7 Eylül 2014 Pazar

I hate the current Base Stats.

Yes, I will be ranting about the base stats again.

Especially now that I looked at the stats Eviolite grants to pre-evolved Pokémon, and the fact that PU is on its way to become an official tier, I am amazed by the massive amount of power creep that has been going on in singles and in-game tiers. Now, this doesn't apply as heavily to Nintendo's official metagame, but while the standard VGCs are more balanced than current Smogon metagame thanks to the item clause and Kalos-only Pokémon clause(as well as banning of several event Pokémon and Kyurem), the commonly used Pokémon don't change drastically from the Smogon metagame. As in, there's almost no change at all.

Now there are several factors to this. Firstly, here's Serebiiforums' Excitable Boy's argument to one of the issues regarding the balance:
Gen I in particular seems to be designed as a JRPG first and foremost, with considerations as a multiplayer game taking a backseat (for reasons other than just the wacky balance). The necessity of hitting Dragon-types super-effectively carries more weight when you consider that the semi-final uses three of them and the final boss will always use three Pokemon weak to Ice, and the only two Rock-type moves are Rock Throw (50 bp/65 acc) and Rock Slide (75 bp, one-off TM-only, only three fully-evolved Pokemon that can get STAB off it (one of which is Onix)). Consider also that the only Ice-types in Gen I are Jynx (in-game trade), Lapras (gift Pokemon, shows up underleveled), Articuno (legendary), Dewgong (in an optional area, very mediocre even in Gen I), and Shellder (Super Rod or optional area, needs a Water Stone, not all that outstanding other than Defense). The Ice-types that were comparatively easier to obtain weren't as good for non-Icing purposes, while the ones that required more work had bigger payoff. Gen I is built to support Ice as a necessary typing for late-game.

Five generations later, though, GameFreak is giving far less thought to the balance and structure of the main story and putting a greater emphasis on the interactive and competitive aspects. We're still getting Ice-types as late-game 'mons, but they're becoming decreasingly important in terms of importance toward defeating certain bosses. Revamping the type chart to suit this shift in focus seems like a necessity.

In terms of how the design of the game as a JRPG relates to the competitive aspects, it's fair to say that many of the late-game 'mons typically tend to be more likely to excel in multiplayer or post-game modes, while many of the early-game 'mons outside of starters usually fall out of use unless given some kind of post-game buff (such as Diggersby getting access to Huge Power, or Mawile getting a Mega-Evolution restricted to post-game availability); it's plain to see how Riolu/Lucario, a Pokemon initially introduced as a mid/late-game acquisition that needs babying to become good, absolutely manhandles BW2 and particularly XY (where it comes free with a Mega Stone) when it's made available early.

The balance of Pokemon and typing we have today is the result of a story-focused design shoehorned to fit a multiplayer mode, only now the story-focused design has been eschewed nearly entirely in favor of attempting to revamp the palatability of the competitive aspect. As a mechanic, Mega Evolution works to revamp that aspect both through its virtue purely as a mechanic, but also as a way to make early-game trash viable competitively while still ensuring its role as trash in-game; however, the type chart has not received a drastic change to parallel this.

I will be discussing this point later. On the other hand, we can discuss some of the moves towards balance GF has made so far, the Mega Evolutions, the Stat alterations and the Eviolite(I will not be discussing the increased amount of rare moves, because GF doesn't really do that to have more balance, but to make each Pokémon and types more distinct... which ends up as really clever, really inadequate, or really stupid):

First off, let's discuss Eviolite:
While Eviolite has been very influential in the past generation, currently it is largely a joke. Unless your name is Chansey or Porygon2 of course. However, even in its initial release it was only really useful for former fully evolved Pokémon like Togetic, Magmar and so on, and pre-evolved Dragon-types such as Zweilous. While it is still a notable item for lower tiers, with lower tiers in this comment being PU and LC, it is not something that will bring Roselia to mainstream metagames, either of them that is, any time soon.

