The Pokémon games need no introduction. The world famous franchise of super cute, (fairly) pocket sized brawlers has been around for 20 wonderful years, and is showing absolutely no signs of stopping, which is a daunting task for the game's designers, developers and us!
I mean, how friggin' hard will it be to track down and catch 1000s of Pokémon by the time our grandchildren are grown and also salivating over the series?! 151 was more than enough, says this old man.
But now that we're sitting comfortably on a cool 721 different types of Pokémon, this makes me wonder how strenuous the design process is for creating new 'mons, and the thinking that goes into including them in the first place. Because the reasoning behind their inclusion must be way more than "OMG, THEY'RE SO CUUUUTE!"
How Pokémon Are Born
If you're a particularly fevered Poké-fan, the name Ken Sugimori should ring a ton of bells with you. The architect of Pokémon, Sugimori-san created the entirety of the first 151 critters himself, and has held various high-ranking positions within Game Freak and The Pokémon Company.
Most recently he was heading up his own team of artists with, possibly, the coolest and one of the most stressful occupations in entertainment – Pokémon Designer. A team which included the very talented Hironobu Yoshida, creator of Celebi and Magmortar, amongst others.
Back when Pokémon X & Y were still in development, Yoshida was a man existing in two worlds: working on the game's interface and designing new Pokémon within a team of 20 designers. Which sounds like a pretty daunting proposition right from the off.
In an interview with Gamasutra, Yoshida-san revealed the difficulty of creating mons in the first place:
"Since there are 20 of us and we're working all on our own ideas, we want to make sure we're not overlapping ideas."
But with so many people working on creating veritable pop culture icons, how do you go around making sure ideas are not overlapping?
"At Game Freak, we have an internal server where we can upload our designs and share them with everyone else on the team. This allows us to see what everyone else is working on and get ideas from each other."
Alright, that makes a shed load more sense! But despite being visually resplendent and cool, the 'mons have to serve a purpose when attempting to strike a balance between types and the battle system:
"Of course, we do a lot of free thinking on our own, but we also get orders from the planners, saying, 'We need this type of pokemon,' or even from Mr. Masuda, the director. He'll say that we need specific pokemon."
But, naturally, proceedings don't get any easier after the creative juices settle. Then comes the formidable process of trying to get your 'mons thrust into the game:
"It's very difficult work every time. There are probably five to 10 times the number of ideas that are rejected as the ones that make it into the final design, so it's a very difficult process."
There are a team of 5 or more people that preside over the inclusion of Pokémon. If these heroes dig your design, then you can expect to find you 'mons loitering in tall grass somewhere within the game. If not, well at least they go as far to offer some clarity as to why not:
"And they also will leave feedback on all of the designs, even the ones that are rejected, to say why they got rejected or why they didn't choose a certain one. What that lets us do is improve for the future, so we can use that knowledge for the next series of titles."
And if you were a particularly snarky character, you could say they didn't learn much from the creative back and forth after seeing their new designs for Sun & Moon. But I've gotta say, I f**king love Bruxish!
All in all, it's great to hear that the inner workings of Pokémon's most creative crew works fairly seamlessly! There's so much love poured into the game from the offset, which is conducive of a product that stands the test of time.
Here's to hundreds more pocket monsters!