Creating the Game

Posted By at 7:32 PM on Sunday November 6, 2011

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What was your first impression when you heard about the idea of Pokémon from planner Satoshi Tajiri?

Sugimori: Pokémon is an idea that was inspired by the Game Boy’s hardware. Tajiri said “Wouldn’t it be interesting if we could use the Game Boy link cables, up till now only used by players to compete against each other, to trade something?” I’d heard trading card games explained a long time ago, so I got the idea right away, but at first I only had a vague idea about how to turn something like that into a game.

In order to spark an exchange, there has to be something you want to gain. Do you think that’s the reason why you hit on the idea of creating appealing characters?

Sugimori: That’s right. The 10 staff members tried their hardest to dream up characters. We had portioned out the work and appointed programmers, graphic artists, and planners, but everyone contributed outside of their field. The game was made up of everyone’s ideas.

Why did you decide to have 151 Pokémon?

Sugimori: At first, the game was more RPG-like. It was only in the middle of development that the goal of the game became completing your Pokédex. That’s when memory capacity and deciding on a good number of characters became an issue. We actually wanted to have more. We designed around 1.5 times more characters we actually used.

Why did the game change from an RPG to one where your goal was to complete your Pokédex?

Sugimori: When we were writing the text for the Pokédex, we started talking about how fun it was to collect Pokémon. We hadn’t wanted to do a fantasy RPG from the start. We felt a story about a boy travelling to fill up his Pokédex was more appropriate for modern times than a tale of a hero battling an evil villain.

In a normal RPG, the protagonist levels up, right? But in the Pokémon games, your Pokémon mature as they travel with you. Why is that?

Sugimori: At one time, the protagonist would fight as well. But then we asked ourselves “If you can fight on your own, what’s the point of having Pokémon?”

Masuda: At first, the protagonist and his Pokémon had a human-pet relationship. When we started making the game, however, we wondered whether it wouldn’t be better if they were more like friends. That’s when the story changed to one where everyone grew up together. Since they were meant to be friends, we made it so that each player could raise a Pokémon and develop its personality. That’s why they can only learn 4 moves. When deciding on what sort of moves he wants his Pokémon to have, the owner’s personality will come out. We designed it so that you’d feel your Pokémon were something that belonged to you, friends to you.

So, being able to name your Pokémon is part of that design?

Masuda: That’s right. We had the idea of being able to name your Pokémon from the very beginning.

Sugimori: We were discussing whether it would be better to have 3 save files or to be able to name all 151 of your Pokémon, and everyone was unanimous in saying “It’s better to be able to name them all!”

It’s more important to feel a sense of attachment to your Pokémon, then.

Sugimori: Definitely. It’s necessary for each player’s Pokémon to have different personalities if you want to trade them.

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