But why? Well, it is simple, Pokémon is an offensive metagame, and most pre-evolutions are neither designed to be defensive, nor do they have particularly high stats. Even formerly fully evolved Pokémon have paper-thin defenses(save for the certain exceptions). In addition, while Eviolite still grants statistically the best possible stat boost spread for pre-evolutions on average, this is not true for all pre-evolutions. Some of them would prefer other spreads, like Defense/Attack or Attack/Speed. When this is coupled with the fact that Eviolite only really barely grants the stats of a fully evolved Pokémon without any items, and considering that regular fully evolved Pokémon have stopped being the norm thanks to the Mega Evolutions and many, many pseudo-legendaries and legendaries, Eviolite has become simply obsolete... though really it was obsolete even at day one. Many players have stopped using Eviolite Pokémon in Gen V even if they were superior to their originals simply because they couldn't pressure the opponent as their evolutions, and considering the fact that not only a team can only afford one Eviolite user in every mainstream metagame, but also the limitations pre-evolutions have by the virtue of being pre-evolutions(such as more shallow movepools, and worse abilities), it was a humble but insufficient idea.

I will be discussing several alternatives to how to address Eviolite's issues. Now let's discuss Stat Alterations;

For all the current stat alterations, check out Serebii's Updated Stats page.

So far, the Updated Stats have been very beneficial. Even though they are minimalist changes, they not only increased the capabilities of existing Pokémon, but they also increased their BSTs to more acceptable levels compared to other species that are similar to them. There are few issues with these, however;

1)The boosts are insufficient.
While the current boosts have made most of the boosted Pokémon more acceptable, there are still more Pokémon whose stats are a joke, from Raichu to Jumpluff to Butterfree/Beedrill/Beautifly trifecta. And even for some of the boosted Pokémon like Scolipede and Exploud, while their boosted BSTs are still acceptable, they are still very low for three stage Pokémon, even if the two are early route fodder(though Scolipede kind of gets away with it with its new Hidden Ability, that just makes rest of its abilities even more trash). There are also several counterpart Pokémon who didn't get the same boosts, like Dustox and Politoed, as their alternative evolutions.

2)The boosts have limited distribution.
Currently only certain three stage Pokémon and Pikachu has gained stat boosts. This has been theorized by R_N to be due to potential cross-generational evolutions, but recent abundance of single-stage and two-stage Megas confirms that this was done to ensure necessity for two-stage and single-stage Megas. However, obviously not all Pokémon can have Megas, and even if they have Megas, that doesn't mean that they will reach to the level of other Megas. This also ignoring the fact that there are more Pokémon with Baby pre-evolutions that would like more boosts, as well as many Baby Pokémon that would appreciate the boosts... in addition to several pre-evolutions that require boosts.

3)Mega Evolution's boosts have been taken away for sake of these boosts.
This is an unique issue for Alakazam. As it gained stat boost, its Mega has been given only 90 BST boost. While this sounds reasonable, considering the fact that this puts it at a lower position to other Mega Evolutions, and considering that its Mega has a really mediocre ability for its stat distribution, this is actually rather bad. This doesn't mean that the lost 10 BS is of utmost importance, but it would have made its Mega more balanced.

Now let's discuss Mega Evolutions in relation to lower-tier Pokémon:

The problem with these Pokémon is that many of the lower-tier Pokémon have not only lower Base Stats, but also shallow movepools and mediocre abilities, even as Megas.

In addition, since unlike cross-generational evolutions both viable and nonviable Pokémon get Megas, this causes a disconnect between them. While viable Mega evolving Pokémon can afford to not use their Megas(perhaps, they can even get away with not using them period), the nonviable Pokémon can't. In addition, since their bases are weaker, that means the Megas are weaker as well, and have to compensate in other areas. And if they can't, we get Mega Ampharos, Mega Blastoise, Mega Houndoom and Mega Abomasnow.

This disconnect means that either weaker Megas have to compensate with large movepools, overpowered abilities and/or more specialized stats, but this means that Megas themselves are insufficient for boosting existing Pokémon, and merely make unbalances more apparent. Unlike the previous cases, Mega Evolutions can be, and have to be altered in other areas than simply realtering stats, but since one Mega per team idea will likely get scrapped for the overabundance of mediocre Megas this might not be a large issue, but stat alterations will likely remain as an option.

And as much as I can dislike them, they are obviously still the most successful means of making Pokémon viable. But this doesn't mean in any shape or form that they will remain this way, unless they actually get continuous boosts as GF's top dogs the pseudo-legendaries and the odd Pokémon like Breloom, Shuckle, Pikachu and Scizor do.

