Are gyms holding Pokemon back?

#1
In case you didn't know the origins of the idea, it all started with a guy who used to hunt bugs in his backyard. Looking for different kinds, watching them grow, showing them off to friends... that's where it all started. Even the social aspects came from imagining insects crawling along a link cable.

Pokemon has always been about a few main things: personalization, socialization, battling, and exploration. (Yes, you could name other things, but they sort of fall under these.) As Pokemon grew into the behemoth it is today, it built on the original formula, making each of it's most pronounced aspects even better than before. Pokemon have never felt more yours, and more like friends. The number of ways to link games and play with friends is astounding for a 1 player game. Battling has grown into a full legitimate experience, with it's own following. Exploration has... oh wait... it's largely the same.

For a series based on looking for stuff, Pokemon games are very linear, granted this was necessary back on the gameboy. Nobody was putting out some Skyrim or MMO for that little thing. What they made was the closest thing to an open world game it could handle. Go to the next town, beat the gym, and pass through a dungeon to get to the next town. Not a bad formula, but today games can be much larger in scale, including handheld games. Surely there's no need play in a straight line anymore, right? Surely a larger focus on the journey rather than the destination would favor a series built around searching and personalizing.

I can't help but feel something went wrong along the way, that in order to hold on to tradition Pokemon has been built around an aspect that was mostly there due to technology not being able to fully realize the dream. Am I being stupid, or is this a legitimate analysis? I don't mean to attack anyone's childhoods (I grew up on Red version) Please, give your thoughts.
 

Sprocket

P(n) = 1 - (1 - P(1))^n
#2
Gym progression is there to help drive the narrative, which didn't really exist much in the original games, but significantly increased over time. It also acts as your traditional RPG gatekeeper mechanic (You must beat this boss to unlock the next area), which most certainly did exist in the original games.

Quite frankly the games themselves would be boring as a single player RPG if there wasn't a gatekeeper mechanic.
 
#3
Agreeing with Sprocket. In Gen 1 the Pokemon League was literally right around the corner of the second town; if there weren't gyms, the only other reason to travel all around Kanto would be to get your Pokemon strong enough to take on the Elite 4. Gyms gave the general drive to explore and find/experience things and rewarding us for when we do.
 
#4
One of the main things I look forward to in the games is the Gym Leaders. They're essentially, like Sprocket stated, gatekeepers (bosses) and I feel without them the game would lose alot.
 
#5
Red and Blue gave you huge flexibility in doing the gyms, with things really opening up after Surge. (In fact, you can actually do them in any order at all if you use glitches.) That's something I feel has been lost in Black and White, with its arbitrary plot barriers after every gym. (When HMs aren't conditioned on gyms, and aren't used for regular movement, the plot barriers feel even more arbitrary, somehow.)
 
#6
Gym progression is there to help drive the narrative, which didn't really exist much in the original games, but significantly increased over time. It also acts as your traditional RPG gatekeeper mechanic (You must beat this boss to unlock the next area), which most certainly did exist in the original games.
But why gyms, and why only one order? Gatkeepers, or bosses as I'm more used to referring to them, need not have a numbered line drawn between them. And even if there is a general order, why is there only one path there? Why so few side paths until the end? Perhaps the story of a kid who goes from Gym 1 through 8 and then beats the Elite Four isn't the best narrative to be told for a game like this.

Do gyms need to go jump off a cliff? No not really, but having them be the center focus will keep you going from point A to B to C all the way to Z every time. Instead of starting at one end of a line, how about the center of a circle?
 
#8
Red and Blue gave you huge flexibility in doing the gyms, with things really opening up after Surge.
There is rarely more than one path, true, but that's not alway so. I've beaten Brycen before Jasmine in HGSS, for example.
You are right. Clearly Pokemon games are not linear. I am terrible at sarcasm.
 
#9
The route in Pokemon games tends to be pretty obvious, but I can't help but think this is in order to cater to the young age of the major target audience. I mean, up until BW, not a single Japanese Pokemon game had any Kanji, because it was assumed that the audience was too young to be able to capably read Kanji (meaning elementary schoolers in Japan). Even "hidden" items tend to be on the more obvious route, because the makers want young players to find as many of them as possible.
 

