Welcome to this week’s Objection! The Moarpowah arena of debate! Tonight the Inverseman and Silverwolf discuss the future of Pokemon, will it be online?
1. Should there be a Pokemon MMO?
2. If so, what role should it have in the series? (main game, spin-off, side series etc.) If not, why?
Inverseman: Okay. I don’t think a Pokemon MMO would be suitable for the series. In a way, the Pokemon series is already like an MMO without many of the trappings of one. Pokemon is a very complex game. The idea is that it has to be LOTS of different things to different players. Some play for competitive Pokemon. Some play for the story or the world building. Some play casually. And yours truly plays perhaps why someone would might play Disgaea. True OCD incarnate. (level grinding and perfection) So an MMO would detract and overemphasize certain aspects. Like totally reshift the social aspect of the game. Pokemon encourages going outside and playing with your friends, not yelling over a mic. Example: Global Trade is there but limited, global wi-fi battle requires you to coordinate with your friend over a forum or calling him or her up on the phone.
Silverwolf: I have to disagree with you, Inverseman. In my honest opinion, a Pokemon MMO could definitely work. I do acknowledge different people play Pokemon for different reasons, but the same could be said for any MMO. In MMOs there are usually two main aspects to the game: Player vs. Player (PVP) and Player vs. Environment (PVE). Now, some people play MMOs solely for PVP: they get their kicks defeating other players whether its for the challenge of playing against a non-AI opponent or to revel in ruining someone else’s day. Now, for PVE, there are a multitude of aspects: some players merely like doing quests, others try to see how fast they can level up, and still others like to defeat difficult bosses or dungeons with teams of other players. There’s also the RPing crowd which, while small, is still usually present in most MMOs. They enjoy “living” in the game world and trying to remain in character. Obviously, most players fall into some mix of these interests, but I think such a thing could totally work for a Pokemon MMO. If players didn’t want to battle competitively, they could take the time to travel the world and complete quests which could fill in the story aspect. Players who didn’t care about story may just want to Catch ‘Em All! There’s an endless list of things people could do given how rich Pokemon’s lore and world is.
Inverseman: Ah, yes, that is a valid point but I think Pokemon builds beyond just being a game of many colors (pun half intended). Think to say card games and board games. There’s a reason why in spite of many online options why people would rather enjoy playing Settlers of Catan or Magic: The Gathering on a table rather than on a PC, there’s the communication aspect that I think enriches Pokemon beyond say a regular RPG or an MMO. The idea is that back in gen1 you had to truly seek out and interact with friends to catch ‘em all. And frustratingly coordinate which of your pals got stuck with Flareon. This isn’t impossible in an MMO, not in the slightest. But the key point here is not if you can communicate and coordinate in a competitve PVP RPG/RP-guild/Quest grinders/etc but how you communicate. Of course then Game Freak, being under Nintendo also has to concern themselves with parental issues but that’s been sorted out in kids’ MMOs like Disney’s Toontown and the like. So the main idea is to really capture a different communication that I think becomes lost if you just put Pokemon on the PC or as an MMO.
Silverwolf:Well, that may be true but I’m not saying Pokemon should ONLY be an MMO. On the contrary, I think the handheld and the MMO should exist side-by-side. That way, people without decent gaming PCs can still have their fill of Pokemon. No matter what, there will always be those hold outs who want to do things old school.
Inverseman: Ah, that’s an interesting prospect. So in this case, assuming we have the means to connect NDS/3DS and the home PC Pokemon would be “two games”
1. The handheld monster-in-my-pocket
2. The global social network
Did I understand this correctly?
Silverwolf: Yes, exactly. I think the two could coexist. Whether they have any interaction or not is another story (though I’m guessing they would) but I think the handheld needs to always exist. I think any game series should “stay true” to its original format if possible. It’s the reason why things like, say, a Megaman game for Smartphones only is a bad idea…
Inverseman: And how? *chuckle*
Now I can see this if the Online Pokemon is a “second Pokemon”. Independent of the first. This could possibly work but under certain circumstances. It will definitely use assets from Game Freak unless they outsource to another studio but what comes to mind for me is Shin Megami Tensei: IMAGINE An MMO also based off a popular monster-catching RPG series. I can’t say IMAGINE is the most successful but it does exist and sustain itself in some way. But it has no interference with SMT, Persona, Devil Summoner, etc. Pokemon could go this route and “Pokemon Online” would have to differentiate vastly from Pokemon mainline. Because unlike SMT Pokemon has to build on itself. Charizard in Pokemon main games for handhelds can be fire/flying but if he becomes fire/dragon or plays different online, how much confusion would that build?
Silverwolf: I suppose that’s true, but I like to think the online game would stay true to the franchise.