However, now that we discussed some of the ideas GF used to create more balance, let's discuss the ideas GF puts to create the disarray. Starting with;

1)Repetition of Archetypes:

This is a common issue for ongoing franchises, but for Pokémon, this is mostly a minimal issue. Pokémon have steadily tried to differentiate its archetypes to some extent, Hydreigon is wildly different than Goodra, Zoroark is very different than Lucario, Ampharos is very different than Luxray etc. However, the problem with Pokémon's archetypes is that most of them are for early-game, which results in them being inefficient in the long run, unless they are maxed out in an area. In addition, if the archetypal Pokémon are too similar but one is clearly better than other, then the previous Pokémon is clearly outclassed. This is also true for other forms of counterparts like Gender Counterparts or Version Counterparts, but the more powerful archetypal Pokémon outclassing its predecessor is strictly a generational issue.

While it is true that stats do not play a significant part in this issue compared to other elements like abilities, this is not necessarily always the case. The gap between Dewgong and Walrein, or previously version counterparts Mightyena and Houndoom, and the two pictured above, Butterfree and Vivillon, still suffer significantly due to BST gap, and there are more examples to this like Golem vs. Gigalith, Delcatty vs. Cinccino/Lopunny and so on.

2)Baseline Shift:
This is related to Power Creep, but not entirely(as save for few hiccups, Pokémon handles Power Creep adequately, and the current generation have successfully fixed most of the problems Gen V brought in). The Baseline Shift in this case refers to the average amount a stat can have to be considered viable. Take for example, in Gen IV Base 100 Attack was considered the average. Come next generation, 110-120 was considered average, and now in Gen VI 120 Attack is not considered good. This has happened to other stats as well, 100 Base Speed is no longer good enough, either. The problem occurs because the current stats of older Pokémon are not altered to fit this change, mostly anyways. Since the Baseline Shift doesn't change beyond 10 something Base Stats in each generation, the stat change wouldn't need to be drastic(at least for formerly viable Pokémon, the rest needs massive rework). But it is simply not happening outside of the few three-stage Pokémon and through Mega Evolutions(and formerly cross-generational evolutions).

3)Stat Distribution Change:

This is more interesting than other two cases. Each generation has a different focus on stats compared to the other. For example;

1)Gen I primarily focuses on bulky offense, with many glass cannons and specialized bulky offensive Pokémon thrown in.

2)Gen II primarily focuses on defense, support and bulky offense, with almost no support for glass cannons that aren't useless.

3)Gen III primarily focuses on dual offensive Pokémon, with heavier emphasis on Speed and bulk.

4)Gen IV primarily focuses on bulky offensive and defensive Pokémon, without much fast Pokémon or heavily specialized sweepers.

5)Gen V primarily focuses on heavy offensive and heavy defensive Pokémon, with many specialized bulky Pokémon thrown in the middle and few balanced Pokémon here and there.

6)And Gen VI primarily focuses on bulky offense again, with Speed being forgone for abilities like Unburden or priority moves, and heavier emphasis on offense on Mega Evolution end.

This sort of push and pull towards balanced and specialized distributions causes disarray in viability, with offense getting more push due to offensive nature of the game, and higher popularity(and marketability) of offensive Pokémon. This means that balanced Pokémon are losing less focus, unless the generation focuses on balanced gameplay, in which case heavily specialized Pokémon are losing focus. This is not helped by even more odd stat distributions of certain Pokémon, for example, the severe lack of Sp. Def for physically defensive Pokémon, and vice versa. Either more Pokémon need to be more balanced, or more Pokémon need to be heavily specialized.

Let's discuss how these challenges can be bridged. Starting on how to rebalance the fully evolved Pokémon, through stat based alterations of course:

1)Rebalance the stats to fit the new averages:

Exactly what it says on the tin. But let me get a bit more in-depth with this;

-Certain archetypes have recently gained higher BSTs. For example, the generic Bugs now have around 414-424 BST compared to the traditional 385 BST. And higher-tier ones like Leavanny and Scolipede have even higher BSTs. To rebalance the existing bugs, those should probably get an increase to reach around 415 BST at the very least. This is also true for Pikaclones, which can have their stats increased to match Raichu's current stats(and Raichu can be given more stats akin to an early Flying-type). Similarly, lower BST two stages should be buffed to around 490/500, and third stage Pokémon should be buffed to around 540/560.

