This article goes out to all you readers out there who have played at least one Pokémon game in your life, and especially those out there who dreamt about the world being real or at least thought of how that single-player experience could be translated to an online game. If you never understood the phenomena which is Pokémon or for some other reason have yet to play a Pokémon game, do linger on and continue to read this article, it could spark a Pokémon interest or make you think different about your own favorite games.
Pokémon have always been a big part of my life but the funny thing is, I have only played three different Pokémon games; Pokémon Blue, Pokémon Black and Pokémon Y. So a question one might ask is why I feel so strongly for Pokémon when I have only tasted a small part of the Pokémon cake. The short and easy answer is, I love Pokémon Blue (and of course its counterpart Red) and have played through it more times than any other game. There are mainly two reasons for this, the Pokémon world and the feeling you get while playing the game. I connected both these reasons to come up with the ultimate question: Could there ever be a worthy Pokémon MMO Game?
I know there have been and still are some online Pokémon games out there but they are mainly solo driven test projects made because of the lack for an online Pokémon game, and the games are often put to sleep after a year in beta. I will leave these games out of the article and instead focus on what I think makes the Pokémon games what they are and still hope for a true more immersive Pokémon experience, even if it will destroy the world.
First is the setting and mainly the world where all the games unfolds. There is a general feeling in all of the games countries\continents of feeling content with yourself while embarking on the journeys they offer. It is hard to describe what this feeling consists of, but I hope and guess it is something many people playing the games have felt. If I would further analyze the feeling of the world, I am guessing the bricks building it would be of the world’s harmony despite the threat from various teams, the familiarity of the world especially Pokémon X and Y since they so clearly symbolize Paris. And the thought of how this world actually could be real given the similarities between it and our world. But I think the safety of the world also play a part in the feeling, how you always end up at the nearest Pokémon center when you lose Pokémon fights or how you always know that everything is going to be alright and that the threat out there is not actually any threat, because you are the hero and will be the hero no matter what.
Brining this feeling into a massive online world is a very hard idea to grasp fully given the nature of massive online games. Instead of just you training and fighting your way through the game to become the ultimate Pokémon trainer or Pokémon collector, there will be thousands of other players on your server thinking and going for the same, which of course is natural for a MMOG. But it could harm the essence of the feeling I just described, knowing about all the other players out there would threaten the harmony of the game and most certainly take away both the secure feeling of the game, since you’re not only engaged with the Team populating the theoretical Pokémon MMOG but also the feeling of being the true and best Pokémon trainer and\ or collector in the world of Pokémon. It is still possible to succeed with getting the right feeling if they go story heavy like Star Wars: The Old Republic but it could also harm both the game and the online experience in doing so.
The second and foremost thing making the Pokémon what they are and why I love especially Pokémon Blue/Red the most, are the Pokémon inhabiting them. The main reason for why I didn't get into Pokémon games after the first was mainly because of how boring and out of place the Pokémon have felt after the 151 first ones. The Red/Blue Pokémon felt genuine, familiar and true in the same way as the world does but the Pokémon following them have never lived up to the greatness of Pokémon for me and after reading through various comments regarding the Pokémon games it is also the opinion of the Pokémon fans out there (at least the ones writing about it). In making a future Pokémon MMOG all the developer really needs to do is listen to the fans, so that part of the theoretical Pokémon MMOG is actually a very easy part. The harder part of incorporating Pokémon in an online setting is if, and if so, how the legendary Pokémons should be implemented. Given that there is always only one of each legendary in all the Pokémon games the easy solution would be to don’t have them in the game, but then a lot of the fans would argue against it given how big a role legendary Pokémon play in the end game of Pokémon games. The other way to go would be incorporating legendary Pokémons as epic or legendary drops or encounters in the game, but then there would need to be a whole lot of them in the game, and I think shiny Pokémon would be a better fit here.
Given these dilemmas it is hard to see the dreamy Pokémon online game ever appearing but then again, people are trying new ways of bringing the Pokémon experience online, and the most notable of them in my opinion would be Twitch plays Pokémon. If you have not heard about this already they set up a Twitch streaming of Pokémon Red called Twitch Plays Pokémon where people could enter the game commands in the comment section which made the game execute them. It took only two weeks of people spamming commands for the game to reach its ending. And I would argue that this is the closest we have gotten to a true Pokémon MMOG today since it has the right feeling in it, it has the right Pokémon and there is only one hero in it, but a hero we all share.
So is it possible to make a really good Pokémon MMOG and do we want it to become a massively shared experiences? Sure, Nintendo is trying out more and more online aspects of the Pokémon games, where Pokémon X and Y in some ways feels like a true massive online experience, but is it possible to create that immersive, persistent but changeable MMOG as other games out there try and in some cases succeed or will it end up with loosing many of its had core fans in the online translation process as Star Wars: The old Republic and The Elder Scrolls Online have when going from single player to a massive online experience. I do not know the answer to the question if we will ever see a worthy Pokémon MMOG out here, but seeing how slowly Nintendo is taking it with online experiences it is very hard to imagine them trying out this concept.