Sunday, November 6, 2016

Drafting Pokemon #02: Move Tutor

Pokemon Origins

Last time, on Drafting Pokemon... I defined the scope of the project of creating a Pokemon drafting card game. After knowing that I'm going to include all of the first 151 pokemon as a part of this game, that has already easily defined the card pool for the most important card type: 151 pokemon cards. This leaves the second-most-important card type to figure out: pokemon moves. Let's TM28 in.

Thinking Many Moves Ahead

I already established that later-generation moves are O.K. to include in this game. Actually, it's necessary, since the first generation move pool sucked for creating balanced gameplay, with the case-in-point being Psychic pokemon's weakness of Bug and Ghost not having to fear any actually-good Bug or Ghost moves being used on them. 

So, because of this allowance of a move like Shadow Ball being included in this game, this opens the door to a whole bunch of moves to select from. But where do we begin? Let's start with some questions that first come to my mind.

  • How many move cards should I include in the card pool?
  • What is the minimum number of pokemon that should be able to learn a move in order for that move to be included in the card pool?
  • How many move cards should a player be able to draft?
  • Physical Attack/Defense and Special Attack/Defense or just Attack (with HP, of course)?
  • What elements of pokemon battle gameplay are not being included?
  • What moves will pretty much never be used?

Two Pidgeys, One Geodude

Some of the answers to these earlier questions as well as other ones can be found or at least honed in on when we bring up something that Josh Jelin, a peer, suggested to me: have pre-defined moves printed on the pokemon card. He used an example of having Pikachu have the stronger move which could be evolved to stack its move with Raichu, which has the weaker move but better stats. This simple solution is fantastic because this solves or at least helps multiple problems:
  • How do we make unevolved pokemon matter?
  • How do we include the signature moves of pokemon like Hitmonlee's Hi Jump Kick?
  • What's the best way to minimize the number of choices to make when drafting moves?
How do we make unevolved pokemon matter?

I was thinking of at least one solution for how to make a Machop matter in a card pool that includes Blastoise and friends, especially when Machamp is one of those friends. But it wasn't an elegant solution which led me to think about whether or not I should even include unevolved pokemon - including Pikachu. Which means a Pokemon card game without Pikachu in it, which feels super weird but something that can be done if it was for the sake of a better game.

However, if Vulpix has Fire Blast printed on it while Ninetales has a lesser move printed on it, then that means Vulpix can still be a force to be reckoned with while Ninetales has to deal with having drafted other move cards to improve its more-impressive-than-Vulpix stats. OR, if you draft both Vulpix and Ninetales, then you're able to utilize Fire Blast on a Ninetales, and things just got amazing.

Also, now we don't have to worry about there being only Gengar to represent Ghosts and Dragonite to represent Dragons. You can also draft Gastlies, Haunters, Dratinis, and Dragonairs.

Pokemon anime

How do we include the signature moves of pokemon like Hitmonlee's Hi Jump Kick?

There are some pokemon moves that are iconic. But some of those moves are only found on a couple pokemon or even just one of them (otherwise known as a signature move). How do we include these famous moves without creating super-narrow cards that are duds most of the time they're drafted? Ah, printing the move on the card itself! With this, Hitmonchan can still enjoy its super-sweet Mach Punch.

Note: This Bulbapedia page of signature moves is pretty sweet and useful.

What's the best way to minimize the number of choices to make when drafting moves?

A Pokemon team is six pokemon. Each pokemon can know four moves. Together, that's twenty-four moves. That's a lot of moves to have drafted. And, like in Magic: The Gathering, some of the moves you draft you won't end up using due to any of several reasons - like being stuck with useless choices at the end of a draft round or choosing to draft some water moves when you find out at the end of the draft that you're not actually using any Water pokemon on your team and are only using one or two of those drafted water moves after all.

Printing moves on pokemon cards means they already come pre-loaded with moves that you don't need to worry about drafting. If each pokemon already knows one move already, then that at least lessens the number of moves needed across your team to 18, at most. If you have evolved pokemon, it's even less.

Eighteen move cards is much more manageable of the number of choices to narrow down on from your total number of drafted cards (though, still a lot, it feels like). This benefit is probably the most important one in terms of creating a game that's fun to play.

Show Me Your Moves

How many moves should I include in the card pool?

When I refer to the "card pool," I mean all of the possible cards that can show up in this drafting card game. For the pokemon card pool, this number is 151. Then, from there, for a single drafting session, maybe about a third will be pulled from this card pool (we'll settle on an actual number after finding out results from playtesting).

For moves, we don't have a set number. It's good that you can't count on every pokemon to show up in any one particular draft session. The same should apply to moves. But how many moves should we draw from?