-In addition, stats that are slightly lower than 100/120 barrier should probably get an increase. For example, Leavanny's speed can be increased to 109.

-In relation to this buffs, existing barriers can be expanded. For example, pseudo-legendaries and legendaries can get to around 620 BST, and the likes of Arceus can get similar 20/30 BST increase. Though for pseudos, this would be strictly for their lower stats, particularly defensive ones(though it would probably be more balanced to give Garchomp a higher Defense then Sp. Def, as it can easily use Yache Berry. Or perhaps a 10+ boost to its Defense and 10+ boost to its Sp. Atk can work, with its Mega getting just a +20 Defense boost).

These would be mostly minute changes to help the Pokémon that barely fall behind others, while helping other Pokémon to get more balanced. On the other hand, others that are currently falling behind their competition, such as Sunflora, Swoobat and early game rodents, would require much higher increase to become useful. Another alternative for such Pokémon would be;

2)Create more items for lower-tier Pokémon/Create more Mega Evolutions for lower-tier Pokémon:

This is similar to Marowak's Thick Club, Pikachu's Light Ball and Eviolite. Recently Stick and Lucky Punch has been upgraded to ensure Farfetch'd  and Chansey constant critical hits as well, if it uses a higher critical hit ratio move. However, since there are more Pokémon that remain worthless, like any fully evolved Pokémon with 450- BST can in theory have exclusive items that will boost two or three stats. For example, an ability that increases Attack and Speed by %75 for early game rodents, an item that gives a free Quiver Dance for lower tier bugs(Except Venomoth) etc.

The alternative solution is also obvious, but since the Mega of the lower-tier Pokémon would be obvious, giving the lower-tier Pokémon more than one Mega, with each Mega playing differently, would be a sufficient way to differentiate them from the likes of Mega Charizard X and Mega Garchomp, and allow them to utilize their large movepools, and actually bring their unpredictability back.

Other minimal changes that can occur are:

-Bringing back the older Special stats. Some of the Pokémon didn't gain new Special Atk/Def stats that exceeded or matched their previous Special stat. Most notable of them is Ninetales, which should have 100+ Sp. Atk, but there are notable ones like the Legendary Birds, Tentacruel and Cloyster. There are larger gaps of course, like Chansey's 105 Base Special being divided into 35 Sp. Atk/105 Sp. Def, but others can be brought back(and 105 Base Sp. Atk can be brought back, but it would require Blissey getting near pseudo-legendary stats... which would not be bad at all actually considering how much a pain in the posterior getting a Chansey is without getting a Happiny). With these changes, other specially inclined Pokémon can get similar boosts, with Eeveelutions' Bases changing to fit two 110 stats.

-Matching counterparts more directly. As previously discussed, there is actually massive stat gaps between cross-generational version exclusives, and there are a few gaps between other counterparts. To balance this out, minimal stat changes can be made. Manectric can get 90 Attack and 70 Sp. Def and matching boosts to its Mega. Dewgong can be given similar stats to Walrein. Aggron and Rhyperior can become pseudo-legendaries. etc. Older counterpart relationships can also be reignited, with each starter getting an equal amount of 535/540 BST, similar to the Kanto starters' older shared 425 BST.

However, as the final note for fully evolved Pokémon, regardless of the stat changes, in order to keep up with the competition, especially with the competition Mega Evolutions bring in, all Pokémon need to have much more powerful items and much more wide movepool and useful moves and abilities. This will not only help vanilla Pokémon, but also Mega Evolutions as well, as it will allow for move different sets to flourish, and several types that aren't the standard Flying/Water/Dragon/Fairy might actually become useful... though Ice and Rock require a massive rework and more types to balance themselves out. Because regardless of the imbalances, the metagame still allows all fully evolved Pokémon to have some sort of a niche.