Furthermore, I think an online game could finally give people the freedom they always wanted. For instance, a lot of MMOs have faction loyalty and such. I know that there’ve been times I thought “what if I could join Team Rocket?” That doesn’t really work so well in the handheld games, but online it could be handled beautifully. Give players reputation bars and, if they do enough quests, they can join any organization. Obviously, there’d be good guy organizations too, but this could give the game deeper immersion and realism. It’d also be great to have the chance to travel to any region you wanted. Now if you want to check out the Goldenrod Radio Station before flying to central Hoenn, you could.
Inverseman: Taking advantage of the large canon Pokemon has then. I know I’d love to join some rogue faction in Orre, and it all is very tantalizing and I think if Pokemon Online was a very different Pokemon and in the right hands, it could work. But this hinges on total deconstruction to work because fame balance is tough job. Think like Pokemon Conquest or Mysterious Dungeon. That said, Pokemon “second” I’d say cannot be an adaptation of the mainline, it will have to play second fiddle, lest we run into quagmires such as legendary Pokemon, the EV system, and adapting the entirety of Pokemon programming. That established, the very different Pokemon Online cannot trespass certain boundaries of the mainline, unless Game Freak seriously restructures. I’ll concede that a fun MMO can arise but only if it goes so far, like the relationship regular SMT and Persona share. In mythos only.
Silverwolf: I totally agree. See, I think they could make the MMO the Pokemon world, but maybe a “different timeline” just so there’d be no risk of conflicting with the plot of future handheld games. I’d suggest they set is maybe…10 years after Red started his journey. All the criminal organizations were beaten, but slowly have been regaining power since and rise up to strike. Maybe throw in some sort of subplot about the Elite Four disbanding to create more drama.
Inverseman: Oh it can go in any direction we please. If and only if battles aren’t the usual turn-based fare. If it becomes too much like regular Pokemon we start sending mixed messages to the audience. After all, I’d say a central theme of Pokemon is still “go-outside”. Like Tajiri’s original inspiration: Going outside, catching bugs, and then socializing with friends as their bugs pummeled each other to death.
If Pokemon Online, a very different radical way to portray Pokemon, can still get some of these essences across I’d give it a green light.
Without making kids slaves to their microphones and headsets.
Silverwolf: Yes, that’d be good for the game, though honestly MMO and “go outside” are pretty much polar opposites (laughs).
Inverseman: Ah, but that’s where we’d have to innovate. Pokemon at least was innovation at some point in life no doubt. It was the first PVP RPG.
Silverwolf: Very true. I think Game Freak has proven they can innovate time and again (though to what extent with each game is up for debate), and I’d be willing to bet they could pull off some cool tricks for an MMO.
Inverseman: Hm, but I’d actually have to say that with the immense manpower it takes to build, balance, and maintain an MMO they’d have to go to another studio just to keep it up. Pokemon is an odd case similar to TCGs. You have to keep the rules and mechanics, but you have to stack on top of them. And if you can’t totally rip out the old carpet underneath fifteen plus years of stuff you have to streamline it, like in BW2. The game acknowledges EVs, and other fun things competitve players knew since Red and Green.
Silverwolf: Well of course, I think Game Freak could at least take a hand in the planning stages, though. I also think the MMO could lend itself to try real time combat, and perhaps involve the trainer a little more in the battles. Perhaps giving the trainer “auras” or something similar that can buff their monsters.
Inverseman: Oh for certain, trainer customization has grown bit by tiny bit.
For example, in gen 5 you can perform a Critical Capture where “you” get a critical hit and increase your chances of capture exponentially. That’s unexplored space. In competitive Pokemon for the handhelds, this is impossible but in an MMO, which can stand to be more casual in this regard, it’s space to be developed on.
Silverwolf: Most definitely. I also wonder if there should be “classes” or some other sort of job system to influence what kind of trainer you are. I think with an MMO such a thing is necessary to promote diversity and world-building.
Inverseman: In that case, we’d have to move further away from our usual idea of how to play Pokemon for sure. After all, Youngsters love their Rattata and Bikers love their poison types. If Pokemon online is more trainer-centric, it would have to develop those classes further than just your avatar. Because in the end you can’t just copy-paste 8 gyms, an evil crime syndicate, and the Elite Four into an MMO. And everybody is Red, Gold, Ruby, etc. That said I think we’ve reached a consensus on if there is a Pokemon Online, what it would have to look like. Something vastly different from mainline and separated from it. Focusing on different aspects of Pokemon while keeping to spirit and mythos. Basically, the biggest spin-off.
Silverwolf: Agreed. It should be a game that keeps the essence of Pokemon but should never replace the original handheld line.
Inverseman: Which is where our oddly expanding FIGHT, PKMN, ITEM, RUN menu commands will always be, our sixteen year old stack of stuff.
Well, I’m the Inverseman, returning to my investments by moving 30 Eevees on the Global Trade Network.
Silverwolf: And I’m Silverwolf, probably the only person who’d use an entire team of Mightyenas just for kicks.