Well, that depends on the X number of cards being drawn from this card pool of number Y that we are trying to figure out. And the X number of cards being drawn depends on the maximum number of moves your whole team needs, which seems to be 18 moves right now (one move per pokemon on your team, each of which wasn't evolved). And if there are always an N number of moves that are unused after drafting, then that would, together with 18 used moves, be a Z percentage of cards that get used from those X number of cards being drawn from the card pool of Y number of cards.


Whatever all those numbers turn out becoming, I want the X number drawn to not be 100 percent of card pool number Y, since that means you can always count on Ice Beam showing up in SOMEONE'S hands. I also don't want X to be 50 percent of Y, since that means your decision-making comes down to a coin flip when you're thinking, "Is it possible Thunderbolt was in in this draft?" Because I don't know what this magic number between 50 and 100 percent should be, I'll start off with 75%, then have playtesting results show me whether I should go higher or lower.

X = 0.75 * Y
Z = (18 * N * 4) * X, where N is the number of unused cards we need to figure out and '4' being the number of players

Figuring out N number of unused cards is tough. This depends on the next section's question.

We'll come back to this, but let's just throw a number out there for now to see what a calculation looks like: 50% unused cards.

Z = 18 used cards * 0.5
Z = 36 cards per player
36 * 4 players = 144 cards = X
144 = 0.75 * Y
Y = 192 total moves in the card pool

Well, holy shit. That seems like a lot of moves to decide on. Let's hope that 50% unused cards is actually too high for the sake of amount of work. ;) But if I gotta do 192 moves, then I gotta do it. We'll cross that bridge when we get there.


What is the minimum number of pokemon that should be able to learn a move in order for that move to be included in the card pool?

As mentioned previously, a signature move of a pokemon, like Twineedle for Beedrill, will be useless to draft 99% of the time. There obviously has to be more than one pokemon that should be able to learn any one particular move card available in the draft, but what's that minimum number? I'm not sure. If I were more well-versed in mathematics, I might be able to crunch a number. But because I'm not, I'm going to have to find out more along the way, perhaps leaning on playtesting results to find out.

I know that Tackle is one of the most well-known moves. So somewhere between that number as our "100%" and one, which is only Beedrill knowing Twineedle, is the number we want. 

Until I know more, I'm going to lean toward picking moves that are known by as many pokemon as possible. It FEELS like there isn't a danger of having too many moves known by too many pokemon. If anything, it might be the opposite, which will be its own challenge to address.

How many move cards should a player be able to draft?

As addressed earlier, to be determined based on the ideal percentage of cards that go unused after drafting and using up to 18 move cards.

Physical Attack/Defense and Special Attack/Defense or just Attack?

There are some moves that care about the physical or special versions of an attack or defense stat. Because of this, we need to know what kind of stats a pokemon is going to have in order to weed out our move choices.

At this time, I'm still not sure whether we're going physical and special distinctions. I want the depth of gameplay but am scared that, for a card game, there's too much calculation that'd end up happening. Let's write it out for the move Thundershock:

Damage = ((Special Attack Power + ThundershockPower) * Weakness/Resistance/Immunity) - Special Defense


Damage = (Attack Power + Thundershock) * Weakness/Resistance/Immunity

(The reason why there's no defense calculated here is because, since there's no distinctions of types of defense, the defense just gets already summed with the defending pokemon's HP stat.)

Let's try doing "real" numbers now.

Damage = ((5 + 4) * 2) - 7
Damage = 11, against a 20 HP pokemon, leaving 9 HP left


Damage = (5 + 4) * 2
Damage = 18, against a 27 HP pokemon, leaving 9 HP left

Is the former too much to do, especially when you need to look at your pokemon's stat, their pokemon's two stats of the applicable defense and HP?

With the worry of too much calculation going on with the former, I worry that doing a conversion/adaptation of current stats for the latter will come with its own challenges.

A reminder that, while the original pokemon games didn't feature physical and special distinctions for attack and defense, it had a high Special stat to be applied for both offense and defense. I don't like that at all. I don't want a pokemon with the highest Special stat to be strictly better than all other pokemon with lower Special stats when not factoring in type effectiveness (looking at you, Mewtwo).

This direction is still something I don't know which I'll go in. I know that fellow Magic design enthusiast Mad Olaf is warm to the idea of simplifying to Attack, HP, and Speed. I'll continue to keep this in mind.


What elements of pokemon battle gameplay are not being included?

By this, I mean things like Low Kick caring about the weight of a pokemon. Pokemon weight is rarely a factor for pokemon moves. And caring about this means printing the weight on every single pokemon card. It'd be better to cut this.