Sprocket

P(n) = 1 - (1 - P(1))^n
#10
The route in Pokemon games tends to be pretty obvious, but I can't help but think this is in order to cater to the young age of the major target audience. I mean, up until BW, not a single Japanese Pokemon game had any Kanji, because it was assumed that the audience was too young to be able to capably read Kanji (meaning elementary schoolers in Japan). Even "hidden" items tend to be on the more obvious route, because the makers want young players to find as many of them as possible.
Indeed. Pokemon games, as far as JRPGs go, aren't meant to be on-par with other JRPGs in terms of "where the hell do I go next?". There's still a little bit of it in the newer titles, but even Red/Green/Blue are nowhere near as difficult as a Final Fantasy or Dragon Quest game in that regard.

The difficulty is, and should always be, in the battles themselves.
 

breh

強いだね
#11
Well, you can use XD as an example of what happens without gym leaders.

Although the game is a bit aimless at times (there are some things that may stump you a bit), it's hard to say that the game lacks bosses; the evil team simply replaces the gym leaders. Personally, I actually really like this a lot - it allows for the specialization to be based on moves or strategies and not easily abusable types. I really liked that one boss was specifically meant to use doubles EQ; I thought that was pretty neat. Granted, it also helps that the game has a huuuuuge selection of Pokemon to aid it along, but that's beside the point. Gyms are not necessary to the making of a good Pokemon game.
 
#12
The route in Pokemon games tends to be pretty obvious, but I can't help but think this is in order to cater to the young age of the major target audience. I mean, up until BW, not a single Japanese Pokemon game had any Kanji, because it was assumed that the audience was too young to be able to capably read Kanji (meaning elementary schoolers in Japan). Even "hidden" items tend to be on the more obvious route, because the makers want young players to find as many of them as possible.
Indeed. Pokemon games, as far as JRPGs go, aren't meant to be on-par with other JRPGs in terms of "where the hell do I go next?". There's still a little bit of it in the newer titles, but even Red/Green/Blue are nowhere near as difficult as a Final Fantasy or Dragon Quest game in that regard.

The difficulty is, and should always be, in the battles themselves.
I'm thinking less "Where am I supposed to go next?" and more "Where do I want to go next?" This is the mark I think Pokemon is best suited to hit. Having over 600 monsters, a plethora of habitats to explore, so many legendary entities, Pokemon would flourish in an open environment.

Instead of: "I'm going to the forest, which is followed by the cave, which followed by the power plant", one could say "I'm going to the forest, but if I can't find anything I'll go to the power plant, and come back to the forest later to see if I can get deeper and find a rare Pokemon. I also think I found a new path in the cave, so I'll check that later."
 
#13
I'm fine with the current system. I just want more of it. The games can be completed in like 2 days playing casually which is very short. The gyms should be harder as well.
 
#14
I love the current system but... What I would like to see is some building-onto the current things. I kinda agree it could perhaps be open AFTER the E4, that way it is essentially "optional" content and the younger audience who may not be able to grasp the concept/figure it out, are not forced to try and figure it out to progress.

Also... I kind of see a huge flaw with the E4. Essentially, as the E4 champion, shouldn't YOU get challengers? I think it'd be nice to receive challenges (perhaps you are called when there is a challenger, or etc?), it'd keep the game a little ever-changing and give it a little realistic charm. Perhaps not the best idea, but I still find myself a little puzzled about it. It would add some more battle opportunities, and isn't that always a good thing? :)

It'd be nice if perhaps they made the plots longer, and even gave you options of what to do in the plot. Would perhaps make it less linear? (-is still sad I couldn't join Team Rocket in RBY- Nugget Bridge was a lie! :( )

As for gyms, however, I think they honestly should be stronger. I mean, seriously... First gym ranges from 10~20. HOW on EARTH did that gym leader get ALLOWED to have a gym? Now, I don't mean make them level 100, but a little added difficulty couldn't hurt. :) I don't think they're holding Pokemon back, but they do leave a little to be desired.
 
