Dev Blog: Why We’re Not Pokémon, Part Two: Fightin’ Words 

For our friends who enjoyed Tymko’s blog yesterday on Why We’re Not Pokemon (Pt 1 available here), we have the thrilling conclusion:

Part of this has been a complete re-building of the battle system from the ground up. Going into this project, there were two things which irked us most about Pokémon, from a design perspective. The first was how little room there was in battle for tactical choices. The second was the relative imbalance of power between different species of Pokémon. (No matter how much you love him, your Sunkern will never down a Kyogre).

    Now, some of you have battle Pokémon might take issue with my claim that there’s little room for tactical interaction: permit me a tangent to explain this. In a given fight between two Pokémon, your choices are generally boiled down to either attacking, or swapping to an appropriate Wall/Tank (if I’m getting ahead of myself, an overview of Pokémon roles/average battle can be found here.) The decision to attack is curtailed by the types of attack you have. If your Sweeper Garchomp has  Earthquake, you’re not going to use anything else against an Electavire. Furthermore, because of the difficulty involved in breeding moves onto a Pokémon, it’s impossible to have Garchomps with substantially different movesets without raising a whole new Garchomp. While we like the constraint imposed by limiting moves to four, we took a nod from Guild Wars, and decided to allow you to slot out different moves for different anticipated situations (which also goes hand in hand with the anticipated reduction in playtime: no-one wants to re-catch and train that Garchomp).

    We also have a panoply of different small changes to help us change how battles are won. In an effort to break up the monotony of flamethrower—>flamethrower—>ad infinitum until the enemy is dead, or you’re out of PP, we’re limiting move use not by a rationing system like PP or mana, but with turn-based cooldowns. Fireblast may be substantially more powerful than ember, but you have to wait longer between uses. We’ve removed EV and IV to complement the decrease in anticipated time people are willing to spend training/grinding (Guild Wars was another influencing factor in this decision: they do an excellent job of making the game about strategic choice instead of who’s done more grinding). All monsters of the same species and level will have comparable power.

    Perhaps the most significant way in which we’ve tried to add variety to battle is by re-working how the elemental rock-paper-scissors, a key part of Pokémon, is implemented. In Pokémon, fire beats grass simply because it deals double damage: it’s raw power. We tried to make types win and lose battles not because we decided to give them raw power in certain matchups, but because they mechanically interact in such a way as to give one monster the advantage. In our paradigm, fire beats plant because plant takes time to grow in power, and fire’s consistent damage output has no problem defeating it before that happens. Water beats fire because it has active deflects and counters, along with damage over time abilities. Electric circumvents these defensive with moves that can be charged up, allowing it to trick water into wasting its counters; or by paralyzing water to prevent its acting.

    We’ve also made a change to how stats work. Instead of differentiating between Special and Physical attacks, attacks scale off of different attributes depending on their function. Attack covers damage. Intelligence covers secondary effects, like paralysis, or stat boosts/reduction. Defense and Willpower counter the same, respectively. Willpower determines the effectiveness of your ability to heal yourself. Speed determines your dodge chance. Again, the hope is that this will promote a greater diversity of viable Monster/Move combinations. It also allows you to specialize between direct damage and a more subversive playstyle.

    In addition, we’re going to try and make a plethora more viable options that Pokémon did in terms of competitive-grade monsters. Pokémon features some monsters that are just mathematically incapable of being played at a high level by virtue of having lower stats across the board. In their final stages, all species will have comparable statistics, albeit spread differently. This means there may be some dedicated manipulators, healers, tanks, sweeper analogues, etc, but there shouldn’t be any one species that stands out too far from its peers (who but Forretress spikes and explodes so well?) Furthermore, choosing a dedicated species becomes just that: a choice. Generalists can handle multiple situations better than specialists (We took a few cues from EVE Online, and the upcoming changes they’re making to their spaceship classes). We have 3-monster parties, so these choices become even more significant. In an ideal world, players should have an immensely diverse set of options available to them, full of crazy combinations, where multiple builds and strategies are viable. If this doesn’t prove to be the case upon release and testing, we’ll happily tweak and patch like any other game.

    And that’s why I tell people who ask what I do that I’m making not Pokémon, but its spiritual successor. We have monsters. You can catch them. You can even make them fight each other, but at the end of the day, we come from a diverse lineage of games (Pokémon, Magic: The Gathering, EVE Online, Guild Wars, League of Legends, Golden Sun, Lost Magic, and others) and hope to provide a nice blend of nostalgia, and new, engaging experience.

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