Now, let's return back to pre-evolutions and Eviolite;

As discussed previously, pre-evolutions are designed specifically to be weaker than their evolutions. This is not only true in terms of raw power, but also in terms of movesets(almost all modern movesets have a bias towards fully evolved Pokémon, which I will discuss later in relation to Baby Pokémon) and abilities. As such, in order to pose any serious competition to evolved Pokémon, the pre-evolved Pokémon must have more than just power to meet the levels of fully evolved Pokémon, but also surpass them... just slightly enough to exceed the power of those with held items. After all, they not only have weaker HP, but are also forced to use one item, which can simply be knocked out. Assuming that they weren't previously a mid to high-tier fully evolved Pokémon of course, in which case current Eviolite spread is sufficient, but their movepools, abilities and offensive stats... not so much.

However, even then exceeding the stats of those with held items will not be sufficient, as fully evolved Pokémon can Mega Evolve, which can't be knocked out. Exceeding the power of Mega Evolutions might actually be necessary for pre-evolved Pokémon, especially if the one Mega rule is abolished. Now let's discuss how these can be handled, but first, let's discuss the existing issues;

1)Not all pre-evolutions are created equally:
This sounds simple enough. There are those who were formerly high-tier fully evolved Pokémon;

Then there are those who were formerly mid-tier fully evolved Pokémon:

Then there are those who were formerly low-tier fully evolved Pokémon:

And so on. With this in mind, it is unreasonable to give all pre-evolved Pokémon the same amount of boost, not because they vary slightly in terms of viability, but they vary drastically in terms of general usability.

While former fully evolved Pokémon can work in some ways with current Eviolite, there is no possibility that likes of Trapinch can.

2)Not all groups of pre-evolutions are equal:
One simple solution to the previous problem would be to increase the boost to first stage Pokémon to allow them to reach to level of fully evolved Pokémon. This can't really work out, simply because not all pre-evolutions are created equally. Even ignoring the differences between second stage Pokémon, there are still massive gaps between members of each stage, and between each stages in a single evolutionary line.

For example, Ponyta's got BST that exceeds 400, but Sunkern has only 180 BST.

3)Defense/Sp. Defense boosts are not optimal for all species:

While it is true that on average Defense and Sp. Defense boosts are better for pre-evolutions, others would simply prefer to become glass cannons or specialized bulky offensive Pokémon. In fact, for some species, it is the only way they can exceed their evolutions in terms of BST.

Now, to handle these issues, there are few routes we can take, first and foremost we need to address the gap between stages;

1)Solution #1: Tiered boosts:

This is pretty simplistic. Depending on the Base Stat Total, each tier would have a significant increase in boost. For example;

Tier 1, +%50 Sp. Def/Def Boost: Porygon2/Scyther. BST: 500+-540

Tier 2, +%62,5 Sp. Def/Def Boost: Magmar,Electabuzz etc. BST: 460-500

Tier 3, +%75 Def/Sp. Def Boost: Chansey, Shelgon etc. BST: 420/460

Tier 4: +%87,5 Def/Sp. Def Boost: Gabite, Togetic etc. BST: 380-420

Tier 5: +%100 Def/Sp. Def Boost: Tranquill, Espurr etc. BST: 340-380

Tier 6: +%112,5 Def/Sp. Def Boost: Abra, Deino etc. BST: 300-340

Tier 7: +%125 Def/Sp. Def Boost: Hoothoot, Shinx etc. BST: 260-300

Tier 8: %150 Def/Sp. Def Boost: Lotad, Combee etc. BST: 220-260

Tier 9: +%200 Def/Sp. Def Boost: Sunkern, Azurill 180-220

Another alternative would be through their designation. For example:

-Early bugs, Sunkern, Ralts, Azurill etc. *3 Def/Sp. Def Boost.

-Cocoons, Baby Pokémon. *2,75 Def/Sp. Def Boost.

-True first stage Pokémon. *2.5 Def/Sp. Def Boost.

-First stage pseudos and starters. *2.25 Def/Sp. Def Boost.

-Lesser second stages. *2 Def/Sp. Def Boost.

-Pseudo-legendaries and starter second stages. *1,875 Def/Sp. Def Boost.

-Low tier former fully evolved Pokémon and the likes of Klang, Lairon and Doublade etc. *1,75 Def/Sp. Def Boost.

-Mid-tier former fully evolved Pokémon. *1,625 Def/Sp. Def Boost.

-High-tier former fully evolved Pokémon. *1,5 Def/Sp. Def Boost.

Though it is hard to say which one will be more balanced.

