's abilities. There's natures. A typical player will probably ignore some aspect of these. Maybe they won't memorize the entire type matchup chart. Maybe he'll never care about status effects. Just because EVs and IVs are on the extreme end of this sliding scale of simplicity does not mean you need to start drawing lines.

Also, this seems to be an entirely personal problem. "It's rather easy to get sucked into doing so now."? What do you mean by this? You're correct in assuming players will go to any length to get a competitive edge in a competitive game, meaning that you either want to make the game uncompetitive or make getting such an edge arbitrarily hard so that your unwillingness to do so is justified. Can you describe exactly how you'd want this changed?

It is maybe general, but this is the first such opinion I've seen on this subject. Everyone else seems fine either playing to have fun and ignoring such factors or appreciating the additional control and challenge the game can provide.

Now, don't get me wrong, I think the system as it stands is far from perfect. The element of luck in IV breeding I think is somewhat excessive, as is the work necessary to get good IV'd legendaries. I think the idea of having to run calculations instead of simply knowing the result is also bad. However, I do like the fact that Pokemon offers an additional challenge to those who wish to create truly ultimate teams, and I especially enjoy the added customization one can get. Competitive Pokemon is a wholly unique game full of strategy that rewards preparation and devotion. To start cutting away these elements for the sake of minor simplification seems absurd.

Yes, it is indeed a personal problem (saying 'entirely' is a bit problematic however), though just because it's the first you've heard of it doesn't make it any less worthwhile (especially for a series that needs to explore new grounds).

When I said it's rather easy to get sucked into doing so, what I mean by this is that players who wish to play the game past a certain investment will eventually be confronted by the systems here. It's nearly unavoidable and you have to go out of your way to just ignore it. I'm not simply suggesting drawing some arbitrarily standardized lines according to my personal whims, but merely suggesting something with more flexuous deterministic attributes (base stats for example).

You seem intent on defending the competitiveness as it exists now, which is okay in some respects, but it's never appealed to me and I know for fact that I'm not alone in that regard. There's ways to open the series up without losing these things either. Whether it's making the mechanics known or distanced doesn't really matter to me. I just want to see it happen somehow.
As it exists now, it's just a well-known and exploited framework. Pretending as if it's some formal means of 'added-depth', THAT'S what seems absurd to me.

Players will always be confronted by more advanced systems as they advance, as I mentioned before. The only difference between IVs and EVs, and EVs and natures, and natures and held items, etc, etc is the level of subtly and obscurity, but I wouldn't say EVs are any sort of significant leap. You call it an exploited framework, but where do you draw the line on this? Is breeding to get a specific nature exploiting a frame work, or is it adding depth to team creation? How about egg moves?

Just throwing it out there, but the official Pokemon Platinum strategy guide has a section on EV training, in case you were thinking that the whole thing was totally unintended or anything.
Anyways, you want to see the competitive scene opened up to more players, which I'm fine with, so long as it doesn't remove elements that, while not appealing to you, appeal to a lot of the current competitive players i.e. being rewarding time and knowledge investment with superior Pokemon. I can see how this can be done easily by making the EV and IV system more transparent and accessible, but I'd still like to hear a plan that involves distancing them more and achieving this.

Perhaps it's wrong for us (or just me) to look at the two (i.e. distancing and blinding) on a linear spectrum. Indeed the transparency you suggest could be used in certain areas and mine in others. I didn't mean to imply that the likes of EV training were just 'unintended' either, but rather exploited mechanics that players forced the developers to acknowledge, there's a big difference there.

I don't know if I can offer a worthwhile suggestion without delving into actual work that would best be left to Gamefreak/Nintendo. Like you said though, it would probably be easier to make them more accessible, but I sense a few inherent dangers in that too. For example, how do you make the system known without watering it down and hurting its appeal as well? It wouldn't be as simple as Oak explaining it to you in the first few minutes of the game. Or, even if it was a sought-out sequence somewhere later in the narrative, it would create certain design issues that clash with the pacing most are too used to by now (perhaps this needs to happen though?).

For the sake of the discussion however, something in the realm of my suggestion could be as simple as the nature not being stated at all (or set in stone for that matter), but merely the result of a Pokemon's stature, expression, and general appearance (also, why not let it have the ability to shift between a limited spectrum of natures individual to its species as well?).