Another thing is weather conditions. When it's raining, water moves get better. When Sunny Day is used, fire moves are better. In this case, these weather conditions also enhance Thunder and Solar Beam, which I think is pretty cool. And there are pokemon abilities (if we end up doing pokemon abilities) that key off of weather conditions. I like when there's synergy like this. For this reason, I WANT to include weather conditions, but if this means there's too much complication for this to be worth it, then I'll cut weather conditions.

Then there's things like whether a move makes contact for those abilities that care about contact. I think "making contact" is also an unnecessary added element. I don't think there's enough excitement around contact to be worth its inclusion.

There might be other elements I'm not mentioning here as well, but it's something I'll consider the ramifications of for each battle gameplay element I come across when choosing moves.

What moves will pretty much never be used?

I'm looking at you, Leer and Growl. Some stat-raising moves like Dragon Dance are awesome. But some suck. And there are other moves, like Scratch, that may pale in comparison to other moves available. When including a certain power level of moves, I'll be sure to keep in mind whether a move is just so outclassed in every way compared to other moves that it shouldn't be included at all.

You don't include Shock in the same set as Lightning Bolt.

Move Along

So, here's my current next steps:
  1. Figure out which signature moves will go on each pokemon
  2. Figure out which moves most pokemon of each type will want to and be able to learn (Thunderbolt on an Electric type)
  3. Include non-signature moves on pokemon that would not create redundancy (or at least lessen it) with actual drafted moves (having Thunderbolt be a drafted card and also as a move on Magnemite and Voltorb)
  4. Put a move on each of enough pokemon cards (inclusive of every type) to be able to simulate a draft (stats not needed right now)
  5. Finish creation of moves to be at least 144 (enough for the guesstimated 50% of moves drafted are used on your pokemon for a full set of four moves each)
  6. Playtest enough drafts (no battles) to get the data to be able to determine the right number of moves that need to be included in a draft and whether the number of applicable moves turns out to be a big problem
Thanks for making the move to read this post. As always, feedback in the form of comments on this post or on via other communication / social media platforms are welcome. =)



  1. Idea: If you have the moves have a point cost, and each pokemon have a set amount of points to use for moves, it could make moves like tackle more useful, if it costs 0 or 1 points out of, let's say, 10. A more powerful move like Fire Blast could cost 7 or 8.

    Another question: If a pokemon has both Fire Blast and Ember, what would make it ever use Ember?

    1. Heh, the point method being sorta-like mana or when you have 10 max crystals to spend in one turn in HearthStone. I'll keep this as a solution tool if I run into issues. Currently, it seems like the limitation might be unnecessary.

      As for having both Ember and Fire Blast - I think that'll just be something that's redundant if you let it happen. But it's a good point if you're not able to overwrite moves that are already on the pokemon. On a random note, Fire Blast isn't 100% accurate while Ember is. ;) I guess Flamethrower and Ember would be a better example.

    2. You even have a convenient in-game reference for something like this: PP, or Power Points, which provide a limit on just using the most powerful moves all the time. Maybe more powerful moves can't just be used over and over and have some sort of use limit or restriction on their use, while weaker moves like Tackle are always available but not as strong.

    3. Ah, yes. Thanks, Travis. If limitation is needed, then utilizing what's already present is best before coming up with new solutions.

    4. I think this is along the right track for sure. Do note that, in the games, stronger moves are only available to Pokemon that level up, as well! Rarely is low PP the actual drawback to a strong move; its availability, conditionality (Belch), or infrequency (Hyper Beam) are the real drawbacks.

      In addition, I do think a resource system where everything starts 'full' would give the game no sense of progression or escalation. Having stronger moves available only after a Pokemon 'levels up' some number of times (whatever that means) seems like a reasonable form of progression. However, again, it's a lot more stuff to track.

      Do note that in Bradley's proposed way of dealing with evolutions, the 'compensation' for a move like Ember is that it's attached to a stronger Pokemon, and Flamethrower is attached to a weaker Pokemon.

      Bradley, I see you mentioning Accuracy, but nowhere do you discuss how it would be present in the game. Dice-rolling?

    5. Inanimate! Good to interact with you in at any sort of capacity. =) Thanks for providing your thoughts.

      I was wondering whether someone would think about how to handle the accuracy logistics. =) I was saving a future blog post to be about the logistics of the game, which includes handling accuracy, tracking status effects & stat changes, and how to handle players choosing their actions during battle.

      Stay tuned!

      P.S. With current events related to the elections, my progress has halted temporarily, delaying my progress. So, it might be a while before I post another update.