2)Solution #2: Tiered boosts and boosts to match to tiers:

This is more complicated than the previous one. The suggestion here is to create a low amount of tiers, and rebalance the existing Pokémon to fit the tiers.

For example;

Tier 1: Baby Pokémon and Bugs. *3 Def/Sp. Def

Tier 2: First stage Pokémon. *2 Def/Sp. Def

Tier 3: Standard second stage Pokémon, low-tier former fully evolved Pokémon. *1,75 Def/Sp. Def

Tier 4: Mid-tier former fully evolved Pokémon. *1,625 Def/Sp. Def

Tier 5: Everything else. *1.5 Def/Sp. Def


Tier 1: Baby Pokémon and Bugs. *3 300- Around BST

Tier 2: First stage Pokémon. *2 Around 300 BST

Tier 3: Second stage Pokémon and lesser former fully evolved Pokémon. *1.75 Around 440 BST

Tier 4: Everything else. *1,5, 505/500 BST

With this sort of system, lesser accomplishing Pokémon would get some jump. For example 455 BST Dusclops would reach to around 490/500 BST, Togetic would reach to around 440 BST(or it can be higher, since Togekiss passes beyond the standard 540 BST barrier), and Sunkern would get a massive 120 BST boost. This wouldn't be as balanced, but this would improve the vanilla Pokémon, and help stages that are largely a joke to stand on their legs(ie. Kirlia).

3)Two tier system, but three boosts:
This would be more broken than other solutions, but here's how it would work.

Regular Eviolite now gives three boosts, two Defense boosts, and one %25 boost to Speed.

For first stages, Eviolite would give double Defense boosts and one %50 boost to Speed.

This would help lesser Pokémon, and would balance out for the fact that Eviolite Pokémon only barely pass their evolutions, but for Pokémon that already surpass their evolutions(such as Porygon2, and to lesser extent Magmar and Electabuzz), this would be a terrible idea.

4)Rearranging Pre-Evolutions Stats to be more defensive:

This would be more complicated, and for some cases impossible without boosting the evolution. Recently, due to Eviolite there has been a jump in defenses of pre-evolutions. With more boosts to their defenses, the pre-evolutions are more likely to be able to use Eviolite... in theory anyways. This route would still require BST rearranging, however, it would require lesser tiers for Eviolite. On the other hand, as we discussed before, not all pre-evolutions can go defensive, which means that either pre-evolutions have to get more defensive moves or abilities to actually work.

On the other hand, this also fixes the issue of different distributions for different pre-evolutions, but there are still other issues on having only Eviolite.

To fix the inability to use more than one Eviolite, some sort of buff to Eviolite is necessary. The tiering systems or stat alterations for pre-evolutions would fix this. On the other hand, VGC's Item Clause is still an issue, so is the optimization of pre-evolutions. To fix this,

Bring more alternatives to Eviolite:

I commonly hear of giving an Eviolite variant that boosts Attack and Sp. Attack as opposed to Defense and Sp. Defense. The problem with such assessment is that, there is only so few of the hundreds of pre-evolutions that can actually work with these. On the other hand, it is true that most pre-evolutions have only two stats to really work with. As such, the best possible solution would be the Choice items approach. That is, have an Evio- item for all possible stat combinations. This way, one team can use more than one pre-evolution in very different ways.

This, with the previous tiering system, can cause issues with species-specific items. For example, if Pikachu gets another item that doubles its offensive stats, what's the point of Light Ball? If Cubone gets an item that doubles both of its offensive stats, what is the point of Thick Club(same argument applies to Clamperl)? To address these issues;

Solution 1: Give more boosts to existing species-exclusive items: This is already a necessity to Clamperl's items and for Lucky Punch/Stick, but others can get boosts as well(except Soul Dew). For example, Light Ball can give %25 boost to both Defenses and Speed, Thick Club can increase critical hit or accuracy etc.

Solution 2: Make species-specific items act like form altering items: That is, they can't be Knocked Out, Tricked or else. This would massively boost viability of Marowak and Pikachu, but again, it can and should work for other items as well.

However, this feature could work for Evio- items, but it would make them way too overbearing on the metagame.

And that's all I got on stats. Say whatever you want on the comments or something. I don't know.

Note(20/09/2014): Important note, I recently found out that Ampharos actually has +100 BST for its Mega, not +90 BST. The blog has been edited to reflect that.

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