||[Mar. 18th, 2011|11:13 am]
Pokemon is one of my guilty little pleasures in life. I'm not sure what it says about me that I consider fetishism a regular pleasure and playing a childrens computer game to be a guilty pleasure, I try not to think about questions like that too much. Before I get distracted writing about what I intend to write about, I know this is a something that a lot of you (guilty or otherwise) engage in, so perhaps we should get a group together and play some multiplayer sometime next week?|
Anyway, I got to thinking about the level of strategy in the game, as I inevitably have done with every game since snakes and ladders (Dominant strategy: Get the first turn by any means available, other than explicit cheating this is the only strategy that makes a difference, dominant strategy offers approximately a 50.001% chance of winning). Partly this is because the AI is so bad, I can't decide if that's to make the game easier for its target audience or to let you always be the underdog (in terms of raw power) and have a good chance of winning anyway.
Ultimately you win by removing all of the opposing pokemons HP, so sooner or later it comes down to dealing damage. It turns out the formula for this is more complicated than you'd expect:
Damage ~= (Attack x Movepower / Defence) x Typebonus x STAB
Attack is more complicated than it seems, because you have a regular and special attack rating, each move is either regular or special. So you should choose your move based on which of your attack ratings is higher.
Defence is more complicated than it seems, because it is also broken into regular and special. So you should decide based on the ratio of your attack rating to their defence rating. But you cannot explitally check your opponents defence rating, you can get an idea from what pokemon it is (All of their stats fall within a specific range) but you could also actively train your pokemon to have high ratings where they normally have low ones to trick your opponent. You could always experiment in the battle, but that means potentially wasting a turn on a suboptimal attack.
Typebonus is a multiplier based on the type of the move and the type of the defending pokemon. This multipler can be big enough to blow all other factors out of the water, ranging from x0 to x4. However the defender can have two types, in which case their resistances are determined by multiplying the bonuses together. Also you cannot explicitally check your opponents type, but this at least is fixed by pokemon, so if you just memorise all 600odd of them then you're set.
Also the type chart, I'll get you started but I don't want to record the whole thing here: Grass does double damage to water which does double damage to fire which does double damage to ice which does double damage to ground which does double damage to rock which does double damage to fire which does double damage to bug which does double damage to psychic which does double damage to poison which does double damage to grass which does double damage to...There are 17 types and in about a third of cases something will happen if one type hits another, you get the idea. Also it's not reflexive or in a consistant pattern, for example fire deals half damage to water and water deals double damage to fire. However electric deals half damage to grass, but grass only deals regular damage to electric. Also if fire hits fire it does half damage, but if normal hits normal it does full damage and if dragon hits dragon it does double damage.
So you need to choose the move with the best typebonus that is of the type (physical or special) that best maches yours and your opponents defence.
Then there's STAB, which stands for "Same type attack bonus". You add 50% to your damage if your move is the same type as the attacking pokemon. So sometimes a nominally supereffective move performs less well than you'd expect.
Finally there's movepower, all of these multiplers mean nothing if you don't know what you're multiplying. A power 120 move is probably better than a power 10 move with good stats, STAB and typebonus. This is often context dependant for some types of move, so some moves deal more damage if you're at full HP, or if your opponent is injured, or if it's the first turn etc.
So that's it. It's a little complicated, but the right strategy is to take your movepowers in context, multiply by your appropriate power and your opponents appropriate defence, apply the byzantine type system, account for STAB and pick the one with the biggest number.
Only moves can also only be used a limited number of times per battle, so you need to account for that and make sure you don't waste a move that you'll need later.
They also have accuracy, so you need to determine that moves individual chance of missing and factor that into your decision. Is it better to maybe kill your opponent this turn or definately get him next turn? What will his moves do to you (No you can't check your opponents moves either, so it might be worth having a scout whose job isn't to kill but to survive getting hit by everything and learn your oppnents capabilities)
Also a lot of moves have special effects, like swapping your pokemon around or putting various sorts of upgrades and downgrads on your or your opponents pokemon. Sometimes a mix of the two. Some types of change will persist if you change pokemon, others will be gone. There's even a move to let you take your nonpersistant bonuses with you when you change - but do you want to deal 0 damage for a turn just to get that?
But aside from the PP, accuracy, special effects, attack/defence, movedamage, contextdependantdamage, typebonus, STAB there's no much to consider.
Well there is one other thing, you or your opponent could give up making a move in order to switch pokemon. This switch happens before anything else. So if you can anticipate your opponents move you can swap to something that will resist most of the damage (through appropriate defence or typebonus). You also need to work out whether they are likely to switch and if so what to, so you can pick a move with the appropirate bonuses for taking that thing out.
Of course there are moves that affect switching, making it impossible, making the new pokemon take damage when it occurs, forcing the pokemon to switch in, switching out while making an attack. Come to think of it there are moves that affect everything mentioned so far, moves that change pokemons type, moves that change their defences, moves that change the odds of your move going off first, moves that change how many PP other moves cost, moves that heal damage, moves that alter accuracy, moves that influence other moves for context dependant damage.
Also there are two things I've not mentioned yet. Each pokemon has an ability, which does something special and each can be holding an item, which either offers a permentant bonus or is automatically used for a one off bonus. There are various combinations and synergies between these, for example holding a "wake up if asleep" item and using the "Heal to full health but fall asleep" option.
Really though, that's just the simple stuff. The really complicated part of the game is how you set up the pokemon in the first place. Since you get to choose which ones you have and can influence which are their high stats, which element they are, which ability they have, which four moves they have and what other pokemon are on the squad that might benefit them. That's where the really deep strategy comes in.
Who the hell makes a game like this for children?