The Pokémon universe has spanned across many games throughout the six generations, but one question still comes up from the fans “Why isn’t there a Pokémon MMO?”. Today we take a look into the thought process behind an MMO based in this universe as well as what designers would have to consider in the games creation. By the time we reach the end of this article, we should be able to finally see if a Pokémon MMO is possible or just plain wrong. So let us begin our adventure as we dive into the theory behind a Pokémon MMO.
The best idea to start out with is to split the design considerations into groups. Starting with where to base the game world. Since the series spans six generations and takes you all over the Pokémon world, you have a lot of options. Do you pick one generation and all the Pokémon that come with it, do you pick all the generations but limit what you can and can’t catch or do you start at the beginning and work your way through? The best way to try and depict the universe would be to start at the very beginning, the first generation and the original 151 Pokémon. The reason behind this is because you have a very solid base to work off of. With this you can use Blue, Red and Yellow to determine the locations of the wild creatures and also help drive the characters story. This means you would have a game starting in a solid region with a good amount of variety and room to innovate from the source material.
You could have the initial release cover the Kanto region. Then spread to the other game regions in the form of expansions.
Obviously there is the option of keeping the MMO as up to date as possible by creating the entire Pokémon world, which isn’t impossible to comprehend. In the game you could have all the regions from Kanto to Kalos with their respective Pokémon. Then the player, upon creating their character, has a choice to choose between which region they want to start in. This can in turn effect what their starters could be as well as their story. Although this would create a lot of variation off the get go, the game may lack in detail in places. Keep in mind that after generation one Kanto Pokémon appeared everywhere. So you could effectively see the same Pokémon in similar areas regardless of where you start. This can be resolved by limiting each region with their Pokémon variants only, but what does that mean for the Kalos region from generation six? The region is mostly consistent of Pokémon from previous generations. This particular region would have to be a high level area, instead of a starter area, so that the game would be balanced out. This isn’t fair however since Kalos comes with its own unique starters. You can tell already that this first design step is not the easiest by any means.
The second consideration to put into play is the system of catching Pokémon. After a lot of thinking I think I have the perfect design for this system. Let’s make a scenario, you start in the Kanto region and you are given your starter Pokémon. You head out into Route 1 from Pallet Town and this is where the game opens up. Around you will be Pokémon roaming around that are native to the area, kind of like boars or other common enemies to kill in World of Warcraft. By selecting the Pokémon you wish to battle and selecting to enter combat, your first Pokémon will be automatically released to fight. This opens up two hot key bars above your Pokémon’s health that is displayed on the bottom of the screen along with an experience bar. The hotkeys from 1-4 are your partners attacks and abilities whilst hotkeys 5-8 are trainer abilities. Your creature’s powers are dependent on what you decide to teach him or her over time, which allows you to customise your Pokémon with your preferred fighting style. The four trainer abilities are as follows:
* Run, Immediately return your Pokémon and attempt to run away. This is a 50/50 chance of working in most cases but is harder to pull off depending on level difference.
* Throw Pokeball, This brings up a small menu displaying what Pokeballs you have in your inventory. Simply choose what you wish to throw and cross your fingers for the catch.
* Heal Pokémon, This brings up a small menu displaying a collection of potions and status effect removal items. Choose what you want to use and it will be used on your current active Pokémon.
* Call, This causes the you to root on your partner in battle. This has a slight chance of increasing the damage of the next attack your Pokémon commits to.
With these mechanics in place you can easily walk around the world, catching Pokémon at your leisure. But what about battling trainers?
After contemplating how a trainer battle would go down in a Pokémon MMO, I believe it would be beneficial to place trainers that wish to battle in routes, caves and cities with a Pokeball sign over their head. This works similarly to quest givers in other MMO’s like Guild Wars and TERA. You go up to the trainer, request a battle and then you are thrown into an instance with that NPC where you both duke it out with you partners. You can also identify how challenging these trainers are by having their Pokeball signs colour coded. Green standing for easy opponent, Yellow standing for tough opponent and Red standing for difficult opponent. In these instances your opponent is capable of doing the same things as you are from switching Pokémon to using potions. The only twist with trainer battles is that you cannot run away, staying true to the original titles. If you win you gain experience and money. If you lose you white out and reappear at the nearest Pokémon Centre. This step of the creative process is not difficult to comprehend as it is a straight forward system. But now the next step arises, Rarities and day/night variations.
You can tie the Anime and Manga to the game, even by adding in Ash or Red as boss encounters
As we know in later generations, varieties and rarities of Pokémon can differ from area as well as night and day. First off let us sort out the night and day cycle. To make sure that breeds of creatures differ depending on the time of day in game, when it hits a certain hour the Pokémon should simply run away from whatever area they are in and be replaced by their nocturnal counterparts. By animating it as a retreat and reveal rather than a fade in and out of existence, it helps make the world feel more immersive and real. As for rare Pokémon, here is a system that I have devised. Let’s take Viridian Forest where it is rare to catch a wild Pikachu. Like a F.A.T.E in FF XIV: A Realm Reborn, time and again there will be a prompt that will appear on your screen saying that a rare Pokémon has appeared in the area. This means that a few Pikachu’s are now roaming and will keep roaming until they are all caught. Once they have been captured or fainted, the invisible timer will start ticking again until the next Pikachu roamers become available. This makes it so that everyone has a fair shot at bumping into a rare Pokémon and players that are focused on catching them all can try their luck.
So at this point we have discovered that it is perfectly possible to design and create a Pokémon MMO, but there is one area that is a concern and that’s the story. Of course you can have the story of becoming the champion of the Elite Four, but that isn’t deep enough. The game would have to be as deep as the Pokémon anime or Manga, which does open a lot of doors. You can have encounters and quest lines around Team Rocket and other organisations. You can have quests taking you on a journey to check on disturbances, which can lead into either trainer or rare Pokémon battles. This can also help tie in group raids and quests such as the Team Rocket HQ and confronting the legendary Pokémon. The narrative can be as comical or as serious as you could want it to be, with many possibilities for variation.
Imagine a Pokemon MMO not restricted by a previous game, but a completely original title
After looking at all of this I think it is safe to assume that yes, a Pokémon MMO is very possible. There are games that have been created that are online Pokémon games based off of the original titles that also prove that it’s possible. But there is one thing that stops this possibility from happening and that’s ‘would it sell’? That is dependent on target audience, release window and whether you are going to have a subscription or free to play model. As these games cost a lot to create, would there be a profit in making a fully fledged Pokémon MMO? That’s up to the games designers and of course the creators of Pokémon themselves. As the classic Pokémon games keep getting better and add gain more online capabilities, are they turning into hand held MMOs in their own right? These questions are best left for the designers and of course the fans. The possibilities for the franchise are huge, but if the classic system of Pokémon games works it could be years to come before an MMO can even be considered.
So what do you think about the possibilities of a Pokémon MMO? What would your design choices be? Let us know what you think in the comments below.