#15
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I agree with what the majority thinks of Gym Leaders AND with Chaoswalker.

Gym Leaders are bosses, and are a big drive for me. I love the Leaders (as characters) and their settings/puzzles/music. The thing is is that they're very linear recently (and this is coming from the guy who LOVED Final Fantasy XIII). What I mean is that they're very linear for a Pokemon game.


I personally believe that this is what Gamefreak should do:

-Design the world + characters + story + leaders ((open world, you can go anywhere anytime you'd like)
-Do NOT set a Gym Leader order (they're just chillin' in their respective cities)
-Keep the E4 security that blocks you from going in without 8 badges (maybe make that area a bit "explorable" and more enticing)

The system works by scaling the Gym Leaders' (& E4) pokemon to 2-3 levels higher than yours. (Or even higher/lower based on difficulty settings)

This way you might not get the satisfaction of owning a certain boss with a high leveled pokemon but if anyone played BW2...well, I love the leaders but they are mostly a joke.
What is up with the 3 pokemon limit?!
I'd rather have a difficult fight.
 
#16
Indeed Pokemon would be a better game if given the ability to freely explore the region in anyway you'd like.
The thing is stuff like the gym leader levels. Gates are kept so you don't take your Charmeleon and Mankey get stomped by Sabrina's higher level Psychics when you choose her (or find her) as your first gym. I'm thinking a way to avert this would be to give every gym leader's Pokemon levels depending on the order in which you challenge them. i.e. You challenge Wallace/Juan first so his Pokemon are leveled 15ish. Doesn't mean they can't have 'competitive sets' to make'em challenging, I mean saying just because you challenged the supposedly 'strongest' gym leader first he'll have stuff live water gun on his Pokes is eew, stuff like Surf and Ice Beam for coverage is easily learnt by plethora of water types to make it challenging even if their high base powers might feel overwhelming early on(iono maybe bubblebeam and aurora beam). But because you fight them in any order, more Pokemon should be available. See what I'm getting at?
Or another idea could be for all their Pokemon to equal your highest leveled.

The freedom would indeed make the game more real.

And yeah the elite four would be like the ultimate goal for those that trumped all the gyms. A question is, when you become champion why are the former champions now in your room :| shouldn't one of the elite four be demoted for him or sumn or they should compete for staying...

The ideas aren't perfect, but they could work given some edits. :)

Any questions?
 

Codraroll

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#17
I think Hoenn's layout was the best in terms of openness. You could basically go wherever you liked, but there were some things hindering your progress all the time: Environmental factors. If you could use Surf from the get-go, you could have made it from Oldale Town to Route 120 before hitting a "forced" obstacle, something blocking your path (in this case, an invisible Kecleon). Almost all the other obstacles were natural, like a big rock you couldn't move, or a lake you couldn't surf across. Yes, you were free to go there, but you couldn't before you had beaten the gym. So says the rules, and it felt natural to obey them. And you had to move around the map, retrack your steps and visit places over again to progress. It got a little linear at the end, after Fortree, though.

In contrast, Black/White was so "in your face" linear it made me groan at several occasions. It followed the exact same formula every time: Enter new area, do stuff, beat trainer (or Gym Leader) to progress. Every new area was blocked at the end by some laughable obstacle, and you couldn't go on before you had beaten that leader. There were no branching routes, and all the "dungeons" were just one-way-roads going slightly off the main path. It really didn't help that every trainer in one area spammed Pokémon native to that area (everybody used Vanillite in Cold Storage, everybody had Deerling on Route 6, etc), but those Pokémon were never seen with any trainer again afterwards.

So yeah, I'm fine with doing Gyms in a specific order, as long as you have some degree of freedom to explore along the way. Make the path choices be more complicated than "Forward" and "backward" as it was in B/W. I want the region to feel like a place I'm gradually exploring and growing familiar with, rather than a straight path to walk down. In Kanto, you'd go back and forth around Saffron until the gates opened, after which you could go from the city of the 2nd gym to the cities of the 3rd, 4th and 6th gyms in a minute. Have a look on the Unova map and see how far apart those gyms are there, and how long you'd have to walk to go between them.