The only real dangers I see with my solution would be the technical prowess and hardware required for it. Of course it begins to have a domino effect on what things such as breeding are meant to accomplish and whatnot, but it's not inconceivable as far as I can see.

Yeah, I don't think there's one universal answer, but I think we can view it as two general attitudes of either moving towards more or less information being given to the player. The pros and cons for each I think are pretty obvious if we keep everything this simple: revealing more about the framework that determines a Pokemon's stats would make it easier for players to go about creating the ultimate Pokemon, but it could also intimidate newer players or make them feel they need to take steps that they would have otherwise ignored, possibly ruining their experience in the process.

I guess my question is still about drawing the line on "too much information". Right now Gamefreak seems to think that all information about a Pokemon has to somehow fit in the "canon", i.e. it's reasonable to hear that your Pokemon has a "lonely" nature, and even if the player doesn't know exactly what that does, they might enjoy the bit of extra flavor. I agree that in this regard a table full of EVs wouldn't do much for them, but I think even EVs and IVs could be presented in a fashion like this.

What about some sort of "Pokemon history" tab on the Pokemon page that shows the Pokemon progressing in one of those, uh, net charts. Can't think of what they're called. Where the blob like spreads out in different directions. Anyways, my point is that it isn't the amount of information, it's how you present it. Like nature, I think the EV system needs to be put in a place where it makes immediate sense but also will reveal specific data for players who "know how to read it". Newer players who want to learn what it exactly means are free to do so, but still get a sense and some useful information from it. Obscuring it further would just make more work for the people who want that information.

As for explanation, how much are we even given now? If you ignore the books on the shelves or the Pokemon school and such, you never learn about abilities, type effectiveness, natures or many other things, most of them then becoming meaningless words or symbols in the Pokemon status screen. That seems to be alright with everyone.

I think that's something we can agree on (the presentation that is). A new upgraded Pokédex could help out with the 'information curve' there as well (so as long as it isn't doing ALL the work). Right now, it's just flashy and full of information that could/should mean much more than it currently represents. It wouldn't hurt for them to add more variability to the existing 590+ instead of giving us a couple hundred more either. In some ways, Black & White just exhausts me from simply thinking about it.

I suppose that's another issue I have with it though (i.e. your last paragraph). Were I completely removed from the Internet, Pokemon would just be another game I play straight through and toss back into my trunk (so in that sense, my argument kind of turns against itself). I don't like the EV/IV mechanics, but like I stated, I ended up begrudgingly embracing them to an extent.

I don't think SnakeLinkSonic is suggesting that Game Freak remove the competitive element from Pokemon, or the edge that devoted players can gain through hard work. His problem seems to be with the IV and EV systems. They're both convoluted and invisible, and the EVs and IVs themselves have little to nothing to do with the game they dicate. Personally, the mechanical way in which EVs and IVs are gained seems contrary to the idea of Pokemon, where a dedicated trainer can become a master with only a rudimentary understanding of the factors at work and a whole lot of heart, and I think that, rather see these numbers removed, SnakeLinkSonic wants them rebuilt.

By entirely revamping the game mechanics, Pokemon could be streamlined and made more nuanced. I agree with SnakeLinkSonic to this point, but I think he would prefer that the underlying numbers are impenetrable to even the most dedicated Pokemon players. I disagree here, because like you mentioned Keatsta, the extra effort required to level Pokemon properly is now part of the fun, but a problem arises because it's actually not fun to do at all. I believe a redesign could introduce simpler, more enjoyable methods to train while maintaining the depth established by the series. Yes, it would probably mean our EV/IV trained teams would essentially be lost in translation, but at the expense of better, more comprehensible gameplay, I think it's worth it.

I agree that a redesign could be beneficial if all of the customization and work to reward elements were carried over, which is why I asked him exactly what he had in mind. I think my problem arises when you bring in this "idea of Pokemon", which is either already true in the context of players being able to beat the main quest of the game with very little knowledge and often just their overleveled starting Pokemon or detrimental if true, as Pokemon on the competitive level does and should require large amounts of knowledge to succeed.
So yes, I'm up for a redesign if it actually makes the game easier to play at all levels and doesn't remove any competitive elements. But again, I think the way to achieve this is through more transparency, not less.