Concerning the gyms themselves, though, I'd wish they would function more like they say they work. For instance, it would have been awesome if the gyms were sort of like B/Ws Big Stadium/Small Court, where a few trainers are rebattleable every day. After all, a gym is a place where aspiring trainers are studying under the Gym Leader, learning techniques and training their Pokémon.
In the games, the gyms are currently big, useless buildings full of literal losers once you've beaten them. Such a setup would also incite you to do a little more travelling, actually using the region for what it's worth and giving you a reason to revisit places.
 
#18
Ugh, I never said Pokemon wasn't linear-it's extremely linear-but there are one or two times that it isn't.

The fact is that Gyms DON'T make the game linear, the map and obstacles do. I would be in complete favor of a larger world, but the target audience is something else entirely.
 

Sprocket

P(n) = 1 - (1 - P(1))^n
#19
So it sounds to me like you guys want Pokemon to take the form of a Metroidvania game in terms of exploration (the entire world is accessible, but unless you collect item A or gain ability B, you are gated from area C).

Which is fine by me.

You know what would be cool? If Trainers and Gyms auto-scaled in level as you level, with gym/trainer movesets becoming increasingly more powerful as your levels go up. It would of course be extremely difficult to design, but it would be cool.
 
#20
When I think of that,it kinda makes me think of Lance's Dragonite, so give them different evolutions and amount of pokemon based on the level the trainer's at. Like Surge would have 5 pokemon that are FE or 2nd stage instead of 2-3(I forgot how many he has) if you faced him as your 8th gym leader.
Also, what about wild pokemon? Should those be scaled too? If you chose to start in Fuchsia City, it would be awkward to have all the Safari Zone pokemon being levels 4-8 forever wouldn't it?
Also making the gyms not-so-monotyped, like not gabbing the nearest fighting type for a normal gym and whatnot.
 
#21
As for gyms, however, I think they honestly should be stronger. I mean, seriously... First gym ranges from 10~20. HOW on EARTH did that gym leader get ALLOWED to have a gym? Now, I don't mean make them level 100, but a little added difficulty couldn't hurt. :) I don't think they're holding Pokemon back, but they do leave a little to be desired.

In the opening of BW2, after defeating Cheren, he mentions something about leading a Gym being difficult, then says something to the effect of "If I could have used my original team..."

I'm thinking there are League Rules stating what level range Gym Leaders can use on opponents given the challengers' badge count, or something to that effect.

Perhaps when you become a leader, you drop your original team and have to use "approved" pokemon during official challenges?
 
#22
I think making it completely open would kind of ruin the games a little. It would throw off the leveling for wild pokemon to be sure. If they set it up like Conquest, where you have two or three choices that wouldn't be too bad. Plus, it'd be easier to work the plot around.
If it were completely open, then it'd just turn into Skyrim pokemon edition, where you would travel across the map two or three times just to complete a main quest line near the beginning of the game.
 
#23
Chaos, if it's exploration you want, play XD and Colosseum! XD So, basically gamefreak knows that some people want more exploration and released those 2 games. But some complaints actually talked about too much travelling and not enough battling. The reason why it sticks to the current format with the gyms is beause it works. We don't want final fantasy here!

Besides, they tried it in gold/silver/crystal/heartgold/souldsilver with the 3 gym split after ecruteak, and you know how that turned out!
 
#24
The linear Gym order is to accommodate the leveling system. If it wasn't linear every gym would be the same level. Which means it'd a lot of leveling before a lot of gyms.
 
#25
Besides, they tried it in gold/silver/crystal/heartgold/souldsilver with the 3 gym split after ecruteak, and you know how that turned out!
a solution would be to just program in different battles and load the corresponding battle for the corresponding number of gym badges (e.g. if you have 4 badges at Pryce his Pokemon will be somewhere in the high 20s to low 30s, while if you have 6 he will have Pokemon at the high 30s)